Progress & Love in a Divisive Climate

In a nation divided, linking progress & love together feels sadly out of place. But progress & love are being packaged together and used against the American people. Now a weapon in the culture wars, progress & love are cloaked, vilified, and denounced under the label “critical race theory” and social justice “ideology.”

Yes, you read that right. Here’s how I know.

Listening recently to critical race theorists speak about what sparked their interest in the theory, their use of it in scholarly research, and their discussion of recent events, several remarks stood out.

“It’s about progress.”

“It’s founded on the ethics of love.”

“Be equipped with truth and history.”

“Pursue what is just.”

“Commit to equity and excellence.”

“Live up to the promise of Brown v. Board of Education.”

Looking Further into the Love Connection

Historically, critical race theory arose when anti-discrimination laws appeared to no longer be moving us towards progress on equal treatment under the law. (See connection under: “Linking …”) But without being versed in scripture and seeing Martin Luther King, Jr. more as a a civil rights leader than a Reverend, the love connection gets lost. It’s found by looking through the perspective of a critical race theorist.

The Beloved Community. The goal of Critical Race Theory [CRT] in Christianity is the Beloved Community envisioned by Scripture and the biblical witness of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10; Galatians 3: 28-29; John 10: 16; Ephesians 2: 14-21; Colossians 1: 15-20; Acts 10: 34-35). Done in the spirit of lovethe ultimate goal of CRT in Christianity is the reconciliation of all peopleKey Tenets of Critical Race Theory in Christianity

Rise of the False Narrative: Where to Begin?

It’s hard to say with certainty where – behind what closed door – the false narrative about critical race theory began. But we don’t need to look far to see and hear the claims. The false claims include:

  • False: it has “identity-based” Marxist roots (truth: it’s an offshoot of social justice, civil rights and critical legal studies).
  • False: it’s “injected into” primary school curricula (read true stories below).

From there, the false claims of “indoctrination” go off the rails!

“… the overthrow of capitalism … the end not only of private property, but also of individual rights, equality under the law, federalism, and freedom of speech … [the theory will] overturn the principles of the Declaration and destroy the remaining structure of the Constitution.” Christopher F. Rufo, Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It

Christopher F. Rufo, lecturing at Hillsdale College on March 30, 2021, also made the following claim.

“Last year, one of my reports led President Trump to issue an executive order banning critical race theory-based training programs in the federal government.”

In this same lecture, Rufo, a young, talented, privately-schooled film-maker and right-wing journalist/activist, focuses his main criticism on the work of Ibram X. Kendi, refered to as a “critical race guru.” But Ibram X. Kendi, another privately-schooled talented young person, has his own definition of racism from which he puts forth his ideas on “antiracism.”

A new definition for racism!?! Who knew? But never-mind how confusing that is for us. The real concern is, what is actually happening in OUR public schools?

Is there some kernel of truth to allegations of “indoctrination”?

I believe “antiracism” is misguided. Can I still teach Black children?” Catchy title! Written by a teacher!

In answering the nagging question of “indoctrination,” I thought I’d found a firsthand account. But alas, this author wasn’t “just” a teacher. He was a senior advisor to [DPPS] Democracy Prep Public [Charter] Schools, served as vice president for the Core Knowledge Foundation, and is senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. His voice is amplified by a list of corporate-funded, politically right-leaning media outlets. And he provided a story!

(Subtitle) Does antiracism pedagogy demand—or even condone—inflicting emotional distress on children?

“The most chilling revelation to emerge earlier this month from a whistleblowing teacher at New York City’s private Grace Church School was the headmaster’s acknowledgement captured in an audio recording that “we’re demonizing kids, we’re demonizing White people for being born.”

Private schools have control over the content they teach —without interference or accountability to taxpayers. But I found another story, a lawsuit alleging indoctrination at a “public” charter school in Nevada. However, it is a story without an ending – to date.

On the surface, it looks straightforward.

Quoted from court documents, “My son is the only white student in this class, as far as we can tell. This teacher is blatantly justifying racism against white people thereby putting my son in emotional, psychological, and physical danger. This is not ok.”

… In the federal lawsuit [it’s alleged that the charter] violated the high school senior’s First Amendment rights by “repeatedly compelling his speech involving intimate matters of race, gender, sexuality and religion” during a required civics class. Las Vegas charter school sued for curriculum covering race, identity

This seems like a commonsense response.Yes?

But the rest of this story?

To date – this story shows a tangled web of people, money, power, lose of local control of curriculum and lack of public oversight for private providers.

Superintendent and CEO Natasha Trivers is a co-defendant in the case. Her role is to personally oversee staffing, design, and implementation of the charter school’s national curriculum program …

[The student] was originally enrolled in Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy in 2014. New York-based DPPS [Democracy Prep Public Schools ] acquired the Academy after receiving a $12.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2016.

Parents were unaware of the ideological changes in the Civics Program, as Trivers had used the name of an existing program  … and “inserted consciousness raising and conditioning exercises under the banner of ‘Intersectionality’ and ‘Critical Race Theory’” when she modified the Program in 2017. Lawsuit Alleges Leftist Indoctrination in Nevada Charter School

The founder of DPPS is Seth Andrew who also founded Democracy Builders, “a charter school advocacy group intending to create a hybrid college education system.” But students spoke up! Look at some of the allegations raised when Andrew attempted to purchase Marlboro College campus.

“We hope, through this letter, to give you some insights into the man behind Democracy Builders, the irreparable harm he has caused to the low-income and first-generation students of color that he served as the founder of Democracy Prep; and show you why the sale of the Marlboro College campus to Seth Andrew, is not only antithetical to the legacy of Marlboro, but a great human rights concern for the very demographics that he claims to serve,” the Black N Brown at Democracy Prep letter reads.

Marlboro Alumni condemn campus sale amid reports of racism at Democracy Builders

Then this story took an unexpected twist.

“Prosecutors say Andrew helped create a network of charter schools based in New York City in 2005, and left the network in 2013 for a job at the US Department of Education, and later became a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House, where he continued to be paid by the charter school network. Prosecutors say Andrew left his role in the White House in November 2016 and cut ties with the school network in January 2017.”

Natasha Trivers continues to be the CEO of the organization.

What and Who are We to Believe?

Going back to an earlier publication, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001), the writers describe a collection of activist and scholars adopting and using the theory to explain racism as it relates to various aspects of the world we live in, our laws, and our history. But it was clear that differing “camps” of thinking exist – realists / materialists / idealists etc. Conformity to one way of thinking (or “indoctrination”) is not at all what you find in this introduction to the theory.

Throughout the book, there is a feeling of real desire to help people understand the effects of racism. Granted, there are two more editions of the book since 2001, but the same desire to help others understand what critical race theory is and its proper use is exactly what came through in the discussion among the higher education critical race theorists mentioned at the beginning of this post.

At this time of escalating public confusion, we see new laws emerging opposing the theory!?! That doesn’t make sense!

“Over the past few months, Republican legislators in Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have drafted bills that would ban the teaching of what they deem “divisive” or “racist and sexist” concepts.”

Good laws begin with at least some clarity about the subject central to the legislation. So why deliberately write state laws restricting academic freedom? Because you can? Because legislative creep has allowed more and more State and private control of curriculum “content” while pushing aside parents and other local controls.

In Ames, Iowa: “This bill is very intentional in its approach to shut down equity work in districts. I think they can sugarcoat it however they want. That is what the bill is intended to do,” said Jenny Risner, the superintendent of Ames Community School District.

In Idaho …

BOISE, IDAHO

Meanwhile: The Search Continues for Proof of Wrong Doing by the PUBLIC School System


In Idaho, a public claim of “propaganda” entering K-12 education was made in an article posted by a private, Dark Money-funded “non-profit” — after the law passed. But the claim is once again against a charter school. So that does warrant looking further at Idaho’s charters.

Author: Anna Miller

Idaho has a private charter-expansion organization, Bluum, that received at least $22 million to expand charters under the DeVos administration.

“Bluum is privileged to give voice to the work that the charter school networks [DPPS] Democracy Prep, Great Heart, Success Academies and the [Hillsdale College] Barney Charter School Initiative are doing … ” — Terry Ryan, Bluum CEO

And at the Idaho Hearing (Senate Ed 4/26/21) on the Anti-Critical Race Theory bill, Terry Ryan clearly voiced his opinion — “Pass the budgets.”

Hum? Follow the money if you can.

Idaho news spread quickly in “The Network” designed to undermine and defund higher education. “The Fix” isn’t a fix.

Author: Anna Miller writes, “Starving universities of public money is the only way to rein in a social justice university and force activists to find careers outside of higher education.”

The College Fix is a “news” website focused on higher education and funded by the Koch Foundation (among others).

It’s no coincidence that the author of both the “propaganda” and “The Fix” articles is Anna Miller, a George Mason University grad. With Idaho lawmakers passing a higher education budget cutting $2.5 million to “send a message about ‘indoctrination,'” it goes into the win column for the Koch Network.

George Mason University has long been known as a place where students are treated to a  Koch-backed curriculum. Yes, this really did turn out to be another story about money, power, and control.

“We’ve Lost the Narrative” said a Scholar of Critical Race Theory.

We are losing more than the narrative. We’re losing the truth, public control of public education, and the ability to communicate with the public ahead of the Misinformation Network.

The danger is not in theory; it’s in limiting discussion of race and social justice in places where it belongs. But there is also the problem of ignoring State overreach and private control of public schools’ curriculum.The public education system is being dismantled.

Our biggest risk? Losing opportunities to stand on the ethics of love and create progress towards the promise.

Critical race theory allows us to see a path toward a truly just future where economic, social, and political power are decoupled from race.” U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman

Pandemic Wake-Up Call: Easter 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is our newest wake-up call. But instead of listening to the call from our political leaders, how about listening to others?

#####

This is a wake-up call for the nation from Laura Bowman, Parents Across America Board Member.

We need to focus on what’s truly important for our children.

What is important is their face-to-face interactions with caring, experienced, human teachers. It’s ensuring they have what they need in their homes and communities, so they can better succeed in the classroom. It’s fully and fairly funding our public schools so they’re ALL well-staffed and well-resourced.

You are seeing why so many of us have been saying the following:

  • We need to adequately fund our schools and pay school staff better. Take it from parents who will be homeschooling their kids for the foreseeable future.
  • Packaged digital curriculum delivered through a screen is far inferior to face-to-face learning and is only useful in a limited set of circumstances. The amount of screen time children will experience during school shut-downs will be truly alarming and harmful to their eyes and bodies.
  • Children need and deserve nutritious meals every day. Too many children live in food insecure homes. We should never deny children a meal.

    This statement, found on Facebook, expresses the gut feelings that many of us have.

    This coronavirus pandemic is exposing the glaring inequities so many children experience each day. Too many endure scarcities of food, shelter, and proper healthcare. Children bring these issues with them to school where they’re told by policymakers that their standardized test scores and data are what matter, regardless of their current life circumstances.

    Our Wake-up Call: Our nation’s public schools are crucial.

    Our public schools are often the hearts of our communities. I hope we all better appreciate them going forward.

    I want to thank all of the folks who beat the drum of public education support with me each day. Thank you for always, always keeping the best interests of children at heart. You inspire me and give me a lot of hope.

    #####

    This is a wake-up call for the nation from Sergio Flores, Educator.

    Discover Your Civic Power

    In the past twenty years, elites and billionaires have ruthlessly taken advantage of major crises at the expense of everyone else. … The past record of crises – Nine-eleven, Hurricane Kathrine, the market bubble of 2008— shows how easy billionaires or elites profit handsomely while millions of unsuspecting, confused, and even shocked working people lost constitutional rights, life savings, and even their houses.

    This is a exceptional time when these vulnerable workers could get together to articulate and advance inclusive and progressive ideas. Indeed, this grave moment presents the perfect chance to effectively promote and practice the neglected civic values of solidarity, justice, fairness, and the search of common good that now seem to hold the key to save us all from the worst effects of a pandemic.

    Who knows? Perhaps in a much kinder future, this crisis of 2020 will be referred in the future as the moment teachers, and the working people as well, discover their civic power!

    Many look at the Easter season as a time of rising. Others see it as related to spring and that season’s increasing light. We welcome the season.

    It is a great time to wake up and embrace a new day and perhaps a new way of life. It’s a time for discovery and rediscovery as we pull together as a nation and a world. And with renewed hope, here is my Easter wish for this latest call to action. May history help guide us.

Martin Luther King saw Easter as a time for taking direct action.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Spoken by Martin Luther King and repeated often, do the words “the fierce urgency of now” no longer stir our souls? Did they ever?

Why the Urgency NOW?

The urgency is the need for all of us to filter out the divisive political language coming at us from all sides. In this moment, we need to look back at what was once only a theory. Now our reality is that economic theory fostered a political strategy to supplant our constitutional republic with “a private governing elite of corporate power.” *Those pushing corporate control understand how essential it is for them to …

“…kill public education because it tend[s] to foster community values…” *

And market-based education reforms became the weapon of choice. But the role of political economist James M. Buchanan is only now being closely scrutinized. Buchanan’s theories explain much about the divisiveness destroying our schools and our nation.

“…[Buchanan] observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly ASSUMED that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. …[T]hat was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to ‘tear down.’ His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as ‘public choice.’” *

Public Interest vs. Public Choice

Public interest is defined as “the welfare or well-being of the general public.” It is a national goal clearly stated in the Constitution’s preamble — “in Order to … promote the general Welfare…”.

To “tear down” our assumption that officials are acting in the public’s interest is one thing. To destroy our union is another. That goal does NOT appear to be one of the aims of Buchanan’s original 1986 Nobel Prize winning work on “Public Choice Theory.”

In its announcement of the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted, “Buchanan’s foremost achievement is that he has consistently and tenaciously emphasized the significance of fundamental rules and applied the concept of the political system as an exchange process for the achievement of mutual advantages.Tennessee Encyclopedia (James McGill Buchanan)

His “research program” ** centered on the belief that people make purchases (market choices) based on value. He saw the public making political choices they believed would benefit them. He viewed us as making choices based on our own “venal self-interest.” *

So he and his ilk developed what they called “non-market decision-making.” Finding that name “awkward” and not as appetizing to “free-market” thinkers, the groups’ organization and publications took on the name “Public Choice.” **

Choice or Coercion?

Some researchers believe that Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory began as an “optimistic conception” based on “unanimous consent of the people.” But he later adopted a more “pessimistic view” about “social organization” and people’s “intolerance” to entering into the discussions necessary to reach consensus on issues. Thus Buchanan’s emphasis morphed from “individual freedom” to the need to “enforce order.” ***

As Buchanan explained “Public Choice” to an audience (2003) …

Public choice, in its basic insights into the workings of politics, incorporates an understanding of human nature that differs little, if at all, from that of James Madison and his colleagues at the time of the American Founding.” **

Buchanan wrote that for public consumption. It’s a distortion of history, which is likely being perpetuated through institutions such as George Mason University in Virginia.* And in misrepresenting the American Founding Principles, Buchanan opened himself up to being viewed as a major manipulator in our historic fight against corporate control.

James Madison vs. James Buchanan 

As a key author of the Constitution, Madison left a record of discussions about our nations founding principles. Therefore, a better understanding of the American Founding political views can be gleaned from Madison’s correspondence with a colleague who Buchanan also admired. ***

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, ed., vol. xiv, pp. 18-21) …

“With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. … Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions.”

Madison went on to express his doubts about a government takeover by monopolies being skeptical …

“…that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may be gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. … Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Government than in most others? … with the power as with us is in the manyIt is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many …”

It appears the expressed sentiment of that last sentence was taken to imply that corporations are the ones in need of constitutional protection from the masses. But Buchanan obviously took Madison’s words out of their historic time and context. Regardless, Buchanan did communicate to the public an association of his “public choice theory” with our nation’s founding principles.

****This quote is from the blog of libertarian economist, Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell who believes Buchanan’s ideas are being misrepresented.

Same Old Fight: Big vs. Smaller Government?

Not Quite! Think about the following in relationship to the privatization of public education through “school choice” models. The allure of choice is deadly.

With our political choices being analyzed under market-based economic theory, it is assumed people make choices based on their own self-interests — first and foremost. We shouldn’t deny that as a truism. But when market forces through privatization of public services or goods come into play, competition for a limited supply will result in winners and losers. Always does.

We risk having children lose, or never develop, the safe and secure sense of belonging that defines “community values.” When all of us are seen as “self-interested players in the marketplace,” **** we are vulnerable to division. Competition for public services runs the high risk of destroying community values, but, that part of the equation didn’t seem to garner much consideration.

Instead, Buchanan saw the need to bring his vision to life by NOT focusing on who rules because who the public chooses doesn’t matter since elected officials don’t act in the public interest anyway. Therefore, this political economist focused on the rules themselves.

“… the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.” *

Buchanan found many willing partners.

“Subversion of Liberty”? Translation: Sabotage of Authority

What Madison saw as improbable under our constitutional republic — “a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” changing the balance of power — is exactly what is happening. Our federal government IS under the control of special interests. Many state governments are no different because too many of our representatives ARE no longer serving in the public interest.

The toxic divisiveness of party politics is permeating our communities. The principles of localism and populism, which formed the fabric of our founding documents, are being replaced by corporatism. Thus, when we can no longer reach consensus on the issues that matter, the authorities will step in and set the rules “to enforce order.” ***

This scenario should sound familiar to Baby Boomers. It was a shared American experience on many college campuses during the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. Martial law was declared in many places, which Buchanan supported (at Berkley***). And not to be forgotten were the killing of students by the National Guard. That’s about the time Buchanan’s vision of “unanimous consent of the people” *** seemed to change.

Now? Consider this.

“[historian Nancy] MacLean details how partnered with [Charles] Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to …  promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.”

“… MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’” *

Supreme Urgency?

Think about the urgency demonstrated during the confirmations of both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Ask yourself, why the fierce urgency?

Think about it. When changing the Constitution is still out of reach, CONTROL of the U.S. Department of Education and having corporate-minded allies on the Supreme Court are a handy pair of tools. Then it requires pushing appeals through the court system to the level of the Supreme Court. Once there, having enough justices interpreting our Constitution and rules in ways that favor corporations and the wealthy is almost as good as a “constitutional revolution.” *

This is no longer just theory and we knew this day was coming. Now …

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK

Vote, of course.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

References

* FROM THE LEFT ⇒ Lynne Parramore, “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America”

**ORIGINAL SOURCE ⇒ James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, George Mason University, “What is Public Choice Theory?”

***STUDY OF BUCHANAN’s EDUCATION SPECIFIC WRITINGS ⇒ Jean-Baptiste Fleury THEMA, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Alain Marciano MRE, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, Franc. “The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education”

**** FROM A LIBERTARIAN VIEW ⇒ Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell, former senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan”

 

Civil Disobedience

Test refusal is an act of civil disobedience.

52 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. explained the chain of events that typically leads to civil disobedience and the reasons it must occur.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

The United Opt Out Movement is a campaign to, among other things, end high-stakes testing that has been firmly embedded in public schools through the No Child Left Behind law.. (and now continues with the Every Student Succeeds Act)…

As Dr. King explained it:

“There are just laws, and there are unjust laws…. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… [it] distorts the soul and damages the personality…. [creating a] false sense of inferiority.”

Over-emphasis on standardized tests’ importance, their over-administration, and the inappropriate uses of standardized tests have made children, teachers, whole schools and districts feel inferior — most falsely so since these narrowly focused, single-point-in-time tests cannot accurately judge the quality of education nor diagnose an underlying condition with any accuracy. It’s like taking a temperature, blood pressure reading, or monitoring thyroid levels; they can change simply based on the time of day.

So…..

Step 1 in the campaign: Facts on testing and No Child Left Behind are clear. Research and time has verified the truth.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting of the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission and hearing person-after-person get up and testify to the absurdity of the test-based (outcome-based) mechanism of “accountability” that was about to go forward. The words “we are headed for a train wreck” still echo in my mind. Well, we are there.

Step 2 in the campaign: Negotiations were attempted repeatedly at the local, state, and federal levels.

And throughout the years, multitudes of people scattered across the country, separated by distance, differing ideologies, political party affiliation, socioeconomic stature, race, and a whole host of issues including the divisive topic of how to “fix” schools all continued trying to derail the standardization and privatization of our institution of public education.

“We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.”…

“We did not move irresponsibly into direct action.”

Many made the determination that it was going to take a personal sacrifice of time and money to move forward. That is self-purification — acknowledging that personal sacrifices are needed for the sake of progress.

Step 3 in the campaign: Self-purification occurred knowingly and unknowingly as many of us gave our time, energy, and money to make the Save Our Schools March happen.

And that has led us to Step 4 in the campaign: Direct Action

So….

How will “opting out” work?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

It is the entrenched educational community; it is the dysfunctional community; it is the corrupted lawmaking communities that have refused to face facts, the issues, and the more logical solutions.

It is those “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue” that have oppressed those wishing to move the efforts of education reform to focus on what is best for children and what child need us to do to ensure they have been provided with quality learning opportunities that fit their individual needs.

Martin Luther King saw others “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” and knew it was morally wrong to turn away. We must face that same problem now.

We are left “with no other alternative.” The time is right for civil disobedient in the education reform arena. Test refusal is one tool.

Words Are Not Enough

Flotsam is the wreckage of a ship or its cargo, worthless things, unemployed people.

Jetsam is that part of the cargo thrown overboard to lighten a ship in danger.

The only reason I looked those words up in a dictionary was because Martin Luther King, Jr. hit a chord with me when he spoke these words: “I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding of events which surround him.” Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964

And knowing that the “March on Washington” in 1963 was organized to urge Congress to pass John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill calling for equal opportunity in employment and education, I have thought long and hard about the children in this country being treated like flotsam and jetsam.

I know MLK was more focused on the unemployed adults at the time that he spoke those words, but children are people too, and much less likely to be able to influence events that can engulf them and take them under. They need us so desperately to do the right thing and stop ignoring the challenges they face that we can influence.

The March is Unfinished.

The poster says it all.

The poster says it all.

Today we celebrate his birthday of January 15, 1929. And many of his words will forever be recalled. But words are not enough.

Let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” April 3, 1968

RIP April 4, 1968

Turning the Dream into A Vision

What does equal educational opportunity mean to you? It is the American people’s answer to that question that should guide us. To take proper aim at fulfilling the Dream, we need a national vision. We have to see a realistic path forward and what has stood in the way of achieving the dream.

“Do America’s citizens understand that public policies have resulted in severely unequal and inadequate education, particularly for disadvantaged children?” Gary Ratner, Foreword to The Crucial Voice of the People

This is how one forgotten American, Edwin E. Slosson, explained equality.

Equality, in the American sense of the word, is not an end but a beginning. It means that, so far as the state can do it, all children shall start in the race of life on an even line. The chief agency for this purpose is the public school system.”

But have we associated our educational shortcomings not with an “overall” poor system but with one that continues to have pockets of inequalities, big and small, that accumulate like so much sludge in an engine? Do we see unequal distribution of quality education as the problem?

Part of Martin Luther King’s Dream was about children getting a quality public school education no matter where they live, their skin color, or how poor. … I hope this issue still matters to people today.

So what does that dream look like?

Here’s what it looks like to me: Children from all walks of life enter classrooms where their teachers actions and words convey the expectation that each and every student can learn what’s needed for them to fulfill their own personal potential and pursue their own interests in life. The instruction children receive is not based on predictions biased by color, race, socioeconomic background, or standardized scores; but rather, quality education for all is based on twin expectations.

All students will be seen as capable and will be expected to do their personal best. And the public schools will provide challenging, stimulating, relevant learning opportunities that meet their student’s needs. That is how equal access to quality education is provided.

For children to be ready to make the most of the educational opportunity offered in this vision, the community must step up to meet the needs of disadvantaged children. Schools cannot fulfill their responsibility without parents and communities first fulfilling theirs. We need to define what having children “ready to learn” means.

The American people must provide answers.

Our duty - enlighten each other and guide lawmakers.

Our duty is to enlighten each other and guide lawmakers.

Equality, governing by the consent of the governed, liberty and justice—these were our basic American values. Are they still?

Once upon a time, education law embodied our values. At this time —can we— will we define and secure equal educational opportunity? How else can we possibly fulfill our constitutional responsibility to resist aristocracy — “a ruling class” of any sorts — and instead establish rule through the consent of an enlightened people.

As John F. Kennedy explained it,

“Our present American education system was rounded on the principle that opportunity for education in this country should be available to all—not merely to those who have the ability to pay.”

Through the people he brought to D.C., JFK kept alive ideas that he didn’t live to see become law.

“Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.Thomas Jefferson