Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The need for education reform

Four years ago I was having lunch on a normal workday. I was reading an article titled "Still Separate, Still Unequal" in Harper's magazine. I learned that schools are just as--or more--segregated than they were 25 or 30 years ago. And then I read this:

High school students whom I talk with in deeply segregated neighborhoods and public schools seem far less circumspect than their elders and far more open in their willingness to confront these issues. "It's more like being hidden," said a fifteen-year-old girl named Isabel [name changed] I met some years ago in Harlem, in attempting to explain to me the ways in which she and her classmates understood the racial segregation of their neighborhoods and schools. "It's as if you have been put in a garage where, if they don't have room for something but aren't sure if they should throw it out, they put it there where they don't need to think of it again."

I asked her if she thought America truly did not "have room" for her or other children of her race. "Think of it this way," said a sixteen-year-old girl sitting beside her. "If people in New York woke up one day and learned that we were gone, that we had simply died or left for somewhere else, how would they feel?"

"How do you think they'd feel?" I asked.

"I think they'd he relieved," this very solemn girl replied.

I remember beginning to cry. I read on about Success for All, a scripted educational system for grade schools that is built on the same B.F. Skinner-inspired ideas that are used in prisons and drug rehab programs.

I walked to my car in a daze; I called my mother. For a minute or two I wasn't able to speak; I simply wept. Finally I choked out, "There's something horribly wrong with our country." It just seemed unbelievable to me--and tragic--that we could do no better for our children than to teach them as if we were dealing with criminals.

THE PROBLEMS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION are not confined to inner city schools. Obama today announced his plans for improving education in the United States. I don't know of anything that is more important for ensuring the long term health of our country.

Learn more about Obama's proposals here.

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