A study of the No Child Left Behind program shows
that "behind" means different things at
Black schools than at white schools. Harvard University's
Civil Rights Project has found that the supposedly
strict guidelines of No Child Left Behind are being
applied unequally, that schools in mostly white regions
are allowed to get waivers that keep them from falling
into the below standard category, while schools in
Black and brown districts face the full weight of
punishment for being substandard.
This story is much weightier than it might seem.
The first thing that one must understand is that the
Bush administration intended No Child Left Behind
as a wedge to undermine public education as an institution.
It was designed to make private education seem to
be a great alternative - one that should be funded
with public dollars. Liberals like Senator Ted Kennedy
bought into the language of the bill, when they should
have known that the Bush regime would interpret the
language any way they saw fit. And they saw fit to
punish upscale white, suburban schools as well as
Black, urban schools. The white schools fought back,
and got waivers from compliance with aspects of No
Child Left Behind. The Black districts lacked the
political power to do so, and found their facilities
condemned as substandard. Thus, the inequality in
the application of No Child Left Behind.
this takes us to a more fundamental argument, one
that goes back to 1954, the year that the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that school segregation was inherently
unequal and unconstitutional. Many people fail to
remember - or choose to incorrectly recall - that
the thrust of the argument against segregation was
that racial isolation allows whites to discriminate
against Blacks without materially harming themselves.
It was not that all-Black classrooms were inherently
inferior, but that, once whites could put all Black
children in separate schools, they could make those
schools inferior. When whites chose to flee the cities,
they were enabled to starve the school systems that
were left behind - in racial isolation.
The current No Child Left Behind controversy is really
about what happens in situations of racial isolation.
White regions have the political clout to insulate
themselves against the most egregious effects of what
the Bush administration has turned into an anti-public
schools weapon, the No Child Left Behind Act. Black
districts donít have that kind of power. They are
isolated, and cannot obtain the waivers that whites
get. But itís the same old problem.
Racial isolation was the goal of segregation when
it had the force of law, and remains the rule under
the de facto regime that whites chose to impose after
the 1954 Supreme Court ruling. Black kids donít have
to go to school with white kids to learn. But if they
go to all Black schools, white America has proven
that they will ensure that Black children will not
have an opportunity to learn, well. They remain the
children who are left behind. For Radio BC, Iím Glen