Keepin' it gutter at Douglass High

What’s wrong with Baltimore’s Douglass High? Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane says it’s all summed up by Audie, who’s interviewed 25 minutes into the HBO documentary Hard Times at Douglass High.

“This what we do,” Audie said about a bunch of students roaming the halls and standing around aimlessly. “Just walking the halls all day, baby. [Bleep] class. That [bleep’s] for clowns, man. Don’t nobody go to class around here, man. Man, [bleep] academics. Academics? We gon’ leave that to them nerd-[bleep] [bleeps]. We gon’ keep [bleep] straight ‘hood. All my [bleeps] out here, we gon’ keep it gutter.”

Kane quotes the English department chairman, Mr. Connally, who says that only three incoming ninth graders tested at grade level in reading out of 300 to 400 students. Most enter high school reading at the fourth- or fifth-grade level.

It’s almost as if no one wanted to admit that the students were passed to high schools with third- and fourth-grade reading levels. And I’m not talking about special-education students, either. I’m talking about regular students in regular classes. It’s a crime — been one for years.”

Kane agrees:

This is a crime, perpetrated and aided and abetted by those who don’t want to “demonize” poor black folks. As a former poor black person myself — who grew up in an era when all black folks were demonized, regardless of class — I’m left to ponder whether it’s better to be demonized and well-educated, or patronized and miseducated.

The problems predate No Child Left Behind by many years, writes Chris Cross, who chaired the Maryland Board of Education, in an e-mail to Eduwonk.

The State Board stopped short of reconstituting Douglass in the 90’s when it became clear that the problems were systemic; Douglass was the recipient of many students who had been simply passed down the line from grade to grade, school to school, all too often never mastering the basics.

An attempt to bring in outside management was blocked by the legislature in 2006. Cross hopes Baltimore’s new superintendent will shake things up. He’ll have to start in elementary school, where Audie failed to learn the skills and values that provide an alternative to the gutter.

Update: If you want to hurl insults at Liam Julian, be literate about it. And know the difference between The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick. Ahab wasn’t hunting the Great White Marlin.

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  1. Mrs. Davis says:

    On Parents’ Night, only five parents showed up to talk to McDermott. They were the parents of children who were doing well in his class.

    Sorta says it all. Douglass been gutter since late ’60s. Tradition.

  2. BadaBing says:

    And the mayor of Baltimore is “keepin’ it gutter” at the top with sex and financial scandal.

  3. Why would NCLB target only the high school? Obviously the teaching failings would be showing up in the elementary and middle school levels too. Why aren’t we hearing about middle schools being taken apart by NCLB also?

  4. Obviously the solution can be found in increased funding for teachers salaries and professional training.

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    NCLB does target middle schools and elementary schools. The fact that HBO chose to look at a high school is not an indicator of NCLB focus. As well, NCLB cannot really undo a high level of commitment to substandard education. Baltimore made news when their “turnaround experts” did not show any impact. It turns out that their “experts” were simply retired principals.

  6. [Bleep] class. That [bleep’s] for clowns, man. Don’t nobody go to class around here, man. Man, [bleep] academics. Academics? We gon’ leave that to them nerd-[bleep] [bleeps]. We gon’ keep [bleep] straight ‘hood. All my [bleeps] out here, we gon’ keep it gutter.”

    I’ve watched the program and what this school needs is a Lean On Me/Joe Clark type housecleaning.

    If I were king of the world behavior of this type would be criminalized, Audie would be thrown in jail so fast his head would spin.

    Not sure what the amount spent per student at this school is, but let’s say it’s in the high range, 14K. Audie is effectively stealing that money from the taxpayers by refusing to learn and refusing to behave in a civilized manner. What’s worse is the little thug is also disrupting the learning of others, so the waste of money he is causing is even higher.

    Throw him in jail, save the taxpayers some time and money.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    Sorry, Mike–Audie’s not gettin’ nuthin’. Not an education, not the 14K (or so) that has been allocated for it. See–here’s how it works–and why it’s easier to ignore the Audies wandering the halls. The district is getting $ from the state based on enrollment. Audie is enrolled, and apparently shows up often enough (and presumably during the count week) that the state assumes that he is a student. Say he is placed in classes of about 30 students–and the teachers pretty much believe that anything over 25 is overwhelming. When five out of the 30 don’t make it into the room, their day is made. Sorry Charlie (or Apologies Audie).

    Now Audie has probably counted that minimally in school for a long time–although he may actually have occupied a seat at a younger age. Do you ever wonder why Audie shows up at all?

    So, along comes HBO, filming this pathetic situation–a high school where the kids can’t read–and the adults aren’t outraged that this is so. This is the pathetic life led by these pathetic ghetto kids. Do you hang your head and tell American what a pathetic victim you are, or do you put on a little braggadocio and claim you meant to do that?

  8. Margo/Mom,

    This kid is old enough to recognize right from wrong and chooses to do wrong. In doing so he chooses to reject the free education he could be getting and disrupt the education of others.

    His right to act as he please shouldn’t supercede the rights of others to learn.

    I don’t know the law for Maryland, but here in Texas the Joe Clark style of cleaing house of the troublemakers couldn’t be done. Toss that many kids out and the state will label you a failure based just on the number of expulsions.

  9. Margo/Mom says:

    “Toss that many kids out and the state will label you a failure based just on the number of expulsions.”

    Pretty hard to make a case for the success of Douglass–with or without Audie. But again–he’s not taking, or receiving anything. Some might say that by hanging out in the hallways he’s actually helping to finance the kids in the classroom.

  10. Mrs. Davis says:

    Mike, you’ll understand the legal situation if you make that the Democrat People’s Republic of Maryland, a Taxachusetts wannabe.

  11. What would Frederick Douglass have thought of this?

    I usually don’t like invoking historical figures. It’s usually a ploy to imply the writer is “right” because he thinks a famous person would have agreed with him, even though that might be debatable. However, I don’t think anyone can doubt how much Douglass valued education.