Attention schoolmasters, principals, and teachers…. you’re officially on notice. If you want to enforce classroom discipline, you had better suspend some white kids, too.
In a speech commemorating the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” civil rights protest in Selma, Ala., Education Secretary Arne Duncan referred to certain failing public schools in America as “dropout factories” and places that “seem to suspend and discipline only young African-American boys.”
Because that’s the problem with our schools, you know: racial discrimination. Not illiteracy. Not a bloated administration. Not parent apathy. Not ignorant instructors. No… what we really need the Feds to do is make sure that suspension and discipline get handed out to just as many white students as black students. I’ve been watching Arne Duncan for almost a year now. The man’s a disaster. I thought Bush and Spelling left a lot to be desired (I was never an NCLB fan), but I’ve been waiting for Duncan to say something that I thought was intelligent or reasonable, and waiting in vain. Instead I get:
“With a strict adherence to statutory and case law, we are going to make Dr. King’s dream of a colorblind society a reality.”
He has the gall to talk about colorblindness in the same speech where he complains about numerical disparities. He is either lying, or he actually thinks we’re going to make ourselves “colorblind” by counting black and white people in various categories — because that’s what the statutory and case law that he’s talking about requires. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the entire reason he mentions “case law” is that it’s in case law that you get the disparate impact analyses. The statutes generally just prohibit discrimination… it’s in the case law that you start finding things like disproportionate treatment (not unfair treatment… just numerically disproportionate) being prima facie evidence of discrimination.
Look… there are horrible racist teachers out there. But I think that they are few and far between; I’ve spent most of my life in California, so maybe my view is warped, but most teachers are pretty liberal, and generally committed to what they call “social justice.” If you want to cure a school’s racism… if racism there actually be… then the thing to do is fire the racist teachers and administrators. But we wouldn’t want to, you know, fire someone.
But I seriously question the notion that there is strong institutional racism in public schools. If there are large-scale institutional racial disparities in discipline statistics, which is more likely? (A) That the educational establishment is racist? or (B) That the discipline problems stem from the same cultural factors that are responsible for the insanely lopsided crime rates among some minority groups? What if applying the rules fairly means that more minority kids get disciplined because more minority kids misbehave?
Well, educators… you’re on notice. You might want to consider giving out grades in a racially balanced manner, too. Just in case.
NB: I know the first link comes from CNS News… and I apologize. I generally try not to link to hyper-partisan sites for basic news stories. But it’s the only non-subscriber place I could find the first quote. The quote does not appear in the AP article, although it appears in an Orlando Sentinel document purporting to be a draft of Secretary Duncan’s remarks.