Bob Lucas had led the Princeton district to the top level of academic achievement in the state of Ohio. Our high school regularly produced the top-ranking students in the state, and it didn’t hurt that the football team was always one of the top two in the city. He didn’t want to think that there was a better school system anywhere.
Bob had led the district through the controversial and anxiety-laden period of racial integration. He was deeply committed to the goals expressed in Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision which required an end of “separate but equal” schools. He believed, with the court, that separateness invariably produced inequality.
Princeton became a consolidated district comprised of ten suburban communities on the north side of Cincinnati. One of these communities was almost entirely African-American, and had been seen as an area characterized by poverty, sub-standard housing, and inferior schools. Rates of illegitimacy, crime, drug use, and the usual litany of social problems were high.
Lucas believed that the solution to most of these problems was education, and that a good education required integrating these students with pupils from the nearby, more affluent communities. He accepted the reasoning of the court that if minorities were “mainstreamed” with other students, their socially undesirable traits would eventually disappear as they came to be assimilated into the values and traditions of the larger culture. These traits had thrived in communities that were the victims of segregation.
There was much controversy, heated criticism, and personal abuse, but Lucas stuck to his guns and left a legacy of measurable improvement.
Now, more than half a century after the Brown decision, the Supreme Court has issued a new decision: Schools in Seattle, Washington and Louisville, Kentucky, are told that they cannot use race as the basis for assigning pupils to particular schools. The difference is that these two cities were striving to integrate the races on a numerical basis to be sure they were mixed in the classroom, rather than to be sure they were separated.
The two districts had adopted a policy aimed at “diversity” rather than “integration,” and the court affirmed that goal.
The difference is striking. The dream of Martin Luther King, and the requirement of the 1954 court, was assimilation. Not only students, but men and women throughout the society, were to be “judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” And character was to be judged by the long, historic stream of the Christian religion and Western civilization. The social problems that had characterized poor, segregated neighborhoods would yield as individuals rose above them and joined the main stream of American society.
The principle being advanced today is quite different. “Diversity” does not mean that people of minority backgrounds gain access to the larger culture and its benefits, putting their social disqualifications behind them. It means precisely the opposite. It means that different groups keep their differences, and that their behaviors and characters are to be judged by no one.
So the use of substandard English, or the failure to learn English at all, is held to be a “right.” Sexual activity and the resulting out-of-wedlock births are an alternative lifestyle instead of a social problem. No one is failed or expelled unless he happens to violate one of the newly-conceived problems, such as talking to someone in the classroom about God. Swearing at the teacher happens every day, the use of obscene images and vulgar insults occur in every school, and actual physical violence is experienced daily.
Criticize a student for any of this, or attempt to discipline such behavior, and you are convicted of infringing upon the rights of people to express the values and traditions of their own separate communities. We have to accept what the 1954 court viewed as social problems, in the name of “diversity.”
We once integrated the schools in order to lift victims of segregation out of their status as second-class citizens. Now we leave people in their second-class cultural ghettoes within the classroom, for the sake of exposing all the children to their “diversity.”
How ironic, and how tragic.
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