With the Supreme Court's landmark Brown decisions of 1954 and 1955, American education changed forever. But Brown was just the beginning, and Raymond Wolters contends that its best intentions have been taken to unnecessary extremes.In this electrifying study, a scholar who has long observed the traumas of school desegregation uncovers the changes and difficulties with which public education has dealt over the last fifty years - and argues that some judicial decisions were ill-advised. Dealing candidly with matters usually considered taboo in academic discourse, Wolters argues that the Supreme Court acted correctly and in accordance with public sentiment in Brown but that it later took a wrong turn by equating desegregation with integration.Retracing the history of desegregation and integration in America's schools, Wolters distinguishes between several Court decisions, explaining that while Brown called for desegregation by requiring that schools deal with students on a racially non-discriminatory basis, subsequent decisions - Green, Swann, Keyes - required actual integration through racial balancing. He places these decisions in the context of educational reform in the 1950s that sought to encourage bright students through advanced placement and honors courses - courses in which African American and Hispanic students were less likely to be enrolled. Then with the racial unrest of the 1960s, the pursuit of academic excellence yielded to concerns for uplifting disadvantaged youths and ensuring the predominance of middle-class peer groups in schools.Wolters draws on rich historical detail to document the devastating consequences of requiring racial balance and sheds new light on America's legal, social, and cultural landscapes. He re-examines the educational theories of Kenneth Clark and James Coleman, and he challenges statistics that support the results of racial balancing by describing how school desegregation and integration actually proceeded in several towns, cities, and counties.""Race and Education"" is a bold challenge to political correctness in education and a corrective to the now widely accepted notion that desegregation and racially balanced integration are one and the same. It is must-reading for scholars of law and education and a wake-up call for citizens concerned about the future of America's schools.
Raymond Wolters is Thomas Muncy Keith Professor of History at the University of Delaware. His books include The Burden of Brown: Thirty Years of School Desegregation and Du Bois and His Rivals (University of Missouri Press).