the election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency, his former
Senate seat is now open. A series of discussions are unfolding
as to who Illinois Governor Blagojevich should appoint. One
of the more interesting names is Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
are three main reasons that I am interested in seeing his appointment:
- his consistent stand on the need for a constitutional amendment
guaranteeing equal, quality education for all;
- an amendment guaranteeing the individual right to vote;
- an amendment guaranteeing equal, quality healthcare.
Jackson has correctly summed up that in the absence of a federal
constitutional amendment and a continued reliance of the state system,
we will be nearly guaranteed that certain basic human rights will
be denied large segments of society. I was particularly intrigued
when I participated in a discussion with him about the matter of
as a system, is run by each state and largely funded through property
taxes. Thus, from the outset the system is almost guaranteed
to be unequal on the basis of both race and class. If the
tax base of a particular region is low, for instance, it is more
than likely that the quality of the education will also suffer.
The exact opposite occurs, of course, when the tax base is high.
segregation of education was correctly challenged in the 1950s and
1960s. It was understood, contrary to the sophistry of Justice
Clarence Thomas, that racial segregation is more (and worse) than
a simple matter of separating people based on racial classifications.
Racial segregation is a form of oppression and this played itself
out in the school system with generally inferior education for students
response to school segregation tended to be school desegregation,
and specifically the busing of students. Yet, as with many
reforms in the capitalist USA, it was anemic. Since busing,
narrowed as it was to racial classifications, could not truly address
economic differentials, there tended to be a busing of students
between bad schools. White suburbanites were, due to borders,
largely immune to desegregation efforts. While even among
poorer schools there was some value to desegregation, it never fully
addressed the question of quality education and the impact
of racial segregation.
Jackson's suggestion is worth far more attention than it has received.
He is proposing that public education must be enshrined in the US
Constitution as a basic right just as the freedom of speech is a
right to which all citizens are entitled. Moving a constitutional
amendment would alter the entire discussion regarding public education
including but not limited to, funding, school resources, class size,
and the overall quality of the experience for our youth.
anything I am critical of Congressman Jackson for not gathering
a core of supporters who are interested in moving this amendment
as a national campaign. Perhaps, if he is selected to fill
the seat vacated by President-elect Obama, he will have that chance
and be better situated to bring national attention to the simmering
crisis of public education.
need someone in the Senate who is prepared to change the terms of
the discussion about matter such as public education, healthcare
and voting. Step #1 can start with the appointment of Jackson
as the junior Senator from the great state of Illinois. Step
#2, however, is his helping to build a movement. Even with
great ideas, he is not a savior and we should not be waiting for
Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and
a New Path toward Social Justice
of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor
in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.