Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The new separate but equal?

Chief Justice Warren said:

“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

What breaks my heart is that 53 years later our schools are still separate and still unequal. The sad reality is that few of the hopes and dreams posted on those bulletin boards will ever come true because they face a grossly unequal education system. These children are bound by geography to attend schools overwhelmed by children with problems. With reasonable concern, more affluent areas make rules to keep their children safe from those problems. To break these bonds every child deserves the right to attend a school of their choice, whether it is the local public school or a private one. We can not place the burden of responsibility on the parents’ ability to afford a home in better school districts or travel long distances to take their children to better schools. School choice can and will repair the brokenness of inequality.

My Thoughts:

Brown V. Board of Education is seen as one of the most significant decisions for education in America. I keep coming back to the detestable of separate but equal, and that public education has reverted to a mere permutation of that concept that students are integrated but unequal. The cry today is that classism is outpacing racism as the number one cause of inequality. Where is the Brown V. Board of the new millennium? Why aren’t we accounting for the evolution toward a new type of inequality? Is it just too radical an idea that a top-heavy, centuries-old institution may be in need of a restructuring? If public education was a body, it would have died of a stroke or natural causes. If public education was a business, it would have been indicted for corporate fraud and gone bankrupt. But instead it is our old and venerated tradition whose nostalgia trumps the fact that it no longer works for those who need it the most.

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