By: Steven Goodman – Asst. Opinions Editor
In case you haven’t heard the news yet, Ted Cruz has become the first person to announce he is running for president in 2016. In a speech at Liberty University, it became clear his motto is “reigniting the promise of America.” Although, if you actually listened to (or even read) his speech, you would most likely assume his motto involved the word “imagine,” especially since, according to the Washington Post, he used it more than once per minute.
Cruz asked his audience to imagine a plethora of things: “a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms” or “a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream.”
While there are definitely some images I did not wish to imagine, there was one item in particular which Cruz said that stood out to me: “Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation that every single child, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP Code, every child in America has the right to a quality education.”
The first part confused me; education itself is definitely a civil right, but actually choosing a school? I doubt it. Schools found in the same type of community are fairly equal in terms of education. Sure one district may have more music electives than the other or offer AP European History whereas another doesn’t, but the fundamental components of education remain the same at each school.
I seriously doubt that I would have been better prepared for college if I had attended a school one or two districts over from my own high school. Choosing a school should only come into play if that school is losing money and thus cutting core classes, as happened to a school district near my hometown which failed every levy.
I was hopeful that Cruz would clear up what he meant by school being the “civil rights issue of the next generation.” Instead, I felt his expansion upon this idea caused him to trip over his own feet. To say that “every single child, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP Code, every child in America has the right to a quality education” touches upon some major civil rights issues that are still present, will most likely still be around by the next generation and are significantly more important than school choice.
If Cruz wishes to tackle the issue of school choice, the underlying problems he defined should be confronted first. Cruz wants us to imagine a world where persons may choose a school regardless of their race, ethnicity or wealth, yet if these issues were addressed wouldn’t his desire of free school choice follow more easily? While these civil rights are not under as much fire as they were half of a century ago, if we continue to work toward them, other freedoms entwined with these larger issues will become simpler to achieve. The country has made some progress on the issues Cruz touches upon, (discrimination due to race or ethnicity and income inequality), but we are by no means over and done.
Not to mention the fact that this is nowhere near an exhaustive list. Cruz left out discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and religion. While there are certainly others, these, and those Cruz states, are some of the most prominent in the world right now. If the battles surrounding these civil rights issues were eradicated, it would certainly be easier for persons of any sex, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or income to obtain a quality education. When you want an issue resolved, it is much easier to work through the problems hidden beneath the surface instead of attempting to solve the problem from a superficial level.
By making a significant effort at working toward or fixing these issues, I would assume Cruz’s dream of solving the “civil rights issue” of school choice would come organically. However, I don’t find school choice to be a civil rights issue of any sort. Quality education in itself is a fundamental right, but choosing the school it occurs at is not. Cruz, in a way, outlines this when he describes what is preventing school choice: major civil rights issues. He also strikes me as not fully invested in the current civil rights battles. After all, how can you decide the civil rights issue of the next generation when the ones from the previous generation are still ongoing?