, Research Paper
Integration of Education in the United States
Throughout history, education is recognized as one of the key components of any civilized society. It is a natural instinct for man to learn, and feel the need to pass on that knowledge to their young and to all those who come behind them. People have a passion for education, and will fight for the opportunity to gain the valuable knowledge that education provides. The importance of education in a society is illustrated in two aspects. The first being the actual events in American history regarding the desegregation of schools, and the second being the action of the animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm upon receiving their liberation on Manor Farm.
In recent times we have witnessed a struggle in American society for the opportunity of minorities to realize the education that their white counterparts received. It began with slavery, when blacks were prohibited from obtaining even the basic skills to read and write. When blacks were finally allowed this liberty, we began our own makeshift schools, and were content with this opportunity. As time progressed, and more formal schools were established, minorities realized that they were not receiving the same quality education as those of the majority. This sparked a legal battle that lasted over fifty years. The first landmark was the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. It established the doctrine of “separate but equal.” This concept stated that separate public facilities of equal quality do not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. This amendment says that no state may “abridge” the privileges of any citizen, nor may any state deprive any citizen of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law. In 1954, fifty-eight years later, the Case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka finally settled the debate of whether or not blacks and whites can receive an education integrated with or separate from each other. This time the Supreme Court unanimously ruled to overturn the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. In his opinion, the Chief Justice wrote, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The Brown case signaled the end of segregation of public places mandated by law. Once the Brown decision was handed down, the African-American community, along with progressive white Americans, placed sufficient pressure on the legal and political system to bring an end to state-supported segregation in all public facilities.
Forty-six years removed from the Brown v. Board of Education decision formally desegregated public schools, African-American youth have made enormous progress in high school completion, in better test scores, in greater college enrollment, in obtaining college degrees and in careers. The endless stream of negative statistics tends to overshadow the individual accomplishments of those who found their way around the barriers and through the closed doors. The statistics support these positives. In 1967, the U.S. Census found that 54% of African-Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 had completed high school. By 1987, this number had risen to 83%. African-Americans also made some progress on achievement tests given by the National Achievement Education Program. Their reading scores had risen from 238 in 1971 to 274 in 1991. African-American student scores have risen on the SATs also, while other ethnic group scores have either lagged or remained unchanged. A few years back there was a decline in the numbers of African-Americans attending college, but that has turned around, particularly among women. These statistics are encouraging, but there are other facts that cannot be ignored. First, while African-American educational attainment has improved, the amount of education needed to have a real chance in life has grown even more. Second, general trends do not reflect how really awful education conditions are in some schools, in some regions, and for some groups, including African-Americans in urban areas. Third, the gap between white and African-American achievement remains substantial. There are still issues regarding the equality of education still today. There have been demographic changes, not only the flight of the white middle class to the suburbs after the Brown case, but a flight of black middle class as well. This has left inner cities districts to become schools for poor and minority students. There needs to be a socio-economic mix in public schools as well as an ethnic mix. Another problem is the need for space; rich districts tend to have more space per student than poorer districts. This is evidence that the struggle for equality continues.
The importance of education is also demonstrated by the actions of the animals in Animal Farm. One of the first points on the agenda after the revolution that gave the animals control of the farm was the work of teaching the other animals on the farm. This work was naturally delegated to the pigs who were the most intelligent animals on the farm. This demonstrates that knowledge is power. Reading and writing classes were immediately instituted to teach all the animals basic literary skills. These classes were a big success due to the natural want of any miseducated individual to learn. Within a year, almost every animal on the farm was literate to some degree. Both of the ruling pigs, Napolean and Snowball, realized the need for education. They differed on the focus of this education. Napolean believed in concentrating the education effort towards the young, whereas Snowball believed in educating everyone. Napolean showed this commitment when he assumed the private education of the nine young puppies, although he had alterior motives for this commitment. When the new litter of pigs were born later in the book, Napolean set aside space for the building of a schoolroom, and taught the pigs privately in the farmhouse kitchen until the schoolroom was built. Again, Napolean later used this to his advantage. The cunning of Napolean demonstrates from another perspective that knowledge is power. The lesser educated animals on the farm were manipulated and mistreated, but their lack of mental sharpness to see what was going on prevented them from ever receiving justice. This relates back to how blacks were enslaved and prevented from receiving an education. It was well known by the majority that an educated group of individuals would not allow themselves to be enslaved forever.
The struggle for equality in schools and the events on the animal farm prove that education is the key to a meaningful existence, and that the less educated will always be dominated by better educated in any society.