The President now has turned to attacking inner cities. And congressional representatives who come from those cities.

Inner cities are an easy target, as are the underprivileged, the underserved, and the weak. Perhaps the pattern fits the president mocking a handicapped journalist and the parents of a Muslim GI who died fighting for the US in Iraq. At a rally on August 1, the president again ran down inner cities, and, by implication, those who live there. As if it’s their fault they face the problems they do.

According to the Constitution, the president is the president of all Americans. It is his or her responsibility to work for the well-being of all. Denigrating cities and their inhabitants is contrary to the intent of our country’s founders.

Yes, our inner cities, and cities in general, have grave challenges. Standing front and center is the failing public education system. Are we boring you? Yes, improving education is on the agenda of almost every aspiring politician. Yet we know from statistics that public education continues to fail at least a third of all our children. It is broken, badly broken.

Badmouthing cities will not fix it. There are three major problems. One, for the past 40 years, the two teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), have opposed almost every attempt at reform: private school leadership, charter schools, longer days, longer years, enhanced curriculums. Not that most teachers agree, but progressives don’t lead the unions, and we have seen them silenced.

Second, there is a shortage of funding. However, in our experience, as soon as funding levels rise, the unions press to funnel all of the increase to teachers, and, secondarily, to their own coffers. Not to better management, not to longer days and longer years, and not to enhancement, or even equipment and supplies.

Third, the word ‘equality’ has become meaningless. Most children in inner cities do not have family support that equals that of the suburbs, so inner city children enter kindergarten with serious disadvantages. Inner city schools suffer from shortages of everything, plus high teacher turnover. Many parents of children in the suburbs subsidize enhanced programs in their schools, thus improving the quality of education they offer.

When children are unequal as they enter kindergarten, equal funding for each child while they are in school does not produce equality. At the core is the one size fits all approach that we’ve had for over a century. Job training has individualized. Medicine is individualizing. Human beings have equal rights, but they do not have equal DNA.

Bright students need to be grouped to hold their attention and maximize their capabilities. Middling students need to be challenged to maintain their level and seek the highest achievement. Slower students need additional time and attention in order to keep pace with their grade levels. Note that behavior problems occur most often with the brightest and the slowest students. The brightest because they’re bored stiff. The slower ones because they feel they are drowning and label themselves as failures.

What does this have to do with democracy? Democracy requires an informed electorate. It is our God-given obligation to help our children reach the level of their highest ability. Denigrating inner cities doesn’t do the job.

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