The Public Interest

Equal schools or equal students?

James S. Coleman

Summer 1966

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contains a section numbered 402, which went largely unnoticed at the time. This section instructs the Commissioner of Education to carry out a survey of “concerning the lack of availability of equal educational opportunities” by reason of race, religion or national origin, and to report to Congress and the President within two years. The Congressional intent in this section is somewhat unclear. But if, as is probable, the survey was initially intended as a means of finding areas of continued intentional discrimination, the intent later became less punitive-oriented and more future-oriented: i.e., to provide a basis for public policy, at the local, state, and national levels, which might overcome inequalities of educational opportunity.

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