Brown and the Failure of Civic Responsibility
by Beatrice S. Fennimore — 2005
In this article, I use perspectives gained from 18 years of experience as an urban public school parent between 1978 and 1996 to provide insights into Brown at 50. Through description of two public conflicts over special choice programs in the school districts where my family and I lived during those years, I analyze the emergent issues of discrimination, false meritocracy, and persistent inequity. Ultimately, I argue that classism combined with racism enabled school districts and privileged parents to defend inequitable opportunities when they were combined with the appearance of parental choice. I assert that the development of selective choice programs rather than efforts to enhance systemwide equity allowed for continued resistance to equal educational opportunity. Finally, I argue that continued progress toward the goals of Brown requires a renewed commitment to civic responsibility on the part of educators and citizens. The ultimate goals of Brown will be achieved, I argue, when school reform embodies a unified public commitment to social progress through educational reform rather than a piecemeal system of school choices that cater to the demands of more privileged parents and thus reflect pre-Brown stratification, segregation, and inequality.
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