The American Divide Illustrated
Two stories in the New York Times illustrate the growing split in
America between those who work for
progress and those who fight to keep basic human liberties from people because
they are Hispanic. The first story is
that of a new high school opening in Atlanta,
which is normally not news but is because of this.
Dustin Chambers for The New York Times
The most expensive public high school ever built in
opens Wednesday in an old
I.B.M. office building. With 11 stories,
a 900-car parking deck and views fit for a corporate executive, the school,
North Atlanta High, looks very much like the fancy office buildings and glittery
shopping strips that populate its Buckhead community. Georgia
The school is an attempt by a public school system to compete, to provide great education for public school students regardless of their income or status. And it seems to have the support of the community and to be likely to achieve its goals.
“We have a special obligation here,” said Howard E. Taylor, the new principal. “The district is digging out of a historic crisis.”
He and other educators say that the new school building is an opportunity to show that a large, urban public high school can be a viable alternative to the rising tide of charter schools, voucher systems and private education.
Some of the 1,400 students who will attend the school this year come from the wealthiest families in the region, but others, Mr. Taylor said, are homeless. Nearly half are black. About 27 percent are white and 20 percent are Hispanic. They speak more than 40 languages.
“If there was ever a model for an urban high school, this is it,” he said.
The goal is to move the school from its graduation rate of about 61 percent — a rate so low it helped lead to the ouster of top administrators last fall — to 90 percent.
There is a lot at stake here, because if this school is successful it demonstrates that public education, education that takes care of everyone, is a viable system even in a conservative state.
And speaking of conservatives, the other story about
Georgia illustrates the dark side of America. This story is about
one man’s crusade against Hispanics.
D. A. King, who quit his job as an insurance agent a decade ago to wage a full-time campaign against illegal immigration in Georgia, is one reason this state rivals Arizona for the toughest legal crackdown in the country. With his Southern manners and seersucker jackets, he works the halls of the gold-domed statehouse, familiar to all, polite and uncompromising.
Mr. King’s motivation is personal, based on experiences he had in interacting with the Hispanic population. And he is dedicated, strongly dedicated to his cause. And yes he is colored by prejudice however much he might protest.
King has not been afraid to take on many adversaries, including the farmers and
growers, business organizations, labor unions and Latinos. A big-shouldered
former Marine, he often shows up with his own placards at rallies called by his
opponents — just to let them know he is watching. Georgia
“I was taught that we have an American culture to which immigrants will assimilate,” Mr. King said. “And I am incredibly resentful that’s not what’s happening anymore.”
The history of the
is filled with
people like Mr. King, people who said the same thing he says when they talked
about the Irish, or the Italians or the Jewish people or the Chinese and just
about every other group that has come to America and made the nation the great
success that it is today. And history
will largely discard Mr. King the way it has discarded those other
critics. History will only remember their
bitter, ugly, losing fight and how North Atlanta High School was a true multi-cultural success. United States