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Upsetting the Natural Order of Things

by Gerard Robinson, President of the Black Alliance for Educational


Options (January 21, 2009)
On behalf of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), I
congratulate President Barack Obama for becoming the 44th
President of the United States. His acceptance of the oath of office
with hand laid on Abraham Lincolns Bible birthed a new kind of
freedom in the American Republic.
Obamas presidency, as have past presidencies, ushers in a bold
opportunity for the nation to address critical policy issues of the day.
In Lincolns America, slavery reigned as a critical issue of the day. In
Obamas America, another form of slavery reigns supreme.
President Lincoln in his first inaugural speech delivered on March 4,
1861 reiterated a theme employed during his campaign for the
executive office: I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere
with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. Yet the
rush for liberty upset the natural order of things.
Lincolns actions after his inauguration as the 16th President of the
United States proved decisive in uprooting the peculiar institution;
thus opening 148 years later the doors of the White Housebuilt by
slave laborto a beautiful Black family with millions of cheering,
multicolored faces waving Americas red, white, and blue flag from
sea to shining sea.
President Obamas inaugural call to transform American schools to
meet the demand of a new age is a declaration to interfere directly
with the institution of educational slavery. The type of institution that
equips our high school students with a passport to work on a prison
plantation; that offers up our elementary and middle school children
as fodder for a drug culture hungry to digest untapped potential; that
mislabels gifted students as inattentive and eager learners as
hyperactive; and that leaves American college graduates unprepared
for too many jobs. This tenacity of failureand its ugly twin...the

pretense of progressgnaws daily at the soul of American education,


thereby, eroding the foundation of our Constitution, our form of
government, and our economy. Abolishing educational slavery is
necessary. Therefore, upsetting the natural order of things is
inevitable.
Not because President Obama identified a common enemy of school
reform to conquer, or because he unveiled a ten-point plan for action.
Rather, because he inherits an American system of educationpublic,
private, home school, virtualdivided by class as much as Lincolns
America was divided by caste. As in Lincolns day, there is a rising tide
of discontent for slavery. This time it is educational. Also similar to
Lincolns day, Americans look to the president for leadership,
particularly if a season of change propels him into the fray of
reconstructing education policywhether he made reform part of his
inaugural speech or not.
For example, nothing in President Dwight D. Eisenhowers first
inaugural speech delivered on January 20, 1953, after taking the oath
of office with his hand laid on George Washingtons Bible, hinted at an
interest in education reformeven as he referenced in passing the
spiritual knowledge of our free schools. Yet Eisenhowers transition
to the presidency thrust him knee-deep in an ideologically spirited
Second Civil War following the Supreme Courts Brown v. Board of
Education decision in 1954. President John F. Kennedy made no
reference at all to education in his January 20, 1961 inaugural speech.
But the brutal reaction to a federal demand to expel Jim Crow from
American public schools at all levels of learning encouraged President
Kennedy to address the nation by television on June 11, 1961.
Kennedy referred to the educational matter of the day as a moral
crisis in need of executive and legislative actions.
Neither did President Lyndon B. Johnson address schools nor
education in his 1965 inaugural speech about the American Covenant.
However, signs of the time demanded a presidential prerogative in
American education. So President Johnson spearheaded a federal civil
rights movement for equal educational opportunityechoing in spirit

covenantal themes billowing through the singing of America the


Beautiful by Leontyne Price during Johnsons only presidential
inauguration. Aretha Franklins queenly performance of My Country
Tis of Thee surely offers a nice springboard for President Obama to
launch a new era where the nations systems of education promote
liberty, freedom, and options to pursue the American dream.
Poet William B. Yeats assures us in the Second Coming that, things
fall apart; the center cannot hold. American presidents have used
their capital during crucial seasons in our nations history to untangle
the grip of intolerance that threatens the speed of progress. Our
schools fail too many is an intolerable fact President Obama
acknowledged in his inaugural speech. Now that he is pregnant with
desire, millions of familiesmost particularly the poor and workingclassare positioned as a midwife, ready to birth a new kind of
educational freedom in America.