Interchange: In This Issue
By Betty Norwood Chaney
Vol. 1, No. 8, 1979, p. 2
May 17, markes the 25th anniversary of Brown v. Borad of Education decision by the Supreme Court. While not devoting the contents of this issue entirely to eductation, Southern Changes, like so many other publications this month, reserves some space for reflecting upon the state of deucation 25 years after the historic decision.
In “Soapbox” this month, Dillard professor Monte Piliawsky appraises the South to measure how much progress has been made since 1954. He finds the paradox of the “New South” to be most dramatically exhibited in the area of public education. “School integration,” he says, “has generally meant that White parents have pulled their children outof the public schools, leaving to Black (and some poor White) children school systems which invariably are underfunded. The remaining White chldren often are divided from Blacks by controversial tracking systems.”
Although the picture he paints is rather dismal, he nevertheless concludes that public education is still the “best hope for the ‘New South’ to provide an enlightened citizenry and to creat national unity. (The commentary carried here is part of the the introduction to a much larger unpublished work by Piliawsky entitled Exit 13 about the closed socielty at the University of Southern Mississippi.)
“Profiles in Change” from John Egerton’s School Desegregation: A Report Card from the South looks at schools around the Southland after desegregation. Together theseprofiles present a very descriptive picture– one not greatly changed since 1975- of integration in Southern public schools.
Some schools have had more success with desegregation than others. There are those like Lillian M. Brinkley in Norfolk who feels “all of us someday– we may bein our graves– will realize it has been for the benefit of everybody.” But then there are others like Rev. Joseph N. Green, also of Norfolk who says, “We’ve desegregated the schools, but I do not feel we’ve integrated the schools… integration means people are working together harmoniously and cooperatively. I don’t think this has really come about. That which separated us in the past to a great extent is still present.”
In some instances standardized test scores, a requisite for measuring progress, indicate a drop for all races since desegregation. Now another fator entering the picture is minimum competency testing, a practice that is inforce in practically every Southern state, and has probably become the hottest and most controvercial issue over the last year. Many feel that the tests, a basis for awarding high school diplomas, will disproportionately affect the poor and minorities.
In this issue, Alace Lovelace reports on yet another situation involving testing that is causing considerable controversy. It is the Georgia desegregation plan for higher education which calls, among a number of other things, for entrance and exit tests to be administered to college students. Many students and some faculty see this plan as a ploy for decreasin the number of Black students who are able to enter and graduate from college. Demonstrations and violence have erupted around this plan while others find it “totally acceptable.”
Two other controversial issues involving schools are also repoted on in this issue. They are the prayer in public schools debate, by Steve Suitts, in our Southern Politics department and the school breakfast program, by Judy Curie, in the Health Care department.
In addition, we also carry in this issue “The Triana Fish Story” by Thomas Noland about the small, poor Alabama community whose residents were found to have extraordinary levels of DDT in their bodies.
Wayne Greenhaw reports on another situation in Alabama involving the poor. It is about their legal struggle with the Alabama Power Company who is seeking the largest rate increase in the state’s history.
The appointment of G. Duke Beasley as the first administrator of the Georgia Office of Fair Employment Practices caused something of a stur last summer (See the September issue of Southern Changes, Vol. 1 No. 1), but nothing compared to the uproar created by the release of his first annual report recently. Ginny Looney brings us up-to-date on the administrator’s appointment and the report called a “complete and utter wste of taxpayer’s money” by one legislator.
As we enter the second quarter after the Brown decision, it is clear from the levels of debate surrounding education on all fronts that we are probably still another quarter of a century away from solving them. This is not to say that some progress has not been made. “Profiles in Change” attest to that fact, but the burden placed upon education in this country is a heavy one– one we’ve only begun to bear.