The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Covenant #2: Education


“Establishing a system of Public Education in which all children achieve at high levels and reach their full potential.”

Well,  this is   one that, on the surface, looks like it needs more formulation.  “All children achieve at high levels?”  Is that even possible?  “Reach their full potential”—and how do we determine that?  If it was phrased as “close the racial performance gap” in education, you could at least quantify that.

If you did that, however, please be aware that many who would participate in the national debate (and who hold pursestrings) believe in the thesis of the Bell Curve—that black children simply have less intellectual material to work with, on the average.  They will rarely say it publicly, but dig around on the internet and its easy to find such very serious, intellectual discussions.  Invariably, the rest of their politics tilt in a particular direction, and I doubt if I have to tell you what that direction is.

The areas of concern are early childhood education, reading comprehension, mathematical proficiency, parity on promotions and expulsions, and completion of higher education.  The legacy of slavery created massive community dysfunction (again, if you want to understand how this works, look at the way adults blame childhood environments for their obesity, relationship difficulties, and lack of success.  Communities have “personalities” as well), but again, the Covenant suggests that the problem has to be addressed on (at least) a tri-tiered basis of individual action, community support and political engagement.

INDIVIDUAL LEVEL: Suggestions include reading to  your children and grandchildren daily, getting library cards for every member of the family, arranging enriching family outings to museums and science fairs, becoming involved in the PTA.

Examples are given of successful programs for boosting school attendance and performance.

Community leaders are encouraged to invest in child development.  Federal support is encouraged for all levels of education.  Train and compensate teachers who are trustworthy and culturally sensitive.  Guarantee that all children have access to appropriate and sufficient facilities, curriculum resources, and materials.

And of course, voters are encouraged to support those politicians who have specific plans to address these concerns.
Again, there will be controversy over the means of accomplishment (and much subtler debate about whether anything can be done at all.  Watch for it!) but the basic intent seems sound, even if I might have phrased it differently.

Again, more can be learned by going to

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