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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Just Schools

Martha Minow, Harvard Law School
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

What’s at stake for American democracy when the “politics of recognition” is the driving force behind American education?  In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the U.S. Supreme Court banned racial segregation in schools on the grounds that it violated the principle of “equal protection under the law.”  But disagreement on the precise meaning and implication of equality in this context has hindered reform efforts in the schools. Professor Minow will consider this challenge through an inquiry into the burgeoning ranks of schools with distinctive missions that are tailored to students with particular identities or needs: public and private single-sex schools, private religious schools, public charter schools organized around Arabic or Hebrew, schools for “newcomers” and schools for students having an interest in particular languages, as well as schools for gay-lesbian-transgendered youth.  These schools are organized on the premise that academic achievement and cultural pluralism can go hand-in-hand, and even enhance one another. But what sort of society — and what conception of justice — would such an educational system create?

headshot of Martha Minow

Martha Minow, the Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law, has taught at Harvard since 1981.  She writes about human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities. Her books include Breaking the Cycles of Hatred: Memory, Law and Repair (2003);  Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good (2002), Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence  (1998); Not Only for Myself: Identity, Politics and Law (1997);  and Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law (1990), and casebooks on civil procedure and on women and the law.  She served on the Independent International Commission Kosovo and helped to launch Imagine Co-existence, a program of the U.N.High Commissioner for Refugees, to promote peaceful development in post-conflict societies.  Her 5-year partnership with the federal Department of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology worked to expand access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.  She received an Honorary Doctor of Law from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 2006 and the Sacks-Freund Award for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard Law School in 2005.