Volume 26, 2019
Philosophy and Race
Reflections on Brown vs. Board of Education and School Integration Today
The Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 mandated school integration. The decision also to recognize that inequalities outside the schools, of both a class- and race-based nature, prevent equality in education. Today, the most prominent argument for integration is that disadvantaged students benefit from the financial, social, and cultural “capital” of middle class families when the children attend the same schools. This argument fails to recognize that disadvantaged students contribute to advantaged students’ educational growth, and sends demeaning messages to the disadvantaged students and messages of unwarranted superiority to the advantaged. Parents, teachers, and schools can adopt a justice perspective that avoids these deleterious aspects of the capital argument, and helps create a community of equals inside the integrated school. Struggles for educational justice must remain closely linked with struggles of both a class- and race-based nature for other forms of justice in the wider society.