We would like to share some helpful information and insights from Educational Freedom in Urban America: Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education edited by David Salisbury and Casey Lartigue Jr.  The book is a collection of “a dozen leading scholars, educators, and reformers” who “examine the legacy of Brown v. Board and its relation to the modern-day school choice movement.”   This book was published in 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board ruling.

What we really liked about this book was getting the viewpoint from so many different writers, each with different insights, priorities and concerns.  However multiple writers discussing the same topic resulted in quite a bit of repeated information.  Also a negative is much has happened in education reform since 2004.  Most of the authors were easily understood; a few could be a bit wonky; a few got somewhat lengthy and technical.  The book is 220 pages and topic specific, so it may not interest everyone.  However, there is information helpful in our efforts to become better informed about school choice we would like share.  Should we stir your interest to learn more the ebook is available for $9.99 Here.  Keep in mind we are only sharing that which really jumped out at us as enlightening, helpful, informative or, in some cases, profound, but there is much we aren’t sharing that you may find helpful by reading the book in full.

Our review is somewhat lengthy so we are going to share it as a four part series to be posted daily the rest of this week.

The first chapter is “The Continuing Struggle for School Choice” by Howard Fuller.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that the central quality in black people’s lives is pain—‘‘pain so old and so deep that it shows in almost every moment of [our] existence.’ When I travel around the country and see what is happening to our children, I know that far too many of them are dying physically and mentally. It’s clear to me that we have got to have a multifaceted strategy to save our children. We know that education alone cannot do it. But what is equally clear is that education will be the cornerstone of any broad strategy that we develop and pursue.

In many areas of this country, including the District of Columbia, our failure to educate poor African-American children precludes them from becoming effective participants in our democracy. The message that teachers and schools send to our children is that ‘‘my paycheck is going to come whether you learn or not.’’

I believe that Mortimer Adler was right when he said there are no unteachable children. What we have are adults who have not figured out how to teach them. Too many of our children are forced to stay in schools that do not work for them and, frankly, didn’t work for their parents. They and their families lack the power to influence the educational institutions that continue not to serve them well.

Our mission at the Black Alliance for Educational Options is to actively support parental choice, empower families, and increase educational options for black children. We support means-tested vouchers, homeschooling, charter schools, contract schools, black independent schools, and other public and private choices. We do not support the destruction of public education. One of the reasons that people continue to run that bogus line is that they do not make a distinction between public education, which is a concept, and the system that delivers public education. The system that delivers public education, as we’ve structured it in America, is not public education.  Public education is the concept that it is in our interest to educate all our children. What makes public education public is that it serves the public’s interests. Is it available to everyone? Is it something we can all access? I would humbly argue that a school district that continues to push children out, that continues for whatever reason to be unable to teach our children to read and write, that graduates children who can’t read and write, is not in the public’s interest. What we therefore have to do is to commit to a purpose, not institutional arrangements.

You can have a lot of different delivery systems; that’s clear in higher education. People have no problem with students taking Pell Grants to religious schools. People have no problems with G.I. Bill money being taken to private schools. Nobody said that was destroying public education.

Say that you have on the corner a school that everyone knows has never educated anybody’s kids, but it’s a ‘‘public’’ school. You’ve got another school four blocks away that is able, for whatever reason, to educate the children that can’t be educated at the other one, but that school is, oh my God, a religious school. I would argue that it is in the public’s interest to put the children where they can be educated.

I have a question: Is it about the system, or is it about the parents and the children?

There are excellent public schools, and terrible public schools. There are excellent private schools, and terrible private schools. We want our parents to decide which are which.

But social change is always controversial. It transfers power to people who have never had it and takes power from those who have had it.

Chapter two is “Fulfilling the Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education” by Floyd Flake.

African-Americans will not be the largest minority class at the next census.  That means that these youngsters, who often lack a command of English, will be competing in a test-based culture in which they must have the skills to pass the test.  The ACT and SAT will be an incredible barrier for them.

Brown v. Board in my opinion guaranteed that every child would have access to a quality education that

is of equal value, regardless of where that child happens to be educated, whether it is a suburban, a rural, or an inner-city community. We know that is not happening.

The reality is that most of the kids can learn but too many people have taken the position that they cannot.

The nuclear family structure as we know it is gone. Mothers and fathers are younger, many kids are being raised by grandparents or by anybody who happens to have the luxury of being able to take them in. They don’t have the time, the talent, or the energy to be able to invest in the child in the same way we have traditionally seen those investments made. And so we have seen a paradigm shift, and in that paradigm shift many of these young people find themselves struggling, trying to find themselves, and their hope is that ultimately—either by athletic skills, entertainment capabilities, or some other means—they will be able to rise above and come out of their ghetto experiences. In reality, most of them will not have the talent to go to the pros as an athlete or to make it in entertainment.

First, we need to get away from traditions that have locked out so many people who have the potential to become much greater than they are now.

Second, we probably need to diminish, if not eliminate, special education.  Special education was intended to address the problems of the most severely damaged young people. Now we take behavioral problems and treat them as if they are, in fact, disabilities.

Third, we need to resist the temptation to lower expectations for those young people.

Lastly…We must deal with the reality that those resources have not been allocated equitably.

Chapter three is “Freedom of Choice: Brown, Vouchers, and the Philosophy of Language” by Gerard Robinson

This chapter focuses on the fear-based school choice movement of the 1950s and on the subsequent freedom-based movement of the 1990s, probing the similarities and differences between the two movements.

In conclusion, a comparative analysis of private school freedom-of-choice movements in America proves the 1950s version is ideologically dissimilar to the 1990s version.

James Madison reminds us in Federalist 51 that ‘‘if men were angels, no government would be necessary.’’  Men used tuition grants irresponsibly during the fear-based choice movement, and government institutions stepped in to correct hateful policies created by the spirit of an unreconstructed heart.

This comparative analysis also shows the black community as a beneficiary of freedom-based choice, unlike its counterpart during fear-based choice. To consciously turn a blind-eye to this dissimilarity in choice outcome for the black community does a great disservice to the civil rights movement.

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