Uncategorized | September 20, 2013

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks education at Indianapolis church

It once inspired a nation of bootstrappers.

But splintered by inequities, education now threatens to divide the country into those with opportunities and those without them, warned former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at an Indianapolis church on Thursday.

“The crisis in K-12 education is our greatest national security crisis today,” Rice said.

Education, she said, is “the civil rights issue of our time.”

At an event hosted by Indianapolis-based education reform organization The Mind Trust, Rice implored the crowd of about 800 community members to put aside polarizing education reform buzzwords of charter schools, vouchers, school choice and public funding to rally behind a simple cause: “Let’s agree on one thing: The status quo is not acceptable.”

The classic American Dream – that socioeconomic status doesn’t determine success – is falling out of reach for students who aren’t given the same access to quality education, Rice said.

“In a day when I can look at your ZIP code and tell whether you’re going to get a good education,” she said, “can I honestly say it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going? No.”

Without better education for all children, “particularly the kids that have the bleakest prospects,” Rice said the country won’t improve unemployment or poverty rates.

“It’s not that poor parents don’t care about their kids,” she said. “They just don’t have options.”

Rice, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser for President George W. Bush, has recently started speaking about education issues, including during a speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

At Thursday’s talk at Light of the World Christian Church, Rice drew on her own family’s educational history and her experiences teaching at Stanford University.

Though she called for a more unified front on improvingeducational opportunities, Rice didn’t shy from declaring her stances. She favors the Common Core. She thinks a different teachers movement will supersede teachers unions. She wants to give principals and teachers more flexibility to engage students. She supports teacher evaluations.

Third-grade teacher Katrina Segrest, 53, who works at Indianapolis Public Schools’ Francis Scott Key elementary school, wanted to compare her “in-the-trenches” perspective of overtesting and too-big class sizes to Rice’s broader mindset.

“How does her complete picture fit into my little picture, or how can we mesh our two ideas?” Segrest said.

David Harris, chief executive officer of The Mind Trust, praised Rice’s speech for bringing people together, no matter their opinions.

“That was not a wonky speech,” he said. “That was a ‘here’s why it matters to people’ speech.”