Lunch Links

For lunch: Brinks, bears and schools

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(Photo: The New Yorker)

Day 15 of the government shutdown may just be the day when many Americans started to come unhinged.

As of this writing, the country continues to teeter on the edge of default on its obligations, with Speaker of the House John Boehner saying just moments ago that he and his Republican colleagues had backed off today’s proposal to reopen the government and now  had “no decisions about what exactly we will do.”

That ought to go over well with Americans who are now deciding which animal they’d most like to sic on members of Congress for their antics these past few weeks.  According to a Borowitz poll in the New Yorker, a bear is the favorite, although there’s a sharp divide over what type.

That group might include a Senior U.S. District Judge who, infuriated by cuts to the courts told Congress to go to hell.

Speaking of the courts, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts announced in an update today that federal courts now had enough money to stay open until the end of this week. After that, who knows?

And today, courts at both the state and federal level are hearing arguments in potential landmark education cases.

This morning, in a standing-room-only courtroom with the likes of former governor Mike Easley, former justices Robert Orr and Jim Exum (the latter at counsel table  on behalf of the State Board of Education) in attendance, the North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments for the third time in the 15-plus-year Leandro case – this time considering whether the state must provide pre-K to all eligible at-risk four-year-olds who apply.

And at 1 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court revisits affirmative action in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case which presents the flip side of the question the Court punted on last term in Fisher v. University of Texas.  There, the Court considered whether the university could consider race in admissions and sent the case back to the federal courts in Texas for specific findings as to whether the policy was necessary to guarantee student diversity.

In Schuette, the Court will consider whether a state can ban consideration of race in admissions. The case involves a challenge to a Michigan constitutional amendment that effectively banned racial preferences in any public space – universities, government contracting, public employment.

One undercurrent in both Fisher and now Schuette is the impact the two justices who’ve benefited from affirmative action policies – Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor — will have on the argument and ultimate decision of the Court.  Both have written memoirs in which they discuss their experiences (summed up here in a Chronicle of Higher Education blog post last year before the Fisher case was decided):

[Sotomayor’s] story (My Beloved World) about growing up poor and Puerto Rican in the Bronx naturally invites comparison to her colleague Justice Clarence Thomas’s 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, detailing his tale of overcoming poverty and racism and his very different reaction to affirmative-action policies. While Sotomayor is grateful for affirmative action, Thomas’s memoir focused on the stigma he feels is attached to his receiving special treatment from Yale. Thomas wrote, “I’d graduated from one of America’s top law schools—but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value.

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