Our nation is six decades removed from Brown v. The Topeka Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that ordered school desegregation to proceed with “all deliberate speed” based partially on the logic that separate is inherently unequal.
Nearly a decade later in his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to contemplate the “fierce urgency of now” and to avoid succumbing to the status quo of “gradualism”.
Those phrases suggest concern that those implementing the desegregation order had chosen the third alternative definitions of the adjective “deliberate,” as in: done or acting in a careful and unhurried way.
At the commemorative event of the 50th anniversary of that great oration, an elderly gentleman carried a placard that said, “50 years later and I’m still protesting this s*#t.”
Half a century later, de facto geographic and economic segregation still exists. True equity has yet to be achieved in the schoolhouse. More than 20% of our children live in poverty and attend schools that are ill-equipped to break the cycle of poverty.
We are forced to wonder where Dr. King would fall in today’s debates about education, but he left us some clues…
On March 14, 1964, Dr. King accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers and declared, “The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.”
Can we talk some more, please, about that “fierce urgency of now“.
[This commentary appeared originally in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on January 16, 2014.]