Some say U. S. race relations are improving; others say not. Some say that affirmative action has fostered racial progress; others say not. But almost all Americans, liberal or conservative, agree that in the long run racial equality can be fully achieved only by eliminating disparities in the average educational performances of blacks and whites. Most Americans, we submit, would go so far as to say that if the next generation of blacks and whites acquire similar academic skills, the remaining barriers to racial equality could well slip away of their own accord.
But despite the broad consensus for education's central importance, the United States tolerates the isolation of half of its African-American children in public school within an unsafe and severely underperforming system. Any serious attempt to eliminate racial inequities must correct this glaring blot on the nation's racial report card.