Justice Black’s Dissent in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Randy and I have added several cases to our second edition. An introduction to Constitutional Law. A classic case, one that appears on the AP Government needed list is Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Child School District (1969). While I’d read the majority opinion previously, Justice Black never gave me his entire dissent. This passage is likely to resonate today with many:

Although change is often referred to as the law of the universe, it’s sometimes worth keeping the good old habits and the familiar. Undoubtedly, the schools of this nation have contributed to our tranquility and made us more law-abiding citizens. An enemy of domestic peace is uncontrolled, and often inexorable freedom. It is important to remember that many of our country’s most serious problems stem from crimes committed by youth. Too many are in school. School discipline, like parental discipline, is an integral and important part of training our children to be good citizens—to be better citizens. Here a very small number of students have crisply and summarily refused to obey a school order designed to give pupils who want to learn the opportunity to do so. It doesn’t take a prophetic son or daughter to understand that some Iowa students, as well as all school children, will not be willing and able to follow any orders from their teachers after today’s Court ruling. Schools are more affected by this because students from all walks of the country have been running wild, committing break-ins and sit-ins as well as lying-ins and smash-ins. As is well-known to those who follow the news on television and read newspapers, many of these student groups have been involved in violence, destruction, and property seizing. Picketing schools has been a common tactic by these student groups to make it difficult for students to leave their lines. They also violently attacked and scared students who were trying to obtain an education they did not want. They believe they are better at managing public schools than teachers, parents and elected officials. There is no way to know why these students are not able to go to classes because of their political pressures. As they have been afflicted with injunctions and lawsuits against their teachers, it’s a wishful thinking thought to think that these young students won’t soon feel it their right to manage schools, rather than that of the States who collect taxes for teachers to benefit the pupils.. My judgment is that this case leaves all public schools across the nation open to the opinions and caprices not only of the loudest but also the most intelligent students. One, I am not convinced that the school children are smart enough to manage our 23,390 public schools in 50 states, even with Washington’s expertise. I would therefore like to completely discredit any intent on my part to believe that the Federal Constitution obligates teachers, parents, elected school officials, or other school personnel to give control to American school children. I dissent.

It makes me wonder sometimes what the schools would look like, if Justice Black were to prevail.