The Brown v. Board of Education Court: A Model for Our Times

Bob Crabtree was asked recently to submit a comment on his “favorite” U.S. Supreme Court decision for the Boston Bar Association’s “Voices of the Bar”; this was his comment:

For its eventual effects on my practice as a special education attorney and in shaping my vision of what our national community can accomplish when circumstances fall into place, there has been no more impactful Supreme Court decision than Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), issued when I was nine years old.   Though its pronouncements may have proven more aspirational than actual in the short term, and though fear and bigotry continues to spawn resistance against its meaning and implementation for the disenfranchised of all kinds through the decades, its ringing emphasis on the centrality of education for the effective functioning of our social and political lives and the clarity with which the Court dismissed the disingenuous fiction  of “separate but equal” stand secure.  Said the Court: “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.”  Amen to that.  The Court was unanimous in Brown.  One might look to the work done by its members to achieve that unanimity for the good of our body politic, in spite of deep political and philosophical differences among them, as a model for our own time.   One might also take the Court’s achievement in that case as a reminder of the critical importance of selecting persons of good will, strong intelligence and compassion to fill its seats as we approach election time in these, our own bitter and divided times.

Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

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