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Friday, March 9, 2012

Another Example Of Our Failing Government Schools

"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain." — Frédéric Bastiat (The Law)

Several days ago the Washington Post reported that Federal data show racial gaps in school arrests:

“African American students in large school systems are arrested far more often on campus than their white peers, new federal data show.

The data, from an Education Department civil rights survey to be released Tuesday, provide the government’s most extensive examination yet of how public schools across the country bring police into the handling of student offenses.

The new figures also show continuing racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, which are far more common in schools than arrests and referrals to law enforcement.

“The sad fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than non-minorities — even within the same school,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. Duncan cautioned that the government is “not alleging overt discrimination in some or all of these cases.” But he said educators and community leaders should join forces to address inequities.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights collected data from 72,000 schools across the country for the 2009-10 school year.

Overall, the data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 were “referred” to law enforcement by school leaders, meaning the students were not necessarily arrested or cited.

In a more focused analysis of school systems with more than 50,000 students enrolled, the data showed that African American students represented 24 percent of enrollment but 35 percent of arrests. White students accounted for 31 percent of enrollment and 21 percent of arrests. For Hispanic students, there was less of a disparity in arrests. They accounted for 34 percent of enrollment and 37 percent of arrests.”

Years ago when I began researching American education I suspected that at least some of our woes were the machinations of foreign enemies. My reasoning resembles what some Muslims said after 9-11: the Mossad must have organized the attack since Arabs lacked the competence to pull off such a spectacular success. In other words, the ongoing destruction of America's educational system is too well conceived, too devious to be the work of our own barely competent education "masterminds." There must be some higher intelligence guiding this subversion.

This paranoia was confirmed by the recent Washington Post story about how the Department of Education uncovered racial disparities in school discipline, particularly police arrests and out-of-school suspensions. According to one recounted study of 50,000 students, blacks comprised 24% of enrollments but were 35% of arrests (disparities were smaller for Hispanics). This pattern is of course ancient news and closely mirrors adult crime data. The only "news" here was the prodigious amount of data collected to demonstrate a rather un-newsworthy point. In the parlance of today I would have to say “Dah” — are you kidding me?

What fueled my paranoia, however, was how these data were interpreted and it is here that I smelled a vast cyber-attack conceivably originating in Shanghai or Moscow. The first tip-off was a "shocked" reaction off Education Secretary Arne Duncan who then called for educators and community leaders to join forces to eliminate this gap. I can only imagine the newly enlightened Mr. Duncan who, despite eight years heading up the violence-plagued, largely minority Chicago public schools, saying to his advisors, "Why didn't you tell me this before!"

More important, however, is that Duncan's newly embraced crusade will further undermine an educational system struggling just to stay even. Has the Secretary ever encountered the term "opportunity cost" — spending time on one task precludes giving attention elsewhere? So, assembling all the task forces, concocting mission statements, commissioning research, defining bureaucratic responsibilities, negotiating agendas among political rivals, turning grandiose plans into specifics, hiring and training the necessary implementation staff and then getting it all funded will now join the nation's educational "to do" list, and will necessarily compete with traditional responsibilities of imparting literacy and numeracy.

Just picture thousands of junior masterminds at the big Department of Education building in Washington, D.C. sitting in their little cubicles, collecting their inflated salaries and counting the days to when they begin collecting their pensions working out the plans for better discipline in the government schools. On the other hand don’t picture such a view as it night make you sick.

Or picture this "make-the-discipline-numbers" missive coming down to some inner-city school already struggling to stay afloat all the while facing mass firings for not boosting reading and math scores. The most rational reaction, at least in my estimation, would be for the already harried principal to throw Duncan's missive in the trash or to give to an assistant who then "misplaces" it.

But, what if pressured principal takes the poisoned bait? To skip the details, the only way to make these "fairness" numbers is to mete out discipline by quotas. Anything else would require thousands of hours of investigation and record keeping which means countless new employees, and since Arne forgot to enclose a check, so much for that. So, if African Americans comprise 30% of the students, they will receive proportionate punishment, regardless of actual behavior. And, if errant behavior continues to be unequally distributed, many blacks will, most likely, be given "get out of jail free" cards and rest assured, many white, Asian and black parents will soon find a safer school. Thousands of otherwise functioning schools will become violent educational wastelands. Struggling schools will become totally unmanageable and, in a sad twist of fate, poor blacks will be hurt the most since they often lack private school options.

It gets worse. As in some cheap science fiction movie, our enemies have now hacked into bureaucratic brains. In fact, the Secretary may be the first victim when he explains that punishment inequality may not be a result of overt discrimination but still the same, we should still try to eliminate it. Think about it: the head of a huge powerful federal bureaucracy is saying that there may not be a problem, all may be fine but we should try to cure the appearance of a possible problem, even if this consumes colossal resources better allocated elsewhere. Another education expert (Professor Russell Skiba of Indiana University) concurs "Where there are clear discrepancies, that should be of concern for us a nation." Our Chinese competitors must be jumping with joy-America will be wasting millions to eliminate differences in disciplinary outcomes simply because, well, they are discrepancies. What's next-a Manhattan Project-like effort to make every student above average by legally mandating a "B" the lowest permissible grade?

Proof that the brains of today's education experts have been seized by some off-shore enemy is also evident by how the offenses that brought expulsion or suspension are now characterized. Fighting, insubordination and class disruption are now "adolescent misjudgments" not reprehensible or criminal behavior. Beating somebody up is now morally equivalent to choosing the wrong elective course. So, replace school security with lessons to improve decision-making.

According to a report in the New American a 13-year old boy at Kansas City, Missouri’s East High raised his hand, eager to answer the question. "What would you know about it?" exclaimed the teacher dismissively. "You're not our race."

This was not dialogue from a Hollywood movie. According to a woman named Melissa Coon, it was what a teacher at East High School in Kansas City told her 13-year-old son, Allen, when he attempted to answer a question during Black History Month. Coon identifies that teacher as Mrs. Karla Dorsey, who is black; Allen is white.

As has already been reported, Allen was a victim of a vicious racial attack last week in which two older black teens doused him with gasoline and set him alight, saying, "This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy." The attack on the boy took place on the east side of Kansas City, Missouri. Fox 4 Kansas City provides some (sanitized) details, writing, “The victim is a student at East High School and regularly walks home after class. When he reached his porch, two older teens grabbed him, pinned his arms behind his back and then poured gas from a gas can on the boy. They then set the boy on fire.”

Thankfully, the teen victim had the presence of mind to pull his shirt up over his head and snuff out the flames. He was treated at Children’s Mercy hospital, having suffered first-degree burns to his face and head. And police said they were concerned about possible damage to his eyes and lungs. Not surprisingly, Coon has pulled her son out of East High and, concerned about further racial violence, intends to leave the K.C. area. Just imagine what the outcry would have been had the races or the victim and perpetrators been reversed.

The New American report states:

“Of course, if you scrutinize the few local outlets reporting the story and cut and paste, you can piece the picture together. The Fox article I excerpted above provides only the vaguest hint of the attack’s racial nature by quoting Mrs. Coon as saying that her family was told “it’s a hate crime.” KCTV 5 did a bit better, reporting that the victim was white and the assailants black; however, while they quoted the attackers as stating “This is what you get,” for some reason they omitted the “white boy” part. Then there was, which presented the latter but neglected to explicitly identify the race of the criminals, leaving the reader to wonder if the attackers were self-hating Norwegian immigrants. But I’ve played the game and figured out that Colonel Mustard did it in the library with the candlestick.

But we’ve seen this bias before. It’s much as when Muslims rioted in France a couple of years ago and burned thousands of cars, and the media reported the rioters as “youths.” Yes, just teen angst, I suppose.

Some may say that the media are reluctant to stir up racial unrest, but this never seems to stop them when the races of the victim and attackers are reversed. Could you imagine the hue and cry if two older white teenagers had set an innocent black child alight while saying, “You get what you deserve, black boy”? The headlines coast to coast would be cast in neon, and the media would love it — it would give them another chance to agitate for more hate-crime legislation.

This is exactly what happened after the horrible dragging death of black victim James Byrd by three white men in 1998; it was headline news for months and led to the creation of a Texas hate-crime law. Meanwhile, when three “youths” beat a cab driver and his passenger while shouting racial epithets in Philadelphia recently, D.A. spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said that hate-crime charges wouldn’t be forthcoming “because there was no evidence that the assault had been motivated by the race of the victims” (no, just the racial hatred of the assailants). Also in 1998, there was the murder of homosexual Matthew Shepard, which became an even bigger story and likewise was used to justify hate-crime law. Yet what about the brutal death of 13-year-old Jesse Derkhising, who was sexually tortured by two homosexual predators in Arkansas a year later? Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about?

Exactly. reports that a Nexis search shows a disparity in the story counts between the Shepard and Derkhising cases of 18 to 1.

Of course, any time you report on a crime motivated by group hatred it can foment unrest, as hate begets hate. But if some think this a justification for suppressing truth, they should note that peddling only half of it can be far more dangerous. As Jack Cashill observed when commenting on the refusal to report politically incorrect “hate crimes,” “The cumulative effect of such routine suppression leads minorities, especially blacks, to think themselves uniquely victimized.” And when you thus believe, you’re more likely to lash out.

Obviously, the job of the media is to report what’s newsworthy. This means not just picking the relevant stories, but also the relevant facts within them. If “people” are attacked for going to school in Afghanistan, it is absolutely relevant that all the victims happen to be female and all the assailants male fundamentalists; this lends the story perspective. Likewise, if virtually every one of thousands of rioters is of a specific group or a victim’s attackers are of a different race and shouted racial epithets, these facts are relevant, too.

The refusal to reveal such facts makes a mockery of journalism. And if we won’t report that rioters are Muslims, why state that they’re youths? If reporting the race of an assailant is out of bounds, why disclose that he's male? Why expose any groups to possible ridicule? Maybe a rape should be reported thus: “Sentient biped accuses other sentient biped of undocumented-lover status.”

Perhaps the worst violence here is the kind that hate-crime laws do to the principle of equality before the law. Because besides being an effort at thought control, they’re never applied equally. They’re not about eliminating hate, but are just vehicles through which the Left can express its hate through law. With hate-crime legislation, leftists now have the latitude to discriminate legally as they cherry-pick sentient bipeds for harsher punishment based on sexual inclination, race, creed, or color.”

While the East High crime is making headlines, Coon states that it was merely the horrible culmination of continual racial harassment her son had to endure at East High. Coon's son is not alone. Other white students also report a pattern of racial harassment at the high school at the hands of their peers — and, shockingly, their teachers.

On an East High staff page created by alumni, there is the Giovanni Ruffini quotation, "The teacher is like the candle, which lights others, while consuming itself."  What a contrast between the words of the past and the deeds of the present.

This softening of language to obscure despicable behavior is hardly new. I recall college athletes who, according to news reports, had "personal problems" that included convictions for felonious assault and robbery. When was the last time you heard the phrase "juvenile delinquent" let alone "thug"? The only linguistic survivor of an earlier moralistic plain-spoken era seems to be "bully" and I suspect that term survives because the objects of bullying are often officially protected gay students.

In effect, in our rush to help youngsters we dilute the moral opprobrium surrounding anti-social behavior while eliminating the last vestiges of personal responsibility. Yesterday's juvenile delinquent is today's "student at risk" since he is "at risk" from being pushed into law-breaking by his bad environment (his likely targets are not, of course "at risk"). At least for some do-gooders, calling a young criminal a "young criminal" needlessly stigmatizes him and thereby only exacerbates criminality; perhaps better to see him as a "high need" student or "under-privileged" youngster who is "reaching out for help.”

Further keep in mind that race-related discrepancies are ubiquitous; unequal punishment is just the beginning. According to one recent study, differences also exist for promotion to the next grade and one might guess a similar pattern for the experiences of one's teacher, available social services, access to technology and tutoring, college counseling and just about every other feature of education. In principle, every nickel of today's education budged could be allocated to eliminating these racial "discrepancies."

If the brains of leading educators had not been hacked, this venture into school discipline would proceed quite differently. The aim now would not be to eliminate "discrepancies" but to ensure that American schools performed well and a key step in this direction would be ridding schools of those students who disrupt learning. Unequal punishment is only a "civil rights" issue for those who mindlessly conflate perfect equality with educational progress. More plausible is that an inability of black and Hispanic students to receive a decent education due to rampant school violence is the real "civil rights" issue. To this point I had a black engineer working for me and he stated that all through his high school days he had to conceal the books he was taking home and his grades for fear of being attacked outside of school for his “disrespect” for other black students by “showing them up.” I also had a Hispanic surveyor who told a similar story.

There are many minority students who want to do well in school realizing that they not only need the grades, but also the knowledge to go on to college and eventually enter the professions where they will be judged by performance not race. These students are constantly harassed by the 35% who seem to run the schools. This is one of the most compelling reasons for school vouchers.

Yes, a single suspended or incarcerated student will not benefit from school, but his or her removal may help the education of dozens of students previously deprived of teacher attention or those just too terrified to even show up. Safe learning environments should be a more pressing "civil right" than "discrepancies that may or may not be a result of discrimination."

"Improving" American education by dispensing punishment by racial quota is a scheme so nefarious though simultaneously so alluring (at least to some masterminds) that it is beyond the reach of our "challenged" home-grown experts. I can only imagine the technical ingenuity necessary to penetrate and capture Arne Duncan's brain. Arne, for the sake of America's future, change your password!

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