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Follow-up: The Courage to Improve Our Schools

Renee Moore

Creating the type of school that I described in the first post is both possible and affordable for this nation.

What's lacking is courage.

It takes courage to admit that we have systematically, deliberately, and consistently relegated millions of children to an inferior education.

It takes courage to challenge what are essentially racist assumptions that many in this country have grown-up believing. Beliefs such as the stereotype that poor parents value education less than other parents. Or the myth that there is a "culture" of poverty.

It takes courage to admit what our current curriculum and reform practices are actually doing to children. As Geneva Gay, distinguished African American teacher educator, points out in her moving and prophetic essay "Our Children Need...Education for Resistance":

Peter Breggin (2000) contends that the ills of U. S. society neglects, abuses, traumatizes, and abandons its children. Some evidence of these is the loss of childhood, lack of meaningful relationships with significant and secure adults, the level of violence that surrounds children, and isolation caused by technology. Undoubtedly, iconic media images, individuals, symbols, and events are major influences on children and youth if they add nothing more than confusion, which is not a minor or insignificant factor to be easily dismissed. Youth need educational interventions that go beyond high academic performance, career readiness, and standardized test scores to deal effectively with these challenges.

It takes courage to stare down those who have profited so handsomely from this wretched state of affairs and realign our national budgetary priorities to match our rhetoric (viz-a-viz, "Children are our future"). According to The Nation, ending the U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan means $44 billion that could be spent on something else. That same article notes that $1 billion spent on education produces over twice as many, and better-paying jobs than the same amount spent on the military. What it would take to put every child in America in a well-built, well-staffed, well-run school could be easily shaved from the Pentagon budget with no danger to our national defense.

We have many, many good ideas and promising examples of how to improve education. But do we have the political and moral will to make the most needed changes and to make them stick?

Renee Moore has taught English and journalism for 20 years in the Mississippi Delta region at both high school and community college levels.

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