Racism, Education And Tea

February 23rd, 2010

By Brianna Aubin

As noted in my bio, I do not own a television.  But in this day and age, there are other ways to get hold of interesting visual media than writing out a check to Comcast.  Which is how I found this special on education by John Stossel, a news anchor who recently moved from ABC to the Fox Business Channel, where he currently does a once-a-week show exploring different issues from his libertarian viewpoint.

Videos:     Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4      Part 5      Part 6

Having already examined the issue through literature (Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add by Charles Sykes, an excellent book), there really wasn’t much there that was news to me on the domestic front.  However, with respect to the US-centric part of the program, there were still two things about the show that I found highly interesting.  One was the testimony of the union members and politicians that Stossel brought onto the show to espouse the opposing viewpoint.  The other was that nearly every child featured on the show — the children in New York, the children in DC, the children of the people in the audience — was black.

Black families waiting in lines that literally stretched around the block, so they could sign up for a chance to pull their children out of the failing public schools and into the infinitely more successful charter schools.  Black families sitting in an auditorium, hoping against hope that their child’s name will be selected for the next year’s class.  Black parents protesting the loss of their child’s school voucher because they know that the public schools they are otherwise forced to send their children to are little better than a cross between a poverty trap and a child detention center.  A black mother lamenting the fact that her 12-year-old daughter has been so badly taught that she cannot even spell simple words.  Even a fair portion of Stossel’s audience were minorities, and this in a show where Stossel unusually had an audience much more supportive of his viewpoint than usual.  Charles Sykes may have argued in his book that the current public education policies actually do far more damage to minorities than to whites, but it’s Stossel’s show that really drives Sykes’s point home.

Even some of the educrats whom Stossel brings up to defend the opposing viewpoints are minorities, though they notably do not agree with Stossel’s audience or the families in New York and DC that Stossel shows to illustrate his points.  Instead, one (white) claims that Stossel is showing misleading information (“we aren’t making [these lines] up!” Stossel points out), that the parents are being fooled into thinking that the charter schools are better, that the proponents of the charter schools are offering false hopes to these parents, and that the charter schools wouldn’t be doing as well if they had to handle disabled kids and poor kids (“we have… special ed., we have homeless students!” protests Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Harlem Success charter school).  Another (black) says that vouchers take needed money out of the public school system and that it’s unfair to pull a small number of students out of public schools when it doesn’t help the students who are forced to stay behind.

Another woman (black) who works for government schools in Lagos, Nigeria is more blunt.  She simply calls the parents who avoid her government’s free schools in favor of private schools “ignoramuses.”

No, Stossel is not a listed Tea Party member (to my knowledge, anyway).  But his libertarian viewpoint, his denouncement of high taxes and high spending, and his advocacy of free-market solutions to many of our current problems would certainly make a place for him at most Tea Party protests.  Additionally, his views are shared by many Tea Partiers and his shows are often used by them as intellectual ammunition.

So who’s really racist here?  The people who are desperate to institute reforms that they think will change everyone’s lives for the better, including the lives of the people featured on this show?  Or those who, while proclaiming their love and compassion for the poor and downtrodden, are simultaneously desperate to maintain a failing status quo?

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9 Responses to “Racism, Education And Tea”

  1. Tom |

    I lived in Washington, D.C. and its near suburbs for a total of about 10 years. The D.C. public school system has always been a disaster, and despite a series of high-powered heads of the system who were each supposed to get things under control, it hasn’t happened. The teachers’ union is a major culprit, along with general inefficiency and often corruption in the city government. That pattern seems to prevail in most major city school systems to one degree or another. It should be obvious at this point that charter schools and private schools are a big part of the answer, partly because they provide a decent education to at least some students and they provide a competitive example that can drive improvements in public schools.

    However, D.C. just doesn’t get it, as they recently proved by killing the limited voucher program in D.C., even though it cost the city nothing.

    The Stossel videos are great, and I’d recommend that everyone watch them. One thing I didn’t know is the extent of problems with Head Start. Like many other people, I’ve always had the impression that it was a pretty successful program.

    I don’t think racism is an issue. That would imply that those whose actions cause problems in education are acting out of racist motives. I think it’s more an example of a significant failure in modern American liberal policy preferences, although the effects are admittedly the same.

  2. Brianna |

    “I don’t think racism is an issue. That would imply that those whose actions cause problems in education are acting out of racist motives.”

    I’m not saying that these people are waking up in the morning and thinking to themselves about how much they hate black people. But I do think that there’s a point at which honest, forgivable ignorance becomes willful, and therefore no longer forgivable. Making mistakes is one thing. Failing to change your behavior when the woeful, terrible results of your mistakes are staring you in the face (or sitting in the audience) is quite another.

  3. Tom |

    To some extent, that’s what I meant when I said that “the effects are admittedly the same.”

    A good example of all this are welfare programs that had the effect of destroying many African American families, or preventing them from existing in the first place, for about 30 years. Most of that was ended with more or less bipartisan welfare reform during the Clinton Administration, but the damage is multi-generational. Some were sufficiently prescient to see the damage coming from the beginning — Daniel Patrick Moynihan is the best example. It took others much longer to understand what was happening.

    As with many national-level policy issues, it can take a long time for a sufficient number of people to agree that mistakes have, indeed, been made and then to make changes. The point at which “forgivable ignorance” becomes “willful” is obviously a subjective judgment which doesn’t apply well to large groups of people.

  4. larry |

    Having seen this rape of the minority/black mind in person(my opinion),I’ve often voiced dismay that it goes on unabated. The ugly little truth is that it is far more evident in so-called blue/liberal states than the damnable reneck states. Please remember that my adult life up until a few years ago was spent in Michigan near Detroit. I got to study it everyday for nearly forty years both as a student and a working taxpayer.

  5. Brianna |

    I have a friend who grew up in Detroit. His parents got him out of there around high school age, if I remember correctly, and sent him to live with relatives in IL. He said it was amazing, the amount of concentration that was freed up when he didn’t have to worry about getting shot while walking down the street anymore.

  6. bridgetokindergarten |

    Head Start is supposed to be about giving disadvantaged children the needed skills to succeed in Kindergarten. Unfortunately, quite a few of the women who are teaching in Head Start have only a GED with little or no college education. How are we supposed to lift these children up when the teachers aren’t properly educated? Head Start has been working as an employment agency to give poor, disadvantaged women jobs as Teaching Assistants in their preschools. These women wouldn’t be able to land a Teaching Assistant job like this in the private sector; they just wouldn’t be competitive due to their lack of qualifications. Head Start gives these women a great entry-level job, with benefits, and an extremely generous sick, personal, and vacation day policy. Because many of these women are single parents, they have to take off from work on a frequent basis. They have sick kids, doctors appointments, and a myriad of other responsibilities that take them away from their jobs. In the private sector this chronic absenteeism would lead to reprimands and eventually termination. But not with Head Start, the sympathetic Center Specialists will grant an approval for all this time off. Many Head Start Teaching Assistants have worked five, ten, and fifteen years for Head Start and they’ve been able to hold down their job as they continually grow their family. Many Head Start T/A’s have been able to birth three-six children as single parents without ever getting into trouble for their chronic absenteeism. They can enjoy the benefits of a steady full-time job with benefits without ever having to rely on the birth father for assisting with his children. These single mothers wouldn’t be able to manage all this in the private sector working for a for-profit preschool. They need the sturdy safety net of job security provided by Head Start.

    These women have rent to pay, kids to care for, transportation problems, issues with the baby daddy, the stress of ghetto life, the tragedy of the poverty lifestyle, and their own health issues to manage. They’re exhausted and stressed before they arrive for work at 7.45AM. The few crumbs of energy they have left is dedicated to nourishing the receptive minds of their preschool students. It’s quite an understatement to say that the kids don’t receive a whole heck of alot from their Teaching Assistant, but that’s just the way it always has been at Head Start.

  7. d |

    Why doesn’t head start educate and offer birth control to the poor downtrodden women? Seems not too tired to have more babies that they can’t afford. Why does our system only allow poor children to go to publis or free,taxpayer paid for,prek? If you are barely making it,you have to send your child to private prek,not eligible for public. This is ridiculous to me,poor kids need pre k more than kids whose parents can’t afford private prek,but can afford birth control. Why is it o.k. for those poor women working there to abuse the job? I am sure there are people who will work there, and not abuse the job,seems like a cleaning out is needed. Lots of people need a job,not just ones who are too stupid to get free birth control and who abuse the good job.

  8. Brianna |

    “Why doesn’t head start educate and offer birth control to the poor downtrodden women?”

    One, they have good jobs with benefits; condoms are cheap and these women presumably know where babies come from. Two, it’s not your employers job, and certainly not the government’s job (though many liberals will probably disagree with me), to play nanny and micromanage your life. Three, could you imagine the political uproar?

    “Why does our system only allow poor children to go to publis or free,taxpayer paid for,prek?… Why is it o.k. for those poor women working there to abuse the job?”

    Because they’re needy. It’s a sacred cow.

    “seems like a cleaning out is needed”

    No kidding.

  9. d |

    If they know where babies come from,why do you suppose they keep having them,when they can’t support them? Hmmm,maybe so the Gov. will chip in.

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