‘Access to Literacy’ Is Not a Constitutional Right, Judge in Detroit Rules

Do students at poorly performing schools have a constitutional right to a better education?

On Friday, a Federal District Court judge in Michigan decided that they did not when he dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by students at troubled schools in Detroit.

The suit, filed in September 2016, argued that students at some of the city’s most underperforming schools — serving mostly racial minorities — had been denied “access to literacy” because of underfunding, mismanagement and discrimination.

The complaint described schools that were overcrowded with students but lacking in teachers; courses without basic resources like books and pencils; and classrooms that were bitingly cold in the winter, stiflingly hot in the summer and infested with rats and insects.

Conditions like those, the lawsuit said, contributed to dismal test scores and left students woefully underprepared for life after high school.

“The abysmal conditions and appalling outcomes in plaintiffs’ schools are unprecedented,” the complaint said. “And they would be unthinkable in schools serving predominantly white, affluent student populations.”

.. Judge Stephen J. Murphy III said that “access to literacy” — which he also referred to as a “minimally adequate education” — was not a fundamental right. And he said the lawsuit had failed to show that the state had practiced overt racial discrimination.

But he conceded that the conditions at some Detroit schools were “nothing short of devastating.”

.. “Historically, access to literacy has been a tool to subordinate certain groups and certain communities and to keep those communities down,” he said.

.. A dilapidated history book at Osborn High School with a publication date of 1998, in photographs provided by a law firm.

.. He also agreed that giving students the opportunity to learn to read was “of incalculable importance,” adding that some level of literacy was necessary for voting, applying for a job and securing a place to live.

.. “But those points do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right,” he said.

.. Paul Tractenberg, an expert in education and constitutional law and a professor emeritus at Rutgers Law School, said lawsuits like this one are typically filed — and have a better chance of success — in state-level courts.

“In theory, it would be a great breakthrough to have the federal courts recognize education as a fundamental right,” he said. “But I see no chance of that happening in my lifetime.”

Richard Rohr Meditation: Protecting and Also Bridging Differences

humans need concrete and particular experiences to learn the ways of love. [1] We don’t learn to love through abstract philosophy or theology. That’s why Jesus came to show God in human form, revealing a face we could recognize and relate to.

..  it must begin with somehow seeing the divine (ultimate value) in the other. If we really see someone in their fullness, we cannot help but treat them with kindness and compassion.

.. The problem is that the ego likes to assign lesser and greater value based on differences. Until all people everywhere are treated with dignity and respect, we must continue calling attention to imbalances of privilege and power. Arbitrary, artificial hierarchies and discrimination are based on a variety of differences: for example,

  • gender,
  • sexuality,
  • class,
  • skin color,
  • education,
  • physical or mental ability,
  • attractiveness,
  • accent,
  • language,
  • religion,

and so on.

.. “Intersectionality” is a rather new concept for most of us to help explain how these attributes overlap. You can be privileged in some areas and not in others. A poor white man has more opportunities for advancement than a poor black man. [2] A transgender woman of color has an even higher risk of being assaulted than a white heterosexual woman. [3] Someone without a disability has an easier time finding a job than an equally qualified candidate who has a disability.

.. “admitting one’s privilege can be very difficult,” especially for those who consider themselves tolerant and prefer to not use labels, “calling themselves color-blind, for instance.”

.. When we finally recognize our unearned benefits—at the expense of others—we may feel ashamed and that may lead us to make excuses for ourselves or overly identify with a less privileged aspect of our identity (for example as Jewish or female).

.. We must work to dismantle systems of oppression while at the same time honoring our differences and celebrating our oneness!

This takes a great deal of spiritual maturity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, not the denial of them. 

Our differences must first be maintained—and then overcome by the power of love (exactly as in the three persons of the Trinity). We must distinguish and separate things before we can spiritually unite them, usually at cost to ourselves, especially if we are privileged (see Ephesians 2:14-16).

God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them.

It’s time we listened to Melania

the one person in the executive branch who is almost guaranteed not to be fired and is, at the same time, most able to speak independently about what matters in the country: Melania Trump.

It’s time we listened to Melania.

.. Social and emotional learning is an idea whose time has come. It builds from neuroscience that reveals that our brains are both malleable and dependent on the strength of our relationships.

.. In one study, social and emotional learning programs were shown to reduce behavior problems and increase test scores. In another, they were shown to improve physical and mental health outcomes — and with gains that persist up to 18 years.

.. a focus on integrating social and emotional learning resulted in a steep drop in discipline problems as well as an improvement in test scores.

 

Advice to New Grads: Scale or Bail

Want to change the world? Don’t bother volunteering—get a real, ‘boring’ job.

If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. You’re one of the privileged few who have the education to create lasting change. It may feel good to ladle soup to the hungry, but you’re wasting valuable brain waves that could be spent ushering in a future in which no one is hungry to begin with.

There’s a word that was probably never mentioned by your professors: Scale. No, not the stuff on the bottom of your bong or bathtub. It’s the concept of taking a small idea and finding ways to implement it for thousands, or millions, or even billions. Without scale, ideas are no more than hot air. Stop doing the one-off two-step. It’s time to scale up.\

Don’t spend all your time caring for the sick. Prevent disease. Gene therapy, early detection and immunotherapy can change the trajectory of disease because they scale. Don’t build temporary shelters. Figure out how to 3-D print real homes quickly and cheaply. Why tutor a few students when you can capture lessons from best-of-breed teachers and deliver them electronically to millions? That’s scale.

.. There is too much talk of sustainability, the fight over slices of a pie, zero-sum games. That’s the wrong framework. You need sustainability only if you stick to one-off moves.

.. detoxifying oppression

.. Channel that energy to change the stagnant status quo through scale in education, banking and especially government.

.. listen to Bono. As he told Georgetown students a few years ago, “Entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.”