Jonathan Zimmerman: 'Elite' Supreme Court Sides with Science and Juveniles

Roundup: Historians' Take

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).

Did the Supreme Court embrace an “elite vision” on Monday when it struck down state laws mandating life imprisonment for juvenile murderers?

That’s what Justice Samuel Alito said, in an angry dissent from the bench. By invalidating such laws, Mr. Alito fumed, the court’s 5-4 majority assumed that it knew better than the 28 state legislatures that have authorized mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for killers younger than 18.

But the court’s majority really does know better. And there’s a simple reason for that: It relied on science – in particular, the science of adolescent brain development....

Science is itself a kind of elitism, insofar as it privileges rigorous experimentation and testing over cant, guesswork, and propaganda. And we need more of it, not less....

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