Saturday, February 09, 2002

brown v. board of education

In a couple of years, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the most important decisions that the US Supreme Court has made.

Today's local Wilmington News Journal carries a story about the two Delawareans nominated by the State's Congressional Delegation to serve on the national committee which will commemorate the date in two years. Delaware is very well represented by the selection of Littleton Mitchell and Superior Court Judge Charles H. Toliver, IV.

When reading over pages about previous celebrations of the decision, I came across an editorial called Marks and Markers of Remembrance, by O. L. Davis, Jr., of The University of Texas at Austin. Mr. Davis had the following to say on the 40th anniversary of the landmark ruling:
Maybe 40 years is not a long enough period for mindful remembrance. Perhaps the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board ruling will be the appropriate event for remembrance. Both these possibilities vulgarize and demean our profession. The judicial decision and its consequences merit regular remembrance, routine observance unattached to a particular year. Other important events and individuals deserve no less. Without such markers, individuals and the entire community will forget.

Our profession, its practice and scholarship, has forgotten so very much. Most of our colleagues recognize the names of John Dewey and Jerome Bruner, but few have read their substantial works. All but forgotten, for example, are the reports of the Committee of Ten, Terman's genetic studies of genius, the Eight-Year Study, and the Virginia curriculum study. Shrouded in pure mystery are the origins of the American high school, the Carnegie unit, the year-round school, vocational education, and much, much more. We are not alone. Few of our predecessors remembered. A people forgets unless it is called to remember together.

The points that Mr. Davis makes are strong ones, and I hope that in some way whatever comes out of the 50th anniversary celebration can act to serve as a more constant reminder of the fight for rights of people than a celebration every half century. As Mr Davis tells us in the introduction to his essay, "A people knows itself by what it remembers together."

The Statement of J.C.Watts, Jr., who introducted the Bill creating the Commission, to the House of Representatives.

President Bush's press release on the "Brown v. Board of Education Anniversary Commission."
The Commission will advise the Secretary of Education on activities to help celebrate one of the most important decisions ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court -- the decision that recognized the constitutional right to freedom from racial discrimination in our public schools.

The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research publishes a newsletter for classroom teachers called the Brown Quarterly. Titles from some past issues: Native American Issue, Black History Month Issue, Ellis Island/Immigration Issue, Asian American History Month. Their Brown v. Board 45th Anniversary Issue covers the efforts involved in building the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas.
- William Slawski