Race, Class and the Progressive Solution

June 12, 2007

Kevin Carey and Sara Mead at The Quick and the Ed are addressing one of the fundamental questions that liberals and progressives must face today. In light of the mounting evidence that some public school systems are doing a terrible job of educating poor kids, and kids of color, what is the left’s response? Kevin and Sara have done a great job of outlining some of the key issues. Let me add some important race and class issues to the mix.

How did the left ever get to the point where we were defending school systems that don’t work? Part of the answer, as I’ve written before, is the politics of race:

Many of the urban public school administrations that the left once attacked as white, middle-class enclaves now are the province of middle-class black managers. In his study of urban school systems, Jeffrey Henig found that in Baltimore, Detroit and Washington, D.C., the public school systems are the city’s largest single employer. Many in the black community, including much of the civil rights leadership, have been less likely to criticize the under-performance of these black-run systems.

In 2007, the civil rights community and, in particular, black folks, ultimately are going to have to make a decision: is the civil rights movement vindicated by having upper and middle-class black people (like me) run school systems that disserve poor black children? I believe the answer is no. My father gave most of his life to the movement, and I know that all the marching and the dying that people did was not so that some of us could have jobs. It was so that all of us could read, do math, develop a love for learning, feel the power that comes from knowing your brain can solve tough problems, and get a job you enjoy. Until we become clear on this question nothing else will get fixed.

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One Response to “Race, Class and the Progressive Solution”


  1. […] Extra Credit, James Forman Jr. offers some thoughts on the question posed by Kevin Carey and Sara Meade at the Quick and the Ed and previously […]


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