Thursday, January 21, 2010

Education Reform: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time

John Legend with a powerful article (which, of course, the NYS legislature ignored):

For a very long time, the United States invested in our education system. We made sure it kept up with the times and we led the world in almost every measure. But in recent years, that has changed. We used to be in first place in graduation rates. By 2006, we had slipped to 18th in high school graduation rates and 14th for college. Our high school drop-out rate is a shameful 30% and is much worse for minority and low-income students.

So are all of our schools bad? Absolutely not. Many are exceptional.

However, just 15% of our high schools are responsible for 50% of the dropout students and those schools are more likely to have a majority of students who are African American or Latino. So while Martin Luther King Jr. fought for our laws to not discriminate, our education system still helps perpetuate inequity. I think Melinda Gates put it best when she recently said, "Education is the key to opportunity, and the opportunity is not equal."

A good education is inextricably linked to our rights as American citizens. And it is appalling that a quality education is not considered a fundamental right. This is why I consider the education "achievement gap" between those students who are receiving a quality education and those who are not the civil rights issue of our time. It is fundamentally unfair that Americans' educational opportunities are so heavily influenced by the conditions outside of their control.

As a society, we have to ensure that every individual is given the opportunity to shine. We have to level the playing field. It shouldn't require a Herculean effort and great luck just to make it out of your neighborhood high school. We owe it to our kids to make sure they have the opportunity provided by a quality education.

 Subscribe in a reader