HOW HAS THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM CONTRIBUTED TO EQUALITY?
An examination of how different groups have been treated in our educational system over the past four centuries provides insights into the importance of education in the struggle for equality in the United States. All groups have fought for quality education for their children. The progress toward ridding the nation of inequality and providing equal education for all students has involved committed people of color as well as whites. The joy in this sad history of discrimination and inequality is that much has changed, especially in the past 50 years. In addition, teachers are key in providing a quality and equitable education for all students. Our understanding of how we got to where we are today should encourage us to make a commitment to ensure that all of our future students have every possible opportunity to learn. A chronology of significant events in providing equality for students is shown in Table 6.3.
European colonists thought that American Indian leaders should be educated in the schools of the colonists for the purposes of learning Christianity and the Anglo-Saxon culture, with the goal of replacing their native cultures and languages. When Virginia’s William and Mary College was established in 1693, a part of its mission was the education of Native American students (Glenn, 2011). New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College had the same goal when it was established in 1780, but most of its students were white (Spring, 2011).
Deeper Look Read more about the history and current state of Native American education.
Resistance to Conversion
The conversion of American Indians to the Anglo-Saxon culture met with great resistance from tribes and their members. The conversion that did occur was most often among the families formed by marriages of whites and American Indians. Because the government’s plans for deculturalizing Native Americans were ineffective, Congress passed the Civilization Act of 1819 with the explicit purpose of culturally transforming the native population, especially the southern tribes. To move the effort forward, the Superintendent of Indian Trade, Thomas L. McKenney, encouraged the establishment of tribal schools with missionary teachers. The Protestant churches that joined this effort believed that the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture around the world was part of the nation’s manifest destiny . Most Native American families who participated in the missionary schools had a different goal than the federal government. They were interested in literacy, not the extinction of their cultures or the adoption of Christianity (Spring, 2011).
One of the federal government’s goals for the tribes in the south was to convince tribal members to divide tribal lands into private property that could then be sold to Anglo settlers—a goal that was reinforced by missionary schools. When few Native Americans were willing to sell tribal lands, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, authorizing the president of the United States to set aside land west of the Mississippi River for Native Americans who then were living in the southern states east of the Mississippi River. Within a few years, the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaws, and Seminoles were forcibly moved to the new “Indian Territory.” In the Trail of Tears one in four Cherokees died on the trek west from their ancestral homeland in Georgia. In the new territory, which is now Oklahoma, tribes established their own schools. By 1848 the Choctaws had nine boarding schools with many Choctaw teachers. The Choctaws also established segregated schools for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War and a system of schools that included academies for boys and girls (Spring, 2011).
Table 6.3 Significant Events in the Movement Toward Educational Equality
|William and Mary College established with mission to educate Native Americans.
|Massachusetts outlawed the segregation of schools.
|Supreme Court finds “separate but equal” laws constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson.
|San Francisco schools are desegregated, allowing Chinese youth to attend regular high schools.
|Student strike in Puerto Rico supports instruction in Spanish.
|Texas makes it a criminal offense to use any language other than English for instruction.
|Meriam Report attacks government’s policies of removing American Indian students from their homes.
|Padin Reform restricts English instruction to high schools.
|Federal court requires equal salaries for African American and white teachers in Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk.
|Federal appeals court strikes down segregated schooling for Mexican Americans in Méndez v. Westminster School Dist.
|Puerto Rico gains greater control of their school systems after being granted commonwealth status.
|Supreme Court makes school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, overturning Plessy.
|Virginia legislature calls for “massive resistance” to school desegregation.
|In Cooper v. Aaron the Supreme Court rules that fear of social unrest or violence does not excuse state governments from complying with Brown.
|Officials close public schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, rather than integrate them.
|Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in school programs and activities that receive federal assistance.
|Supreme Court orders Prince Edward Country, Virginia, to reopen its schools on a desegregated basis.
|In Green v. County School Board of New Kent County the Supreme Court orders states to dismantle segregated facilities, staff, faculty, extracurricular activities, and transportation.
|Congress passes the Handicapped Children’s Early Education Assistance Act.
|Title VII of ESEA supports bilingual programs in Indian languages and English.
|In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education the court approves busing, magnet schools, compensatory education, and other tools as appropriate remedies to overcome the role of residential segregation in perpetuating racially segregated schools.
|Congress passes Title IX Education Amendment outlawing discrimination based on sex.
|Court rules that education is not a “fundamental right” and that the Constitution does not require equal education expenditures within a state in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.
|Supreme Court blocks metropolitan-wide desegregation plans to desegregate urban schools with high minority populations in Milliken v. Bradley.
|In Lau v. Nichols the Supreme Court stipulates that special language programs are necessary to provide equal educational opportunity to students who do not understand English.
|Congress passes Education for All Handicapped Children, Public Law 94-142.
|Congress passes Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.
|Supreme Court rules that race can be a factor in university admissions, but it cannot be the deciding factor in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.
|Supreme Court rejects tax exemptions for private religious schools that discriminate in Bob Jones University v. U.S. and Goldboro Christian Schools v. U.S.
|Federal court finds that a school district can be released from its desegregation plan and returned to local control after it meets the Green factors in Riddick v. School Board of the City of Norfolk, Virginia.
|Tribally Controlled Schools Act gives grants for tribal schools.
|Native American Languages Act promotes preservation of Native American languages.
|Federal appeals court prohibits the use of race in college and university admissions, ending affirmative action in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi in Hopwood v. Texas.
|Supreme Court upholds diversity as a rationale for affirmative action programs in higher education admissions but declares point systems inappropriate in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger. Federal district court case affirms the value of racial diversity and race-conscious student assignment plans in K–12 education in Lynn v. Comfort.
|Supreme Court strikes down the use of race in determining schools for students in Parents Involved in Community Schools Inc. v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County (Ky.) Board of Education.
Still trying to convert American Indians, the 1867 Indian Peace Commission said that American Indians could become citizens if they gave up their native religions and ways of life. Again, education was to play an important role in this process. The charge to schools was to replace native languages with English, destroy tribal customs, and develop allegiance to the federal government. The new strategy called for boarding schools, requiring the removal of children from their families at an early age to isolate them from the language and customs of their parents and tribes. Between 1879 and 1905 a number of boarding schools were located far from the reservation. Thousands of young Native Americans from the Dakotas were boarded at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania (Glenn, 2011). Parents and tribes continually complained about the boarding schools, how their children were being treated, and how their native cultures were being denigrated.