April 12, 2010

Ethnic charter schools reject diversity in education

By Ethnic charter schools reject diversity in education

Author: Ralph W. Kasarda

In the interest of attaining a diverse student population, may schools consider a student's race when making student assignments?  We know from the 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, that the Supreme Court says yes, at least for law schools.  In Grutter, the Court held that diversity is a compelling state interest that could justify the use of race as a factor in student admissions at the University of Michigan School of Law.  Five justices were apparently swayed by the argument that a diverse student body promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for employment in an increasingly diverse workforce.

Nevertheless, for K-12 education, the argument that students learn best in a diverse student population is being thoroughly rejected by racial and ethnic groups across the country who prefer education in a racially homogeneous student population.  For instance, recently in Sacramento, the Hmong community successfully lobbied for a public charter school that will concentrate on Hmong culture and language.  That story is here.  Other Hmong charter schools in different states are already in operation.  See here and here as examples.  The Hmong are not alone.  In Los Angeles, the public Academia Semillas del Pueblo Charter School caters to Hispanic students.  A public school in Minnesota is designed for East African students.  A public school for Somali children operates in San Diego.  New York City has the publicly funded Hebrew Language Academy and the Arabic Khalil Gibran International Academy.  In Hawaii, there is a public charter school for Native Hawaiians.  This has just been a sampling. 

Whether taxpayers should have to fund these voluntarily segregated schools is an issue for another blog.  The point here is that in these schools, ethnic and racial diversity is shunned, not embraced.  In these schools, teachers and administrators scoff at the pro-diversity arguments made in Grutter, and even the anti-segregation arguments made in Brown v. Board of Education.  Perhaps diversity is not such a compelling government interest after all.

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