As a new school year begins, Oregon students are no longer required to demonstrate skills in reading, writing or math. Until 2026, an Oregon high-school diploma is no longer a guarantee that academic achievement has been made, only that there was participation in a system with undefined parameters.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the legislators and school districts supporting Senate Bill 744 believe it will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”
The state has adopted a position held by many 19th-century abolitionists. In his autobiographies, abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted that one evening, after giving a speech to an abolitionist audience, he deemed the night a great success because the crowd had seemed to believed that he was just as human as they were.
Why was this significant? At the time, even many strong supporters of Black freedom questioned whether slaves were fully human. If our educators treated minorities as individuals, not groups, they would design programs that gave opportunities for real achievement.
Dr. Martin Luther King said it best: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character … [that one day] little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
To me, Senate Bill 744 sums up our state legislators’ true understanding of brotherhood and individual value.