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The Battle Over Education and Civil Rights


The Battle Over Education and Civil Rights

Ruth Conniff

“This is a historic moment to end 13 years of legislative malpractice” NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia says of the federal K12 education law that Congress is currently hashing out.

Congress has failed to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ever since George Bush rewrote the law and renamed it No Child Left Behind in 2002.

The original Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, was part of a civil-rights-era drive to rectify glaring inequality.


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The only people who know how to improve education are these artists. LET THEM!


When No Child Left Behind passed I just thought it sounded like an utter fraud. Nothing of any real substance regarding the goal, despite the title. In order to have the results that were stated, we would have to first spend the money on the kids and guarantee that schools across the board have a minimum of a physical plant-many schools here in California are structurally collapsing, for instance. Then, you have to actually teach students with enough individuation so they can accomplish something. NCLB is useless.


Funding PUBLIC education (and teacher pay) should be based on need (teacher abilities), not on test scores. Property taxes in the majority of the states are usually earmarked for public schools, which means that districts populated by the more prosperous homeowners have all the money they need for their schools, programs, activities, and athletic facilities. The districts wherein the homeowners are living at or below poverty level have schools and staff/teachers that struggle to make financial ends meet while seeing to the needs of their students. What is missed in testing and basing funding on test results are the obstacles faced by students and school districts whose demographics vary greatly. Testing takes time away from teachers who could better use their time attending to individual learning styles and abilities and instilling long-term learning. Testing causes unnecessary and intense anxiety for students, especially those at risk; it takes away the desire to learn with all its drill, drill, drill…pressure, pressure, pressure. Students shut down and teachers burn out. How is it that hedge funds that are pouring money into charter school groups are allowed to corrupt public education while dipping into public funds? What do they know or care about education? Yeah, I thought so. They sit in their chambers counting their ill-gotten gains.


When education is about acquiring academic skill or knowledge, it is useful. When it is about social engineering or change agentry, or the crafting of an artificial state crafted family it is a manipulative fraud.
All of the US is a racist, lazy, irresponsible society and all the mandating and funding of educational programs will never change that. Lifelong learning begins with literacy.
It continues with a library card (free for the asking throughout the US) , and strictly curtailing of mass media exposure (radio, TV, movies, and popular periodicals).
It is furthered by the discovery of your passion, the seeking out of suitable mentors, and the diligent application of yourself to that passion.


This is actually a very complicated issue. First, as our social policies show, this generation has been fine with dismantling LBJ’s Great Society agenda. Schools in low-income areas are, of course, inadequately funded, since the people are too poor to owe much (if any) taxes. We can note that the majority of US poor are white, largely rural, and are not a priority to legislators.

Just what “civil rights” means to today’s generation is unclear. By definition, this refers to the legal rights of all Americans, but became widely understood as being specific to race. As a matter of policy, we have actually stripped our poor of a number of fundamental civil rights. For example, children of the jobless poor can now be taken into “indefinite custody” by social services, and these parents (per Clinton’s welfare reform policies) no longer have the civil right to legally contest that decision. I haven’t heard if this policy has changed since the 1990s. One would need to be very naive to think that poor people who are arrested (even if innocent of any crime) have the same civil rights to adequate legal representation, etc., as the rest of the population.


In other words, the old, “Just work hard and play by all the rules,” and all will be well. Our situation is far more complicated than that, made even more complicated by our policies against the poor. Lifelong learning starts with access to adequate resources.This is not difficult for our middle class to ensure. It also depends on whether or not a family has adequate food and shelter. On this point, much has changed. Inexplicably, our middle class today seem unaware of our poverty crisis, much less of the toll it has taken on an entire portion of our population. We’ve known all along that children who lack adequate nutrition, in families that often have to move in search of jobs, do poorly in school.


No DH that’s not what I am saying or even intimating. For the sake of clarity for you or anyone else who might reach a similarly mistaken conclusion I will attempt to further explain.
Education is about acquiring both knowledge and the skills to effectively use that knowledge. It is not about not about social engineering, psychological counseling, adequate food and housing, or creating a substitute family for what may well be a dysfunctional one. There is nothing wrong with any of those “services” it’s just that they are not “education” and to dump that baggage on school teachers and administrators in the name of “education” is the fraud to which I refer.
True education does not just take place in a classroom setting and it should not be limited to completing a high school diploma or university degree. With literacy, a free library card, and some determined curiosity, a person can truly become a life long learner. They can also explore where their true passion lies, and seek out mentors to help develop their ability to pursue that passion.
On the other hand, those who “play by the rules” (to use your phrase) complete a public school education, then maybe some course of study at a university to acquire a degree in whatever, and then live their entire life through never understanding where their passion truly lies.
Instead, they work at dead end jobs, hang out with others who are equally unfulfilled, and fill their non-sleeping and non-working hours with the mindless entertainment of mass media produced popular culture that is spoon fed to them as a distraction.


Education is part of our infrastructure. The infrastructure in this country is crumbling for a purposeful lack of investment. Our taxes buy the best bombs and weaponry on the planet and education comes last. The elite take their profits, hoard it, and then store it overseas. They are very busy building ways of governance for a serfdom here in TV-land. One way the privileged work so diligently is to turn the populace against itself. You cannot do this to a people who are well educated and taught to critically think.

“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used.” - Carl Sagan