Monday, June 6, 2011

The NAACP Has Lost It's Way

When the Civil Rights Movement is introduced to most students, you learn about court battles in the aftermath of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that eventually lead to a string of desegregation cases which culminated in the 1954 landmark case, Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall, among other lawyers becomes a central figure of this fight as does the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a youngster, you come to understand that the NAACP advocates for social justice, and that education is a key arena in the struggle for rights. At least, that's how I always saw it, and would look to explain it to Lil Man. Now, however, it seems that the NAACP, particularly it's NY chapter has lost it's mission statement for it is incomprehensible to read that the NAACP has joined in a lawsuit with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in NY that would prevent the closure of schools with traditions of failure which in turn would keep charter schools, many with records of achievement, from expanding their enrollment and occupying more space. This is space currently shared with traditional public school entities.

In their plan to systematically deconstruct segregated schools, the NAACP challenged the notion of equality principle of the "separate but equal" Plessy decision. The lawyers correctly bet that educational institutions would not be able to construct and maintain equal facilities for both black and white students. Fast forward 2011, and while the words of NY NAACP representatives indicate that they want to advocate for the right of students, they say that they want to insure equal access for students, their actions say something totally different to the point that 2000+ members of the public marched on the NY NAACP offices recently. It is clear that there are schools in NY that are not getting it done. Attempts to close these schools continue to be blocked by the UFT in the name of saving teacher jobs, NOT thinking about what's best for students, which is what the NAACP should be thinking about. The head of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Michael Lomax, and former DC School Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, can't understand the position the NAACP has taken either and co-wrote an
op-ed in the NY Daily News questioning the possible motivation behind siding with the UFT to the potential detriment of thousands of students.

If there is one thing you take away from movies like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman there is a definite desire and desperation in some urban centers to move away from traditional public education models because the opportunity and educational gaps for students are too large. I know as a parent, I would be remiss in my duties if I let Lil Man languish in a place that would make him less likely to be a less competitive college applicant and have fewer options in a global job market. 50,000 students were denied placement in NY Charter schools this year according to the Lomax/Rhee op-ed which shows that the disdain for how public education is being administered is wide-spread. As a teacher, I understand that the union is supposed to fight for the jobs of teachers on the chopping block, but the NAACP has no business on the side of the UFT if they are trying to do what's right for the children. As an educator, if I was not doing my job with kids, then I have to step aside and let someone else have a turn. The public schools in question have had plenty of time to improve their situation, and they have not. So if I am Mayor Bloomberg, I would have little tolerance for their complaints about their space being diminished. It's that simple, there's too much at stake not to have only the most serious professionals working with the youth of today.

On the homepage of the NY NAACP site, there is a banner advertising the upcoming 75th Diamond Jubilee Convention in NY. I hope the same 2000+ who marched on the NY headquarters make their presence felt at this event as well because the NAACP has made a bad deal here, and they need to hear from those affected loud and clear. In interviews, national NAACP chair, Ben Jealous seems sincere in his vision to reenergize the organization and recapture it's importance within the community. If this is truly the case, then he will speak out against this action swiftly because if the NAACP goes any further off-course, they risk losing their way in the community permanently.

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