Grades K-6: Fairness & Equal Treatment
A Famous Kansas Child
Linda went back to Monroe School. One night, not long after school had started for the year, her father took her to a meeting that was held at a church – a different church than the one they usually attended. There were lots of grown-ups at the meeting, and Linda didn’t understand what they were talking about. But after a while, she was called to the front of the room and asked to stand up on the podium. As she stood there a voice asked loudly, "Why should this child be forced to travel so far to school each day?"
Linda didn’t hear very much about the school situation after that. But the rest of the country did. There was an organization called the N-Double-A-C-P, which stood for: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With the help of the NAACP, Oliver Brown sued the Topeka Board of Education. According to the law, it was okay for the black and white children to be sent to separate schools, as long as those schools were considered to be equal. The school authorities said the schools were equal. Although Sumner School was a little newer and prettier, Monroe School had a larger playground and fewer cracks in the walls. Both schools had good teachers (all white teachers at Sumner; all black teachers at Monroe). The teachers all had about the same size classes, and were paid the same amount of money. Although most of the black children lived farther away from their schools than the white children did, buses were provided for them. There were no buses for any of the white children. The school authorities said the people were used to things being this way, and not everyone wanted change. They said the children should continue to be segregated, or separated.
The people who testified in court on behalf of Linda (and others like her) said that these facts did not make the schools equal. The very fact that the children were separated made the schools unequal. The people said that the separation could make the children think they were different from one another, instead of teaching them that they could learn from each other. It meant that as adults, they would not work as well together or get along in our world because they had not been taught to be together as children. They said the children should not be separated and should go to the schools closest to them.
- You be the judge. If you had to decide whether to keep the children in separate schools or let them attend the school closest to their homes, which would you decide? Why?
- Role-play the situation. Ask two students to pretend to be parents who still want segregation (white students and black students separated). Ask two other students to pretend to be parents who want integration (both races attending the same school). What would these parents say? How could each try to convince the others to change their minds?