By Wendy D. Puriefoy (Click here to view the entire P&R issue)
As far as we may believe we have come since the Brown v Board of Education decision regarding racial justice in public education, the sad truth is that too many of our schools remain racially segregated. (In the Northeast, for example, 51% of African-American students attend schools that are composed of 90-100% minority students.) And the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to reject voluntary public school assignment plans based on race in Seattle and Jefferson County, Kentucky marked another sad point in our democracy’s history.
Still, in the more than 50 years that have passed since Brown, we have seen countless benefits accrue to generations of children as a result of conscious racial diversity policies. Racially diverse educational settings provide sound environments for children of all races to achieve academically, develop socially, and live and work on a diverse planet. Most Americans believe in racial diversity in their public schools, K-12 as well as colleges and universities.
The ideas put forth by Chambers, Boger and Tobin in their “modest proposal” for colleges and universities to promote K-12 diversity are more than modest. They are brilliant. “Diversity capital” should rank in the same legions as human or financial capital. Institutions of higher education prepare people for the world, a world that becomes more diverse every day. As such, we must promote further diversity in these institutions.
Wendy D. Puriefoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is President of the Washington, DC-based Public Education Network.