Condoleezza Rice Bravely Asserts That Education Is The Civil Rights Movement Of Our Era

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Condoleezza RiceLast night Condoleezza Rice gave an extremely well-received and thoughtful speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The former Secretary of State spent a lot of time talking about foreign affairs, as that’s obviously her specialty. But Rice also branched out into what could be considered unfamiliar territory for her. Condoleezza Rice talked about domestic policy! And one of the key platforms of her speech was the problems with the United States’ education system. In fact, she called it the civil rights movement of our era.

The comparison is obviously significant. Secretary Rice was entering the convention of a party that can seem hostile to minorities. The candidate she supports is currently polling at 0% for African-American voters and less than 30% for Latino voters. Referring to Civil Rights was a bold step, and it signified the importance that the Secretary obviously places on the issue.

Here’s what Rice had to say:

“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 poor ones and 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.

And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.  This is the civil rights issue of our day.”

Secretary Rice has a logical investment in education. She works for Stanford University. In fact, she started her career in education, taking an assistant professor’s job at Stanford in 1981. Years later, Rice was the first female, first minority and youngest Provost in Stanford history.

Condoleezza Rice is no stranger to the education crisis in this country, and it’s not the first time that she’s mentioned it. But it is one of the first times that the inequality in schools was mentioned at the RNC this year. She is one of the few Republican politicians to come out and acknowledge minority issues. She is definitely the high profile of the party to identify and publicize the “civil rights issue of our day.”

Rice is correct. Public schools in socially disadvantages areas are a huge problem for this country. The income gap between the highest and lowest has never been so palpable as it is in public schools. And if the system perpetuates, that gap will only grow wider. These failing neighborhood schools often disproportionately are attended by minority students. That does make this a civil rights issue.

It was exciting to hear about education at the RNC this week. It’s such an important issue and it’s been overshadowed by the economic and healthcare debates. And I’m excited to see such a strong woman stand up for the need for these inequalities in schools to be addressed. Whether I agree with everything Rice says or not, at least she’s ready to get into the conversation. And she’s not afraid of invoking some serious rhetoric to make sure we all know how desperate this issue is. Good for Condi!

(Photo: Jlnphotography/