Geoff Rips

Geoff Rips is an education fellow of the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation and is a former editor of The Texas Observer. He is currently coordinator of the Austin Public Education Foundation in Austin, Texas.

Recent Articles

Getting By

Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail By Rubén Martínez. Metropolitan Books, 330 pages, $26.00 Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted ... They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves. We died in your hills, we died in your deserts, We died in your valleys and died on your plains. We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes, Both sides of the river, we died just the same. ... Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves? The radio says, "They are just deportees." --Woody Guthrie A t 5:15 in the afternoon on Saturday, April 6, 1996, a GMC truck with a camper shell, transporting 27 people, was spotted by the U.S. Border Patrol in the Santa Rosa Mountains east of San Diego, California. With the border patrol in hot pursuit, the truck miscalculated a turn, hurtled off the road, and landed upside down on its camper shell--crushing Benjamín, Salvador, and Jaime Chávez underneath. The Chávez brothers thus joined the 3,000 others who died...

Public Schools: An Ideal at Risk

Works Discussed in this Essay: Spinning Wheels: The Politics of Urban School Reform , by Frederick M. Hess. Brookings Institution Press, 228 pages, $16.95. The Tracking Wars: State Reform Meets School Policy , by Tom Loveless. Brookings Institution Press, 194 pages, $16.95. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards" , by Alfie Kohn. Houghton Mifflin Company, 344 pages, $24.00. The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract , by Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer. Beacon Press, 133 pages, $21.00. Pity the U.S. public school. It is the last social institution left standing that mediates the entrance of most Americans into the lives of their communities and American society in general. A responsibility once shared on a much broader scale with churches, political parties, voluntary associations, and labor unions has now devolved...

The Way of RFK

Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope , Peter Edelman. Houghton Mifflin, 272 pages, $26.00. Peter Edelman views the last decades of twentieth-century American social policy through a unique lens. As an aide to New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy, then as policy director for Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign, Edelman watched and participated in Kennedy's transformation into a powerful political warrior against poverty and injustice. Three decades later, he was serving Bill Clinton as assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when Clinton signed the 1996 welfare reform legislation that cut many poor American families off at the knees. In signing the legislation, Clinton quoted Robert Kennedy: "Work is the meaning of what this country is all about. We need it as individuals. We need to sense it in our fellow citizens. And we need it as a society and as a people." Edelman's loyalty to the administration ended with that stroke of...