Monday, May 17, 2010

54 years of economic segregation

Today is the 54th anniversary of the "historic Supreme Court decision" in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which overturned the previous laws segregating people on racial grounds. (And then prompted Southern senators to pen the Southern Manifesto, another example of the crybaby conservative platform. A lot of it sounds familiar today: "We reaffirm our reliance on the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land," blah blah blah, "We're a bunch of dinosaurs who think a simple document written by plain ole people never ever deserves revision," dur dur dur. But as usual I digress.)

It has been 54 years since schools were (legally) desegregated, and fewer than that since it's been enforced and upheld. That's only a little more than half as long as Plessy v. Ferguson was the law of the land, confining blacks and other Americans of non-white-skinned descent to inferior institutions.

And yet some of our most honored institutions - public schools - are failing us. Here in Minnesota, there is a hot debate about how to tackle the "achievement gap," wherein poor and non-white-skinned students consistently do poorer in school than the rich white kids. This here website is considered a "good resource" - although it couches all its language in some pansy-ass liberal code. "Less disadvantaged students"? Just come out and say it like a Rude Red: rich kids get the good schools.

Everybody knows it. It's been that way our whole lives. School income is linked to property tax; rich neighborhoods give more money to schools. If you can't afford a good house in a good neighborhood, your kids will be attending class behind fences topped with barbed wire. (Ah, memories of home.)

Don't bother looking towards our glorious leaders for education reform, neither; you won't get anything under Obama that wasn't started under Bush. The corporate duopoly isn't interested in anything but furthering corporate stakes in what is almost a virgin market. ("Mmmm, all those state employees that we could replace with low-paid, non-union labor!" They're practically wetting themselves in anticipation, even though the actual process will probably be long and nuanced.) Running schools as corporations would bring in billions of dollars and lock a generation of young workers in low-wage, non-union jobs.

We won't even mention the opportunities for corporate propaganda.

No, the real change will have to come from the pressure of teachers, parents, students, and support staff, and it will require union action and probably even a pitched struggle against employers in school boards and test scoring corporations. And it will require finding a more equitable way to fund schools rather than segregating students according to their income.

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that "separate educational facilities" for different races "are inherently unequal." But that didn't address the economic issue, and economics are more of a determining factor than even race (and before you flip out, think about all the rich people in other countries). Race is an excuse for bad economic policies. Capitalism learned (as much as such a savage system can) that it was more effective to starve the freed slaves by putting them to work for low wages than it was to just beat and kill them. Seperate education facilities for the rich and the poor are also inherently unequal, and self-evidently so.

We need to stop punishing poor schools and start rewarding merit - but the only way to develop merit at all is to actually fund our public schools. And not on the basis of whose got a rich daddy.


comrade x said...

I remember going to public schools growing up in the 1970s and 1980s ( yeah, I'm old- deal with it) back when they were properly funded. Sure the school I went to in rural Florida had fewer resources than the one I went to when my family moved to the Minnesota suburbs.But there was no appreciable differences in the quality of the teaching or the school lunch program.
What I have witnessed over the last 30 years has been a systematic attack on poor and working class children by the elites that run this country. Now that they no longer need American labor for their factories or mass armies of conscripts they have pretty much abandoned their blue collar countrymen.

Locke said...

While it is true that there exists an imbalance due to racial inequality in the system, another cause for poor performance is often the parents. If you have parents that care about your success and not just their own pleasure (whether they be rich or poor) you will have good students. The source of a lot of the disinterest in the lower strata is caused by a poorly planned social programs that allow usury on the part of the poor instead of providing the hard working individuals opportunity to work hard. What we have is a system that squeezes the middle/working class from both sides. Poor people who don't have to work, and rich people who don't have to work. And the two parties each play off of half of that truth. The democrats are often misplacing their interests in the nonworking poor and the Republicans in the nonworking rich.

comrade x said...

Marx describes a similar situation: a parasitic criminal underclass , the lumpenproletariat, and an exploitative upper class, the buorgeosie, that squeeze the working people, the proletariat. Though in a capitalist controlled society the impact of the lumpenproletariat is greatly exaggerated by the media, while that of the buorgeosie is scarcely mentioned at all.