Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost
Although the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s, the reasons for its importance to people of color still exist for many. The excuses run the gamut for not hiring: lack of skills, poor literacy, meager education, lackadaisical work habits. Those, and others, still prevent individuals from rising above poverty level income or minimum wage jobs – if job opportunities exist for them.
A cultural awareness that discrimination still exists and is quite healthy abounds in some places. The specter of cradle to grave bondage looms. There are two paths, to the school or to the jail. The myths of having a particular skin color is tantamount to indicating a person has violent propensities is taken as gospel for some. Explosions of emotional outrage from lack of communication skills and pent-up rage at locked doors and low expectations only serve to perpetuate the myths. And the myths continue to exist because the go unexamined.
Racial profiling is urged these days. The rationale is predicated on illegal immigration from the south and foreign terrorism from the Middle East. Our educational standards have dropped. Our global standing in quality education is now taking a back seat to China and Scandinavia. Yet, those areas also have their issues with ethnic inequities and poverty.
We need to consider the causes of the deficits domestically compared with those abroad. Perhaps one of the foundations is the fact that the underpinnings go deep into the psychology of the late 18th Century when there was no bright horizon for some save being released from this existence into a spiritual existence on another plane.
The new math of the 1950s endures. You have to be three times better in order to be considered half as good. Reduce that result by one-half if you’re a woman and another one-third if you’re a woman of color – any color.
Watching the documentary Raising Bertie (aired August 29 on PBS) should cause discomfort and motivate its audience to rise up, to advocate for positive change. It should drive the desire for more equality, not digging more ditches one generation after another. While there is dignity in being skilled in any particular endeavor, it should not be the chain that binds an entire race to be limited to only one or two choices and then no more. “Raising Bertie” represents how one segment of our population is viewed. It shows us the crossroads that challenge us and threaten to drag us into the dark days of our past or finally realize the wealth that population could be contributing to the wholeness of our country. We need to help make that happen. Those in this country deserve to have viable options.
Quality education that opens the doors not only for the individual but for the community (no matter how broad) should be available for all. Delivering quality education begins with insistence on excellence. It’s perpetuated with engendering curiosity that gets fed with the broadening of awareness. Quality education is evidenced by use of critical thinking skills that aid in problem solving instead of resorting to insults, bullying, harassment, and violence (warfare).
Quality education is not evidenced by very nice, flattering letter grades. It is evidenced by the ability to use the knowledge that was conveyed. That knowledge should be delivered through the textbooks, of course, and through exercises that provide practice in the discipline. Thus, execution of the proficiency is accomplished with dispatch in the real world, no matter what the setting.
Instructors provide guidance and interpretation of the subject and the content in the textbook. The books should challenge the student’s comprehension not pad their reading list. Therefore, tests of the student’s knowledge (evaluation of how well they have learned the subject), should not be a measure of how much and how well they learned compared with their fellow classmates. Instead, tests should reflect how much of the discipline was learned based on a measurable scale, not a bell curve. The grades are not to boost the student’s self esteem (and bury them in a false sense of accomplishment). The grades are not intended to embellish the instructor’s standing and continued tenure in their position. If they have not taught the subject, it is the instructor who needs the remedial work.
It is critical that we bring an end to our national oppression. It rides on the back of scrawny education. It emaciates our nation. And our nation becomes emaciated because the hunger for knowledge is not being satisfied.
The road away from all forms of slavery and to hope is paved with making our leaders at every level accountable for recognizing and respecting human rights to freedom.
- Raising Bertie
- Amazing Humans from BBC3
- Ranking America (2015)
- U.S. Education Slips in Rankings, Christine Lagorio, CBS/AP (September 13, 2005)
- America’s World Education Ranking Is No Reason to Panic, Jack Schneider, ‘The Learning Curve’ for TakePart (Jan 22, 2014)
- Best Countries for Education, Deidre McPhillips, U.S. News (March 7, 2017)
- The Mad King and the Magna Carta, Dan Jones, Smithsonian Magazine (July 2015)
- Bill of Rights, A+E Networks (2009)
- Right to Education
- Your Right to Equality in Education, ACLU
- Why Doesn’t the Constitution Guarantee the Right to Education?, Stephen Lurie, The Atlantic (Oct 16, 2013)
- Ensuring Equal Access To High-Quality Education, U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (Revised January 2011)