I’ve been mulling this over in my head over the past few days, and I cannot seem to get a good answer.
I think we can all agree that a staple of the Public High School System is athletics. Who hasn’t gone to a high school soccer game, or some other such function? I think we all recognize the fact that there are separate teams for the sexes. My school has a soccer team for both men and women, for example.
The Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka decision declared the “seperate but equal” idea unconstitutional. It declared that, by the very fact that schools were racially segregated, there was no possible way for them to be equal.
Here’s my question:
Does this apply here? Why DO we have seperate athletic teams for the sexes? I can find no reason why “seperate but equal” applies to athletics. Can someone enlighten me, PLEASE?
BTW: Someone I talked to about this said that the dressing room situation would be awkward. Our drama department changes in the same room, with no reguard to sex, so that argument is, in my opinion, bunk.
Please don’t jump on me for this but lets assume that there are real differences between men and women in physical ability. The olympics would seem to confirm this with the difference in records from male to female sports.
To deny real differences can be as bad as acknowledging false ones. Seperate but equal refered to an arbitrary difference. Gender specific sports teams arguably don’t.
Whether women should be able to play on men’s teams when they have the physical ability to keep up is a seperate issue. To some extent it probably reflects the fact that sports have been both seperate and unequal.
raises paw I never went, and never wanted to. Sports, particularly school sports, have more than a little streak of the childish and vindictive to them.
I look forward to the day that sports are separated by performance levels (“expert league”, “moderate league”, “you-suck league”) and anyone that fits into any one of them plays there, regardless. I’d love to see mixed-gender teams competing. I just don’t see it happening in the forseeable future…sexual biases are too firmly rooted. You don’t even really see a lot of mixed genders in sports like chess, fer cryin out loud.
Well, I guess it’s safe to say that women, in general, are physically smaller and less-muscular than men. There are exceptions to the rule, of course…
But if you were to suddenly set a single standard for everyone to reach in a school setting, you’ll suddenly find that most of the girls are immediately ineligible for team play while most of the guys would still have a chance. Sure, you’d technically have a “feel-good intergender team” going, but girls that were once able to get onto the team will suddenly find themselves in the “not quite good enough” range.
It’s a simple fact that men and women are different (don’t believe me? Drop trou and I’ll prove it). While there really isn’t anything that one sex can do exclusively, there are averages of the two genders that we can take, and we make are decisions based on that.
Sex and race aren’t the same thing… they can compare in some ways, but in others, the analogy doesn’t really hold water.
The relationship between men and women lie along different lines than the racial issues that started Brown vs. Board of Education. Mixing teenage boys and girls forcibly in sweaty sports during the high school years raises more bizarre gender problems that no one wants or should have to deal with. After all, growing up is a bitch and and school shouldn’t be an area where the kids are guinea pigs in gender experiments at the behest of the PTA. This is the time when hormones flow and male attitudes towards sports are arguably different from that of females. Will we have rules against butt slapping? What about excessive “ogling?” I can already hear the jokes from the guy’s locker room about breasts impairing a girl’s ability to hit the ball(I’ve heard em). Who needs this? Making silly rules against the natural behavior of teenagers makes no sense. It’s best to just leave well enough alone.
B v. BOE was a crucial step in ending Jim Crow. The Court’s decision was correct IMHO, but their stated reason is demonstrably false. Just look at all the outstanding graduates of Howard University and other Black colleges. These students certainly received an equal education. (Justice Thomas actualy considers the Court’s reasoning to be racist, for obvious reasons.) My wife and many other Wellesley graduates believe that women get a better education there because of the absense of men. There was a controversy over whether to continue a girls’ high school in NYC, which does an exellent job, according to some.
An unfortuanate consequence of a badly-reasoned good decision is that following that reasoning can produce badly-reasoned bad decisions.
december, I think your analogy needs a lot of fixing. Comparing graduates of good private colleges has nothing to do with “separate but equal.” The reality is that in the overwhelming number of public schools at the elementary and secondary level, “separate” led directly to “unequal.” This was the situation addressed by the court and their logic and the data to support it was accurate.
The issues of same-sex or co-educational schooling are significantly different than dividing citizens along arbitrary racial lines and providing or failing to provide services with public money.
Except this wasn’t exactly the court’s resoning, Tom. Brown* stated that even if services provided could be proven to be totally and completly equal, the fact of segregation equaled de facto discrimination: as I recall, the critical piece of evidence used was that study that showed that most black children prefered white dolls over black. The conclusion was that the fact of seperation, no matter how equal, was in itself derogatory and disadvantaged blacks.
December, if you are talking about contemporary graduates from HBCUs, then I think your analogy is flawed: Brown ruled that forced seperation along race lines causes inequality. Students who qualify for Brown certainly have the option of going ot other, majority-white, institutions. If you are talking about Brown 50 years ago–well, I rather suspect that segregation did have an effect on morale then, though neither of us seem to have any evidece.
Tom – I agree with you. I was trying a bit of a hijack, which I will continue.
The segregated schools of 50 years ago were not remotely equal, nor were they intended to be. In my opinion, racially differentiated government treatment is unConstitutional.
But, as Manda points out, their reasoning was in effect that Black only schools could never be equal. That was speculation, since nobody, to my knowledged, had tried to establish equal scullos for Blacks as of the 1950’s. This statement has now been disproved by the existance of such schools that do indeed provide equal educations.
Howard, Tuskegee, and numerous other private schools were providing a comparable college education well before 1954. I am not sure what you think may have been disproved regarding public secondary and primary schools.
Fair point, Tom. Thee’s a hole in my argument. One would need to complete the syllogism by proving, “Since separate but equal schools exist at the college level, SBE schools could also be created at the primary and secondary level.” That assumption looks reasonable to me, but I admit to not having demonstrated it.
Consider the alternative (which I believe was a part of the SC’s reasoning):
It’s inherently impossible that an all-Black high school or elementary school could ever educate as well as an all-White or integrated school.
Would any poster endorse this proposition? Doesn’t it sound racist? Which of you does’t think that an all Black primary or secondary school could provide equal eduation if it were properly operated?
But that is not what the Supreme Court said. What they said was that when someone is denied access to certain schools because of their race, that derogatory treatment–the sense of being not good enough or unworthy or second-class–is enough to insure inequality. The reason private Universities are poor examples is because the people at Howard chose to go to Howard–the had the option of going to other schools as well. Surely you see the insult implicit in saying “you can’t go to school with white children”?
Manda – I do indeed see the insult. Here are two relevent paragraphs from Earl Warren’s majority decision:
“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children.
The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually
interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to
learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental
development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly]
integrated school system.” 10 Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of
Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. 11 Any language in Plessy v. Ferguson
contrary to this finding is rejected.
We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate
educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for
whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal
protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any
discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 12
The first paragraph above supports Manda’s point about the insult in a legal prohibition when it mentions, “Segregation with the sanction of law.”
However, the second paragraph could be read to ban all racial segregation in public education, even if it were the student’s choice to attend a segregated school. I wonder if an all black alternative school would violoate BvBOE.
BTW it’s not obvious to me that the insult would necessarily make the segregated school inherently inferior. It’s conceivable that it could have the opposite effect. Some discrimination victims could have extra motivation to out-perform the discriminators. The hardest-working football player is reputed to be Jerry Rice (although I can’t prove that he’s motivated by race.) In Germany in the 1930’s, Jewish physicists were barred from experimantal physics, so they had to do theoretical physics. Einstein and many other Jewish scientists did very well indeed, despite the insult. A friend of mine took up the harp in the early 1950’s, because women were not allowed in orchestras, except harpists. She worked awfully hard, despite the insult (or, maybe, because of it.)
The OP has a point. Prior to Title IX, which mandated equal prosivion of sports opportunities, having “separate but equal” athletic programs for males and females ended up being very very far from equal.
Brown v BOE didn’t directly address gender parity at all. Its underlying logic has been borrowed and applied ex post facto to other categorical divisions across which oppression and structured inequality has existed, but in the case of gender athletics Title IX was selected as the remedy for reasons already mentioned by Ned and others.
In other areas of gender stratification, a BvBOE approach has been used, e.g., challenging the all-male Citadel (a military college).
Sometimes the lack of a clear and coherent single standard for fairness in matters of gender leads to awkward or murky politics, as where activists for equal opportunity for women have seen good things result from all-female schools and bad things come out of schools where females are not permitted and see some of their colleagues lined up in defense of one and others defending the other.
December, there is another aspect of BvBOE that derives from the case law leading up to Brown, and which may address the obvious ability of all-black schools to provide superior education.
In a pre-Brown case, which name escapes me right now, segregation at a public university law school was challenged. This was truly a case of separate-but-equal - the all-black law school shared facilities and (IIRC) most faculty with the all-white law school.
The Supremes ruled the segregation unconstitutional, on the following grounds: an important part of post-secondary (at least) education are the relationships and connections made there. The basic idea was that the black students were denied the ability to develop friendships and earn a reputation with white students, who one day may be the attorney looking for a partner, the judge looking for a clerk, etc.
(The above is all from memory. If I missed a nuance, etc., please correct me.)