If I were a Klansman, wanting to sabotage black education, I couldn’t find better allies than education establishment liberals and officials in the Obama administration, especially Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who in March 2010 announced that his department was “going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement.”
For Duncan, the civil rights issue was that black elementary and high school students are disciplined at a higher rate than whites. His evidence for discrimination is that blacks are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. Duncan and his Obama administration supporters conveniently ignored school “racial discrimination” against whites, who are more than two times as likely to be suspended as Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Heather Mac Donald reports on all of this in “Undisciplined,” appearing in City Journal (Summer 2012). She writes that between September 2011 and February 2012, 25 times more black Chicago students than white students were arrested at school, mostly for battery. In Chicago schools, black students outnumber whites by four to one.
Mac Donald adds, “Nationally, the picture is no better. The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nationally during 2007-2008, more than 145,000 teachers were physically attacked. Six percent of big-city schools report verbal abuse of teachers, and 18 percent report non-verbal disrespect for teachers. An earlier NCES study found that 18 percent of the nation’s schools accounted for 75 percent of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6 percent accounted for 50 percent. So far as serious violence, murder and rapes, 1.9 percent of schools reported 50 percent of the incidents. The preponderance of school violence occurs in big-city schools attended by black students.
Educators might not see classroom comportment as a priority. According to a recent hire, a Baltimore high school now asks prospective teachers: “How do you respond to being mistreated? What do you do if someone cusses you out?” The proper answer is: “Nothing.” That vision might explain why a 34-year veteran of the school had to be taken from the premises in an ambulance after a student shattered the glass in a classroom display case.
Mac Donald reports that a fifth-grade teacher in St. Paul, Minn., scoffs at the notion that minority students are being unfairly targeted for discipline, saying “Anyone in his right mind knows that these (disciplined) students are extremely disruptive.”
In response to the higher disciplinary rates for minority students, the St. Paul school district has spent $350,000 for teacher “cultural-proficiency” training sessions where they learn about “whiteness.” At one of these sessions, an Asian teacher asked: “How do I help the student who blurts out answers and disrupts the class?” The black facilitator said: “That’s what black culture is.” If a white person made such a remark, I’m sure it would be deemed racist.
Some of today’s black political leaders are around my age, 76, such as Reps. Maxine Waters, Charles Rangel, John Conyers, former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, Jesse Jackson and many others. Ask them what their parents would have done had they cursed, assaulted a teacher or engaged in disruptive behavior that’s become routine in far too many schools. Would their parents have accepted the grossly disrespectful public behavior that includes foul language and racial epithets? Their silence and support of the status quo represent a betrayal of epic proportions to the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors in their struggle to make today’s education opportunities available.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
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