At age 92 John Coons continues to publish on public and private schooling, poverty law, religion and equality theory. Two collections of his many essays on how our government schools serve lower-income families will appear shortly.
In 1950 Coons graduated from the neighboring Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. His parents were farm children, each of whom left school at eighth grade. Their three children all finished college. John (“Jack”) received a generous scholarship from Northwestern U. Law School, graduating 1953, then serving for two years as an Army JAG officer, stationed at the Pentagon, acting as a trial attorney before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals.
Coons joined the law faculty at Nw. U. in the Fall of 1955, where he taught and wrote until 1967, teaching Contracts and Property. In 1962 he spent several months in East Africa studying tribal courts, returning to federal assignments in the 60’s—twice to investigate alleged racial discrimination in public schools of Chicago (plus Evanston in 1965). That experience led to his (and his students) designing, publishing—then twice presenting—the winning argument in Serrano v. Priest before the California Supreme Court.
Coons marched at Selma in the Spring of 1965, then in Chicago, several times in anti-segregationist demonstrations with the Catholic Interracial Council. In 1966 he served as personal anti-trust counsel to Martin Luther King.
For over fifty years John Coons has steadily and frequently written in support of the reform of our public schools—specifically censuring their treatment of those lower-income families whom they deprive of parental responsibility and choice of school. He has consistently distinguished his academic and political work on school choice from that of the “pure market” enthusiasts who would prefer tuition subsidies spendable in private schools for all families regardless of wealth and without requiring the private school either to outreach to a public audience or to accept a random selection among a fraction of applicants. With Stephen Sugarman he has designed and published more than a few models for school choice.
With former Boalt student, Patrick Brennan, Coons co-authored By Nature Equal-The Anatomy of a Western Insight (Princeton, 1999). He continues to write and publish essays urging Americans battling over “Equity” versus “Equality” to recognize the fundamental need for a factual justification—a natural attribute—to justify either of their political positions. He reminds them of the self-evidence of the fact that all of us are “created equal” in our unique human capacity—our freedom either to seek or to ignore the real good.
Importantly, Jack continues a sixty-five year career of composing delicate musical farces for Faculty Club audiences.
B.A., University of Minnesota, Duluth (1950)
J.D., Northwestern University (1953)