I am a lawyer, have been for almost thirty years. Now, I know about prejudice and institutional racism. I have seen one legal tool after another weakened and discarded in courts, legislatures, and politics – once they seemed to make a difference, potentially or actually. From the promise of Brown and Charlotte-Mecklenburg to the defeats of Milliken and Rodriguez and the mixed blessings of Grutter and Gratz, gaining educational excellence for all has tested this country’s commitment to its founding principles and the substance of our beliefs in equality.
We will try once again to find a tool that may help us in the judicial and legislative field (and in politics as well?) to help the country secure its future – a fundamental right to education under the U.S. Constitution itself. After so many decades, I am finding the will to curb my enthusiasm because I know the difficulties we face. A federally recognized constitutional right to education is only a tool. One that will not be self-executing but one that, if established, will be the result of lengthy litigation and much, much more litigation, lobbying and general contention before we can put substance on the “bones” of a concept that seeks only to ensure that we make the most of the human resources that form the basis of who and what we are as a country. If only we – every one of us -- could imagine a world where every potential was given a chance to flourish through excellent, accessible, teaching and learning. Would the creativity and dollars to make it happen follow?