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Politics, the Courts, and Educational Policy


by Donna E. Shalala & James A. Kelly — 1973

Improvements in the quality of life are made falteringly and slowly. They are frustratingly resistant to public strategies. Over the past two decades the courts have increasingly functioned as designers of improved models of human relationships. The courts have sought and heeded the advice and have been more responsive to the analyses of social scientists in grappling with such intractable modes of moral behavior as segregation, discrimination, and racism. The courts have been markedly unsuccessful in abating finance discrimination, for example, as the Rodriguez case illustrates. The costs of doing what is morally necessary seem to be disproportionately high when measured against such simpler needs as roads and bombers and satellites. This may be historically a novel situation, for one has the sense that in the domains of morals and ethics the courts would have taken their cue from religion and philosophy, but neither religion nor philosophy have yet shown that they are able to provide responses that are quick enough to meet immediate needs nor sufficiently programmatic to be able to instruct a nation how to remove an injustice or an unwarranted limitation on an individual's freedom. In this paper, Professors Donna E. Shalala and James A. Kelly are attempting to expose and delineate what might be called the performance characteristics of the judicial system as it responds to the proliferating requirements that all those who have been, for whatever reasons, unfairly treated either by their neighbors or by their governments must now no longer suffer and must, in practical ways, be compensated for their past and present hurts. The persistent libertarian faith in this nation that equality of treatment and opportunity should be unqualified has always confronted the facts of life that justice is never even-handed. Short of a race-track strategy of handicapping by weight, the devices for assuring a functional relationship between equality of opportunity with equality of results seems not to be available to the agencies of government. Thus it would appear that the courts in no premeditated way attempt their large-scale adjustments toward the end that justice and fairness be unqualified in their equal distribution.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 75 Number 2, 1973, p. 223-238
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1479, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 8:28:24 PM

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About the Author
  • Donna Shalala
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    Dr. Donna E. Shalala is associate professor of politics and education at Teachers College.
  • James Kelly
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    Dr. James A-Kelly is program officer of The Ford Foundation and associate professor of education at Teachers College.
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