“Equality” Lawsuit

Apparently, we haven’t come such a long way after all.

When it comes to race and education, “equality” — that civil rights shibboleth — isn’t enough. In fact, not nearly enough, according to a lawsuit that has Pinellas County educators under the gun in defense of their policy of equal access for all students.

The case, William Crowley vs. the Pinellas County School Board, was brought by a parent who contended that his 7-year-old son, whose academic issues were “typical of those difficulties commonly faced by students of African descent,” was not, like so many other black students, getting an adequate education. The county, in effect, was not customizing education to fit the black experience.

The Crowley case has now morphed into a class action suit that uses the still cavernous racial gap in educational achievement as Exhibit A. Mere “equality,” goes the contention, only reinforces the status quo disparity. This ironic upshot is not what was envisioned for post- Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka society.

Three points.

*Should this suit succeed, it would be a quantum leap forward for all those who can never get enough social engineering. Where does it end? With “Ebonics: The Sequel”?

With equal results? Not unless the outside variables – from a dysfunctional rap culture and nearly 70 per cent out-of-wedlock birthrates to the “acting white” pejorative sometimes foisted on achieving black students by black contemporaries – are eliminated. Students at their core are individuals – not group adjuncts or mere racial puzzle pieces.

*The numbers game. While white students continue to significantly outpace blacks in academic performance (reading and math) and graduation rates, so do Asian, American Indian and Hispanic students. In fact, Asians top everybody on both lists. These other minorities are not part of the suit, nor are they clamoring for special treatment beyond help for the non-English speaking.

*Education can never be solely about facilities, books and teachers. There are intangibles, such as motivation and aptitude, and life-style variables such as parents, home environment, role models and re-enforcement of what is being taught — from academics to behavior — in school. What you don’t want to be first in is suspensions.

The schools, including those of Pinellas County, can always do better; it’s an ongoing challenge, especially in FCATWorld. But this is no Jim Crow time capsule. Call it classic scapegoating.

It’s much easier to play the race card than to deal with the real issue of properly preparing for success. This is really about what happens – or doesn’t happen – at home and what attitudes are brought to school. What it shouldn’t be about is the premise that one of the largest school systems in the country should be dovetailing its curriculum to accommodate a single minority.

Last year 13,000 black students took the reading FCAT. About 4,300 did well. Better to ask how that happened – than to cite the school district as the pedagogically-challenged reason for those who didn’t.

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