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Educating for Equity

%altBy B. Jesse Clarke
This summer's United States Social Forum was singularly successful in its use of popular education, holding over a thousand workshops in three days. This issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment opens with a quick look at the forum and then delves into the many complex ways people are using education to strengthen the movements for social justice.

We start by acknowledging that the struggle for equal education organized by the civil rights movement is a vivid example of successful social change.  From the initial trainings at the Highlander Center, (described by John Hurst) to the curriculum of the Freedom Schools (by Kathy Emery), there is much to be learned by today’s organizers about the foundations of widespread civil disobedience and mass action. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions on voluntary desegregation Maya Harris from the American Civil Liberties Union reviews the current state of legal strategies to address equity in education at the federal level. Michelle N. Rodriguez and Angelica K. Jongco from Public Advocates detail a successful lawsuit by parents in California fighting for equity on the state level. Jacob Rosette describes a similar effort in Maryland where a court decision to remedy inequality is going un-enforced. 

Eric Mar, past president of the San Francisco School Board, and Kathy Emery evaluate the prognosis for change at the school district level.  Kenneth Saltman and Margot Pepper look at some of the national and global causes that are turning our schools into a two-track system: one track leading into college and managerial positions and the other into dead end, Wal Mart type jobs, the military or the criminal justice system.

In all of these analyses, the critical importance of integration with an independent social movement shines through as the best avenue for winning change, whether at the local, state, or national level. 

This issue is rife with examples from California, Florida, Texas, Portland, and Oaxaca, Mexico that highlight the complex ways that movement advocates are attempting to use education to bring equality, not only to our schools, but across the board on social justice issues, such as immigration, employment, and urban planning. 

It seems that many of us came away from the U.S. Social Forum with a common sense of incompleteness. In a way, that is the deepest success of the Forum. It is abundantly clear that we need to develop new ways to deepen and broaden our work.   We hope that the materials in this issue can be a small contribution to this effort.