What Kagan can expect the first day on the bench

Monday, Oct. 4, the opening day of the Supreme Court term, marks Elena Kagan’s first day behind the bench as a Supreme Court justice. Gregory Magarian, JD, professor of law at Washington University In St. Louis and former clerk for retired Justice John Paul Stevens, says that the experience of oral argument from the other side of the bench will be entirely new to Kagan. “There is no formal or conventional restriction on new arrivals’ participation in argument, but in all likelihood, Justice Kagan will display a bit of reserve at first while she gets used to the rhythm of questioning by nine justices,” Magarian says.

‘Today’s education system is still segregated and in need of major improvements,’ says urban school reform expert

The U.S. Supreme CourtOn May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are “inherently unequal” and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection under the law.” The Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a vitally important one. The landmark case not only opened the door for black children in the United States to attend all-white schools in their neighborhoods, but it also gave momentum to the fight toward desegregating the entire country. But an education expert at Washington University in St. Louis argues that as we approach the 50th anniversary of the decision, we still have much work ahead of us to achieve a high-quality education for all students.

Brown v. Board of Education, 50 years later

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.From left, attorneys George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall and James M. Nabrit Jr. congratulate each other following the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional.When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education ruling 50 years ago, it based its opinion on the premise that the lives of African-Americans were irreparably harmed by the stigma of segregation, leaving their lives bereft of hope and opportunity. Not all African-Americans accepted this idea, however, leading to skepticism about the Brown decision, says Tomiko Brown-Nagin, J.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in Washington University’s School of Law and in the Department of History in Arts & Sciences. “Although black ambivalence about Brown may appear to be a phenomenon of recent vintage — one connected to the ‘black pride’ movement of the late ’60s and ’70s or the multicultural movement of the early ’90s — in fact it has deep historical roots,” she says. “The historical record should be revised to correct received wisdom: the notion that African-Americans across time and place uniformly supported the campaign to integrate the schools is an historical misconception.”