Thursday, October 16, 2008

Your Black World: Final Debate: Did McCain Miss Mark On Education?

Final debate: Did McCain miss mark on education?
By: Rochelle Riley

The moment came near the end of the debate. It was a small gaffe, something celebrity pundits didn’t bother with in the flurry of analysis afterward.

But it was just as telling about how out-of-touch Sen. John McCain is when it comes to American schools.

Despite calling education "the civil rights issue of the 21st century," McCain said, "There’s no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America after a long and difficult and terrible struggle."

In what America does John McCain live?

He must have missed the 2002 study done by the Civil Rights Project showing a trend toward resegregation that is pushing schools toward levels of disparity that rival those of 25 years ago -- and that poor children still learn in schools that are grossly inferior to schools in wealthier neighborhoods.

He can’t possibly know about the lack of books and equipment in urban schools that are staples in wealthier suburban districts.

And I bet he isn’t aware that many urban districts across America graduate fewer than half of the students who enter as freshmen.

Equal access?

How about the fact that, in some American communities, it is as if the U.S. Supreme Court never decided Brown vs. the (Topeka, Kansas) Board of Education?

Straight away, the elder senator contradicted himself on his own point about equal access when he asked, "But what is the advantage, in a low-income area, of sending a child to a failed school and that being your only choice?"

If all American children had equal access to good schools, then no child would have a failed school as his or her sole option.

The reform of the American education system is a mission that the next president must not abandon, no matter what else a faltering economy forces him to drop. Obama, while cleaving to his expressed goal to reform education, didn’t challenge McCain on the education question, except to say rightly that vouchers will not fix the nation’s public schools, only help a minority of its schoolchildren.

Both candidates had better develop education plans that can have greater success than their economic plans. Neither can do anything in 18 days or eight years without improving the way our children learn.

But if McCain thinks that the "equal access" question has been solved, I’ve got a house in Detroit he can buy. It’s near a failing school that only poor children have access to.

And if either candidate believes the next American president can accomplish anything without solving education first, our country faces perpetual crisis.

Neither will accomplish anything -- on defense, health care, the economy or the environment -- without preparing a generation of leaders who can continue what he starts.

Education, first.

Reposted From Detroit Free Press

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