Category Archives: Education

New Article: “Promise Zones, Poverty, and the Future of Public Schools: Confronting the Challenges of Socioeconomic Integration & School Culture in High-Poverty Schools”

New Article: Maurice R. Dyson, Promise Zones, Poverty, and the Future of Public Schools: Confronting the Challenges of Socioeconomic Integration & School Culture in High-Poverty Schools, 2014 Mich. St. L. Rev. 711 (2014).

New Article:”Student Debt And Higher Education Risk”

New Article: Jonathan D. Glater, “Student Debt and Higher Education Risk,” 103 Cal. L. Rev. 1561 (2015).

News Coverage: “Poverty Cannot Explain America’s Mediocre Test Scores”

News Coverage: “Poverty Cannot Explain America’s Mediocre Test Scores” – Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

New Article: “The False Choice between Race and Class and Other Affirmative Action Myths”

New Article: Lisa Pruitt, The False Choice between Race and Class and Other Affirmative Action Myths, 63 Buffalo L. Rev. __ (forthcoming).  Abstract below:

This article refutes the widely held assumption that affirmative action is appropriate either to support only racial and ethnic minorities or to support only low-income students, but that it cannot or should not support both. Pruitt argues that we need not make such a choice and that we should aspire to socioeconomically diversify higher education institutions — including the most elite sector — with low-income students of all colors. Pruitt thus disputes the framing of Richard Kahlenberg and Richard Sander who have long argued that we should seek socioeconomic diversity in lieu of racial/ethnic diversity, a stance that has needlessly pitted underrepresented minorities against whites of low socioeconomic status (SES), thus fueling the race-vs.-class debate in the prestigious admissions context. The article also takes on other common myths about affirmative action, including the notion that low-income whites add no value because they are essentially redundant of the upper-income whites who are abundant in elite higher education, and the proposition that such educational opportunity is strictly aimed at racial integration of the middle classes, leaving no place or need for the poor and socioeconomically disadvantaged.

This article analyzes socioeconomic disadvantage as diversity from three vantage points: case law, rhetoric, and the practice of elite higher education admissions. The high-water mark for socioeconomic disadvantage as an aspect of “diversity” in case law came in Bakke v. University of California (1978). Justice Powell’s opinion in that case famously held that racial and ethnic disadvantage could be considered in the holistic review of applicants. Virtually unnoticed and uncommented upon by judges and scholars since Bakke, however, is the fact that Powell also listed socioeconomic disadvantage as an aspect of diversity, treating it as on par with racial and ethnic disadvantage in that holistic review. The U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts since Bakke have largely ignored that stance, implicitly or explicitly re-defining diversity strictly in relation to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in affirmative action cases like Grutter, Gratz, Hopwood and Fisher are often popularly perceived as socioeconomically disadvantaged whites who pitted the interests of that group against racial and ethnic minorities. In fact, neither Alan Bakke nor any of the plaintiffs in more recent affirmative action cases self-identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged. Indeed, Abigail Fisher in particular admits that she is relatively socioeconomically advantaged.

In the other two contexts — diversity rhetoric and diversity “in action,” as reflected in who gets admitted to prestigious higher education institutions — Pruitt documents a widespread erasure or denial of class, of poor and working-class whites in particular. For better or worse, diversity has become a buzzword for a key value and aspiration of the academy, but diversity generally is not defined to include socioeconomic diversity except to the extent that underrepresented minorities happen also to be socioeconomically disadvantaged.

In this first of a series of articles that explicitly takes up the white working class and poor whites as critical race projects, Pruitt begins to theorize why low-SES whites are so little valued in the elite college admissions race. In addition to the race-vs.-class framing that has distracted us from the possibility — indeed, the imperative — of supporting both groups of underrepresented students, Pruitt concludes that stereotypes of low-SES whites as conservative and racist are also powerful deterrents to their inclusion in the prestigious higher education sector. Long-standing elite disdain for poor and working-class whites, as well as distance from and ignorance of their milieu, further skews how institutions of higher education assess disadvantaged white strivers.

In this age of escalating wealth and income inequality, we need socioeconomic diversity in higher education — including in the most elite sectors — more than ever before. Yet evidence shows that wealthier but less able students often get the coveted spots in that prestigious and narrowing pipeline to our nation’s leadership, a phenomenon with significant implications for our nation’s democratic ideals and economic flourishing. The current system effectively silences many perspectives and undermines our egalitarian principles, short-circuiting the prospects of strivers by failing to get them into elite higher education or to support adequately the few there. That failure also has economic implications for our nation, as we fail to optimize development of our raw human capital.

While Pruitt acknowledges the shortcomings of the diversity analysis in the higher education context, she ultimately calls for a return to Justice Powell’s position in Bakke, which endorsed a broader conception of diversity, specifically including low-income students. The practical reality is that race-based affirmative action does not enjoy broad popular support and is widely believed to be doomed given the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. But a broader definition of diversity — an explicit valuing of low-income students in rhetoric and in practice — could be the political quid pro quo that helps save affirmative action for racial and ethnic minorities.

New Article: The Rebellious Law Professor: Combining Cause and Reflective Lawyering

New Article: Harold A. McDougall, The Rebellious Law Professor: Combining Cause and Reflective Lawyering, 65 Howard Univ. J. L. of Ed. 2 (2015).

Movie Recommendation: “Undefeated”

UndefeatedMovie Recommendation: “Undefeated.”  Again, this is a bit dated, but it is available on Netflix and is a great movie about a football program in a poor part of town and the challenges facing the students and the coach.

Book Recommendation: “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League”

PeaceBook Recommendation: Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League (2014).

[This recommendation is a bit dated, but in light of Scalia’s comments in Fischer, I thought it worth recommending this book.   The book does a good job showing the difficult circumstances of Robert Peace’s childhood, his brilliance in high school and at Yale, as well as the choices that led to his early and violent death.  It is also well written and engaging throughout.]

Op-Ed: “Why ‘need-blind’ is the wrong goal for college admissions”

_DSC0224Op-Ed: Nick Anderson, Why ‘need-blind’ is the wrong goal for college admissions, Wash. Post, Oct. 12, 2015.

New Article: “Searching for Equity Amid a System of Schools: The View from New Orleans”

New Article: Robert A. Garda Jr., Searching for Equity Amid a System of Schools: The View from New Orleans, 42 Fordham Urban Law Journal 613 (2015).  Abstract below:

Today, New Orleans education stands at a crossroads in deciding how to achieve equity for its vulnerable student populations. One route relies on centralizing services, planning, and oversight to ensure that every school provides an appropriate education to any type of student that walks through the schoolhouse door. This path embraces the version of inclusion equality set forth in Brown v. Board of Education: “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The other route relies on the market driven reform underlying the charter movement to create specialized schools to fill the unmet demands of vulnerable populations. This route embraces an emerging view of equality- where separate can be equal, possibly even superior, if parents are empowered to maximize their child’s academic outcomes in specialized settings. This Article argues that New Orleans is headed down this latter route and identifies the lessons that can be learned from its evolution to a system of schools.

New Article: “Education-as-Inheritance Crowds Out Education-as-Opportunity”

DSC_0090New Article: Palma Joy Strand, Education-as-Inheritance Crowds Out Education-as-Opportunity, 59 St. Louis L.J. 283 (2015).  Abstract below:

Since the founding of our nation, education has been valued as a preeminent means of achieving equal opportunity and the social mobility of democracy. A generation ago, however, Professor John Langbein diagnosed a different function of education: the transmission of wealth from one generation to the next.

In this article, I examine education as intergenerational wealth transmission through a critical lens. My primary inquiry is whether the traditional role of education-as-opportunity is being “crowded out” by education-as-inheritance.

The article first examines and verifies Langbein’s diagnosis: Education today is indeed an important way to transfer wealth intergenerationally. The article next documents lack of access to education for those without economic resources, a lack of access that extends from birth through college. The article concludes by identifying flagging public investment in education as creating a vacuum that is being filled by the increasingly privatized provision of education. This privatized investment constitutes an indirect but real form of intergenerational wealth transmission, which dampens social mobility.

Countering this trend, increasing social mobility will necessitate a shift away from education-as-inheritance toward education-as-opportunity. More progressive public investment at all levels of education is called for to facilitate this shift.