Integration and Economics

IF Kalamazoo, Mich., is any indication, a new view of race relations is taking hold in the United States. ``We are so much better than nations with other races within their borders - I can think of South Africa and the Soviet Union,'' says John Griffith, a student. But ``this is the first generation in a nation that used to be No. 1. This is the first generation to realize: `Hey, we're not the top anymore.'''

School superintendent Frank Rapley echoes the sentiment.

``The whole focus on minority achievement has shifted,'' he says. In the 1970s, the driving issue was moral. Minorities should get an equal education. Today ``the driving force is economic. ... There's some self-interest.''

Retirement benefits are a good example. In 1950, 17 workers supported each retiree; by 1992, only three workers will fund the benefits of every retiree - and one of those three workers will be a minority, according to a 1985 report for the Institute for Educational Leadership.

Unless those minority workers get the kind of education that will allow them to get good jobs, the nation's retirees will suffer, Mr. Rapley argues. Historically, ``we could afford to waste the human resources. It's not true any longer.''

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