Friday, May 16, 2014

A thought as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Rowe vs. Wade

60 years ago the Supreme Court in Rowe vs. Wade struck down school segregation. Clearly the decision made a big difference in American culture, and equally clearly not all American children have equal educational opportunities.

Here are some reasons for our communities to provide more and better educational opportunities to all their children.

Education is a human right: It has been recognized as such around the world. It is not just a right for white kids with middle class and upper class parents. You don't deny rights to people for any reason.

If you are denying educational rights because you are a racist, you don't understand the demographics: The big problem with education today is that kids with low income parents, living in low income neighborhoods are too often going to second rate K-12 schools and don't live in an environment that encourages them to seek educational goals. If you deny kids who don't do well on tests the right to continuing education, you are denying Americans of all races. Higher education institutions are increasingly encouraged to give opportunities to students who have made the most of the opportunities that they already enjoyed, rather than on the sole basis of educational attainment.

The folk in the drivers seat will need today's kids to fund their retirement: Many, perhaps most voters today will still be alive when the white workforce is numerically smaller than it is today, and Hispanics, blacks, native Americans and Asians will be the majority of workers. Moreover, a significant number of the workers of that future will be children from low income backgrounds, even if they are white. Those workers will face competition in a still more globalized economy from increasingly well educated workers abroad. If the voters of today want their social security and Medicare to be solid, and their pensions to be adequate, they better see that the U.S. workforce in their retirement is well educated.

The United States can continue as a global power only if its economy grows in pace with those of its major competitors: If it can continue to hold that position, it will be to the benefit of all Americans. But to do so, in a global economy that increasingly values knowledge and innovation, we can not afford to have a workforce in which many workers have only a second class educations. Indeed, the nation will need to be sure that every person with the potential for intellectual excellence achieves that potential.

And it is wrong to deny any kid the opportunity to achieve as much as she or he can achieve intellectually.

White students, while still a majority in the nation’s public school classrooms, have shrunk in number. From 1990 to 2010, the number of white students decreased by 2.1 million. Meanwhile, the number of black, Hispanic and Asian students in those schools has increased by 8.9 million. White students in 2012 made up 51% of public school students, down from 68% in 1990.

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