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June 08, 2011
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A healthy debate we've started indeed! I'm not sure we've bridged many differences, though; maybe we should change the blog's name to Bigging Differences.
Let me explain some of my assumptions.
A good many of our policies and programs, then, should be designed to help people with the drive, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to rise. We should clear any obstacles in their path. We should empower them with opportunities. And, at all costs, we should avoid undercutting their efforts. In short, we should bring an ethos of meritocracy back to our anti-poverty efforts—the same ethos that still works relatively well at the top of our social structures and could work equally well at the bottom.
What would that mean, exactly? Here are some suggestions focused on education.
If some of these policies sound familiar, it's because once upon a time we embraced them—and they worked. Have you read the new book by Alison Stewart called First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School? In a new Education Next book review, AEI's Michael McShane explains that D.C.'s Dunbar, circa 1920,
And the results?
Though relegated to second-class status and stifled at every turn, Dunbar produced a coterie of graduates that the most elite schools in the country would envy. Doctors, lawyers, Ivy League professors, generals, and titans of business all graced and were graced by Dunbar's faculty and community.
And this, of course, was in the Jim Crow era.
Dunbar later became a regular, de-tracked, "comprehensive" high school—and started its long slide. Would anyone argue that Washington, D.C., is better off as a result?
Our message to young people, especially those growing up in poverty, should be clear: If you're willing to do the work, we'll clear your path to the middle class.
This article originally appeared on Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, where Mike Petrilli is debating Deborah Meier.