July 13, 2020

Education crisis deniers need to check themselves


Nothing is more frustrating that those who deny the systemic hurt we do to each other and our world, especially when we have all the evidence necessary to know better.

Yes, Earth is warming. Yes, vaccinations prevent measles. Yes, President Obama is an American citizen.

Our public schools are failing.

On that last point Derrell Bradford from NYCAN says it is fine to have differences of opinion about the problem, but it is shocking that many in the education system flatly deny there is a problem.

As you might expect, opinions differ on how to improve education in New York state. But you might not expect that some in the system claim that there is no crisis at all.

Karen Magee, the head of New York State United Teachers, offered, “There is no epidemic of failing schools” — a surprise to the 250,000 students who attend them.

I expect teachers’ unions to be fully vested in resisting change, denying culpability, and avoiding accountability. But we should call out, as Bradford does, how education crisis deniers have a lot to gain from minimizing the pain communities of color face when they are not prepared for life in the American mainstream.

The most notable benefit is job entitlements education workers regardless of outcomes for kids that public systems have too often treated as disposable.

Bradford rightfully redirects our attention to the “moral crisis,” and we should not divert our eyes from the stunning truth.

The statistics are striking: Only 23 percent of low-income students graduate from high school ready for college, compared to 50 percent of students who are not economically disadvantaged.

Among African-American students, only 17 percent can read at grade level; only 20 percent can do math at grade level; only 15 percent graduate from high school ready for college.

We know what happens to young people when they do not graduate high school ready for college or careers. It isn’t pretty. Nearly every enduring negative statistic associated with black and brown life finds its genesis in schools that aren’t working.

If that isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is.

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