Schools and the melting pot

The fact of racial differences in America has placed a greater strain on the myth of the melting pot than any other of the factors that occasionally divide our people. And the same fact has created a dilemma for the concept of pluralism, which to be workable at all must assume that groups seeking to preserve their identity will have equal opportunity, not only for group status but also for the individual standing of group members in the larger society.

During most of our history, we have denied equality in status both to racially identifiable groups and to individuals from these groups.It was the Brown decision that pulled us up short by asserting that race was unacceptable as a basis for decisions by government about Americans.

This past history casts its shadow over all of us every day of our lives. We cannot escape it. It tests our moral fiber, our idealism, and our commitment to what we say we believe. When we hold up a mirror and look at ourselves honestly , that shadow dominates our reflection.

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Nowhere is the strain and stress of living in this shadow more evident than in those institutions which serve the coming generation and to which we commit a large proportion of our hopes for the future, the elementary and secondary schools. We depend fundamentally on the schools, both to pass on to our children the civilization we have inherited, as well as to create in them the wit and will to continually reshape that civilization closer to our ideas than we have.

In spite of the studies of some social scientists, who contend that education is unable to overcome the handicaps of racial discrimination and economic disadvantage, and in spite of the claims of a few theorists who argue that traits of mind and motivation are innate and immutable, Americans generally remain committed to the view that we can create schools with the capacity to move people out of the shadows of the past and into a new era of light. While that commitment has wavered some in recent years, it generally remains strong.

We will allow it to erode at our peril.

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