Brown Is Not Brown and Educational Reform Is Not Reform If Integration Is Not a Goal


In their article, A Public Laboratory Dewey Barely Imagined: The Emerging Model of School Governance and Legal Reform, James S. Liebman and Charles F. Sabel argue that the “new [educational] reform” is the “legitimate legatee” of the movement for the desegregation of our schools. This claim is dangerously false, drawing upon the foundational myth of standards-based reform-that impoverished students of color will necessarily benefit from it. While we acknowledge that the new reform has the capacity to minimize the achievement gap between whites and nonwhites, it fails to set as an explicit goal the true integration of our schools. Throughout their argument, the authors mischaracterize the nature of both the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the educational reform itself. In the end, their article is not about Brown, but is an apology for not being about it. Without a more complete and honest “interrogation of matters of race and equality” Brown will not be Brown, and educational reform will not be reform. After briefly exposing these weaknesses, we will call for a type of reform that remains true to Brown, transforming education and society in ways that necessarily surpass the authors’ tempered goals.

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