How’s this for a summer blockbuster – the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan for violating the “right to learn” of its children, a right guaranteed under an obscure state law.
That assistance hasn’t happened, says Kary L. Moss, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the ACLU. “The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.”
Last week, CNN reported on recent events in Garfield Heights, Ohio, where austerity measures have led local school officials to shorten the schoolday to five hours, get rid of subjects like art, music, and PE — and send kids home before lunch. What didn’t come out during the piece was that these drastic decisions were fueled in part by the community’s refusal, over a 20 year period, to pass a levy that would help support the schools. Like many places across the country, Garfield Heights’ residents were getting older, its younger people were moving away, and those that remained didn’t see sufficient value in a measure that would be used to support the education of other people’s children.
“But how, exactly, will they be reared and educated by us? And does our considering this contribute anything to our goal of discerning that for the sake of which we are considering all these things – in what way justice and injustice come into being in a city.”
—Plato, The Republic
Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call, I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the city breathin’, Chest heavin’, against the flesh of the evening, Sigh before we die like the last train leaving.
—Black Star, Respiration
What characterizes the ideal city – and the cities in which we live? How accurately does the health of a city reflect the quality of its plan for educating its youngest citizens? And does the push towards greater school choice get us closer to, or farther from, that ideal?
I’ve been thinking about those questions a lot since reading a column by George Will in last weekend’s Washington Post. In it he references two U.S. Supreme Court opinions in which the Court affirmed the constitutional right of parents “to direct the … education of children under their control.” As a student of the 14th Amendment, I sought the opinions out. What struck me had less to do with the legal arguments, however, and more to do with an excerpt in one of the opinions from Plato’s Republic, arguably the most famous political work of all time, and a work squarely concerned with the role a city – and, by extension, its education system – must play in helping all people develop their fullest potential.
, Organizational Change
Tags: 14th Amendment, Black Star, cities, David Bohm, DCPS, George Will, Learning, Plato, school reform, Socrates, The Republic, transformational change, us supreme court, washington post
My wife likes to tell this one story from when she was in high school, and she asked her U.S. History teacher why the class wasn’t learning more about the Indians. “We don’t have time for the Indians,” he responded. “We have an AP curriculum to get through.”
Had I been as inquisitive as my wife was when I was a teenager, I would have received the same answer. So, I suspect, would most of you; indeed, for too many of us, the study of American history ended up being little more than a linear, logical march through the years – filled with neat plot lines of cause and effect, victors and enemies, and a whole lot of white men.
Like so many others, I didn’t realize there was another way to imagine the chronicling of the American narrative, or the construction of history itself, until I first read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Once I did, my understanding of the world was forever changed.