Is Duncan ‘Blaming the Victim’ on Bad Schools?

While sharing his views on education with representatives of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan intimated that the reason why the poorest neighborhoods in the country host some of the worst schools is because parents in Black communities aren't demanding forcefully enough that their kids should have access to quality education. Specifically, he talked about the family's high tolerance to so-called dropout factories which are schools with dropout rates as high as 50%.

An editorial in The Washington Informer challenges that assumption, explaining that Black parents have been raising their voices against the abysmal quality of their neighborhood public schools for decades, and the fault lies with the educational establishment – of which Duncan is a part – for ignoring their demands for change.

To assume that Black parents are passively accepting that their communities are being served by schools which are sub-par is to assume that these families are blind to the advantage of education for their children's future. To assume that is to assume that Black parents have less of an investment in their children's success than parents of other races and ethnicities.

There doesn't to appear to be any evidence that this is so.

Do you really believe that parents send their children to school every day expecting anything less than a "world-class education" if such an education exist and was made available to them? What do you expect parents to do?

Sure, greater parental involvement may be an answer but not to your question. The Black community knows very well the value of education, and it has suffered, historically, and it continues to reel from government policies that deny them access to high-quality schools. Next year will mark 60 years since Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed separate but equal education, but schools in predominately black and brown communities remain separate and unequal.

To lay failure of schools exclusively on the parents is unfair, says the editorial. It does nothing but place the blame on the victims of this kind of gross educational inequality instead of seeking solutions from those in power.

Meanwhile, parents in these neighborhoods are exactly like parents everywhere. They will choose the best of all available options. It is no fault of theirs, if the available options are all bad.

We're reminded of Frederick Douglass' famous quote: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

So, the Informer will ensure that parents' demands on behalf of their children to have a "world-class education" are heard.

But Douglass also said: "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

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