Saturday, June 30, 2007

The New York Times Weighs In

The Times's editorial on the school cases (called, in what has to be gross overstatement, "Resegregation Now") speaks to the tension between negative and positive rights I highlighted earlier. Clearly, the editors of our paper of record are positive rights folks.

"The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered the nation’s schools to integrate."

This opening sentence begs the question that the Court had to decide in these latest school cases: does Brown require integration or mere desegregation?

The editorial calls the opinion "radical" and labels it "activist."

This claim of activism is especially interesting. While it is true that the Court did rule that local governments lack the power to determine admissions by counting by race, Brown did the exact same thing.

Even more ironically, the editorial cannot seem to agree on the meaning of activism. At one point, it reads "This decision is the height of activism: federal judges relying on the Constitution to tell elected local officials what to do."

At another, "It has been some time since the court, which has grown more conservative by the year, did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated."

Put aside the obvious misstatement that the Court ordered schools to become more segregated. That's pure nonsense; however, it is true that this decision could lead to less integration in schools located in neighborhoods dominated by one race. The important issue raised by these two statements is why it is "activist" to forbid schools to count by race but not activist for a court to compel a school to do so.

Whether you agree or disagree with the school cases, it is impossible to hold up this editorial as an example of clarity of thought and reason.

Don't get your thoughts on the Supreme Court from the New York Times editorial page. I am no legal genuis, but the task of dismantling this doesn't require much more than middle school civics and a casual perusing of chapter 1 of "The Idiot's Guide to Logic."

Form your own opinions. People are all too willing to form them for you, and you can tell how well qualified they are.

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