There are few that have not seen–and chuckled at–the comic pieces that begin: “You might be a redneck if…” This kind of comedy is funny not only because it’s accurate, but it recognizes that culture matters. What is not at all funny, however, is this piece by Colbert I. King in the Washington Post:
The final page has been turned on D.C. Public Schools’ 2015 calendar. But 2016 begins with the same uncompromising problem: the school system’s huge racial achievement gap.
The tests, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams, or PARCC, showed that just 25 percent of D.C. students in the third through eighth grades met or exceeded expectations on new standardized tests in English. Only 24 percent met a new math benchmark.
And that was the good news.
Were it not for white test-takers in this majority-minority school system, the results would have been even worse.
I’m sure regular readers, being universally well-informed, have heard this kind of lamentation regarding big city schools before. Let’s see if King gets it:
Overall English and math proficiency rates reached 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, only because white students, who make up 12 percent of the school system, scored proficiency rates of 79 percent in English and 70 percent in math.
The stark truth: Black students, who constitute 67 percent of the school population, had a 17 percent proficiency rate in both English and math, trailing Hispanics, who comprise 17 percent of the school population and recorded proficiency rates of 21 percent in English and 22 percent in math.
So far so good, but it’s nothing but familiar statistics to this point. Let’s continue:
The picture isn’t better for the city’s high school students. Of those who took a new geometry test, only 10 percent met proficiency standards. Twenty-five percent met proficiency standards in the new English test.
Again, the presence of white students prevented the dismal high school results from being even worse. Fifty-two percent of white students scored proficient or better in geometry, while 82 percent were college-ready in English.
Stack those rates against the 8 percent of Hispanic students and 4 percent of black students scoring proficient in geometry, and the 25 percent of Hispanic and 20 percent of black students reaching that mark in English.
King does demonstrate his mastery of the obvious, and perhaps, of understatement:
Anyway you slice it, in this multiracial school system, black students bring up the rear.
Don’t blame the tests. They measure where the students are. Besides, the new standardized tests weren’t instruments imposed on the city from on high. A consortium of 11 states and the District developed the PARCC tests.
If we assume that the tests are actually competent, and that they do reasonably and accurately reflect student ability and achievement rather than the primary ability to take that single type of test, then King is correct: we can’t blame the tests. If, however, as in far too many places, months and more and spent each year doing nothing but drilling for those tests, then the politicians and educrats responsible for killing that much curriculum each year bear a heavy burden. One can’t take away months, even entire years, of basic education without ending up with kids with serious deficits.
Consider that for the last year or two, and particularly this school year, across the nation, kids that have known nothing but high stakes tests, kids that have been tested to destruction and distraction, are entering high school, and they aren’t remotely prepared for it.
Henderson and her teachers are not chiefly to blame for the District’s cavernous racial achievement gap. School officials didn’t make white kids more than four times likelier to be proficient in English than black students, and 10 times likelier in math, as the website DCist pointed out.
If the DC schools are run by professionals, and if their focus is entirely, from the top down and bottom up, providing the best possible educational opportunity for kids, rather then engaging in trendy social engineering, King is right. The educators can’t be chiefly blamed. In DC, however, there is reason to believe schools are just like local government: cesspools of waste, incompetence, corruption and stupidity.
I’ll skip ahead to King’s optimistic final paragraph:
This new year, responsibility for a turnaround rests not only on principals and teachers but also on mothers and fathers behaving like supportive, participating parents, and a community — business, religious and social leaders, including elected officials — bent on providing all that is necessary, both school resources and family support, to close one of the widest racial academic achievement gaps in the country. A city as intellectually, culturally and, dare I say it, spiritually enriched as the District should adopt that goal as a New Year’s resolution to be kept.
“Spiritually enriched?!” He is speaking about Washington DC, right? The DC, which, like most major urban centers has been in the total control of Democrats for decades? The DC that is the very model of the modern major corruptocrat? What sort of spiritual enrichment, one wonders, produces DC’s dismal educational results?
Let’s return to the observation that began this article and see where it takes us.
You Might Be A Destructive School District If:
A progressive union is allowed to run things.
It’s impossible to discipline or fire incompetent or criminal teachers.
A major focus of the administration is “diversity.”
Racial politics prevent uniform and effective discipline in the schools.
Schools are mini-colleges with “studies” programs.
The district is more concerned with test scores than learning.
The district is more concerned with grading buildings than students.
There are so many administrators they have to invent things to do.
There are no dress codes for students.
The study of literature consists of trendy, race and gender obsessed, contemporary writers rather than the classics.
The study of history ignores dead white men and sees America as fundamentally flawed, even evil.
Vocational education is ignored.
You Might Be A Bad Student If:
You accept no responsibility for your own education.
You’re in high school and still can’t read worth a damn.
You’re in high school and still can’t write worth a damn.
You’re in high school, English is your birth language, and you still can’t speak standard American English.
For you, every verb is “be”: “he be,” “she be, “ “they be,” “that ho be.”
You can’t remember the last time you actually completed an in-class assignment.
You can’t remember the last time you actually completed a homework assignment.
You’ve never learned to keep still or keep your mouth shut.
You’re in high school and you’ve never completed a book.
You’re in high school and you don’t have an attention span for anything but texting and playing video games.
You don’t know the difference between deference and respect, and it wouldn’t matter if you did.
You don’t own a wristwatch or alarm clock, and when someone points out the clock display on your smart phone, you’re amazed.
You go to bed when you feel like it and get up when you feel like it.
You think work is for suckers and white people.
You think it really is all about you.
You think the world does owe you–everything.
You get in trouble in school all the time, but it doesn’t matter; they aren’t going to do anything to you.
You’re a charter member of the FFA: Future Felons Of America.
You’re black and you’re much more worried about “acting white” than doing well in school or staying out of trouble.
You’re black and you’re intensely interested in understanding your noble and complex cultural heritage based on wearing pants with crotches around your ankles and backward baseball hats.
You Might Be A Bad Parent If:
You don’t have a single book in your home.
No one could produce any evidence that you consider education important, for you, or for your kids.
You let your kids get away with everything listed in the previous category.
By all means, gentle readers, I’m interested in your “you might be’s.”
The worst schools all have common characteristics: There is no consistent and swift discipline. It is impossible for students to break the law. Kids that are disruptive, even criminally dangerous, are allowed not only to remain, but to run the schools. Teachers may be insulted and assaulted and there are no consequences for doing it. The schools are far more concerned with trendy progressive social engineering than teaching and learning. There are no consequences for failing or refusing to do school work.
It should be no surprise to remember, again, that school districts like this tend to be in major urban areas that have been run by Democrats for generations. DC, Chicago, Detroit, LA, NYC, Boston, you name it. Such hell hole schools are not confined to these places, but they are a common feature.
This is no coincidence.
Even otherwise good school districts have fallen prey to testing mania. When test results and grading school buildings become all-important, genuine learning falls by the wayside. A student in a test-focused district loses at least two months per year of the normal curriculum in favor of test drills and benchmark tests and benchmark test drills. In many schools, a great deal more time is lost. With only two months, kids lose 14 months of school from the 3rd through the 9th grades, essentially two years.
The problem is not only the fact that much curriculum is lost. The real problem is losing that much time and specific material ensures that vital neural connections will never be made when they should have been made. Kids become less and less capable, and can never–even if years of remedial instruction were possible in a testing-mad educational environment–catch up.
What shall teachers do? When a kid gets to 9th grade, spend the next four years trying to bring them up to a 9th grade academic level?
Add in the issue of culture, and we can begin to understand what’s going wrong in DC, and elsewhere. Black urban culture generally does not value education. Self control, delayed gratification, deference toward authority figures, parent and elders, using standard English, high literacy skills, even basic politeness are not appreciated or practiced. Far too many children are being raised by single mothers, and fathers–often multiple fathers–are not in the picture or are detrimental to everyone’s welfare. Add in the destructive cultural attribute of dependency on government, and it’s not at all hard to see what’s happening in DC.
King is right that everyone in DC must work together to fix things. Sadly, that may never happen. There is simply too much political power and money involved. As Lyndon Johnson so crudely said:
I’ll have those niggers voting democratic for 200 years.
He was referring to a variety of federal entitlements that have, since Johnson, proliferated.
So far, Johnson has been correct, and the results are emerging from the schools of Washington DC.