I have decided to raise the question about whether their is a Black public left for public education because I know that there is a White public for public education in suburban communities where one finds beautiful, expansive buildings and grounds, vibrant co-curricular programs like bands, orchestras, sports teams, cheerleaders, and myriad clubs and activities along with high quality curriculum, the latest technology, stable teaching staffs who have exemplary credentials. These communities are satisfied with their schools and when they have concerns they are able to do something about those concerns. Most Black communities do not have these same opportunities and they are increasingly discouraged by the condition of public schooling in their neighborhoods.
I have just returned from appearing on a panel at the fabled “Essence Festival” in New Orleans, LA. One of the underlying themes that emerged from the panel discussion was that Black people should abandon public education because (1) public education is terrible; (2) choice and charter programs are superior to public education and; (3) Black parents who REALLY care about their children do not send their children to public schools. I acknowledge that our children are receiving substandard education–this is an ongoing historical condition. However, this condition is exacerbated by the increasing demand for high quality workers in a knowledge economy.
Over the months and years I hope to maintain this blog/commentary we can discuss the nuances and specifics of what is happening in so-called education reform. But as I begin this forum I want to ask whether or not there is a public, i.e. an interested community, for public education. Have we as Black people decided to evacuate the public space we have known as public education? Have we decided that public education is irreparable? Do we see public education as incapable of preparing our children for further education and/or productive employment?
In cities across the nation there are groups of Black parents and community members who are starting to make demands on public education. We see some protests in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago but do they represent a groundswell of support for public education. Are they just voices crying in the wilderness or are they the beginning of a real movement to revitalize and perhaps save public education? Is there a Black public for public education?
Let’s Stay Black & Smart!