All posts by Richard D. Kahlenberg


Applying ‘Brown v. Board’ to Higher Education

On Thursday of this week, K-12 educators will commemorate the 58th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision recognizing that separate schools for black and white are inherently unequal.  Even after de jure segregation was officially dismantled, K-12 educators acknowledged that de-facto racial, ethnic, and economic segregation of schools is harmful to student outcomes.  Low-income students stuck in high-poverty elementary schools, for example, are two years behind low-inco…


A Bad Week for Elizabeth Warren—and Affirmative Action

On Sunday, the Washington Post declared that Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren had the “Worst Week in Washington.” News came to light that Warren, a Harvard Law professor, touted her Native American heritage (she is reportedly one-32nd Cherokee) in legal directories from 1986 to 1995, and that Harvard Law School claimed her status added to faculty diversity. Conservatives charged she had gamed the system to use affirmative action to advance her career.

Warren denied…


Community Colleges and the American Dream

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently released a significant commission report that begins to articulate a positive path for change for two-year colleges.  Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future, was issued by a high-level 38-member panel, and had the backing of major players in higher education: the Gates and Kresge foundations and the ACT and Educational Testing Service.

The report, which was featured in a story by David Wessel in the…


Food Stamps for the Wealthy

There is a lot of buzz around New Republic journalist Timothy Noah’s new book, The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, which persuasively documents the nation’s burgeoning economic divide. While we appropriately pride ourselves for becoming a more egalitarian society with respect to African-Americans, women, and gays, Noah writes, our incomes have grown stunningly unequal. If in the 1960s and 70s, the United States became an “angrier place,” tod…


Does the Texas Top-10-Percent Plan Work?

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears a challenge to the racial affirmative-action program at the University of Texas at Austin this fall, one of the big issues will be whether Texas’s two “race-neutral” alternative programs provided sufficient racial and ethnic diversity to make the use of race unnecessary—and therefore illegal. Did programs to provide affirmative action based on socioeconomic status, and to automatically admit students in the top-10 percent of every high school class, crea…


The 2-Tier-Tuition Controversy

Santa Monica Community College created a furor when it recently proposed charging higher prices for certain popular classes as a way of addressing overcrowding. The proposal, which was reported on the front page of the New York Times and on National Public Radio, raised complaints because community colleges are supposed to be affordable open-access institutions that promote equal educational opportunity. The plan would have added new sections of oversubscribed courses at quadruple the regular pe…


A Better Way to Evaluate Colleges—and Improve Education?

For years, critics have complained that the U.S. News & World Report college rankings measure “inputs,” such as median student SAT scores, rather than “outputs,” in the form of how much students have actually learned after four years. From an equity standpoint, the U.S. News rankings are also troubling because they create a perverse incentive for colleges to take the very highest-scoring students who may have had everything given to them, rather than students with somewhat lower scores who have …


Three Myths About Affirmative Action

With the nation focused on the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of President Obama’s  health-care legislation this spring, many in higher education are talking about another blockbuster case: the challenge to a racial affirmative-action program at the University of Texas, to be considered this fall. Some of the early commentary, however, is creating misconceptions about what is at stake in the Fisher v. Texas litigation.  Here are three recent myths that have surfaced.

Affirmative action in hi…


Abolish Tenure?

The Virginia state legislature has been making headlines for discussing whether women should have to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion, but the same legislative body is receiving kudos, from the liberal New Republic, for seeking to abolish tenure for teachers in public schools.

In backing the proposal, the editors of The New Republic drew a distinction between higher education, where they think tenure is appropriate, and K-12 education, where they want tenure “abolis…


Bayard Rustin at 100

Bayard Rustin, the brilliant civil-rights strategist who organized the 1963 March on Washington and had a profound impact on Martin Luther King Jr., would have turned 100 tomorrow. In commemoration of the centennial of his birth, a new book, I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life In Letters, (edited by Michael G. Long) has just been published. It is a volume that is rich in Rustin’s wisdom and highly relevant to today’s debates over issues from gay rights to affirmative action.

During the civil-rig…