Reflections on the 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education–the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that declared state laws establishing segregated schools unconstitutional–received a significant amount of coverage over the weekend. But it was Michelle Obama’s commencement address in front of a group of high school seniors, partly a policy speech and partly a reflection on her own experiences, that poignantly described the challenges the U.S. education system faces today.
Citing a growing view of segregation in today’s schools, the First Lady told 1,200 graduates in Topeka, Kansas–the same city that gave rise to Brown v Board of Education– that “today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech.”
A feature last month in The Atlantic echoed the fears of Mrs. Obama. Investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones spent time visiting schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to show how separate and unequal education is making a comeback. While the school systems aren’t as starkly segregated as they were in the early 1950s, the report illustrates how racial politics and financial interests have perpetuated a school system that looks much like the one that existed before the Brown v Board of Education decision.
For more analysis, watch the following video from the Aspen Ideas Festival where Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, contends that, in some ways, the American education system is worse now than it was when it was segregated.
And next from the Century Foundation, a panel debates what work must be done in order to raise the achievement of low-income and minority students through turnaround schools.