By the late 19th century, educational acim debates were still echoing on “who was to be educated?” and “how this education was to be carried out?” Such philosophers as John Dewey and (closer to us) Jean Piaget understood that “all knowledge has a special origin and the interests of the child are the primary source of learning” (Spring 1989).
The same author said that after the Civil War black leaders, particularly W.E. Dubois and Booker T. Washington debated not the importance of schooling but the kind of education for blacks. The latter, considered by many blacks as a traitor, would acquiesce with the 1895 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that said under segregation schools can be separated and remained equal. According to Perkinson (1991), Washington addressed publicly in 1895,
“….The Negro did not want social equality, that he did not need social equality with the whites. Nor did he want or need political or civil equality … but cooperation with their white friends. Negro education should be devoted to the practical education of earning a living.” P.48 But Dubois vehemently rejected that position and argued for equal rights.
Meanwhile, diverse segments of society had been restless protecting their interests after the inaction of Plessy v. Ferguson. The US Supreme Court solved many cases in favor of minorities such as Peirce v. Society of sisters (1922, unconstitutionality of forcing public schooling only) or Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1940, unconstitutionality of forcing Jehovah Witness to salute the flag).
None of them delivered a blow to the racist establishment more significant than Brown v. Board of Education of (1954), which stipulated that separate education was inherently unequal. That decision invigorated the position of such minority leaders as Dr. Martin L. King who had long said that the reality of equality will require extensive adjustments in the way of life of the white majority, an adjustment many are unwilling to make”, ( Smith & Chunn, 1989).
The Brown decision opened the valve for a flurry of other specific legislations to right the educational wrongs done to minorities. For, Perkinson (1991) stated that black parents realized that their children were failing in schools not because they were culturally deprived but because the schools were incompetent to teach black students who, indeed, had a culture, a different culture.