My guest this week is the Boston College political scientist Shep Melnick. Shep is the author of many books on civil rights law, equality, education, and politics, most recently The Crucible of Desegregation: The Uncertain Search for Educational Equality. He’s keenly attuned to the contradictions inherent in legislative and judicial efforts to spur equality in the post-civil rights era, and parts of our conversation here serve as fascinating history mini-lessons.
We begin by discussing the DEI initiatives of the Obama and Biden presidencies, and how they sometimes do less than one might suppose. As an expert on the history of desegregation, he’s in a good position to judge. In fact, he points out some problems in the arguments of those who claim that schools are now “resegregating.” He offers segregation as a useful framework for thinking about how Title IX reforms have gone from addressing egregious sex discrimination in schools and the workplace to trying to address more complex changes in the way we talk about gender. And finally, Shep tells me that, while he’s no fan of CRT, he does not think it should be banned in schools.
Shep’s got a way of bringing a deeply informed, level-headed perspective to hot-button issues. I hope to have him on again soon.
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0:00 Biden’s new DEI initiatives
7:59 The disparate uses of disparate impact
13:59 Shep’s new book, The Crucible of Desegregation: The Uncertain Search for Educational Equality
23:15 The problem with claims that education is resegregating
29:56 Are we heading back to the bussing debates of the 1970s?
35:52 Shep’s book, The Transformation of Title IX: Regulating Gender Equality in Education
44:20 Glenn’s “uncle” objects to analogies between trans people and African Americans
47:58 Shep: Banning Critical Race Theory is the wrong strategy
Recorded September 8, 2023