Today’s New York Times had a very disturbing article in the Education section which details a report by the National Assessment for Educational Progress entitled, “A Call for Change,” that was released by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools. The report paints a bleak picture for our youths. As I read the article, it mentioned factors such as poverty, high unemployment, parental indifference, quality of teachers & inadequate mentoring. Buried in the middle of the piece were two items–sociological and historical forces–which the writer did not elaborate on. Why didn’t he just tell it like it is? The truth is segregation has crawled back into the American educational system & the legacy of slavery still shadows efforts toward racial justice & equality.
Another glaring omission in the Times piece–or perhaps washed over by the “historical forces” bombast–was school funding which tells the tale of why our kids aren’t getting the best resources available for them to learn. Affluent school districts (mostly white) have higher property tax revenues, half of which goes to public elementary and secondary education. Poor school districts (mostly non-white) get funded (or short-changed) by the State. Money counts & everybody knows it. President Obama did not send his kids to a public school in Washington D.C–they’re in a well-funded private school. He is all too aware of the critical issues in the urban public educational system (& so were the Presidents before him).
So, with this ongoing national crisis which is an indictment of the U.S educational system as a whole (with some notable exceptions) that has failed miserably to reach the most vulnerable & marginalized, one has to question, who really cares about the young, non-white child wilting in the educational hinterlands?
A cursory look at the US’s national budget reads like a crystal ball on our dilemma & illustrates the gaping hole in the soul of this nation. Fifty-four percent of the national budget goes to the Pentagon. The National Priorities Project has estimated the the money spent on the Iraq war alone could have provided:
- 21,510,598 full four-year scholarships to public universities
- 7,689,734 new public school teachers
- 58,770,981 chances for children to attend head-start
What’s even more disturbing to most is that the federal government can bail out automakers, banking & investment Goliaths, Fannie&Freddie…….but to date, no bailout for our young ones trying to get an education. Where is the love?
Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”