Education: 'The Ultimate Civil Right'

A conversation on education wrapped up the panel sessions Thursday during the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit in Austin.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Margaret Spellings, former U.S. education secretary and president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, answered questions on the state and potential future of the American education system from CBS News reporter Bob Schieffer.

A clip of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, once a Texas teacher, discussing his views on education opened the conversation, much of which focused on policies related to education reform. Both Miller and Spellings assisted with the national implementation of No Child Left Behind, a reauthorization and revision of Johnson’s 1965 Elementary and Secondary Act, under the George W. Bush administration.

 

“This is a bill that passed because it was cooperation between Republicans and Democrats,” said Schieffer, referring to the difference in political leanings of those involved in No Child Left Behind.

“It was a common cause,” Spellings said. “We shared a belief that we could and should do this work.”

The Common Core and Race to the Top initiatives soon came into the discussion.

“The Common Core, I think, takes us to a new iteration,” Miller said. “We recognize that students in America are not going to thrive in an advanced economy if they’re just filling in bubbles, if they can’t explain the concepts that they learned in class or they learned in a particular course. That analytical thinking is part of education.”

Spellings said she has no quarrel with the Common Core, but is concerned about its application and accountability.

“It’s the standard,” she said. “But equally important is how many students can meet that standard?”

“Just because you’ve developed a new assessment, a new test, you cannot forget the accountability pieces,” agreed Miller.

Schieffer also read statistics comparing students in the U.S. with students of other nations, which largely implied that the U.S. education system is falling behind. Miller said the U.S. evaluates a broader range of students than other countries, while Spellings argued “the rest of the world is leaping ahead” while the U.S. stands still.

Both parties agreed that equal access to excellent teachers and resources is essential to closing the nation’s education gap and shared excitement for successful charter schools. The pair also stressed the importance of using technology in classrooms to customize teaching plans and make test results immediate for quicker adjustments to learning needs. Miller said he has witnessed many young educators who are working to be innovative in their teaching.

“We need an effective teacher with all of our children, not some of our children. That’s part of the civil rights legacy,” Miller said.

Footage of the “Education: The Ultimate Civil Right” conversation and other panels from the Civil Rights Summit can be found at civilrightssummit.org. The three-day summit, which ended Thursday, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Find links to other Texas Bar Blog coverage below.

Making America better: a look back at the movement that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Clinton praises 'political genius,' 'martyrs' who made civil rights laws a reality

Former President Jimmy Carter discusses civil rights at summit 

LBJ, MLK, and the push for civil rights

Immigration reform discussed during LBJ Civil Rights Summit

Boies & Olson: Gay marriage latest fight in civil rights movement

Photo credit: Margaret Spellings, center, president of the George W. Bush Center and former education secretary, and U.S. Rep. George Miller, right, discuss the state of education with Bob Schieffer, CBS News reporter. Photo by Lauren Gerson, courtesy of the LBJ Foundation.