Fifty Years of Affirmative Action: Remedy for Oppression or Reverse Discrimination?

Affirmative Action policies have tried to remedy past oppression and discrimination in our society for over 50 years. In this six-session course, we will consider Supreme Court decisions with a particular focus on their impact on higher education admissions and other educational contexts over this span of years. We will also study Affirmative Action cases in other contexts, like hiring, that clarify the Supreme Court’s evolving jurisprudence over time.

We also will examine the essential conflict between those who believe that the Constitution requires that policies in these areas be gender and color-blind despite our history of systematically disadvantaging generations of women and people of color and those who believe that constitutional decision-making must take gender and race into account because of that history. Questions we will discuss include:

What are the costs and benefits of race-conscious policies?
Does the law require that policies and procedures in these areas always be color-blind?
Are Affirmative Action policies in conflict with the American value of individual merit?
Can Affirmative Action policies, intended to remedy centuries of oppression, themselves racist?
Should Affirmative Action programs and policies be a temporary or a permanent feature of our society?

Course Recordings:

Class 1 - April 7

Class 2 - April 14


Group Leader: PAUL KELLEHER
Meets on: Wednesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/7/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24
Teaching Style: Lecture and discussion
Weekly Preparation: None
Group Leader Biography:

Paul grew up and attended public schools in Worcester, MA. He received B.A. and Masters’ degrees from Harvard and a Doctorate from Teacher’s College-Columbia. In a 35-year career in public education, Paul served as a teacher, middle and high school principal, and superintendent for schools in New York and Connecticut. Upon retiring as a superintendent, Paul served for 10 years as the Norine R. Murchison Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at Trinity University in San Antonio. Now a professor emeritus, Paul devotes himself to leadership development through coaching in local public schools and has written about this work in books and articles on educational leadership.