Civil rights vs. the educational status quo

Civil rights leaders should be fighting to ensure the success of No Child Left Behind, writes Brent Staples in the New York Times.

The law is not perfect and will need adjustments. But its core requirement that the states educate minority children to the same standards as white children breaks with a century-old tradition of educational unfairness. The new law could potentially surpass Brown v. Board of Education in terms of widening access to high-quality public education.

Waiting for “enough” funding before demanding higher achievement means “maintaining the disastrous status quo and sacrificing yet another generation of minority students,” Staples writes.

Staples also rejects the argument that tests are unfair to minority children.

The simple achievement tests required under the law are essential to the objective of closing the education gap. By arguing that these tests are inappropriate and culturally biased, these members of the liberal black elite have unwittingly embraced the worst stereotypes about the poor. They have also given cover to politicians who believe that the achievement gap can never be closed and that minority children can never reach the levels attained by their white, affluent counterparts.

That view is common and deeply destructive.

I visited a new KIPP middle school in East San Jose last week: Two-thirds of the students come from Mexican-American families; the rest are Asian-American (Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian) and black. No whites as far as I could tell. With a much longer school day and year, and a training on using class time efficiently, the first class of students had made enormous progress. I saw the math teacher, an experienced black woman, teaching algebraic concepts to fifth graders that the ninth grader I’m now tutoring hasn’t fully mastered. Students proudly told me they were learning eighth grade math.

One little boy said the school was very hard because they were learning so much. I asked what he liked best about the school. “We’re learning so much!” he said.

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Comments

  1. There’s a lot of potential in this issue.

    I remember reading that some gargantuan percentage of blacks in an important age demographic would be very supportive of education alternatives. If the Republicans had much in the way of imagination and daring, the party could roll out an appeal to younger blacks that would split the black vote deeply.

    Even without the Repubs, this issue is getting riper all the time. Sooner or later ambitious, black politicians will discover the issue and start to capitalize on it. That’s another cleavage plane along which the Democratic party is liable to split.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    . . .black politicians will discover the issue and start to capitalize on it.

    Allen, before I launch into my opinion on this I’d like to hear why you think blacks aren’t behind this movement.

  3. Because the NCLB seeks to repair the current, district-based system and that’s the system that the age demographic I mentioned has lost all faith in.

    They’re the ones who’ve had the opportunity to realize that they don’t matter to the education system. Graduate, don’t graduate. Show up, don’t show. Learn, don’t learn, it just doesn’t matter. The one thing they have learned is that to the education system, they just don’t matter and that the education they’re supposed to get doesn’t matter either.

    The situation is so bad that to many people, and I won’t single out blacks, the old joke from the Soviet Union – “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us” – isn’t even applicable. Even the pretense is gone in many cases and everyone, teachers, students, administrators, are just going through the motions because what else is there for them to do?

    Over the past twelve years, here and there, a bit at a time, there has begun to be something that they can do – charters.

    When there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, all you have is apathy and tired resignation. But apathy and tired resignation are like tinder and a real hope is the spark that can ignite that tinder. Some smart politicians, probably black because identity politics still have viability, will sense that opportunity and move to take advantage of it. The Repubs could both encourage and take advantage of that possibility. We’ll see.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen,

    I disagree with you on why blacks aren’t lined up behind the charter and voucher movements. I think many of them have realized the Republicans don’t care about educating the masses, what they really want are taxpayers to pay for their children’s schooling so their kids won’t have to attend schools with minorities. And if their good buddies make some money off of it that’s just lagniappe as they say in Louisiana.

  5. Uh, maybe you read my post late at night and got a bit confused.

    Black support for charters, vouchers and anything else that isn’t the conventional, district-based public education system is significantly higher then among the population in general. So, we’re going to have a tough time arguing about why blacks aren’t lining up behind the charter and voucher movement because they are lining up behind the charter and voucher movement.

    You could, however, offer an explanation for the reason why blacks aren’t lining up behind the NCLB. I think it’s because, more then most other groups in our society, they’ve given up on the district-based system of public education and are eager for alternatives. It’s difficult to generate enthusiasm for efforts to improve a system you’ve decided is beyond saving. They just want out.

    I think many of them have realized the Republicans don’t care about educating the masses, what they really want are taxpayers to pay for their children’s schooling so their kids won’t have to attend schools with minorities.

    Is that what Republicans want? Maybe we could get Robert Byrd, the senior Democratic Senator from West Virginia to chime in on the subject. Whoops! Wrong choice!

    Or, maybe black parents don’t give a hearty damn where Republicans send their kids to school just as long as those black parents get to send their kids to a good school. And “good” in this case, more and more, excludes any district-based public school.

    And if their good buddies make some money off of it that’s just lagniappe as they say in Louisiana.

    That would be the tragically underfunded public education system that my buddies plan to use as a means of lining their pockets, right? And they’ll squeeze those ill-gotten gains out of the terribly-underfunded public education system by hiring illegal aliens for below minimum wage, feed the kids gruel and maybe sell a kid’s kidney now and then?

    Not that it’s likely to make much difference but you might want to give some consideration to the ineffectuality of your rhetoric. The spread of charter law, the continued viability of the voucher movement, the descent of public confidence in the public education system all argue against a return to the good, old days of public education being left entirely up to the “experts” who’s single demand is more money.

  6. Reginleif says:

    “I think many of them have realized the Republicans don’t care about educating the masses, what they really want are taxpayers to pay for their children’s schooling so their kids won’t have to attend schools with minorities.”

    I just had to see that again so I could marvel at the stupidity of it.

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    Black support for charters, vouchers and anything else that isn’t the conventional, district-based public education system is significantly higher then among the population in general.

    I’m sorry, but I think you’re mistaken on this one, at least here in Texas you are. In Texas it is the rich white Republicans and Christian activists clamoring for privatization across the board, with taxpayer money being used to pay the costs of children in private schools. Ironically, NCLB is supposed to be working towards reducing the acheivement gap and erasing unfair racial practices; here in Texas its rules are having the opposite effect.

  8. Mike in Texas says:

    Reginleif wrote:

    I just had to see that again so I could marvel at the stupidity of it

    That’s a pretty general statement, with no opinions on as to why you think its stupid or wrong.

    Trash talking merely indicates to me you don’t have a valid arguement so you had to lower yourself down to attempting to insult me.

  9. Mike in Texas wrote:

    In Texas it is the rich white Republicans and Christian activists clamoring for privatization across the board, with taxpayer money being used to pay the costs of children in private schools.

    Really? I guess Texas is at odds with the rest of the nation then or you’re just quoting NEA/Demo party boilerplate. I think probably the latter.

    Not that I care all that much because it’s a futile response. Try it out on some poor mother who’s been treated shabbily by a paladin of the public education system, has been failed by the public education system and is watching her children being failed by the public education system. Try it out and see what kind of a response you get.

    You’re unlikely to get the hoped-for class-warfare response. You won’t get resistance to the idea of charters if that poor mother thinks there’s any hope for her children to escape the system that blighted her life. As long as other people’s kids getting out doesn’t keep her kids from getting out, why should she care?

  10. Mike in Texas says:

    You won’t get resistance to the idea of charters if that poor mother thinks there’s any hope for her children to escape the system that blighted her life.

    Hmm, I seem to remember several studies have pointed out that very few parents take the opportunity to move their kids to other schools, even after the local school is labeled “failing” by the bureacrats in Washington or their state capitals.

    Could it be the parents know better than the politicians? That maybe their school is actually doing a good job of educating the local population?

  11. Reginleif says:

    “Trash talking merely indicates to me you don’t have a valid arguement so you had to lower yourself down to attempting to insult me.”

    This from someone who makes an inflammatory class-warfare statement about Republicans in general without anything to back it up.

  12. Mike in Texas says:

    This from someone who makes an inflammatory class-warfare statement about Republicans in general without anything to back it up.

    The truth is the truth and if it’s inflammatory then so be it.