The greatest unfairness today is denying a decent education to poor children, for whom that is often their only way out of poverty. —Thomas Sowell
My liberal friends often talk about “leveling the playing field” for those who haven’t the opportunity to pursue what I, a middle-class raised white guy, am able to pursue in America. I do not deny that there are advantages to being white in America, though one could argue there are advantages of being black in America. Barack Obama’s ethnic background is playing a huge part in his rise to power. That’s not a bad thing or a good thing. It is what it is. American history, however, shows that society has tended to favor the white.
Whether or not the liberal narrative of “white privilege” is accurate, history is clear that oppressive slavery left a scar on our nation. The reality of our history is that our ancestors limited the freedoms of others, which gave them no upward mobility to proceed out of their situation.
Some still believe that this so-called “white power” still exists in our nation today. I would contend that it does, but perhaps more dangerously in unseen ways and predominantly under the guise of “compassion” and “social well-being.” Minorities who are underprivileged have little or no opportunity to bring themselves to more and better opportunities; they are “trapped.” Whether it be in the inner city with no money, family, or other means to get out of their situation; whether it be in a school district they can’t afford to move out of because “their side of town” is on the wrong side of the tracks; or whether they are simply trapped because of mental, physical, or other prohibitions on their health and well-being; the bottom line is, they have no freedom, and they have no opportunity. To use ultra-conservative terminology, they have no bootstraps, access to bootstraps, and in some cases, don’t even know what bootstraps are or how to them if they were given a pair.
Education reform is long overdue. Politicians govern who goes to school and where, and how much money gets funded in certain areas and for certain reasons. If you live in a certain district with a school system that is not to your liking, the only way to increase the quality of your child’s education is to make decisions on your own, and that takes means. Those in poverty don’t have means. Nor do they have freedom and opportunity. In America today, for there to be opportunity in education, there needs to be means.
Perhaps we should compare this problem to the problem of slavery. Like slaves, those trapped in poverty are often stripped of their human dignity. They are also trapped by the laws that do not allow them to pursue their own interests, even in spite of the good intentions of others who claim to have their “best interest” in mind. Their children are doomed to a poor education until politicians deliver. They are at the mercy of those in power to do what is best for them.
Our socialist system of schooling is fraught with shortcomings and major flaws that increase government say-so in education and decreases the say-so of parents. It leaves the powerless with no options, and those in power and opportunity (i.e. “means”) to excuse themselves from the mess.
What we need is an emancipation. Freedom for the enslaved. Opportunity for the underprivileged. Human dignity is promoted by freedom, which then energizes the dignified. Whether it be to a people group or to a single person—something inside of a free person changes. We are all, in fact, created equal. Freedom (especially protected freedom) reinforces that reality and builds the self-assurance that we are, in fact, valuable to the world and to God. Self-assurance of this fundamental reality changes who we are, how we see ourselves, and can help us alter our lives.
The mere existence or declaration of freedom and opportunity, however, does not immediately change reality. Just after slaves were declared free, they were not suddenly treated as white people, nor were they given equal stature in the eyes of white people. They needed assistance and aide to move along, to progress. Today is no different. If tomorrow a program of freedom (whether in the form of school choice and/or vouchers) is passed into law, it won’t change things overnight. The newly freed will want and need guidance, and we will need to stand there, ready for them.
Will freedom and choice solve every educational problem? Doubtful. But it a giant leap forward toward freedom, which is exactly what our nation was founded upon and what has made it prosper.