Friday, April 14, 2006

OPS Aftermath: Ernie Chambers on CNN

by Kyle Michaelis
The division of Omaha Public Schools into 3 separate and racially-distinguishable school districts has caught the eye of the national media, turning what has - up to this point - been a very local issue into a commentary on race and education in the United States. The issue has been a headline at the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report all day, with a feature story supposedly on its way in the Sunday New York Times.

Most spectacularly, CNNs Lou Dobbs Tonight ran two segments on the Omaha school districts battle, including a very thoughtful and impassioned interview with Sen. Ernie Chambers, the instigator and architect of those aspects of this controversial proposal that have garnered so much attention.

Although Chambers has gone out of his way to dispute that the OPS break-up is about race and segregation, the true heart of his argument tells a different story that is both compelling and persuasive. Chambers was both articulate and impressive in his interview with Dobbs, earning praise despite his brash explanations that this division is necessary because:
"Every proposal made by the white people has failed," and this action will "give us [minorities] the rights that white people have always had."

Chambers also made a very human statement about the discrimination he faced in OPS as a child, speaking of how it has scarred him and made him the man he is today (for better and worse, undoubtedly). As for claims that this is an act of state-sponsored segregation, Chambers forcefully noted that OPS already is segregated "and it always has been."

For anyone interested, Lou Dobbs Tonight reairs at 3 am CST on Saturday morning. The Chambers interview begins about half-way through the hour-long program.

That this debate has erupted and taken on the dimensions that it has may ultimately prove very healthy and productive, but - in the meantime - it runs the risk of portraying the city of Omaha and the people of Nebraska as the George Wallace-style segregationists of the 21st Century. With the national media failing to report the full story, the school boundary and funding issues establishing its context are largely being obscured by race-baiting headlines.

Though - as I have repeated over and over again - I disagree with how the legislature came to pass this sweeping legislation, it's important that Nebraska unite and demonstrate to the rest of the nation that this is just one step in addressing the economic disparity that plagues our inner-city schools.

It is a drastic measure to address a severe problem. Cities and states should not be scared away by the spotlight from taking such risks. I just hope the debate continues and the long-term interests of Omaha's students always remain front and center.


Blogger Hosh said...

I think that if those divided school districts can do what the current OPS admins didn't do, which is hire intelligent, dedicated individuals interested in the entire district and not just their kids' school, they can succeed. But I don't know if there are enough of those types of people to make a wide-spread difference in those minority districts.
Is it just me, or is the fact that Sarpy County got drug into this calamity of crap called a learning community a close second when ranking the absurd issues of this legislative issue?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me how the national media has reported this story. It's being reported as a sort of backwards, hick, racist move on the part of the Nebraska legislature just to segregate races. Ridiculous.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then what is it?


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