NOTE: This is a reproduction of a blog post I did on Edspresso on January 8, 2007.
I’ve seen a variety of different criticisms leveled at KIPP, but this is a new one (via Schools Matter):
The Court said that segregation denies to low-income minority children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment EVEN THOUGH the facilities of these segregated schools may be equal. So if we look at KIPP from the perspective of the Brown decision, we can see that KIPP denies to low-income minority children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment EVEN IF these segregated schools raise their achievement. So EVEN IF KIPP lived up to all its praise — which I have shown it does not — it would still be unconstitutional.
And there you have it, folks. KIPP not only creams the most talented kids and works them to death…the school network is in violation of the 14th Amendment.
Look, I don’t deny that this nation has a sorry history of keeping the races apart. But the whole point of Thurgood Marshall’s complaint wasn’t merely racial segregation, but state-mandated racial segregation. In fact, that was a distinction he made during the oral arguments before SCOTUS:
…I think whatever district lines they draw, if it can be shown that those lines are drawn on the basis of race or color, then I think they would violate the injunction. If the lines are drawn on a natural basis, without regard to race or color, then I think that nobody would have any complaint.
Jack Greenberg of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund went even further: if there were “complete freedom of choice, or geographical zoning, or any other nonracial standard, and all the Negroes still ended up in separate schools, there would seem to be no constitutional objection.” The point to all this is that Marshall et al’s argument wasn’t that schools are entirely black, but that the schools in question were entirely black because the law made them that way.
This is a critical distinction, and one that that the high court failed to acknowledge in its final ruling. It concentrated on the mere existence of segregation rather than the cause thereof, which was what drove the lawsuit in the first place. Five decades removed, this remains the concern of the government: integration of the races, whatever the cost.
Which brings us to KIPP. Consider the blogger’s stance. The driving force behind Brown is that minority children were receiving an inferior education due to state-mandated racial segregation. And yet, the writer cites Brown as evidence that a school system explicitly designed to give minority inner-city children a better education is unconstitutional. Forgive me if I see a bit of a disconnect in that line of thinking.
Furthermore, it seems to me that if the school is indeed in violation of the U.S. Constitution, surely all parties involved in the creation of the school are liable. Well, what’s the cause of the alleged unlawful racial segregation said to occur at KIPP? Is it not true that students only end up attending KIPP through the consent of their parents? Therefore, if the writer in question is correct that KIPP is culpable of racial segregation, don’t the minority parents of minority children at the school share some of the blame? If not, why not? Back to the blog post:
Why should this matter to us? After all, proponents of KIPP argue, “these children” need the basics in fifth grade because NO ONE TAUGHT THEM WELL ENOUGH BEFORE! If the school system they were in beforehand hadn’t been so screwed up and awful, they could start where they’re supposed to, with fifth grade material. And maybe they wouldn’t all have to spend 70% more time in school just to catch up.
Well, are said KIPP proponents wrong in this assertion? Were the schools the students came from actually working well, or at least competently? Hard to tell if the blogger in question is serious or if this is just some sort of hyperbole. By the way, I have it on very good authority that, although KIPP is known for having longer school days, the majority of KIPP students do not spend 70 percent more time in school to catch up. One last point from the blog post:
We accept, in full self-fulfilling prophecy mode, that these problems can never be solved. We accept that the best we can do is make something intolerable a little more tolerable. The question is, tolerable for whom?
For all the kids that are not “lucky” enough to get a place at KIPP, it is not tolerable. For all the kids that do make it into KIPP but are not able to endure the 10-hour days and two hours of homework every night and who eventually drop out or are “counseled out,” it is not tolerable. And even for those kids who do make it into KIPP and make it out of KIPP, their “success” is not tolerable because it comes at a price, a price that is too high to pay.
So because school choice might harm others in some nebulous way, it should be withdrawn? And “success” in sneer quotes? Is this writer suggesting that said students are faking it, or that their academic achievements are somehow counterfeit?
Look, school integration is a worthy endeavor. But even assuming that KIPP is somehow unconstitutional, you had better be willing to see that all guilty parties are held to account. Including the parents who are responsible for sending their children there.
One closing thought regarding Brown. If minority children are going to get the sort of education they have been denied for far too long, rest assured that school choice will be part of the solution. How interesting that charter school activists in Topeka were working to reopen the actual school involved in Brown–and that the local school board denied their application.
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