Posted: 03/01/14 17:24
by Dave Mindeman
I got tired of the cold and decided to head south and try to find some respite from the tundra. When you are retired, you can do that sort of thing.
Well, I have been on a brief tour of Kansas during this week. I have long wanted to visit the Eisenhower library in Abilene, Kansas. Along the way I stopped at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Omaha, NE as well.
But as I passed through Topeka, I found another site of interest. The Monroe School that was the focal point of the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court case that ruled segregation is unconstitutional.
You wouldn't think that Topeka, Kansas would be a focal point of a challenge to a policy that was considered a deep south idea. But where segregation was the law in Dixie, a number of states had segregation as an "option" for local school districts. Kansas was one of those states.
In Topeka, the African-American population was relegated to 4 schools on one side of the city. This led to long bus rides and long days for many kids. And even worse, the schools could not accommodate the large African-American population in Topeka. Schools had to teach children in half day shifts. One group of children would be taught in the morning and a completely different group of children taught in the afternoon.
One parent had enough and started a parent group that petitioned the school board for redress of their grievances. His outcry touched a nerve in the community and the membership of his group expanded rapidly.
Soon, African-American leaders began looking at a court challenge. There were actually 5 different pertinent lawsuits that moved to the Supreme Court around the same time, but the Topeka case had the right set of circumstances to consolidate the challenge around.
And Brown v Board of Education struck down segregation in May, 1954.
One of the things that I took from this history lesson is this policy of preferring local control.
Our Congressman John Kline has been relentless in moving education control to the local level - with the idea of abolishing the Federal Department of Education and its national policies.
Topeka wasn't a deep south school district. They had the option to educate all of their children in an equal manner. But a discriminatory policy was chosen by the district and many students suffered because of it.
Local control of education has advantages in a number of issues that are unique to a local area. But there are also broad education issues of fairness, equality, and opportunity that only a broad national goal can accomplish.
Brown v Board of Education eliminated segregation from any legal status, but segregationist policies can still find its way into local school policies if not watched carefully.
There is a place for national education policies, just as there should be a preference for local policies that affect buildings and procedures and teachers.
There isn't a simple either/or answer to these questions. We have to discern the difference and act accordingly.
Education doesn't come down to political decision making - it comes down to what is best for educating all of our children.