Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Law, Social Science, Federal and State Agencies, Resurgence of Tabula Rasa, and Perpetuation of Racial Problems

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Law, Social Science, Federal and State Agencies, Resurgence of Tabula Rasa, and Perpetuation of Racial Problems

Article excerpt

In Brown v. Board of Education, largely relying on social science evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the Black-White academic achievement gap was largely if not entirely attributable to racial segregation of schools. Guided by Brown, lower courts initially outlawed de jure school segregation which had denied African-American children the right to attend neighborhood schools. Subsequently, and again based on Brown, rulings were broadened to implement de facto desegregation which ignored neighborhood considerations and required "racially balanced schools."

More than five decades after Brown, which eventually disrupted millions of lives and expended billions of dollars, the racial achievement gap remains unchanged and African-Americans do not experience a higher quality of life. This paper examines evidence that the Supreme Court was knowingly misled concerning desegregatory effects, and that major institutions such as academia, the courts, the media, and governmental agencies not only fail to acknowledge, but instead perpetuate, historic errors.

Key Words: Brown v. Board of Education; School Desegregation; Educational Reform; Law and the Social Sciences; Political Correctness; Academic Freedom.

In his most recent book, Thomas Sowell asks if American society has evolved to the point where institutions such as law, social science, and education serve ideological rather than their original purposes. "Nowhere," says Sowell "has history been more in thrall to belief systems - than in the history of racial and ethnic groups. Too often the past has been twisted to fit their visions and agendas of the present."1 Sowell's central theses gain credibility if, irrespective of societal costs, contemporary courts convey deliberate falsehoods to conform with conventionality, the media defame researchers willing to examine controversial and complex racial issues, and social scientists and educators bend to winds of political pressures within governmental agencies. This paper contends that these very conditions currently exist, and begins by examining the merit of Sowell's claims in the context of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education (1954).2

Few Supreme Court rulings have more profoundly impacted American society than Brown. In that decision, the high court was persuaded by social scientists that segregated schools alone were responsible for the racial achievement gap and lower self-esteem of African-American students. School desegregation would therefore virtually eliminate the Black-White achievement gap. Any other perspective, including attribution of the gap to biophysical and/or ecological factors, was viewed as "racist" and supportive of the view that African-Americans are "intellectually inferior." Based on presumably expert testimony, the court justifiably ruled that all American children are entitled to attend neighborhood schools. This spelled the demise of de jure school segregation which required students residing in the same neighborhood to attend racially segregated schools. Lower courts subsequently broadened desegregatory rulings and required students to attend schools far beyond their homes to assure "racial balance" or de facto desegregation which was soon termed "forced busing." Neighborhood schools were dismantled and home-school bonding diluted. Now, five decades after Brown, there is no evidence that school desegregation, which disrupted millions of families and thousands of schools and communities, has yielded any benefits whatsoever.3 There would be little value in examining the errors of Brown, if busing did not continue to be socially disruptive and if contemporary social scientists ceased implementing counterproductive educational reforms based on social theories enunciated by NAACP attorneys over five decades ago.4

In retrospect, the most fundamental error of Brown involved naïve acceptance of uncontested expert testimony at a time when some of the nation's most knowledgeable educators and psychologists feared personal and professional repercussions should they publicly question the merit of school desegregation, an issue that aroused intense passions. …

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