1619 Project, acting white, Culture, disparate impact, identity politics, money, political correctness, politics, public intellectuals, racial pathologies, Thomas Sowell, urban Blacks, Walter Williams, white supremacy
Walter Williams. Thomas Sowell. Two of America’s genuine, public intellectuals. I say “genuine” because there are a great many poseurs, frauds claiming intellectual prowess, out there. Williams, who sadly, died last week, and Sowell, who is 90, are the real deal.
I think of an intellectual as one who thinks deeply, and correctly, about not only issues of human nature, but of its application to public policy. Such people tend to have doctorates, not because such is absolutely necessary to think deeply, rather because it tends to be good training, but only if one attends schools that actually support scholarship rather than political virtue signaling. Such was the case with Williams and Sowell, who, by the way, happen to be black.
As I’ve often noted, there is a substantial difference between a black intellectual and an intellectual who happens to be black. The former begins with non-falsifiable conclusions and manufactures “facts” to support them, the result is always excruciatingly politically correct. The latter comes to conclusions as a result of proper inquiry, and actual facts determine the outcome, which is the opposite of political correctness. Williams and Sowell spent their careers—Sowell, thankfully, continues—diagnosing the pathologies of Black Americans, and most importantly, demonstrating the cure. They were not always appreciated for their excellent and unassailable work.
Walter Williams, economist, teacher and columnist, died yesterday. His long-time friend Thomas Sowell writes movingly about Williams here. Williams’ last column appeared the day before his death. The information it contains is so remarkable and so timely that I want to highlight it. The subject is education, specifically the education of urban blacks:
‘Several years ago, Project Baltimore began an investigation of Baltimore’s school system. What it found was an utter disgrace.
In 19 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, out of 3,804 students, only 14 of them, or less than 1%, were proficient in math.
In 13 of Baltimore’s high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math.
In five Baltimore City high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math or reading.
These schools nevertheless have a 70% graduation rate. They are, as Williams writes, a fraud that is perpetrated on parents and taxpayers.
The Detroit Public Schools Community District scored the lowest in the nation compared to 26 other urban districts for reading and mathematics at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels.
A recent video captures some of this miseducation in Milwaukee high schools: In two city high schools, only one student tested proficient in math and none are proficient in English.’
I’m sure regular readers know exactly what is going on.
Should we blame this education tragedy on racial discrimination or claim that it is a legacy of slavery? Thomas Sowell’s research in ‘Education: Assumptions Versus History’ documents academic excellence at Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School and others. This academic excellence occurred during the late 1800s to mid-1900s, an era when blacks were much poorer than today and faced gross racial discrimination.
I’m equally sure, gentle readers, this supposed anomaly is not at all mysterious to you.
Also in Sowell’s ‘Education: Assumptions Versus History’ is the story of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, a black public school in Washington, D.C. As early as 1899, its students scored higher on citywide tests than any of the city’s white schools. From its founding in 1870 to 1955, most of its graduates went off to college.
Dunbar’s distinguished alumni include U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, physician Charles Drew, and, during World War II, nearly a score of majors, nine colonels and lieutenant colonels, and a brigadier general.
Today’s Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass high schools have material resources that would have been unimaginable to their predecessors. However, having those resources has meant absolutely nothing in terms of academic achievement.
Hinderaker refers to the current academic failure of those previously excellent schools.
Why do we put up with it? I don’t know. No doubt part of the answer is that the people who wield most authority in our society, of all races, have left the urban public schools far behind. They are content to pay taxes to support those schools, which far from being underfunded consume large amounts of money. But money, as Williams said, has nothing to do with it.
Actually, money has a great deal to do with it, just not in the ways most would imagine.
The rot in our urban public schools is a disgrace, but it largely reflects, in concentrated form, the larger rot in our society. The incoming Biden administration will undoubtedly restore the Obama-era guidance that imposed racial quotas in school discipline, meaning that the urban public schools will become even more lawless and dangerous. For reasons that I assume have to do with the money and clout of the teachers’ unions, not a single Democrat seems to care.
No. They don’t, and for the non-falsifiable reasons to which I earlier alluded. The three primary factors here are: culture, politics, and money, which is inextricably tied to politics.
Consider, please, my experience in North Texas. First, and most importantly, most schools in North Texas are not leftist dominated. There are, to be sure, many leftist teachers, but the generally conservative nature of the communities keeps that kind of lunatic political correctness beaten down. As a result, idiotic ideas of social justice, which essentially means no discipline for students, particularly Black students, hold little sway.
In schools where the majority of the student body was white and Hispanic, Black students tended to do well. There was little peer pressure not to “act white”, which translated into doing well academically. Black parents tended to be more engaged, and discipline issues were dealt with on a case by case basis, rather than on a racial basis. Any student being rude to a teacher was in trouble, and race didn’t excuse bad behavior. Even in schools with larger Black populations, as long as the adults were in charge of the school, and as long as it was clear academic achievement was expected of everyone, Black kids tended to do well. There were always, of course, exceptions, but most were due to common adolescent rebellion and confusion than any cultural factor.
Money generally wasn’t a problem. To be sure, every English department could always use more money for novels, and since it was Texas, an inordinate amount of money always went to athletics, particularly football, which is the major Texas religion, but money was, for the most part, not thrown away on identity politics and other leftist boondoggles.
In my medium sized high school, only a small portion of the student body was black, and as a result, they tended to perform no less well academically than the Hispanic and white kids. Many, in fact, excelled. But in our school, there was no political correctness, and there was never any doubt the adults were in charge. Producing any swear word meant instant removal from class, and significant consequences. Refusing to do work was also immediately dealt with.
Contrast this experience with those of the schools Williams mentions. They’re all inner city schools, and one must presume those schools were run for the benefit of teacher’s unions, all of which are leftist, if not overtly Marxist in orientation. All of those cities have been absolutely ruled by Democrats for decades and leftist politics, rather than professional scholarship, run the schools and the cities. The result has been a disaster for every resident of those cities, but particularly, for the children.
What this means for schools is teachers are generally hired not for their qualifications and dedication to academics, but for their skin color, gender—all 57 or so of them—and their dedication to socialism/Marxism. Because of their unions, they are essentially immune to firing, and anecdotes of teachers who haven’t done a lick of work for decades, are grotesquely incompetent, actively abuse kids, even deal drugs, but cannot be fired, abound. Competent teachers quickly learn demonstrating competence and trying to teach professionally is one of the few ways one can get fired. As the Japanese aphorism notes, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
Even if principals are competent and want to run an actual school, it’s impossible, because D/S/C principles of education run the show. In terms of discipline, we have “restorative justice,” and similarly destructive lunacy which all begin with the premise students are oppressed, and teachers live for nothing more than to punish them for being Black, and want to put them in prison. How this can be possible in schools where teachers are almost exclusively D/S/Cs, and school philosophy is entirely leftist is never explained, nor is how, in leftist paradises, schools and everything else are such cesspools. “Disparate impact” is assumed. If a school has a 32% black population, and Black students commit 76% of all disciplinary offenses, this is prima facie evidence of discrimination. The facts of the offenses do not matter. Police officers, if any are allowed on campus, are never allowed to make arrests or keep order.
In these schools, there is no discipline. Teachers and students are assaulted every day. Drugs are dealt in classrooms. No student or teacher is safe, and crime is rampant. Classrooms are utterly chaotic and students who want to learn are denied the opportunity.
As regular readers know, too much of what passes for education in even functional schools is fad-based, and anything but academic. Bizarre theories take precedence, and precious class time, and produce nothing for students. In inner city schools, it’s even worse because they begin from a premise of oppression, diversity, inclusion, white supremacy and racial hatred. Thus do we have travesties like the 1619 Project, and a variety of other pathologies taught as academics.
As I’ve so often written, class time is a teacher’s most important commodity. Take five minutes a day away from a class for a year for any reason, and that class has lost a month of instructional time.
As Williams and Sowell have so often explained, race is not the cause of poor academic performance, but it’s all too often the excuse. None of this is difficult to figure out, nor is it difficult to fix. But in America’s cities, when so-called “leaders” not only invite criminals to burn their cities down, but ensure none of them are punished, it’s highly unlikely they’re ever going to put adults in charge of their schools, and absent that, kids are never going to have the opportunity to learn.
UPDATE, 12-06-20 1830 MT: This was posted, then quickly deleted, but the Chicago teacher’s union. It is illustrative…