The 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education calls to mind the biblical verse, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

It is childish to argue that there are no failing schools. It is childish to argue that education vouchers deprive public schools of resources. It is childish to argue that school choice cannot be a solution to the education gap. It is time to put aside childish ways.

When I was a child, my parents imposed a reading requirement on all four of their children. At that time in our lives, my sisters, brother and I had no fondness for books. We wanted nothing to do with this intrusion on our free will and play time. Nevertheless, we had no choice in the matter. We would read the books selected by our parents, write a report on each book, and discuss the required reading over Sunday dinner.

The eldest of the four, I was born just 10 years after the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown. The Court held that the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in public education and that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

As a young child, I most certainly had little appreciation of the political discourse and civil rights struggles that followed Brown. However, as a result of my parent-imposed reading requirement, I not only gained a strong appreciation for the fact that I could read, but for those I read about: Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Charles Drew, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Shirley Chisholm, Mary McLeod Bethune, and others. As a young black child, I learned that education is necessary to achieve true equality.

In later years, my parents suggested that I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I did. Drawing upon the sentiment expressed by Ellison, it seems to me that 50 years after Brown, the parents of too many black, Latino and low-income children are invisible simply because people refuse to see them. Or perhaps some find it more convenient to see them as a lost cause. The black students at the heart of Brown are still fighting for access to quality education.

Today, growing numbers of black, Latino and low income children are enrolled in underperforming public schools with few non-minority students. There has been virtually little, if any reduction in the gap in nationwide test scores between blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexican-American students versus white and Asian students. This is an overwhelming failure of our public education system.

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court stated that “…it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity…is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” Today, the nation’s public schools are still separate and unequal. They are supposed to serve as a “social leveler.” They do not.

It is the “invisible” people that Ellison spoke of — those who must live with the reality of the consequences that flow from failing schools — who are demanding school choice in the form of education vouchers, education tax credits or charter schools. School choice in one form or another and public schools that work are the unfinished agenda of Brown. Our public school system cannot allow children to fail time and time again without realizing that in doing so, our nation risks creating a permanent underclass of black, Latino and low-income children with little, if any, hope for the future.

It is time for the nation to put aside childish ways and put its children first. As the great educator Mary McLeod Bethune said, “The drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.”