Arne Duncan stood before the NAACP convention last week to repeat his claim that "education is the civil rights issue of our generation." He also declared "the only way to equality in society is to achieve equality in the classroom." Since Mr. Duncan did not spell out what he meant by equality or civil rights, let's see if we can extrapolate his meaning from the policies he is pushing hard to be adopted across America, even if his heavy-handed forcing means ignoring the lawful Congressional role in making federal education policy.
Apparently, Mr. Duncan does not believe that the equality shortage in classrooms that we have known about ever since poor children started going to school can be helped by fair housing policies, better transportation policies, improved health policies, or new jobs policies, any of which we know could affect the poverty levels of urban and rural America, where rates are now the highest, after taxes, of any industrialized nation. According to Mr. Duncan, it would seem that policy shifts or new efforts in these areas are unimportant, for it is "only" in the classroom that we may hope to achieve equality.
Well, what kind of equality in the classroom would that be? Apparently, it is first and foremost a segregated kind of equality, a segregation that is aided by the spread of charter schools, which remains a top priority of the Administration. Two studies last year, in fact, showed incontrovertible evidence for the segregative effects of charter schools, whether run by non-profit or for-profit corporations.