Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases that address the concept of using race-based quotas to achieve a racial balance in public schools. A description of the specific arguments in these two cases can be found in this Christian Science Monitor article (as well as in every other major newspaper).
Both of these cases have parents groups suing their school districts based on the claim that the school districts use of race-based quotas are discriminatory and unconstitutional. The school districts, on the other hand, defend their use of race-based quotas as the best way to achieve a racial balance of students.
The key arguments in favor of the quota systems, from the Monitor article, are that they will provide “a diverse learning environment for the benefit of all students” and that they “fight the effects of discrimination and inequality.”
As I see it, both of these arguments, when applied to racial quotas in public schools, are fallacious and indicate false priorities. The idea that students will learn more or learn better just because they are sitting in classrooms with students of other races is ludicrous. The other idea, that it is the function of the public education system to attack the problems of discrimination and inequality, is equally wrong; the function of a school is to educate, not to fix societies problems.
The basic problem in Seattle (and probably in most ‘problem’ school systems around the country), is identified in this one brief paragraph from the Monitor article:
“Students were permitted to apply to attend any of the district’s 10 high schools. But because some schools were more popular than others, the board created a racial tiebreaker to determine eligibility at the most popular schools.”
Why would any of the districts ten high schools be “more popular” than any of the others? Obviously the school district has some sub-standard schools, some excellent ones and probably some that fall between. THAT is the problem and all the race balancing they can do won’t fix it. If the school district had ten high-quality high schools they would achieve a natural balance, i.e., whatever is natural for that schools location based on the racial, ethnic and religious makeup of the community surrounding the school.
If a “color-blind” society is the ideal situation, and I submit that it is, race should never be a component in any situation involving government (or non-government) organizations or institutions. A race-based quota, by its very nature is racist; it benefits some and discriminates against others based solely on their race . . . to me that proposition does not appear to be even debatable.
Christian Science Monitor: Back to the Supreme Court: racial balance in schools
Other views from the blogosphere:
Burkean Reflections: Supreme Court to Review Desegregation Cases
The Todd B. Waldo Collection: How to ensure that schools are racially mixed
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