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The Best of Our Knowledge # 856


Each February, Americans recognize Black History Month. This year, after decades and decades of court rulings and executive orders about race in education, we ask, is affirmative action still necessary? Affirmative action
can be defined as programs to overcome the effects of past discrimination
by allocating college admissions, jobs, and resources to members of specific groups such as minorities and women. In its troubled half-century history, affirmative action has been both praised and ridiculed as an answer to
racial inequality. Here are just a few historical highlights:

* 1954 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Brown v. Board of Education
case, agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

* The first real reference to affirmative action comes in 1961 when President
John F. Kennedy has been in office just two months. His executive order
creates the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

* In 1954 - President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, called the
most sweeping civil rights legislation since reconstruction.

* One year later, President Johnson issues an executive order enforcing affirmative action.

* Fast forward to 1978 and the Regents of the University of California v.
Bakke. This landmark Supreme Court case imposed limitations on
affirmative action to ensure that providing greater opportunities for minorities
did not come at the expense of the rights of the majority.

* Affirmative action evolved through many more court decisions in the ensuing years until the Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School case in 1996 which invalidated the Bakke decision.

* Then in 2003, the Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger in Michigan overturned Hopwood, and by the narrowest of margins (5 to 4) upheld
affirmative action.

TBOOK's parent station, WAMC, hosts regular Youth Media Project - Student Town Meetings meant to engage urban and rural high school students and community members in critical analysis of current issues. Last week we
heard students argue the merits, pro and con, of affirmative action. This
week educators and a business leader who benefitted from affirmative
action join the panel discussion.
Glenn Busby reports. (10:59)

**(Attention Program Directors. The website given at the conclusion of
the above story for listeners interested in finding out more about the
Youth Media Project is: www.wamcstudenttownmeetings.org)**

- In an update on a story we had last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice,
John Paul Stevens, has asked all parties in the Michigan affirmative action
case to respond to a motion by BAMN, By Any Means Necessary. The
pro-affirmative action group appealed a recent lower court decision to
the nation's highest court involving the University of Michigan ruling, that
it must immediately implement Proposal 2 passed by Michigan voters in November. The measure bans the use of race or gender preferences in university admissions. The University of Michigan issued a statement
saying their legal position is based on concern for ensuring fairness to applicants. And that the university's admissions and financial aid decision-making processes continue without regard to race or gender.

- In other news, from Iraq, two bombs blasted an after-school rush at a
Baghdad University. The explosions killed 70 people and wounded
another 140. University officials described it as one of the deadliest
attacks on academia in the past four years.

- Back in the U.S., the Department of Education and the U.S. Secret
Service announced the release of its latest tool for educators and
communities to improve school safety. The interactive CD-ROM called,
A Safe School and Threat Assessment Experience, is designed to
complement the final report on the Safe Schools Initiative. Copies can
be ordered via the Dept. Of Ed's website at www.edpubs.org.

- The U.S. Education Department's Commission on Higher Education got
the message last year, that colleges need to be more affordable. And
now a new national survey shows fewer college freshmen are attending
their top choice of schools because of financial reasons. Nearly 300-
thousand students at 400 four-year universities responded to the poll by
UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. Meanwhile, the College
Board reports that the average cost of tuition, room and board at a public university this academic year is about 13-thousand dollars, while private
schools averaged over 30-thousand dollars per year.

- And one college may be listening. Princeton University just announced
that for the first time in 40 years, it is not raising tuition for the next academic year. That move could put pressure on other highly selective colleges and universities to hold down their own costs of attending.
Dr. Karen Hitchcock reports. (3:00)

FRENCH BOARDING SCHOOLS FOR CHILDREN FROM THE PROJECTS - After the violence that struck the French housing projects
a year ago, more thought was given about what could be done to reduce boredom and lack of activities among France's immigrant youth. One
solution promoted by the French government is boarding schools for the
poor. TBOOK gets this first hand account from Lyon, France.
John Laurenson reports from Radio Netherlands. (4:01)