Tuesday, September 25

An anniversary today; panel discussion tomorrow

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first day black students successfully attended the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Amid harassment and threats of violence, the students were escorted by soldiers whom President Eisenhower had deployed to Little Rock to do battle with the segregationist governor, the state militia he controlled, and the many ordinary Arkansans who opposed the Little Rock school board's vote to integrate. Although none of the Little Rock Nine graduated from Central (and in fact the governor closed all of the city's high schools the next year rather than integrate), their attendance was a watershed moment, at least emotionally, for Little Rock and the rest of America.

But now the nation's schools are as segregated as they were in the late 1960s, districts are trying to rejigger school zones in racially suspect ways, and black students are disproportionately punished and referred to special education. And of course in June the Supreme Court struck down voluntary integration programs that considered students' race in assigning them to schools.

At 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, a panel of education experts will grapple with this troubling reality in a symposium titled "The U.S. Supreme Court vs. Equality in Education." Several of the panelists are New York City principals and parents, and I'll be there to hear what they have to say. I just hope some of the news is good.

No comments: