Tuesday, September 25, 2007

50 years ago

It's the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch and the birth of the space age. Just a few entries ago, I wrote about how I was struck by the number of scientists I interviewed who wanted to be astronauts as kids. In an article in a special Space Age edition of today's Science (NY) Times, Shirley Malcolm, now an ecologist and director of education and human resources at the AAAS, said of being in high school at the time,
We stopped having throwaway science and started having real science...Here I was, a black kid in a segregated school that was under-resourced--Sputnik kind of crossed the barrier.
As it happens, black students crossed another barrier 50 years ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, an event that is sharing headlines with the launch of Sputnik. I was really struck by the juxtaposition and what it means about our society. In the fall of 1957, we (or the Soviets, actually) were beginning to explore space. We watched as the federal marshals escorted the Little Rock Nine into Central High School, past a hostile white crowd chanting "Two, four, six, eight, We ain't gonna integrate!"

Is the integration of a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas on the same scale as the Sputnik launch? For many black kids forced to attend substandard schools, the answer may have been yes.

The really sad thing is that Sputnik and the Little Rock Nine are sharing headlines today with the Jena Six. It seems that improving race relations is as hard as rocket science.

1 comment:

Speak(er) said...

What a great way to put it!