March 03, 2004
Reparations for Victims of Public Schools
Columnist William Raspberry says he's cool to reparations for the descendents of slaves, but he does advocate reparations for some residents of Prince Edward County, Va., where:
what we used to call the "white power structure" shut down the public schools rather than integrate them in accordance with the 1954 school desegregation decision. The schools remained closed from 1959 until 1964, during which time there was no tax-paid education for black children.
It's hard to know what the recompense ought to be. Think of the difference between your present circumstance and what it might have been if you had been forced to miss five years of schooling.
Or simply listen to John W. Hurt, who was 7 when they shut his school down. Five years later, when the schools reopened, he still had the reading skills of a first grader. He endured the taunts for a time, then dropped out of school.
I agree with Raspberry that a terrible injustice was done to John Hurt and the othe black children in Prince Edward County. But why stop there?
Large numbers of black public school students leave high school functionally illiterate and many fail to graduate at all (in Seattle, for example, the drop-out rate is 47%). Some of these dropouts are undeniably attributable to insufficient support at home. But many others are caused by failing public schools, incompetent teachers and the unions that defend the lousy teachers and the counter-productive work rules. Perhaps the NEA should pay reparations to the millions of public school victims whose educations and lives have been ruined by the union.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at March 03, 2004 01:56 PM
Give me a break. If immigrant students with language barriers can shine in some of the poorest public schools, how can one not point to motivation and family values as the reason. Yes, there are public schools that are dreadful, but you can still strive to be the best in that dreadful school and find a track into college regardless of race.
Slavery was many generations ago. Failure can't forever be assigned to that event. Reparations are still being paid in Head Start programs and affirmative action which most colleges haven't abandoned in decades.
That schools are failing isn't that complicated. Your school stinks, as a parent you scream foul at the top of your lungs, you mobilize and get politically active. Ask a teacher in a failed school how many parents show up for events relating to their kids and you'll see my point.
If John Hurt was illiterate five years later, what were his parents thinking and doing?
Penny, there are a lot of parents in poorer communities who are sufficiently involved in their children's education and who line up in droves to put their kids in better schools when they have the chance -- private school voucher programs and charter schools are quite popular in low income communities and can produce terrific results.
Sadly, the NEA fights hard to prevent parents from having these choices.
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Stefan, I did not intend to paint low income people with one brush. I do think that there is apathy. My older daughter teaches in a school below average in achievement. Her observation is that parents, too often, aren't involved. Parents count, kids have no vote. So far there really hasn't been a strong grassroots groundswell on vouchers. Too bad.
Our public schools are shot, no amount of money down the rat hole will fix them. Take to the street, folks.