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Civil rights legend James Meredith to speak at GSU on public education

David Pendered
James Meredith

By David Pendered

Civil rights legend and leader James Meredith is slated to deliver a lecture Wednesday at Georgia State University on the hot-button topic captured in the title, “Public Education: The Critical Civil Rights Issue of our Time.”

Meredith has been campaigning on the topic since at least 2014. That’s when he released his declaration, the “American Child’s Education Bill of Rights.”

James Meredith

Civil rights legend James Meredith is slated to deliver a lecture Wednesday at Georgia State University on his notions to improve public education, which he says is represents the new civil rights movement. Credit: news.gsu.edu

Meredith contends that the United States spends too much money on education reforms, including standardized tests. Meredith says the money could be better spent on other programs that would be more helpful to pupils and students.

Here’s how Meredith sums up his point, according to a report in blogs.edweek.org:

  • “Our schools are being destroyed by politics, profit, greed and lies. Instead of evidence-based practices, money has become the engine of education policy, and our schools are being hijacked by politicians, non-educators and for-profit operators.
  • “Parents, teachers, citizens and community elders must arm ourselves with the best evidence and take back control of our children’s public education before it is too late. We all must work together to improve our public schools, not on the basis of profit or politics, but on the basis of evidence, and on the basis of love for America’s children.”

This national debate over spending on education has divided along cultural lines.
Writing in May in the trade publication edweek.org, columnist Dave Powell observed:

  • “Is education the civil rights issue of our time? I’m going to cut right to the chase: The answer is no. Or, at least, not really. If you ask me, civil rights is the civil rights issue of our time. While there is no doubt in my mind that education is a civil right, we shouldn’t narrow the scope of civil rights to begin and end with education.”

In 2014, Kevin Johnson, then mayor of Sacramento and spouse of education reformist Michelle Rhee, observed in a column published in courier-journal.com:

  • “It’s clear that we are failing to provide a first-class education equally to all students. … My wife – education-reform advocate Michelle Rhee – always says that the most powerful thing we can do inside schools is to make sure an excellent teacher is at the front of every classroom. Unfortunately, students of color in our country are more likely to be taught by an underqualified, brand-new or lower-paid teacher. That exacerbates inequity.”

Meredith has taken on the issue of public education as his lastest effort in the arena of civil and human rights.

Meredith may best be remembered as the center of violence after he attempted to enroll at the University of Mississippi. According to a report on history.com, the violence ended with two dead, hundreds wounded, dozens arrested, and some 31,000 National Guardsmen called out by President Kennedy to enforce order.

Meredith continued his efforts, including a solitary march in June 1966 that he called the “March Against Fear.” The route was from Memphis, Tn. to Jackson, Miss.

Meredith was shot by a sniper along the route. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. responded by continuing the march, with Stokely Carmichal and Fliyd McKissick, until Meredith was able to rejoin the march.

Note to readers: “Public Education: The Critical Civil Rights Issue of Our Time,” is to start Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Centennial Hall Auditorium, located at 100 Auburn Ave. The lecture is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required.


David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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