Re: Civil Rights Groups Skewer Obama Education Policy
It's about time this is being framed as a civil rights issue - here's an article I wrote back in 2005 when I was doing my graduate work in education and history. What's so sad is that with the SCOTUS we have right not - not sure they will see it this way - the corporations are the individuals that this majority is most concerned with.
Friday, November 25, 2005
CreatingJustice from the Injustice of NCLB
"A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn."--Chief Justice Earl Warren
The recentruling by a federal judge in Michigan who dismissed legal challenges to NCLBon grounds that Congress has the right to impose mandates on the states shouldbe a clear signal for opponents of NCLB to change strategy. Howard Zinnâsrecent article, "CreatingJustice," discusses the historical role that the rule of law, theConstitution, and the Supreme Court have played in terms of protecting therights of citizens. Zinnâs main point is that social justice and change usuallytake place because people protest, organize and shake things up, âbecause thecourts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees oneway or the other, unless pushed by the people.â
Well, it's time to shake things up. What is disturbing about the current legalchallenges against NCLB is the premise of the argument itself. Basing the legalchallenge on unfunded state mandates or flexibility implies that throwing moremoney at testing and other elements of the legislation or giving states moreflexibility will solve the problems or rectify the injustices being created bythe law. By continuing to frame the legal challenges around costs andflexibility, the discourse over the more egregious and harmful effects of NCLBon children, teachers, and schools are not being addressed and have not yetentered into the public debate.
It is becoming increasingly clear this battle has got to be fought on thegrounds that NCLB is a violation of the most basic and fundamental human rightsto freedom and is a clear violation of the Constitutional right of due processas stated in the Fourteenth Amendment: "No State shall make or enforce anylaw which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the UnitedStates; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction theequal protection of the laws."
It would be a good idea to take a close look at the Brown decision and ChiefJustice Warrenâs opinion for what it says about equality and education. Thismight lead to future challenges to NCLB as a violation of a childâs fundamentalright to an equal education and to a "real" education. Here are someexcerpts from the decision:
âToday, education is perhaps the most important functionof state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the greatexpenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importanceof education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance ofour most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It isthe very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument inawakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professionaltraining, an in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In thesedays, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed inlife 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 madeavailable to all on equal terms."
The relevance of Warrenâs argument to NCLB is that he went beyond the acceptednotion that having equal physical facilities provided black children with anequal education. Warren extended the concept of equality to include a muchdeeper interpretation of equality, one that incorporated the"effects" of separation on the psychological well-being of the child:
"To separate them from others of similar age andqualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiorityunlikely ever to be undone. The effect of this separation on their educationalopportunities was well stated by a finding in the Kansas case by a court thatnevertheless felt compelled to rule against the Negro plaintiffs: 'Segregationof white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect uponthe colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of thelaw; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denotingthe inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects themotivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law,therefore, has a tendency to (retard) the educational and mental development ofNegro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receivein a racially integrated school system.'"
With its embedded stigma of failure associated with standardized tests, what isNCLB doing to the motivation and ability of a child to learn? In effectivelynegating Plessy, Warren stated, "Separate educational facilities areinherently unequal." In 2005, we need to ask if the type of education achild receives also be inherently unequal. The evidence is piling up and hasbeen clearly documented that NCLB, with its punitive consequences, sanctionsand emphasis on testing and failure is not only leading to further segregationbut is causing intellectual and emotional harm to children. Like segregationitself, it is inherently unjust and causes damage that can never be undone. Increasingly,the most vulnerable and under-funded schools are being turned over to private,for-profit management organizations with scripted, mind-numbing narrowcurriculum.
The Brown decision established the doctrine of sociological jurisprudence ineducation by invoking the Fourteenth Amendment. It's time to revisit Brown andcreate new frameworks for legal challenges to NCLB on the grounds that it is aninherently unequal and unjust law.
Getting back to Zinn: "The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does notdeserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of theking."
From: Bob Schaeffer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: arn2-strategy <email@example.com>; ARN Main List <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ARN State <ARNemail@example.com>; rethinkaccountdc <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com
Sent: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 10:44 am
Subject: [arn-l] Civil Rights Groups Skewer Obama Education Policy
CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS SKEWER OBAMA EDUCATION POLICY
Washington Post "The Answer Sheet" Blog -- July 26, 2010
By Valerie Strauss
It is most politely written, but a 17-page framework for education reform <http://bit.ly/a4iOjy
> being released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups amounts to a thrashing of President Obama's education policies and it offers a prescription for how to set things right.
You won't see these sentences in the piece: "Dear President Obama, you say you believe in an equal education for all students, but you are embarking on education policies that will never achieve that goal and that can do harm to America's school children, especially its neediest. Stop before it is too late."
But that, in other nicer words, is exactly what it says. The courteous gloss on this framework can't cover up its angry, challenging substance.
The "Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn <http://bit.ly/a4iOjy
>" is a collaboration of these groups: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law <http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/
>, Rainbow PUSH Coalition <http://www.rainbowpush.org/
>, Schott Foundation for Public Education <http://www.schottfoundation.org/
>, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People <http://www.naacp.org/content/splash/
>, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League <http://www.nul.org/
>, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc <http://www.naacpldf.org/
Leaders of these groups were scheduled to hold a press conference Monday to release the framework but it was cancelled because, a spokesman said, there was a conflict in schedules. The delay was, presumably, not connected to public appearances this week by Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the convention marking the 100th anniversary of the Urban League in Washington D.C. Obama is making a speech on Thursday; Duncan on Wednesday.
The framework's authors start the framework seeming conciliatory, applauding Obama's goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020.
But quickly their intent is clear. They take apart the thinking behind the administration's education policies, and note a number of times the differences between what Obama and Duncan say about education and what they do.
About Race to the Top, <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/race-to-the-top/
> the competitive grant program for states that is the administration's central education initiative thus far, it says:
/"The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for awarding federal education funding will ultimately leave states competing with states, parents competing with parents, and students competing with other students..... By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader."/
About an expansion of public charter schools <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/charter-schools/about-the-brill-story-on-chart.html
>, which the administration has advanced:
/ "There is no evidence that charter operators are systematically more effective in creating higher student outcomes nationwide....Thus, while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs." /
And there's this carefully worded reproach to the administration:
/"To the extent that the federal government continues to encourage states to expand the number of charters and reconstitute existing schools as charters, it is even more critical to ensure that every state has a rigorous accountability system to ensure that all charters are operating at a high level." /
But there's more.
The framework says that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, "should seek buy-in from community advocates." But it notes that Obama's Blueprint for Education reform makes "only cursory mention of parent and community engagement in local school development."
It blasts the administration's approach to dealing with persistently low-performing schools, saying that closing them in the way now being advanced is wrong, and it says that the administration is not doing enough to close gaps in resources, alleviate poverty and end racial segregation in schools.
And it says that the government should stop using low-income neighbors as laboratories for education experiments:
/"For far too long, communities of color have been testing grounds for unproven methods of educational change while all levels of government have resisted the tough decisions required to expand access to effective educational methods. The federal government currently requires school districts to use evidence-based approaches to receive federal funds in DOE's Investing in Innovation grant process. So, too, in all reforms impacting low-income and high-minority communities, federal and state governments should meet the same evidence-based requirement as they prescribe specific approaches to school reform and distribute billions of dollars to implement them./
/"Rather than addressing inequitable access to research-proven methodologies like high-quality early childhood education and a stable supply of experienced, highly effective teachers, recent education reform proposals have favored "stop gap" quick fixes that may look new on the surface but offer no real long-term strategy for effective systemic change. The absence of these "stop gap" programs in affluent communities speaks to the marginal nature of this approach. We therefore urge an end to the federal push to encourage states to adopt federally prescribed methodologies that have little or no evidentiary support -- for primary implementation only in low-income and high-minority communities./"
This is really tough talk, and it is about time that America's civil rights leaders are speaking up.
The only question is whether anybody in the Obama administration is actually listening.
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