The continual expansion of rights in contemporary legal theory leads to some pretty bizarre policy suggestions. Among the looniest that I have seen recently comes from Derek W. Black (pictured here), Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Education Rights Center at Howard University School of Law. In an article in the Boston College Law Review (you can see the abstract and download the article here), Black takes note of the fact that students who are surrounded by middle-income peers in school tend to do better than students who go to school with lower income peers. Further, he observes, correctly, that poor and minority students are more likely to go to school with lower income peers than with those with middle incomes. On this basis, he essentially argues that middle income peers are a “resource” that school districts allocate. Therefore, poor and minority students have a constitutional right to an equal share of middle income peers. That’s correct – the children of the poorest of the poor have the constitutional right to the influence of your children.
In this command and control line of thinking, the middle income students themselves are simply educational commodities, to be passed around by government. Decisions lie not at the level of individual families, but at the level of bureaucracies that decide how to allocate people, as well as funds. My own research has supported the common-sense view that when middle-income people are treated by a school system as “resources” to be exploited for the sake of the least advantaged, those middle-income people tend to leave the system. They are not, of course, just resources to be distributed by government mandate, but people in families that seek their own best interests. And it is certainly not in the best interests of middle income families to see their children “allocated” among those who can contribute least to a healthy educational environment.
The Moral Liberal Sociology Editor, Carl L. Bankston III is Professor of Sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He is the author and co-author of a number of books and numerous articles published in academic journals. An incomplete list of his books includes: Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Min Zhou, 1998), Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (with Jacques Henry, 2002), and A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002), Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (hardback, 2005; paperback, 2007), and Public Education – America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (2009) (all with Stephen J. Caldas). View Professor Bankston’s full bio, here. He blogs at Can These Bones Live?
Copyright © 2012 Carl L. Bankston III.