He worked for Robert F. Kennedy. For President Kennedy indirectly. He wanted this project.
Special Assistant to the Attorney General. Deal with the most recalcitrant opponent to school desegregation. Prince Edward County, Virginia. They had closed the public schools. They would avoid any legal requirement that they desegregate.
Proponents of desegregation took them to court. Make them reopen and integrate their schools. While they waited, 1,500 white children were in private schools. 1,800 black kids were not in school at all. For three years.
The plan. Win in court. Until then. Create a new, integrated, private school system. Vanden Heuvel coordinated the creation of an integrated school board – college presidents, mostly. He coordinated their effort to hire a superintendent. Got one from Long Island. They staffed the schools from scratch –building an integrated staff from all over the country.
The school district opened in September, 1963. JFK was assassinated in November. Fifty years later, vanden Heuvel was the keynote speaker at a Hampden-Sydney College symposium. Vanden Heuvel recalled the bad effects on children of three years of missed school. He recalled how children thrived once back in school. He noted graduates who had returned for the symposium.
Vanden Heuvel mentioned valuable assistance of Francis Keppel, the US Commissioner of Education then. I knew him. Served on a Commission he chaired. Educational directions for Massachusetts. Keppel was a man to learn from.
Our report did not gain much traction. The Standards Movement, measuring with more and more testing had become the fashion just before we completed our work. Our focus on combining progressive education with expectations of excellence was ignored.