A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
July 28th, 2012
By Dan Miller
They shall have it regardless of whether they want it.
We shall do this by equalizing outcomes for all.
Thus spake our Lord and Master.
As a possibly close presidential election approaches, the White House announced plans to improve education for Black youth. They and their families are considered important to President Obama’s reelection. Perhaps to help consolidate their votes behind him,
King President Obama on July 26th signed an Executive Order. It observes, by way of a preamble, that
African Americans lack equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes, and they disproportionately experience school discipline and referrals to special education. African American student achievement not only lags behind that of their domestic peers by an average of two grade levels, but also behind students in almost every other developed nation. Over a third of African American students do not graduate from high school on time with a regular high school diploma, and only four percent of African American high school graduates interested in college are college-ready across a range of subjects. An even greater number of African American males do not graduate with a regular high school diploma, and African American males also experience disparate rates of incarceration.
These statements are not only accurate, they are matters of common knowledge. However, and despite President Obama’s frequently expressed hopes for change, there is upon examination nothing in his Executive Order that can even begin to ameliorate the situation. Many of the proposals are likely to make it worse. Instead of feeding and otherwise nurturing roots due to the starvation of which the problems have arisen and persisted, President Obama’s Order seeks only to polish a few prominent sickly leaves in the apparent hope that his beneficence will be reflected by their temporarily glossy surfaces, at least until November 6th has passed.
Superficially, the Order does appear to offer satisfying food; the same is true of cotton candy, also consisting mainly of air. Cotton candy provides neither a remedy for hunger nor is it even a useful nutritional supplement. Neither is the Order useful medicine for curing our educational illnesses. It may provide temporary and minor palliative effects, but no cure, while ultimately making undesirable situations worse.
Were President Obama seriously interested in improving educational and other opportunities for Blacks, rather than pandering to those stuck in Dependency Plantation mud without realizing it, he would try to help them to understand that there is no place there for anyone wishing to live with freedom to use his own intelligence and abilities for his own betterment and for that of others. As the plantation continues to sustain bureaucrats, race baiters and other shake-down artists they, and not the Blacks cheated by the modern educational system, will continue to benefit. Visions of a modern-day Big Rock Candy Mountain abound but — unlike the Dependency Plantation — it does not exist in reality.
Although President Obama has told us that the private economic sector is doing fine, the public education sector is not. Since it, like the private economic sector, has failed to produce what he evidently deems the most important indicator of success, equality of result, the reasons are clear to him and hence so is the solution for education. Given a second term, he may redouble his efforts to achieve equality of result in the private sector; before the election, it would be politically inconvenient to do so.
The goal is commendable.
To deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Americans, the Initiative will promote, encourage, and undertake efforts designed to meet several objectives, including:
The efforts set forth to accomplish it are not.
• Increasing the percentage of African American children who enter kindergarten ready for success by improving access to high-quality early learning and development programs;
Only if ways can be found for Black families — as well as others — to prepare their own small children for kindergarten will any need or desire to send them off to others for that purpose diminish. If the current situation continues, the “commonsense” step following the apparently proposed pre-kindergartens, and then perhaps pre-pre-kindergartens, will be for the government to take over child rearing at or even before the moment of conception — to prevent the birth of HIV positive, drug addicted and otherwise deprived infants to deficient and often very young parents or, more often, to single mothers who neither understand nor are able to fulfill their own responsibilities to their infants. Such infants are likely to become deprived and dependent adults and to continue the process if they live that long. This “final solution” would bring in its wake additional major problems far worse than any benefits it might produce. Far better could be the results of helping Black families — and others — to behave as families and to care for their own.
• Ensuring that all African American students have access to high-level, rigorous course work and support services that will prepare them for college, a career, and civic participation;
School vouchers and other programs can and do provide such access to students who desire them and whose parents, other relatives and friends within their communities are motivated to help them to utilize them. This story about a Mexican immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1964 when he was twenty years old, “having only studied up to the 6th grade, without knowing anyone and with $6 in my pocket.” Having achieved success, he helped others to go to college. To date, his “foundation has helped 112 young people from low-income families” who had that desire. Might his story inspire some Blacks who have achieved similar success? Access related problems are insignificant compared to lack of desire, motivation and help from families. The latter problems are the ones that must be addressed, not their symptoms.
• Providing African American students with equitable access to effective teachers and principals in pursuit of a high-quality education, and supporting efforts to improve the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of successful African American teachers and principals;
Some Black students may indeed be most comfortable with Black teachers and principals. If that makes it enjoyable for them to learn, that’s at least a start. It’s not a finish, however, if we desire a society not perpetually based on racial distinctions. As to recruitment, preparation, development and retention, it has become my understanding that few who desire to teach are pleased with the recurring disciplinary problems they increasingly face. It is difficult enough to try to teach those who have little desire to learn. When studying and learning are disparaged, as I understand they often are as “unBlack” or as “acting White,” it is even worse. When there are consistent and sometimes violent distractions in and outside the classroom with which to contend, it can easily become intolerable.
• Promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools, and decreasing the disproportionate number of referrals to special education by addressing root causes of the referrals; (Emphasis added)
I have many problems with this concept, principally because I do not know what it means and because the Executive Order provides no significant enlightenment on the subject. The concept is addressed by the two articles linked at the beginning of this post. What do “disparate use of disciplinary tools” and “disproportionate number of referrals” for remedial education mean and how are they to be reduced or prevented? Why should they be? No clues as to what bases, if any, may be intended for comparison are provided. In their absence, the concepts may be appealing for political purposes but will remain otherwise meaningless until clarified by our highly capable civil servants. There are so many different ways to interpret the Executive Order that it can have no value as guidance for anyone, even those charged with interpreting and implementing it.
Disparate or disproportionate in comparison to what? As among members of different races at the same school? Which races? Black, Asian, White, Other? At which schools? On a city, country, state or national basis? At schools with higher, or lower, percentages of Black students (they are the focus of the Order)? At schools, regardless of racial composition, that suffer from fewer disruptions and less violence? On absolute or percentage bases?
Here, just for the Hell of it, are a few obviously stupid ways to proceed. Although I doubt that these precise formulations will be used, comparable idiocies have often come from our Seat of Government.
We must ensure not only proportionate racial composition but also proportionate violence in all schools and, within those schools, ensure proportionate disciplinary action against all, regardless of race and regardless of who committed which specific acts of violence or disruption against whom. For example, if little Sally bashes little Johnny’s head with a hammer, punish them both equally. This is consistent with President Obama’s observation, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” If Johnny had not been there, he would not have been attacked (at least there) so he, no less than Sally, made it happen. As to non-violent disruptions, punish everyone in the classroom equally. They enabled and participated in the disruption by their presence. An added benefit is that sending them all to detention in the principal’s office will give teachers much needed additional free time to prepare multilingual student evaluations.
Suppose, despite these valiant and well intended efforts, there remain unacceptably lower levels of disruption and violence in School A than in School B and there are therefore fewer disciplinary actions in School A than in School B. That would be unfair to students and teachers in School B, which meets its disruption and violence quotas more effectively than School A. It would also be unfair to School A, the students and teachers in which are deprived of equal opportunities adequately to experience social interactions of types with which they may, regrettably, be less familiar. Since racial quotas will presumably already have been met, it may not be feasible to shift some teachers and troublesome students from School B to School A. If that can’t be done without thereby preventing School A from continuing to meet established racial quotas, why not take a fair, commonsense approach: make sure that if, for example, twenty percent of the kids at School B are disciplined, so are twenty percent of the kids at School A. Alternatively, reduce the percentage of disciplinary actions at School B to the percentage at School A. To the extent that disproportionate violence and disruptions at School B nevertheless continue, repeat as often as necessary.
Sadly, these solutions may not be as effective as anticipated. However, there are other possible solutions outside the immediate scholastic environment that might work even better in achieving our commonsense goals.
It is generally accepted that troublesome kids more frequently come from single parent homes than from two parent homes. “Man in the house” limitations on welfare payments could have no current impact on the percentages of one parent homes because such limitations no longer exist in the United States. The path is therefore clear.
(1) Find governmentally approved mates for single parents with disruptive children and mandate that they share a home. There may be slight resistance since some males may object to sharing homes with the selected males and some with the selected females. Similarly, some females may object to sharing homes with the selected females and some with the selected males. Tough. It’s all for the children and they will simply have to adapt.
(2) Transfer troubled children from single parent homes into existing two parent homes. Volunteers can doubtless be found, particularly if sufficiently generous stipends are offered. Even then, however, parents with studious, non-troublesome children might selfishly decline to help society along this commonsense path to equality, fairness and hence to truth, justice and the American Way. High taxes can and should be imposed for their refusals to behave in socially desirable ways; that has become the New American Way.
If even these enlightened solutions are not completely effective, it will be necessary to take more drastic steps to preserve society as a whole.
(1) Our penal institutions disproportionately and hence unfairly incarcerate those found guilty of crimes. This unfair and hence unreasonable discrimination against criminals must end. Therefore, for every criminal at least one non-criminal (perhaps more than merely one due to the need for reparations for prior unfairness) must also be imprisoned, under proportionate conditions for proportionate terms. This must be done in ways properly calculated — and found in practice — to make the compositions of such institutions racially proportionate as well. Step Number 2, below, should enhance the chances of the successful implementation of this, Step Number 1.
(2) To make results racially and otherwise proportionate for criminal and non-criminal conduct, perpetrators and subjects of crimes must be dealt with equally, as commonsense obviously requires. Perpetrators of crimes don’t make those crimes happen; somebody else does that. For example, the owner of any store that is robbed must be imprisoned under conditions and for a term proportionate to that of the person who robbed him; if the store had not been there, that robbery could not have happened. Anyone crossing a street at an intersection, perhaps in compliance with a traffic light or instructions from a crossing guard, and struck by a speeding vehicle is no less culpable than the driver and must be imprisoned along with him for the same reason. Although this commonsense egalitarian concept probably could not be applied satisfactorily should the subject of a crime die because of it, the next of kin of the deceased should serve equally well.
And now back to the text of the Press Secretary’s convenient summary.
• Reducing the dropout rate of African American students and increasing the proportion of African American students who graduate from high school prepared for college and career;
Peer pressures to join gangs, get fast money and to exhibit hatred for whitey by doing everything possible to avoid integration into society as a whole most likely contribute substantially to the dropout rate as well as to subsequent failures of those who remain in high school until graduation. Fixating on solutions that do not attempt to deal with these factors will lead inexorably to failure.
• Increasing college access, college persistence, and college attainment for African American students;
College access? That does not appear to be a substantial problem; there are already more than enough colleges and in recent years affirmative action programs have facilitated the entry of Blacks — sometimes at the expense of other minority group members. Better preparation by Blacks desiring the benefits of preparation is needed. Concealing the absence of such preparation and its consequences by juggling admissions statistics and grades is not.
• Strengthening the capacity of institutions of higher education that serve large numbers of African American students, including community colleges, HBCUs, Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and other institutions; and
In the rather distant past, predominately Black institutions served a useful purpose when others were racially segregated, de jure or de facto. Now, there seem to be very few. What benefits do Blacks — attaining adulthood in predominately Black communities — now derive from continuing that isolation by attending predominately Black institutions?
• Improving the quality of, and expanding access to, adult education, literacy, and career and technical education.
That’s nice. But the premise “if you build it they will come” does not seem to apply. It is possible to create, for example, with governmental assistance, undesired bio-fuel alternatives to carbon-based fuel. An alternate premise, “if there is a demand it will be built” seems more apposite. It would be better to work toward increasing the demand than toward increasing the supply of undesired stuff.
As with most deeply rooted and long existing societal problems, no solutions capable of being stuck on bumpers, executive orders or demands for equality of result will be useful except as political slogans. Successful Blacks should be held up as role models, not disparaged as Uncle Toms or worse. Blacks who have shown, through their own efforts, that they are capable of success should receive help from mentors who have themselves been successful — not at scamming the system but at succeeding within it. Success in business is important, but no more so than success in charitable, educational, scientific, governmental and other noble efforts. If our governments are to lead the way, they must muck out their own Augean stables as examples of what good works have the potential to achieve.
Thus concludes today’s sermon. The hat will not be passed. Contributions of time, effort and even money to organizations and people helping Black youth to escape the Dependency Plantation will serve a far higher purpose.
(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)
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