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How Will Duncan Define Civil Rights?

The push to reinvigorate the DOE's Office of Civil Rights raises the question of whether DOE will update the traditional and somewhat dated boundaries of civil rights probes. True, minority students continue to emerge from K-12 schools far less prepared for college work than white students. But black and Latino women, compared to the men, are doing comparatively well. Will that gender disparity draw scrutiny?

At the college level, women at many private four-year-colleges face higher admissions hurdles to gain admittance, the result of colleges reaching deeper into their applicant pools to find male students. That's discrimination. Will that get tossed into the investigative bucket?

How about the fact that 62 percent of all two-year degrees go to women? Seems like some sort of discrimination might be at work there.

Will Duncan's Office of Civil Rights engage any of those questions? I'm betting not. Already, the administration touched the political third rail by endorsing the move by a Rhode Island school district to dismiss the entire staff of a persistently failing high school. That drew scornful rebukes from the teachers unions, whose members are now reconsidering the hard work they put in to get Obama elected.

Offending women's groups (remember, eight million more women than men voted for Obama) by expanding the idea of what constitutes gender discrimination seems unlikely.

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