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James Calvin Schaap


"Every Knee Shall Bow"

Righteousness, filthy rags, and a mission cemetery.

Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part article. Part 1, "Rehoboth," appeared in the January/February issue.

Not long before he was tapped to serve as secretary of education in the Obama Administration, Arne Duncan, then superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, unveiled a pilot program set to open in the fall of 2009: an urban boarding school, created to offer opportunities for the children of the homeless, as well as kids from troubled homes. Urban education in America, by and large, is in catastrophic shape; many inner-city schools are at risk, and no one knows it better than the residents surrounding those schools. "The proposal puts Chicago at the forefront of urban school reform," the Chicago Tribune reported, "as cities struggle to raise the academic achievement of students hampered by dysfunctional homes and other obstacles outside school."

These schools—in contrast to the Indian schools founded more than a century ago—will be located in neighborhoods the kids themselves know well. Furthermore, officials maintain that the intention is not to indict parents for their inability to provide their kids with an environment conducive to educational success. "This is not about doing something to parents because parents are bad," says Josh Edelman, who has served for four years as the principal of The SEED School in Washington, D.C., the nation's oldest and most successful urban boarding school. "This is about doing something in conjunction with parents and the community."

It may well be easier for me, a white man, to say it, than it is for someone who is Native, but what seems clear is that the boarding school concept itself isn't evil. In fact, the off-reservation boarding schools which still exist—whether under management of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or faith-based organizations—today often have waiting lists. The first segment of a two-part story on National Public Radio, "American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many," ...

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