The Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education case is perhaps one of the most important cases to be handed down by the courts concerning education since the dawn of the American educational system. Before this case, segregated schools were billed as being separate yet equal, even though any one with minimal powers of observation could easily see that this was not the case. Rather, these separate yet equal schools were thinly veiled attempts to hide the racism and bigotry rampant in much of the United States in the 20th century. As we heard in the audio documentary this past Thursday, black schools frequently did not receive proper funding or qualified teachers because most of those resources went to the white schools which were believed to be cultivating the real future of the country. However, when the supreme court ruled that schools would be forced to integrate America was faced with the challenge of confronting a specter it had let go unchecked for years. For the first time black and white students (along with students of any other race) would be entitled to the same public education which would bring to the forefront America’s uncomfortable present. Now, as opposed to keeping like students together in separate schools, American students would be forced to interact with students different from them, a prospect which frightened many people at the time. However, as can be seen by much of the social progress achieved in the latter half of the 20th century, the decision to integrate schools helped many people see the similarities among those of a different race, rather than the differences.
Yet while much change has been put into effect due to schools being integrated, racism and misunderstanding still persist in the United States. Not all of this blame can be laid at the feet of the educational system but it is my belief that schools should be playing a larger part in helping students from all backgrounds overcome their prejudices through the development of critical thinking skills. Sadly, while Brown vs. BOE did a lot toward social integration, the truth of the matter is it could in no one way fix all the ills of this complicated issue. It takes communities, not just schools, to raise children to be productive adults in society and too often it is the communities who need the most help who receive the least funding and services. Because of this, you will never see a student from a more affluent neighborhood attend a school in a struggling community and seldom does the opposite happen either. This has caused, whether intentionally or not, schools to become fairly segregated once again which is really a loss for everyone involved, student or otherwise. It is only by being thrust together that we come to accept the differences among ourselves and embrace those different from us. In our current system it seems unlikely any of this will change in the near future so perhaps it is worth investigating further how we as teachers can go about creating a world that focuses more on our similarities rather than differences.