Anyone who reads this blog knows that I haven’t always been a fan of Gail Kerr, columnist and political propagandist for the Tennessean. And yet, in a shocking turn of events, this morning’s column was one that I agreed with. She wrote:
It may be time for the appeals court to look inside the Nashville federal courthouse again, this time at a case involving Nashville’s public-school kids. Because U.S. District Court Judge John T. Nixon could not appear to be more biased if he stepped down off the bench, shed his robes and pulled up a chair next to the plaintiff.
The recent school rezoning case has been troubling for me, and my opinions on this issue have led some to completely divest me of my progressive/liberal credentials, for I found the suit frivolous and with only partial merit. Some of my opinion on this is in knowing personally several persons involved in making the rezoning decision, including school board members, and members of the parent’s advisory committee that held poorly attended hearings on the issue and worked hard to poll parents in the affected districts, who have been falsely held up as being driven by race in their considerations. The people involved have good hearts and were trying to juggle a difficult reality of ensuring academic success for students which requires parental involvement, involvement that was often limited by the distances involved in busing kids to other schools. These leaders were willing to challenge the stereotype that inner city schools are by definition less successful than suburban schools, trusting that they and the school system had worked hard through the years to obtain economic and structural parity regardless of location. One can argue with the competing data as to whether the assumptions made by these leaders was correct, but these folks were absolutely sincere in trying to the best of their ability to improve the system, not break it.
I could spend time arguing why I think the rezoning plan wasn’t as bad as some make it out to be, but that ends up being a futile discussion for among those convinced that it was and is an evil, no amount of conversation and logic will convince them otherwise. However Judge Nixon’s recent move to postpone the case until the plaintiff can get some more assistance clearly signals that he has already made up his mind, that he falls into the “rezoning is evil” camp, and that he is not willing to make a clear cut decision based on the merits of the case as presented in the courtroom. His decision is not about evening the playing field, but rather tilting it so that he can make the ruling he wants to make. It seems clear that he is wanting to make a decision based on who the players are rather than the substance of the argument, for if the argument is well founded, it really doesn’t make any difference who makes it.
And in the midst of this political theatre, school goes on, kids try to learn, teachers try to teach, and we continue to struggle to find the right means to help kids go on to success.