Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Retrenchment Anyone?

I've been meaning to post this very interesting article from the Economist for the past week. Can't remember where I found it originally, but a hat tip to that anonymous source, whoever you are.

Five decades after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation, black and white children continue to learn in different worlds. And it could get worse.

Now this, for any of us who are involved in the least with urban districts, we already know. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that schools inside most cities have to be as segregated now as they were during the Civil Rights era. Here in Houston you can visit schools that are more than 90% Black or Hispanic on one side of town, and mostly Caucasian (and Asian) on the other. The corresponding disparities in resources basically fall correspond to the racial dividing lines. This after 50 years of integration. But now there's a new twist.

...The question facing many school boards now is whether to keep focusing intently on the racial mix of each school, or to pour their energy instead into offsetting the disadvantages faced by any child, regardless of colour, whose parents are poor, uneducated or just hopeless.

... at the core of that debate lie competing theories about what disadvantaged students need most. Voucher advocates argue that they need their own money to spend, so that schools will compete over them.

...voucher opponents, by contrast, believe that what poor (or black) children need most is access to rich (or white) children every day in the classroom, along with all the advantages that affluent and involved parents bring to their children's schools.

What we need are public schools that work. And I'm in no ways disparaging the thousands of hardworking teachers and administrators out there doing their best with what they have to work with, but rather the politicians who continue to play games with our children's educations while dressing their shameless attacks in the guise of guarding the interests of the middle class. Or as it was stated even better in the article:

...Both arguments, however, have a debatable premise in common. They assume that the main educational goal of America's voters and policymakers is to improve the lot of children from low-income families, who tend to be the slowest learners. Many pressure-groups pay lip-service to this notion only to win support for schemes which they prefer for other reasons. In America's current political environment, pandering to middle-class gripes appears far more popular than really helping the poor. So the odds that any education reform with voters' support will genuinely be aimed at poor children seems depressingly low these days—whatever the Supreme Court rules, and however many years have elapsed since Brown. read more...

There seem to be a number of people who pine for the days of "separate but equal," as attested to by the ever more aggressive "voucher-based" attacks on the public education system. Personally, I think it's good for students to be exposed to others from different backgrounds, both racially and economically. But for the vast majority of students, that is not the case and likely will never be. They are instead caught up in a world of experimential education, where standardized tests and outsourced schools are acceptable regardless of the affect on student achievement.

So in that respect, the onus falls upon us as parents to help ensure that the schools our children do attend are the absolute best they can be. That means that we have to be more involved with the education of our own children AND actively work against the politics, politicians and corporate interests that, if they weren't worth a vote on election day or a dollar amount based upon a daily attendance allotment, could care less about us or our kids.

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