Education of the Minorities By the late 19th century educational debates were still raging on “who was to be educated?” and “how this education was to be carried out? Such philosophers as John Dewey and (closer to us) Jean Piaget understood that “all knowledge has a social origin, and the interest of the child are the primary source of learning” (Spring, 1989). The same author said that after the Civil War black leaders, particularly W.E.Dubois and Booker T. Washington debated not the importance of schooling but the kind of education for the Negroes. Mr. Washington, considered by many as a traitor, would acquiesce with the 1895 Plessy v Ferguson decision that said under segregation schools can be separate and remain equal. According to Perkinson (1991), Washington addressed publicly in 1895:

“…The Negro did not want social equality,

that he did not need social equality with the whites.

Nor did he want or need political or civil equality…

but cooperation with their white friends.

Negro education should be devoted

to the practical education of earning a living…”

Conversely, Dubois vehemently rejected that position and argued for equal rights for the colored people. During that epoch, diverse segments of society had been restless protecting their interests after the inaction of Plessy v Fugerson. The US Supreme Court opined in many cases in favor of minorities. Among those cases, worth noting are Pierce v Society of Sisters (1922, unconstitutionality of establishing schools only) and Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette (1940, unconstitutionality of forcing Jehovah witnesses to salute the flag). None of them had delivered a more devastating blow to the then racist establishment than Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954).

The Brown decision invigorated the positions of minority leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King who had long said that the reality of equality will require extensive adjustments in the way of life of the white majority, an adjustment that many are unwilling to make. (Smith & Chunn,1989). Arguing that “segregated education is inherently unequal”, the young and flamboyant lawyer Thurgood Marshall (later US Supreme Court Justice), helped Brown open the valve to a flurry of other similar legislations in order to right the educational wrongs done to minorities. In fact, Perkinson (1991) noted that black parents realized that their children were failing in schools not because they were culturally deprived (as racist views had purported) but because schools were incompetent to teach black students who, indeed, had a culture, a different culture.

I believe that, to many folks, it was not a matter of how to educate our culturally different children, but a deliberate case of not willing to do so. In fact, Shor and Freire (1987), “It is not education which shapes society, but on the contrary, it is society who shapes education according to the interests of those in power. In contrast, Perkinson (1991) responded, “By 1965, the schools had polarized American society into self-satisfied whites and victimized blacks, into indifferent suburbanites and despondent city dwellers, and creating winners and losers. These two views collided on the root cause of the plight of the blacks. But both remained ferocious advocates of the rights of the downtrodden, including the children of the immigrants.