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No crystal stair

Pastor Rasheed Baaith

No crystal stair

By Pastor Rasheed Z. Baaith

 “For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.”  (Psalm 9:18)

     From the moment we got off that first slave ship, we have understood the importance of education.  Somehow we instinctively knew that the door to liberty was opened by knowledge.  My favorite teacher would often tell us, “Seek knowledge if it be in China.”  The Word of God tells us in the second chapter of Proverbs to “incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.” 

    Education is indeed the key and Tanya McDowell understands that. You may have never heard of Tanya McDowell, but you have met parents like her.  Parents who are determined their children have the best education available, no matter what must be done to obtain it.

    Tanya McDowell is a mother who lived in Bridgeport, Conn. Lived may be too strong a description; she was a mother who was homeless in Bridgeport. She, like everyone who lives in that city knows the better schools are in Norwalk, Connecticut. While Bridgeport is the state’s largest city, the schools there have some of the lowest test scores. The better schools are in Norwalk and have been for a while.

    Ms. McDowell used the address of her babysitter to keep her son enrolled in kindergarten in a school in Norwalk. She was found out and subsequently charged with a crime. She has been convicted of enrolling her son in an outside district and “stealing” $15,000.00 worth of educational services. She has been sentenced to 12 years, suspended after five years and she must pay $6,200.00 in restitution to the city of Norwalk. The sentence also includes four counts of drug possession and distribution.

    We all say there is of course no justification for selling drugs. None. But then we’re not homeless and hungry either. I don’t condone that behavior but I understand it. And I sure un-derstand the reasons why she enrolled her son where she thought he had a better chance at receiving a quality education.  I understand and I support the move.

    Recently, former President Bill Clinton was part of a group that evaluated public school buildings in America. His group estimated that it would take around five billion dollars to bring those schools up to an acceptable standard.  I’m willing to bet that a disproportionate number of those schools are where poor white but mostly brown and Black children attend.

    In addition, those schools in poor neighborhoods are serviced by teachers who are vastly under paid, completely over worked and who never have enough materials, equipment or books. 

    Too many of our children are in learning environments where everything happens but learning.  What parent in their right mind would not want what public schools are supposed to provide, which is a quality education administered by quality teachers in a quality atmosphere?

    One reason the voucher system is beginning to gain support among our people is because we understand that better neighborhoods have better schools. Where you live determines the excellence or lack of it when it comes to the school your child attends.

    American children are already at a disadvantage when it comes to public schooling. At present America ranks 17th in the world according to the Or-ganization for Economic Co-operation and Development latest statistics when reading, math and science scores are compared.  So they’re already trying to play catch up and don’t know it.

    Just so you know, when it comes to education Shanghai – China is first, South Korea is second and Finland is third; and Canada, our neighbor to the north ranks 6th.

    We’d better try to get our children all the education we can.  However we can, at whatever cost. Dr. Boyce Wat-kins sums it up well: “In a country where it was once illegal for slaves to learn how to read, we now have laws that criminalize parents who wish to help their kids learn as well as the kids in the suburbs.” 


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