Saturday, June 30, 2007

I see your Moloch...and raise you a Jesus. My response to the Family Foundation's celebration of the Louisville school desegregation decision

Yesterday, Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation wrote a brief celebration on the Supreme Court decision in Meredith on his blog vere loqui. It is a ruling that has many historical overtones that must be understood. Since the issue hit me in my wheelhouse, I thought a response might be in order.

Cothran implies that those who think diversity is a good thing...(actually he says it better than that)...He says those who "sacrificed children to the idols of egalitarianism and diversity" are the modern descendants of the Canaanite god, Moloch.

Well, this sounds really bad. I believe there is strength in diversity, so I wonder... Have I just been offended?

I don't actually know. I'll have to look up Moloch find out if he was particularly nasty or something. But if I've been sacrificing little children to some Canaanite god and didn't even know it...I'm gonna be hacked off.

Martin is correct to point out that school districts will find other means to promote diversity.

Today I reveal the social liberal's Double-secret Plan B.
Dear Martin,

Access to quality education – who gets taught, and the quality of that teaching – is the central issue in the history of education in America.

Our Constitution said that all men were created equal. But in America’s earliest days, with few exceptions, it was the sons of white male landowners who received instruction. Why is that?

Racism? Well, yes…slavery was America’s original sin - but also economics.

Poor children were not thought to be worth the effort. After all, how much schooling is necessary to work a plow? An adequate education in the 19th century didn’t have to meet a high standard – just the 3 R’s (at about a 3rd grade level) would do. This - while children of means learned the classics. Millions of poor white and black children were denied equal opportunities. It was about class and economics – one’s station in life.

As a youngster in all-white Ludlow, Kentucky, I knew what it meant to have low expectations. I believe I was one of two Ludlow graduates in 1969 that went right on to college. That was not the story at the upscale Beechwood School. As bad as it could be for poor white children, being black was an additional burden. Why is that?

Neither group found it easy to get to a high quality school. It was doubly tough in Appalachia.

But, future economic success demands a competitive workforce. That means a 21st century education for all Kentucky children – something I suspect you fully support.

So we have to get the kids to school.

Every day school folks put millions of kids (who can’t drive themselves) on buses. We bus them...all over the place. We bus them from wherever they live. Big yellow busses. Flashing lights but no seat belts. And the wheels on the bus go ‘round.

It would have been nice if we never had to bus kids for reasons of racial desegregation. The best solution is always the presence of a high quality school in every neighborhood. But it didn’t work out that way. Why is that?

I assume nobody is arguing in favor of a return to the separate and very unequal days of Plessy v Ferguson. But when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education I, in 1954, that separate schools for African-American children were unconstitutional the Court was largely ignored. The following year the Court in Brown II ordered schools to begin desegregating. But they didn’t. Instead over 100 southern legislators decried the Court’s “intrusion,” asserted local control, and signed the Southern Manifesto vowing to obstruct where they could.

It was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the decision in Green v. County Board of Education in 1968 that school districts made any real attempt to comply with the court’s 1954 ruling, and then only under threat of losing federal funds. In the 1963-64 school year barely 1% of black children attended school with white children. By 1972 that percentage had grown to better than 75%.

Social engineering? You bet. Let’s say it together. Social engineering.

It would have been better if the Court had never had to intervene. But I think one can argue that the Court in Brown upheld unpopular principles of the Constitution on Christian moral grounds. As I read the Bible, I have trouble finding any place where Jesus did not gravitate toward the poorest, lowest class, downtrodden, sick, or otherwise despised individual and lift them up. Correct me if I’m wrong. Should we not do likewise?

Of course, the present Court’s ruling was predictable – signaled during oral arguments last March. There is even a rational legal basis for the decision. It is notable that civil rights advocates who argued the need for federal protection in Brown, were now arguing for local control in the Louisville case, Meredith. Legally, what else did they have to argue? It is fairly well understood that today’s residual racial segregation is the result of housing patterns in our cities – not the result of any intentional efforts by school districts to keep the races apart. This under lays Chief Justice Robert’s snappy retort.

So what now?

Is the Court inviting local school districts to return to the days of Jim Crow? Of course not.

I suspect what you will see now is a shift toward economics as a basis for future busing schemes. Since African Americans are overrepresented among the poor, the real impact of the Court’s decision may be limited in some places. In other places, probably in most places, it will result in a racial resegregation. The extent to which communities have built diverse neighborhoods will determine the extent of the impact.

Is this social engineering? You bet. Social engineering and busing. Different ideology, perhaps. Different set of kids maybe. Same buses.

What you won’t see: school districts ignoring the Court.

The solution today is the same as in the beginning. We must have high quality schools in every neighborhood, but the requirements of an adequate education today are much more substantial than in the past. If the citizens of Kentucky will support this effort we will all be better off and the courts won't have to do anything. Actually, our children will all be better off. We need a gainfully employed citizenry – with more employer supported healthcare and a much lower Medicare burden on the state budget. We need to care for the poor – not by giving them a handout, but by giving their children an opportunity to do better.

What would Jesus do?

With respect,



Matt said...

Richard --

Great response, however, I feel that you didn't put it in terms these right wingers can understand. You were way to logical and methodical in your response. Had you thrown out some hate filled speach, referenced the Old Testament (You know, the place where most right wing "Christians" really pull their rationale from) and missed the point all together, then they would understand the true impact of your words.

Unfortunately, your thoughts, supported by case law and exceptional educational experience will be completely misunderstood. Rather, instead of seeing the positive they will only see some "left wing, liberal" ramblings. This, my friend, is where the education system has really failed them.

You asked what was next and I doubt anyone on the right will have any answers to your question. It is far easier to lay blame than to accept responsibility. It is far easier to let others do than to take action. The right wingers that "celebrate" this Supreme Court decision will never be a part of the solution b/c it is not in their nature to take responsibility or be active in solutions.

solarity said...

>>But I think one can argue that the Court in Brown upheld unpopular principles of the Constitution on Christian moral grounds. As I read the Bible, I have trouble finding any place where Jesus did not gravitate toward the poorest, lowest class, downtrodden, sick, or otherwise despised individual and lift them up. Correct me if I’m wrong. Should we not do likewise? >>

Well, Principal, yep, you are wrong. The liberal policymakers behind the busing "fad" that swept through the nation in the 70's would be more than a little insulted at your suggestion that Biblical teachings were their true motivation!

No need to over-complicate the matter - they were simply liberal "do-gooders" who cloaked their half-baked theories in the vernacular of social virtue. This sanctimonious verbiage (largely constructed of “diversity”, “multiculturalism”, “pluralism”, “self-esteem”, et al) is a deferential language that signals our virtue by its mere utterance. It’s a language of compensatory deference that essentially defines political correctness. That the federal judiciary would, in city after city, fall prey to these vacuous ideas and, in so doing, essentially destroy the concept of “neighborhood schools”, should enter the history books as perhaps the greatest acts of judicial malpractice in American history. Since the textbooks that are selected for classroom use are invariably authored by liberals, the truth of the busing fad that resulted in one federal judge after another usurping control of local school districts for purposes of implementing a disastrous social experiment, will be thoroughly whitewashed.

>>I assume nobody is arguing in favor of a return to the separate and very unequal days of Plessy v Ferguson.>>

You have used the traditional template in the comment above – as though it represents the only possible alternative to busing. How about trying a little “outside the box” thinking – such as moving money and educators to underperforming schools instead of moving underperforming students to schools where they and their families find it impossibly difficult to engage in sports and other extra-curricular activities because of distance and lack of neighborhood support. The phrase “shamelessly shallow” barely begins to describe the idea that simply uprooting children from their local communities and inserting them into some distant school is really going to bring any meaningful improvement in academic performance. But then, academic performance wasn’t the real goal, was it? Integrating our community was the real goal and the public schools were only the chosen vehicle.

For better or worse, the vast majority of people will always choose to live, work and play with people of similar nature. Left to there own choices, re-segregation is inevitable. This aspect of human nature irks the hell out of the social engineers who feel compelled to use the power of government to “improve” the living arrangements of the races. Busing has proven to be an absolutely execrable policy and those responsible for its origin and implementation should forever be banned from further influence on public policy.

PS: As a 1970 graduate of Beechwood, we may well have sent more kids to college (about 2/3d’s as I recall) but Ludlow almost always beat the crap out of us in sports!

Martin Cothran said...


I have a response to this post at I would also point out that the Court's decision cannot, as Clarence Thomas pointed out, result in resegregation, it can only result in racial imbalance--and racial imbalance is not segregation. Segregation is the intentional separation of the races. If racial imbalance were the same as segregation, then we would not only have to engage in forced busing to integrate schools, but forced relocation to integrate neighborhoods, since segregation, per se, is illegal. And I can't imagine you are for that.

Best Wishes,


The Principal said...


I take your point. I'm not really sure "resegregation" is even a proper English word - is it?

The concern is for a defacto re-segregation of students as a result of the court's decision, following Thomas's notion of a color-blind society.

You are correct to suggest that segregation is a deliberate racial imbalancing, with an attitude. In Kentucky, under the Day Law (sorry to say) it was illegal for schools to receive white and black students for instruction, under a penalty of $1,000 per day.

Under Jim Crow, real legal segregation did get into the neighborhoods + hotels, lunch counters, bedrooms, swimming pools, buses, trains....

derbyguy said...

Excellent observation concerning the "trendiness" of the school takeovers that ocurred in the 80's. A true low point for the judiciary. But, fwiw, you are wasting your time posting here. Blogs such as these are called "vanity blogs" for a reason. Unless you are a "somebody" you will generally be ignored. I've grown used to it.

The Principal said...

For me the blog is about two things: content and voice. If you happen to be interested in Kentucky education news, you don't have a lot of places to go. The education story count for the Herald-Leader, for example, isn't real high for several reasons. And national education stories are much fewer. KSBA does a good job aggregating stories from the Kentucky community papers, with some original stories. But that's about it. I rely on these sources and many more in an attempt to pull together stories into one place.

As for voice, I mean my voice. In a democracy you can speak out on the issues, or not. The latter means you have no voice and influence no one. Using your voice...allows for possibilities...and that someone may find their own voice because of something you write.

Or not. No guarantees.

But DerbyGuy raises a third point: authority.

Why should anyone believe a word I say? Do I have to be funded by some organization, or think tank to be believable?

I would suggest that far too many such groups use bad science. That is to say, they determine what they are going to conclude first - then they do the research. That's called pseudoscience and it hurts the overall quality of the research.

Is this site any better - or worse? You decide.

Is there any impact? I don't really know. About 600 people view about 1000 pages each week on Kentucky School News an Commentary. Is it worth the time I put into it? I don't know that either. So far, for me, the answer is yes. But I'm spending about 4-5 hours a day studying issues and posting stories and earning $0. For me it's a labor of love.