Thinking Citizen Blog — How Teach the Meaning of Equal Protection — One Possible Orion
Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — How Teach the Meaning of Equal Protection — One Possible Orion
Last time, the meaning of freedom. Today, the meaning of equal protection. So, what is the most important thing for an elementary student to remember about the meaning of equal protection? How about the most important three things a middle schooler should remember? or the seven most important things a high school graduate should remember before they head to the voting booth? Are these important questions? How important? To me, they are all important. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE SUPREME COURT USES THREE TIERS OF REVIEW IN EQUAL PROTECTION CASES — does this make sense to you? Think of these as the three stars of Orion’s Belt.
1. To discriminate on the basis of race requires a “compelling state interest.” For example, to justify affirmative action action, the “compelling state interest” used is “diversity” of the student body.
2. To discriminate on the basis of sex requires a “substantial” or “important” state interest. So in the case of Mississippi University for Women v Hogan, the women-only admissions to the nursing school was struck down for lack of an “important” state interest to justify it.
3. To discriminate on the basis of age, property, physical or mental disabilities requires only a “rational state interest.” So not allowing the blind to drive makes sense. As does taxing the rich at higher rates.
NB: Critics of this three tier system of review have included Justices Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens. “There is only one equal protection clause.” (Stevens)
THE TWO UPPER STARS: GRUTTER V BOLLINGER (2003) AND GRATZ V BOLLINGER (2003)
1. In Grutter, the Supreme Court decided 5–4 that it is not a violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause for a university’s admissions program to consider race in its assessment of a candidate. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion. This case involved the admissions program of the University of Michigan Law School.
2. In Gratz, the Supreme Court ruled 6–3, that a using a “point system” (20 points for special minority status), as the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program did, was a violation of the Equal Protections Clause. This quantitative system was deemed the equivalent of a “quota” and shut down.
NB: Does this distinction make sense to you? Does the simple quantification and making explicit what is implicit really transform a practice from constitutional to unconstitutional?
THE TWO BOTTOM STARS: CRAIG V BOREN (1976) AND SAN ANTONIO V RODRIGUEZ (1973)
1. Craig v Boren (1976) introduced the idea of “intermediate scrutiny” for gender discrimination. The case involved an Oklahoma statute that outlawed the drinking of 3.2% non-alcoholic beer to men aged 18–21 but not to women of the same age. The state argued that public safety was the rationale. The Court argued that “the statistics relied on by the state were insufficient to show a substantial relationship between the statute and the benefits intended to stem from it.”
2. In San Antonio v Rodriguez (1973) the Supreme Court ruled that property-based school financing system in Texas was not a violation of the equal protection clause. Justice Powell further held that the right to an education is not a fundamental right. This has been rated by some as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history. I would have to agree.
THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY ARE AVAILABLE HERE:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.