I had the opportunity recently to spend an evening with Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School who spoke on the topic of Education and Equality: Pursuing Justice in Societies of Difference.
Martha Minow is a celebrated legal scholar in the fields of human rights, social advocacy, and education policy. She has written extensively on the wide-ranging legacy of school desegregation in the civil rights era, and she offers fresh insights on some of the leading education debates of our time, from charter schools and privatization to affirmative action and Hawaiian-only education programs.
Dean Minow spoke on a broad range of topics but one of the things that she shared was the fact that while the Supreme Court did away with quotas based on race, they left open the opportunity to provide assistance based to socio-economic status. Socio-economic status is a major indicator of for educational success and in many cases, those in the lower socio-economic levels also tend to be minorities. As such, assistance based on socio-economic status would have the effect of providing assistance to those that need it most while also providing support in general to minority populations.
Dean Minow also spoke briefly on the importance of early childhood education which is an area that the State of Hawaii has been working for the past several years to find a solution. The current system of Junior Kindergarten for late born students in the public schools is not applied equally across the board, and the Department of Education is ill equipted to provide the necessary support for pre-Kindergarten students. There is a task force currently in place to identify a state solution for the educational services available to pre-kindergarten students at this critical state of language and social development.
The evening was hosted by Governor Neil Abercrombie and Dr. Nancy Caraway at historic Washington Place.