Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: The Politics of Education

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: The Politics of Education

Article excerpt

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: The Politics of Education.

One of the key differences between Democrats and Republicans was illustrated during August's conventions. While there were about 300 members of the National Education Association registered as delegates at the Democratic convention, Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole used his convention acceptance speech as an occasion to attack teachers and teacher unions. And while Democrats talked about the importance of education, Republicans used their convention as an opportunity to talk about home schooling.

Education has always been more than reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. From laws that require school attendance to skirmishes over the curriculum, politics are part of education. Certainly we see that in the current debates over affirmative action, with many key cases having come from the classroom. The Piscataway case, where a white teacher sued because her equally qualified Black colleague was retained while she was let go speaks volumes about some of the assumptions that some teachers have about their colleagues and about the role race plays in the educational process. Between President Clinton's shilly shallying about affirmative action and candidate Dole's abuse of the issue (not to mention vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp's absolute reversal on the matter), affirmative action may well be the "Willie Horton" issue of the 1996 campaign.

Meanwhile, the politicization of the home school movement is one way that Republicans can demonstrate their antipathy for "big government." But while home schooling works for some people, there are political underpinnings to this movement. Those parents who say that they want to control what their children are taught, and the environment in which they are taught, often behave like ostriches putting their heads in sand. Some remind me of the parents who, rather than allow their children to attend integrated schools, chose to start private academies in the South.

To be sure, there are many schools that leave much to be desired, and education does not have a high enough priority for many politicians. I am writing from Washington, D.C., where the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools have so badly mismanaged the educational process that several schools had to be closed temporarily because they had not been repaired by the time the fall semester began. The city's only public university, the University of the District of Columbia, has had its semester opening delayed because of a lack of funds. …

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