"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Good Place for Maggie: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In Louisiana children are going to school without breakfast, without clean clothes, without a permanent home to return to when school is over. Charity groups bring in clothing so that students can have something to wear. Principals buy laundry equipment so that students’ old clothing can be cleaned. Yet the U. S. Department of Education and the State of Louisiana expect the students in these schools to pass the same tests at the same rate as white children of privilege.

No, this is not New Orleans I am talking about—this is the grimy reality in parts of every African-American and Hispanic community across Louisiana. This was the reality BEFORE Katrina, a reality that continues and one that is unnoticed by the education privatizers in and around the U.S. Dept. of Education who talk about high expectations for all and closing the achievement gap—all empty rhetoric used to divert attention from their oppressive and anti-democratic agendas to gut the civic purpose of this country and to eviscerate the social goals of equality and equity.

That is why Maggie Spellings is now between a rock and a hard place (as tepidly reported here), as she and her attorneys mull her decision to continue the intellectual and emotional genocide against the poorest and weakest school children, even as they now doubly suffer their own poverty plus the horrors brought by Katrina.

If she stands firm on her decision to continue the testing torture unabated, then she will be seen as the heartless witch that many Texas teachers know her to be from their encounters prior to her ascension to Washington. If she caves to pressure from every education and humanitarian group that has not been bought off with federal grants, then she will bring into focus the problem that this little post started with: What about all those children who were living in poverty, squalor, and chaos before Katrina? Can we give them a break, too, from the testing insanity that seems to have taken over an otherwise caring and generous nation of fair-minded pragmatists? Can we do something about the poverty of this nation, instead of using that poverty as a way to demonstrate the failure of schools to do what they, alone, can never accomplish?

Ms. Spellings and Mr. Bush—have you no shame?

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