(CNSNews.com) - In a speech that drew standing ovations Wednesday night, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the nation's failing education system as "the civil rights struggle of the day."
"My mom was a teacher," Rice told the Republican National Convention in Tampa. "I have the greatest respect for the profession -– we need great teachers, not poor or mediocre ones. We need to have high standards for our students. Self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.
"And we need to give parents greater choice -– particularly poor parents, whose kids -- most often minorities -- are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights struggle of our day," Rice said.
"If we do anything less, we will condemn generations to joblessness, hopelessness and dependence on the government dole. To do anything less is to endanger our global economic competitiveness. To do anything less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward grievance and entitlement."
Rice said the United States has been successful because of its citizens' potential for upward mobility: "Americans have known that one’s status at birth was not a permanent station in life," she said. "You might not be able to control your circumstances but you could control your response to your circumstances. And your greatest ally in doing so was a quality education."
"Let me ask you, though, today, when I can look at your zip code and can tell whether you are going to get a good education -– can I really say that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you are going?
"The crisis in K-12 education is a grave threat to who we are," she said.