Parental choice in schools is civil rights issue of our day
We have been successful because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans believed that you might not control your circumstances but you can control your response.
And your greatest ally in controlling
your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are
going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are.
My mom was a teacher. I respect the profession. We need great teachers, not mediocre ones. We have to have high standards for our kids, because self-esteem comes from
achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.
We need to give parents greater choice, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day.
Grandfather funded Rice Schools from rich white community
Granddaddy Rice worked mostly in Louisiana, founding a church and a school next door.
The Rice schools were even more successful than the churches. My grandfather believed that his schools could better educate black children than the miserable public
schools of the day, and he sought funds from any source he could, whether it meant a few cents from parents in the community or $50 from rich white people across town. Granddaddy Rice once told Daddy that "white guilt" was his best ally in funding his
schools. But when a white church collected a bunch of old textbooks and "donated" them to my grandfather's school, he politely declined. It was important, he explained, that his kids have the most up-to-date reading materials,
just like the white students.
Granddaddy's educational evangelism compelled him to go door-to-door in the poor neighborhoods around him and impress upon the parents the importance of sending their kids to college.
We "graduated" from kindergarten in a ceremony complete with white robes and diplomas held in the church sanctuary. All of the other kids were on their way to 1st grade, but I wasn't. I was very sensitive about this. The problem was that I would not turn
6 until November, too late to meet the October 31 cutoff.
My parents were determined to see that I did not miss an entire year of school. The Board of Education would not budge, so they came up with another idea. Perhaps I could test into
2nd grade the following year. Having received permission for this unusual maneuver, they set about making certain that I would pass the test.
My mother decided to take a year's leave from teaching to coach me in preparation for the exam. Years later
when the homeschooling movement became more visible, I belatedly realized that I had been a part of it, if only in an ad hoc way. I was very proud when I passed the test, scoring at a 3rd-grade level in arithmetic and at a 5th-grade level in reading.
Suspicious of the predictive power of standardized tests
After doing poorly on the PSAT (I wasn't then and am not now good at standardized tests), the guidance counselor at St. Mary's called me in to review the results. "You didn't do very well," she said, ignoring the fact that I was 2 years younger than my
schoolmates. "Perhaps you should consider junior college." I just laughed at her, thanked her for her advice, and left. But when I went home and told my parents, they were NOT amused. I have told that story many times, when I was provost at
Stanford, for several reasons. First, my own experience has led me to be rather suspicious of the predictive power of standardized tests. Second, I realize how lucky I was that my own sense of self--developed through years of parental affirmation--
shielded me at that moment from self-doubt. I have always worried that there are many young people, particularly minorities, who might internalize negative messages like that and simply give up.
Center for a New Generation: reduce poverty in E. Palo Alto
In 1991 [I delivered] the commencement address for the Ravenswood schools in East Palo Alto. Ravenswood is an elementary and middle school district. The superintendent said, "70% of these kids will never finish high school."
I was stunned, and realized
that I knew very little of the poverty and lack of opportunity just a few blocks from my house. "Stanford has been running its own programs and its own agenda in East Palo Alto. It's about time that someone ask the people there what they need."
We launched the Center for a New Generation (CNG). We had no idea how hard it would be. Stanford had a well-deserved reputation for giving the help they decided the community needed without asking the community what it wanted.
But by 1992 we were able
to launch the program for children in grades 5 to 8. Each summer 250 kids were exposed to hands-on math and science instruction, language arts, instrumental music, dance, and art. The curriculum was repeated as an after-school program for 150 kids.
I made a major push to encourage the study of critical languages. (Secy. of Defense] Don Rumsfeld, [CIA Director] George Tenet, [Education Dept.'s] Margaret Spellings, and I launched a "Critical Languages Initiative" to support the study of
Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, and other "hard" languages. I reminded everyone that the National Defense Languages Act had done the same during the Cold War to increase the number of speakers of Russian.
Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.425
, Nov 1, 2011
Spotlight the importance of foreign exchange student program
I felt that [the foreign exchange student program] shouldn't be a one-way street. Americans are notoriously monolingual and, frankly, a bit provincial. I've long been an advocate of study-abroad programs. Education Secretary
Margaret Spellings and I teamed up to spotlight the importance of student exchanges, holding the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education in 2006.
One great strength of the American higher education system is its diversity, so we invited leaders from community colleges, liberal arts schools, and private and public research universities. Margaret would visit countries in
South America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia with several university presidents to further emphasize the importance of the issue.
Rep. Charles Rangel welcomed Condoleezza Rice as she visited Harlem's PS 154. Education's role in lifting people out of poverty has been a special focus of Congressman Rangel, who has been working to bring the private and public sectors together to ensur
that children are provided the educational resources they need.
It's a message that resonates with the Secretary of State, both because of her current job as well as her past career in education. Years before she became a leader on the world stage,
Rice was instrumental in starting an after-school program in East Palo Alto. "There's a kind of bargain in America, that if you work hard and if you take the opportunities before you, then you can succeed," Rice told reporters. "A learning center like
this makes it possible for these children to have limitless horizons. When I leave this job I'll still be concerned about is that every child in America really has a chance to get a quality education."
Under segregation, blacks prepared for integrated college
Alabama spent $120 on each white child, but only $60 per black pupil. The extra effort that teachers and the church provided for black kids gave many of them motivation and the feeling that they must succeed--after all, everybody in their community
was counting on it and investing in it.
"The entire black community was determined on one thing," said Rice. "It was that as America emerged from the old ways of intolerance and prejudice, the children would be ready to take their rightful place in
American society. Among all my friends, the kids I grew up with, there was, for example, no doubt in our mind that we would grow up and go to colleges--integrated colleges--just like other Americans.
Even under segregation there was a strength of community and a strength of spirit," Condi says.
Experienced educator, as teacher and administrator
On education, Rice is an experienced educator, where Hillary merely writes about the subject. Condi’s extensive experience at Stanford, as a teacher, a mentor, and an administrator, qualifies her to speak on the education issue in a way no other
candidate in either party can. If Laura Bush’s pedagogic background made her husband more attractive to women voters, imagine their reaction to a former full-time educator running for president.
Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p. 62
, Oct 11, 2005
Keep funding for arts in school budgets
Some people believe the arts should be the first things that are cut out of school budgets and I believe very strongly that the arts are wonderful things for children. If there’s one area that I want to encourage people in school districts to work on,
it’s to keep funding the arts. When I was growing up, particularly in the African American community, we had great bands. I asked myself, when are these kids going to learn to play instruments that might get them diplomas, that might give them careers.
Source: Juan Williams interview on National Public Radio
, May 26, 2005
Economic class means nothing in US colleges
Upward mobility [via education] is important [to the American character]. I was really struck by the story of a woman who could not get into Oxford but got into Harvard. Did you know that the Stanford population is poorer than the Berkeley population?
And yet Berkeley is a pubic school and Stanford is private! That is because of very strong values about upward mobility. Stanford runs a “needs blind” admissions. So the population here is actually poorer than it is in public institutions.
Class means nothing in the American higher educational system, and all of those values have gone together to make the US.
The way that our research universities work is also important. Stanford is the source of both ideas and of people
for Silicon Valley. It is true of Route 128 in Massachusetts, it is true of Austin and the University of Texas. The US is going to for a long time dominate this new economy, because it has these perfectly positioned characteristics.
Source: TIES-Webzine interview at Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ.
, Jun 25, 2000
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