Wayne Morse Center delves into the future of public education

Public education is the 2015-17 topic of the UO's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics

Wayne Morse, the late Oregon senator, believed that a democracy can be no stronger than its education system, a belief that is at the heart of the new biennial theme at the UO’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

During its 2015-17 program, the Morse Center will explore “The Future of Public Education”  through a series of high-profile lectures, community discussions, academic courses and concentrated research. Areas of focus include the stratification of academic opportunity, access to public higher education, primary and secondary schools, the disinvestment in Oregon public schools and the transition between secondary and post-secondary education.

“Since the passing of Measure 5 in 1990, it’s been a slow deterioration of Oregon public schools, in our view,” said Margaret Hallock, director of the Morse center. “Are we destined to be (one of the last states) in funding per student, or is there any plan for the future?”

The 2015 Wayne Morse Chair, Gary Orfield — a professor of education, law, political science and urban planning as well as the codirector of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles — will help answer that question and many more through various speeches, classes and discussions throughout the year.

Joining him in tackling these issues is the 2015 Wayne Morse Visiting Distinguished Researcher in Education, Patricia Gándara, who is also a professor at UCLA and codirector of the Civil Rights Project with Orfield. Other speakers throughout the year include Claudio Sanchez of National Public Radio, Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree, resident UO scholars Jerry Rosiek and Erik Girvan and several other academics and experts.

“This is such a public theme; we’re really hoping to initiate community discussions and encourage people to ask questions to the Legislature,” Hallock said. “The visitors that are teaching classes are top-notch, the resident scholars are fantastic and I think people will get a lot out of it.”

While the new theme of inquiry is already underway, a kickoff event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 29 in the Knight Law Center’s Wayne Morse Commons at 5 p.m.

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Orfield and Gándara will speak at one of the main events of the series, a lecture titled “Diversity in Higher Education: Dangers of a Colorblind Policy.” The event starts at 7 p.m. in Room 175 of the Knight Law Center.

All events are free and open to the public. Click here for a complete list of events, locations, speakers and registration information.

“We wanted to be able to go into depth on topical interests that are in the tradition of Wayne Morse,” Hallock said of the concept behind the center’s long-running themes of inquiry. “As a politician he was very wide-ranging; he was a an early supporter of civil rights, he was a pacifist, an internationalist, a labor arbitrator, a constitutional lawyer, he was opposed to the death penalty — his politics provide such a rich area of possible studies.”

The previous theme of inquiry was Media and Democracy.

— By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications