John C. Goodman: Judges have hurt public schools

by John C. Goodman

The Dallas Morning News

Of all the social experiments of the 20th century, perhaps none was more disastrous than the attempt by federal judges to run inner-city public schools.

Dallas ' public schools are more segregated today than at any time in the last three decades. Only 6.7 percent of the students are Anglos (down from 58.2 percent in 1970), and many of those who remain are in special magnet schools. The federal courts across the country are ending their desegregation orders, not because they have achieved integration but because there are no white students left to integrate.

Anglo children aren't attending inner-city schools for the same reason that many black and Hispanic children don't attend: poor performance. Federal judges have contributed to that poor performance, here and elsewhere, by suppressing the only two things research shows really matter: parental involvement and competition.

The one exception to those generalizations is magnet schools. Magnet schools don't try to be all things to all students. They can specialize. They can accept some students and reject others. And almost everyone agrees they work.

So why can't all schools become magnet schools? They could if federal judges ever decide that academic performance is the goal of public education. But for 30 years, learning hasn't been the goal. The goal has been desegregation.

John C. Goodman is president of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His e-mail address is