By William L. Taylor (Click here to view the entire P&R issue)
Out of the promising ferment about national policy emerging from the current presidential campaign, there may come a couple of ideas that will be useful in advancing the goal of a diverse and racially inclusive society. One such is the Chambers/Boger/Tobin proposal to make attendance at diverse high schools a plus factor in college admissions.
Paradoxically, the most recent Supreme Court decisions in the Seattle and Louisville cases leave less room for voluntary race-conscious admissions policies at the K-12 level than the earlier University of Michigan decisions did at the university level—a difference largely due to the Court’s change in membership, The Chambers et al. proposal will give colleges the discretion to adopt policies that recognize the value of diversity at earlier stages in education and will encourage the voluntary adoption of diversity policies in elementary and high schools.
The proposed policy should draw the support of the college presidents, business leaders and military officials who argued forcefully as friends of the Court in the Michigan case that an increasingly diverse society requires well-prepared, diverse leadership. It should help persuade advantaged parents that enrollment at diverse schools will not penalize their children in their quest for an elite education.
As the lawyer for schoolchildren in St. Louis who helped develop the largest and most successful inter-district desegregation program in the nation more than 20 years ago, I have seen how the experience helps youngsters of all races not only in their academic performance but in developing those non-cognitive skills that prepare them for leadership and effective citizenship. The Chambers et al. proposal could take another important step in this direction.
William L. Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org), a PRRAC Board member, Chairs the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights. He has been working for desegregation since joining Thurgood Marshall’s legal staff in 1954.