Closing Statement-Ellen Wahl
April 24, 1998 2:33 PM EST

Policy and law need to be based on empirical data and disinterested analysis.
We should be careful not to let unquestioned assumptions drive our decision
making, and while passion is essential to the cause of social change, it is too
easy to manipulate any piece of data to serve one side of the argument or the
other. My first plea is therefore to recast the debate into more of a
discussion, and to stop playing the game that my friend Eric Jolly calls "the
race to the bottom" -- who's more oppressed. We've got serious problems
throughout our educational system. It's not equitable for lots of kids, and if
you can predict outcomes on the basis of group membership, you've got a problem.
The legal question here is, what kind of problem and what are the continuing

That takes me to the second point. In some places the data are clear and in
others they are confusing and confounding. In many instances we simply don't
have enough information. We really don't have a lot of data on the relationship
of strategies to outcomes. Too little of the research has controlled for or
described the multitude of factors that must be taken into account in looking at
differences in educational access and outcomes, from level of resources to
content and pedagogy.

The third point is that we face a series of difficult dilemmas in coming up with
appropriate remedies. I've hammered away at the concern that separate is not
and has never been equal, and that even if the reason for separation is to
empower rather than to disenfranchise, there is too grave a danger that it can
once again be used to oppress rather than to liberate. On the other hand, it
is pedagogically and developmentally appropriate to offer a variety of choices
in the way the teaching and learning process are conducted. Each of us does
have our own approach to learning and doing, some of which derive from our
background, experience, and culture, and more likely to associate us with a
group or groups, and some of which are characteristics of our individual makeup.
How do we create alternative social organizations, supports for different
approaches to teaching and learning?

A critical dilemma for me is that in order to know more about what works, we
have to put resources into experiments, yet I'm not sure that's an appropriate
use of public dollars given the concerns about legality and precedent.

The conclusion for me is that these are very complex questions that deserve
serious and reflective consideration. Thank you all for your insights and

Ellen Wahl

new message to this message