The Shame Of Re-segregation

"Let us be dissatisfied," said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education."

Thanks to the broad civil rights movement and the prevailing goodwill of the American people, our country strived for years to reach that bright tomorrow. And, while we never quite got there, we made great strides, and at least we were trying as a nation. But then, stuff happened.

In the name of cutting excessive government spending, budgets for public education began to be slashed by opportunistic politicians at all levels. Through their shortsightedness, our once proud public school system is being reduced to shambles -- school buildings themselves are in dangerous states of deterioration, classrooms are so jammed that many are little more than warehouses, basic teaching equipment and supplies are unavailable, teachers are now being forced to instruct students on how to pass a standardized test rather than teaching cognitive skills, and the idea of quality education for all has been made to take a back seat to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

As for integrated education, the picture is even more dismal as legislative bodies and courts have cynically abandoned our national striving for that still-worthy goal. A new national study by Harvard University researchers finds that America's schools today are practically as segregated as they were when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

In the late 1980s, public policy abandoned King's vision, halting our decades-long commitment to integration. As a result, the trend has rapidly reversed, and most white students now have little contact with black and latino students. In Southern states, 70 percent of black students are now in predominantly black schools. In Western states, some 80 percent of latino students are in predominantly minority schools - twice as many as in 1968.

It's time for all of us to be dissatisfied again.


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