January 03, 2012

Where Non-Discrimination Principles And Aiding Students Conflict

Over the years, I’ve heard announcements like one I heard today a thousand times over the public address system. But today, for some reason, it was particularly jarring – especially given that it is sponsored by an organization composed of elected officials.

The Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members is offering a scholarship to all African American seniors who have a 3.0 average or above. Scholarship applications are available now in the Counseling Center.

Now this raises some difficult questions for me.

  1. Is it appropriate for an organization made up of public officials (especially if any of the dues are paid with or reimbursed out of tax funds) be offering a racially restricted scholarship?
  2. Given the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, federal and state civil rights statutes and school district non-discrimination policies, is it appropriate for schools to be promoting a racially discriminatory scholarship via announcements, postings on the scholarship bulletin board, or other means?
  3. As a teacher, is it ethical for me to provide a recommendation for scholarships that exclude students from consideration based upon race?

Lest you think these are abstract questions, consider what the response would be if a school were announcing and promoting a scholarship exclusively for white students. There would be a great outcry of outrage – and justifiably so. Why, then, do we still consider it acceptable to do promote such scholarships for students who are members of racial or ethnic minorities? Are we still so far of the day envisioned by Dr. King -- when we judge and reward worthy students based upon their character and achievement rather than the same invidious criteria that were used to exclude some of them only a generation or two ago?

But on the other hand, with regards to the latter two questions, would a school moratorium on publicizing scholarships with racial restrictions or a faculty boycott of recommendations for scholarships that exclude students based upon race have the effect of placing our qualifying students at a disadvantage in terms of paying for their post-secondary educations?

Seems to me there are no easy answers to those questions. I'd love to hear the thoughts of other educators, as well as non-educators, on the matter. I would even welcome the views of those who sponsor such scholarships.

And please understand that I do not mean to attack the TCBSBM, which is certainly worthy of respect given the work the organization and its members have done over the years to improve the education of all Texas students. I could have picked any one of a number of scholarships offered by any number of organizations that include a racial or ethnic criterion for eligibility. This just happened to be the announcement I heard this morning that sparked my day-long reflection on the issue.

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Comments on Where Non-Discrimination Principles And Aiding Students Conflict

Simple. No PUBLIC money, time, billboards, postings or whatever for any racially-restricted scholarship. Period. What you do with your own money and time is, on the other hand, your business. The Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members is WAY out of line.

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