Friday, September 4, 2009

The Continuing Shame of Virginia’s Education System: Then and Now

It is very difficult for many of us today to fully understand the social impact that desegregation had on school systems in the 50s and 60s. Families were divided, people moved in order to change schools for their children, friends fought vociferously, and the political scene was, as usual, a mess. Massive resistance, the movement to prevent school desegregation after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, was only one example of Virginia’s inability to place the needs of the students before the needs of the political parties.

From 1959 – 1964 Prince Edward County in Virginia closed their public school system, thereby sidestepping the issue of desegregation. With no schools they had no worries. Children of prominent, white families could be educated privately. The political arguments were pervasive and ridiculous, and it was the children who ultimately paid the price for the mistakes of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Today, schools are desegregated. However, politics still plays a powerful role in our education system. This is evident in the fact that the upcoming address by President Obama to school age children on Tuesday has been banned from many public schools here in Virginia.

Many people will state that the speech has not technically been banned. However, when I visited Yorktown Elementary School this morning to discuss the matter with the principal, I was told that the schools across the county have simply chosen not to allow students to view the speech. The reason given was that nobody knew exactly what the President was going to say.

Somehow, I doubt the President is going to tell school age children they should vote democrat. I really don’t believe he’s going to push health care reform on the third graders. He probably won’t even mention Iraq or Afghanistan.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that he might say something like, oh, I don’t know, study hard, stay in school, do your best… Dangerous words indeed.

York County is not the only school system in this state to put a stop to this inflammatory speech that will be given on Tuesday. For many of us, however, this type of idiocy is nothing more than a continuation of the arrogance of politics interfering with the necessity of education. And once again, it seems that arrogance and absurdity have won in the South.