Why Yes, You CAN Address Inequality and Your Pet Project At The Same Time

Jose VilsonJose2 Comments

Asa Phillip Randolph

Asa Phillip Randolph

Ever notice that whenever someone brings up issues of inequality, another person is bound to say, “Yes, that’s a necessary conversation, but let’s work on this [not-as-significant] policy issue first!” but then, when that’s resolved in one form or another, inequality is still on the table, left to those of us who deal with the consequences?

Yeah, me neither.

This is the way it usually goes in these big board meetings:

Person A: “OK, ladies and gentlemen, we have these two proposals here: one that addresses [latest trend of the day] and the other that addresses social inequality in our schools.”

The whole table buzzes about the proposals at the table.

Person B: “Sounds great! So, how long do each of them take, if you had to put a guess on it?”

Person A: “Well, the first proposal will probably take a few years, but it’s a lot more manageable and less time- and resource-consuming than the second.”

Buzz simmers down.

Person B: “OK, we’ll take A.”

Seven years pass.

Person A: “Well, that was a flop. It was doing OK in urban schools, but once the suburbs found out what we were trying to do, they didn’t even give it a chance. Gosh. Why can’t they obey?”

Person B: “We still have this other proposal for solving inequality in schools, right?”

Person A: “Yeah, but now we have to update it. There’s still inequality, but it looks different, so that’ll take more time on top of the already long timeline set by the original plan. Good news: I have a new plan for this new thing coming out. It’s more manageable and less time- and resource-consuming than the inequality one.”

Person B: “Well, OK, we’ll try it.”

Seven years pass.

Person A: “Well, that was a flop. It was doing OK in urban schools, but …”

So here’s my thing. Whether it’s No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, or any other big federal policy, the discussions around them always seem to serve as a big, well-funded, thoroughly publicized distraction for social, racial, gender, and / or economic equity in our country. Some people might see potential in some of the policies making progress with our most disadvantaged, but our society still passes bandages for stitches and medicine.

Our country has more than enough resources to eliminate child poverty, enough brainpower to deconstruct racist policies, and enough muscle to assure that women were on the same footing as men. But please, don’t let me interrupt the cycle. With all the monies wasted on untenable policies, you’d have spent enough to make a dent on more important matters. Of that I’m sure.


Comments 2

  1. I agree inequality needs to be addressed in this country. I don’t believe it will because racism has never been really addressed and corrected.This is a country where the majority of blacks live in cities and the majority of whites live outside of the cities. Instead of the government trying to close urban public schools and sell them to corporations, and individuals for profit why not enforce the Brown vs the Board of Education and desegregate all public schools (suburban, city and rural). A lot of times it is not the public schools that is preventing students from learning it is what is going on in their environment. But the government is aware of joblessness, drugs. fatherless homes, needy children and the daily violence that occurs in the cities but they don’t care. Cities are going broke and the government rather use our taxes to go to war with foreign countries then put money into urban public schools so they are selling them to their friends. The government won’t put jobs in cities where people could stay in their own neighborhood and work instead of going long distances to work. The government has and still is ignoring the Supreme Court ruling on the Brown vs The Board of Education, now they have created vouchers for the poor little black kids to travel on the yellow bus to attend suburban public schools but where is the yellow bus filled with little white kids attending urban public schools. I am tired of the government saying urban schools are failing, first they are only saying this because they are tired of funding urban schools and they want to sell them to the highest bidder, second, they are saying this because they know urban parents are to docile, reluctant and won’t fight back like suburban parents would. Third, the government is using test to say who is failing and who isn’t and it is always the black child who is the failure. Every since slavery blacks have been told we are stupid, now the government is reinforcing it by telling the world our kids can’t pass standards tests in America. One day I hope parents will receive the actual graded standardized test, not what they tell the parents but the actual test, especially in urban schools so now the parents can see if their child is really failing these test. Lastly, the drop out rate is high in urban schools not because of public schools or teachers but because of the condition of the kids’ environment. Kids are dropping out of school to sell drugs on the corner for money, depressing and hopelessness is rampant in the cities, but the government knows the real problem and you know it is your lack of concern and your failed economic, social and educational policies that has caused a lot of these problems.

  2. Good post. My thought: “solving inequality” requires two things that are currently and historically unavailable in the U.S. – a common understanding of what “inequality” is, and the will of people who benefit from inequality (e.g. the majority of Americans) to do support “solving” it.

    The applicable cliché here is “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Currently the majority isn’t demanding, possibly because they are benefitting from current arrangements.

    If we look at the response to most large scale efforts to make schooling equitable, including desegregation, de-tracking, honors for all, and weighted student funding, we see predictable resistance along class and race lines. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s in your grill.

    And, this problem is in the left wing as much as the right wing. In liberal cities like Minneapolis as well as red country.

    So, yes, I would love to solve inequality. I want universal health care including intensive prenatal; universal preschool; universal college; and possibly even a COLA.

    But, while we’re waiting for that to come to pass I’m pretty interested in what will happen next Monday morning in my kid’s classroom. Who will teach, what will be taught, will it work, and will my kid progress appropriately so he earn a living in a ruthless and unequal economy.

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