Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview

Discussant: Alfred A. DelliBovi

I don’t really know where to begin on this question of civil rights except to say that I’m really almost astonished that the connection hasn’t been drawn—even though two of the three issues are here—between education and civil rights. It’s as though the two policies in the Bush administration were passing like ships in the night, and they’re inextricably intertwined. And that’s what the paper, with all due respect, seems to deny, seems to want to force a denial about.

The story of civil rights in this country has been one of education. That’s what Brown v. Board of Education was all about. That’s why, in the second or third paragraph, Chief Justice Warren, for whom I worked (although much later than this case, I hope you’ 11 understand) said, “Education is the most important function of government.” He was talking about high school education. And it was less than twenty years later that Griggs v. Duke Power Co. said, no, it’s not. Griggs said, no, education is no longer important because it cannot be taken into account when people are hired. And now, three-quarters of all the people who come out of high school go into jobs—they don’t go into college. And colleges do look at transcripts and do try to maintain some sort of standards, although the more you subsidize college education, the lower the standards are going to be. But for employers, they were prohibited, beginning with the Griggs case—this was what Griggs was all about—Duke Power tried to have a diploma requirement for janitors. Now, it was thought in that case that janitors shouldn’t have to have a high school diploma. All right, so be it. But out of that case grew a rule that, in order to use education, you had to have a $200,000 validation study to prove that education really would improve performance on the job. Well, no one can do that—not even General Motors. General Motors can spend five years and $5 million doing a validation study but, by the time the study comes out, the job descriptions have all changed in today’s economy. So it just can’t be done. All this has been chronicled in great detail by an academic named Bishop at Cornell, and it’s all out there.

The whole point of the civil rights legislation was to codify the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure, which never really had any statutory basis to begin with. The uniform guidelines are the guidelines that basically said, unless you are willing to use race norming, you must have a validation study in order to use education in hiring. And that’s what the issue is all about. Now, William T. Coleman, former secretary of transportation and one of the principal NAACP lawyers in the Brown case, did say what he said in my office; he said, “We need a generation of proportional hiring and then I won’t need this anymore.” He said that. He says now that he wouldn’t have told me that because I would have leaked it to the press. Don’t worry—I tried. I tried my best! I told every damn reporter I could find what Coleman had said, and they all refused to print it. So it wasn’t for lack of trying, Bill.

-230-

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