The Warning From on High

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.


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    This requirement presumes that all races misbehave at the same rate.
    Or it presumes administrators will be too frightened of the consequences to make the case that races misbehave at different rates.
    Duncan knows better than number one, but he’s going to make very sure that number two works.

  2. This is a good topic, an important topic, but I think you dropped the ball here, Michael.

    I don’t think Duncan deserves the bad rap.

    He’s identifying a problem that is huge but it’s taboo do discuss frankly.

    First, let’s be clear about the problem. In a typical Bay Area school where 4% are black and 21% are hispanic, over 90% of all documented discipline and academic problem are from that 25% (with blacks performing worse than hispanics in every way except punctuality.)

    What are the causes? What are the solutions? I think I will just state the numbers because talking about causes and solutions is like swatting a hornet’s nest with a short-handled broom.

    But those are the numbers. That I can tell you.

    Here’s my opinion. It’s not OK.

    Another opinion. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to help it.

    Still another opinion. Referring to the “Achievement Gap” means a person is still afraid to talk about race.

  3. Feed all animals in the zoo the same diet and most will sicken and die. Either the diet will have too much protein for the herbivores or too much fiber for the carnivores. Only the omnivores, such as pigs and bears, will thrive on an “average” diet. A diet which sustains hummingbirds will kill 90% of the rest of the zoo population.

    If we all have to wear the same size shoes, most people’s feet will hurt, whatever size shoes we wear. Voting on shoe size (democratic cntrol of school) will not help. The institutional racism which yields “disparate impact” is the policy that empowers representatives of (largely white) academic culture to prescribe the education of other people’s children.

    The only uniform diet which accommodates all animals in the zoo is a buffet. Support school choice.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Duncan may be identifying the problem. But he’s also warning those involved that certain responses, such as your stats, are not wanted and will be punished at the very least in the court of public opinion.
    “Minority push-out” has attracted Jesse Jackson and his rent-a-mobs before.

  5. CU Student says:

    Mr. Lopez
    “Because that’s the problem with our schools, you know: racial discrimination. Not illiteracy. Not a bloated administration. Not parent apathy. Not ignorant instructors.”

    Seems to me that illiteracy, administrative systems, parental apathy, and inadequate teacher training (or lax policies accepting various forms of alternative teacher licensure) are a direct result of institutional racist and classist policies. We can’t solve all of the legitimate problems you identified until we begin to address the impacts of continued economic inequalities on families and students.

  6. CU Student says:

    I don’t understand how supporting school choice will strip the powers of ‘representatives of (largely white) academic culture.’ Have you not read current literature describing the potential for school choice to segregate schools along racial lines?

  7. CU Student says:

    oppss..I meant ‘Malcolm’. I apologize for the misspelling!

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Institutional racist and classist policies.

    You’ll get over it, I hope. But you should try to get some of your tuition money back. Really, the only place you’re supposed to talk like that is in class to protect your grade. In the real world, we all know it’s nonsense. You don’t have to pretend with adults, except professors.

    Of course, we can’t ever get over it because the insistence that such policies exist is grounds for endless “programs” benefitting only the new employees and favored contractors.

  9. Look… there are horrible racist teachers out there.

    But you’d be surprised at who they are – CU student for starters.

  10. CU Student says:

    I’m inferring from your comment that you think I am racist. Could you please clarify why my original comment makes you think I am a racist?

  11. (Malcolm): “The institutional racism which yields ‘disparate impact’ is the policy that empowers representatives of (largely white) academic culture to prescribe the education of other people’s children.”
    (CU): “I don’t understand how supporting school choice will strip the powers of ‘representatives of (largely white) academic culture.’ Have you not read current literature describing the potential for school choice to segregate schools along racial lines?”

    Do you want to discuss racism, “disparate impact”, “power”, or segregation? Policies which expand each family’s options for the use of the K-12 education subsidy which taxpayers alot to that family’s children shift the power to prescribe for those children from the authorities who currently prescribe education policy to parents. Isn’t this obvious?

    Of course, the State canot subsidize education without a definition of “education”. Curently, the State’s definition is “attendance at any school operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel”. This yields wretched results for the children of poor andmnority parents. Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

    Although some evidence indicates that schools which assemble their clientelle by choice are less segregated than schools which assemble their clientelle by the locale of parents’ residence, I really do not care whether school choice policies yield more or less racial integration in K-12 education, any more than I care whether restaurant choice policies result in more or less racial integration in restaurants. The way to teach tolerance of diversity is to tolerate diversity, seems to me.

    Harriet Tubman died on this day (1913-03-10).

    From the Wikipedia entry (citing Larson, Kate Clifford. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero:…

    “Master Lincoln, he’s a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That’s what master Lincoln ought to know.”

  12. And Master Duncan, too.

  13. Michael E. Lopez, Esq. says:

    Any time someone as sensible and thoughtful as Robert Wright tells you that you’re on questionable ground, it’s a good idea to look down and check your footing.

    I’ll certainly take it on Wright’s good reputation that the numbers he supplies are accurate. And insofar as they are accurate, they are extremely troubling. When 90% of the problems arise from an easily identifiable quartile of the population… there’s something deeply problematic going on.

    The question, of course, is where the root of this deeply problematic dynamic is to be found. Arne Duncan believes he knows the answer to this. I know that he thinks he knows the answer, because he has said that the solution is to enforce anti-discrimination statutes.

    This means he has decided that the problem is in the staff, faculty, and administration of the school.

    As I said in my post, I find the premise that the cadre of the schools in question are racist to be problematic. And Duncan is asserting this premise as if it were undeniably true. His intention is to invoke the force of law based on this premise. I find this despicable. The numbers alone are troubling… but as Wright said, they only tell us that there is a problem somewhere. They don’t tell us ANYTHING about where the problem lies.

  14. At the inevitable risk of having the more culturally sensitive philosphers chastise me, I ask for an honest discussion of this taboo topic.
    1. If 90% of all discipline worthy actions come from a group of students who make up 25% of the student population, then they should be disciplined accordingly.
    1a. If a student who comes from the group that makes up 75% of the student population commits the same infraction, that student should be disciplined.
    2. Instead of making wild assumptions about the seemingly disparate statistics as an obvious indicator that teachers are terrible, perhaps, for just a moment, Mr. Duncan can visit these schools in order to observe. What Mr. Duncan might find is that many teachers ignore many infractions by certain groups for fear of being labeled as culturally insensitive. He might also find that certain groups do commit a greater number of infractions.
    2a. The answer to the disparity problem is not in lowering discipline rate by ignoring behavior, or increasing discipline rates artificially. The answer can begin with a focus on school culture and climate. As schools begin to demand high standards, promote success, higher and retain effective teachers, and understand that the school envirnoment needs to be welcoming, then discipline will naturally go down.
    3. We would be completely ignorant to not allow for the reality that many academic and behavioral problems begin at home. Home situations can hinder even the most motivated–an unfortunate reminder for me being played out in one of my terrific students who, as it turns out, would be in that minority group.
    3a. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have an obligation to confront this all in an honest way. Pay attention to charter schools which recognize that to demand much of parents is of little value. Let’s take the students in and teach them–an action which shows that we love them.
    4. As an urban educator, I wrestle with this reality on a daily basis. I want my school to break the stereotypes associated with being an urban school. But I don’t want it to be artificial. I want my students to behave appropriately, or as David Whitman explored in his book Sweating the Small Stuff, middle class values. I don’t want them believe chaos is normal, that skipping class is acceptable, that mouthing back to a teacher who gives a simple request to remove a hat is beneath them–even if the teacher wasn’t as polite as he could have been.
    5. It is this type of crap that makes me want to leave urban education.

  15. Concerned Parent says:

    CU Student – you mention “literature describing the potential for school choice to segregate schools along racial lines.” Could you please point me to some articles/books which cover this topic? It is of great interest as I am a parent in District 1 in NYC (a “district of choice”) and no one has been able to satisfactorily explain why the student bodies of various D1 schools have such strikingly different racial breakdowns. Thanks in advance!

  16. If 90% of all discipline worthy actions come from a group of students who make up 25% of the student population, then they should be disciplined accordingly.

    That’s not what the statistic said. It said that they were disciplined, not that the actions were discipline worthy.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    One inference from your comment is that different groups are disciplined differently for similar offenses.
    Got any sources?
    In Detroit some years back, there was a short-lived movement to have teachers accept what was generally considered bad behavior, if it came from black students, because of their culture. Not sure what the one had to do with the other, but the takeaway was that there really was a difference in behavior. Otherwise, there’d have been no reason to float this cockamamie, racist idea.
    IOW, the difference was so obvious that the solution was to ignore it–according to race.

  18. THIS discussion is symptomatic of what is wrong with both the government and government schools: Arguing over pure, unadulterated nonsense and not how to teach these kids to do important things like….read, spell, write, compute. Things that may help them to, you know, graduate and get a job.

    Another reason (#152) why my kids have never seen the inside of a government school, including college, and, God willing, never will.

  19. Michael,

    I very much share your concern about this. For decades now it has appeared to me that many people who consider themselves enlightened people, right thinking people with good intentions, have allowed themselves to fall into a bad way of thinking. They think and act in accordance with the rule that any thing that can be interpreted as racism, or the result of racism, will be interpreted as racism, or the result of racism. But what about that rule? Is it accurate? Is it fair? Does it fit today’s world? Do we care?

    I realize there was a time in much of America in which that rule would be common sense. But I don’t think that time is today. Indeed I don’t think it was the 90’s or even the 80’s. My opinion is that today that rule is much more of a problem than remaining racism. I don’t wish to downplay the pain caused by remaining racism. I know it hurts a lot of people a lot of times. But reverse racism also causes a lot of pain. Reverse racism is just as repugnant as racism, because it’s essentially the same thing.

    The rule I’m talking about, to repeat, is that anything that can be viewed as racism will be viewed as racism. It violates our innocent-until-proven guilty value, and I think it violates a lot of other rules of civility and decency.

    I can only speak for myself, but it does appear to me that when a Democrat or a liberal talks about race we are supposed to give credit for good intentions. When a Republican or conservative talks about race we are supposed to assume bad intentions. Would anyone call that attitude “liberal”? That’s a double standard that I don’t like one bit. I think it should be challenged head on every time it rears its ugly head. It is not enlightened. It is not charitable. And it’s certainly not accurate.

    From my perspective it appears that Duncan is playing the race card. From my perspective that is a bad thing to do. It benefits no one in the long run, and in the short run I think the benefits to a few partisans come at a high cost to society at large. Playing the race card is divisive, purposely divisive. But playing the race card is always deniable. Duncan can say, “I’m not making up the data”. True enough, but he’s certainly interpreting the data, and as I read it, he is interpreting it in accordance to a very destructive, unfair, rule. As I read it he as much has said that disparate impact will get the default interpretation of racism. That is not enlightened. That is not charitable. That is not peacemaking. That is not working together. It is divisive. It is bigoted. It is morally wrong. It needs to be challenged. Disparate impact alone cannot fairly be considered evidence of any wrongdoing. The system of welfare before the 96 reform had a very disparate impact, did it not? Is that prima facie evidence that President Johnson was racist?

    I don’t remember the details, but early in an election year, either 92 or 96, Bill Clinton and Bill Bradley were campaigning against each other. The Clinton campaign brought up a disparate impact of some measure that Bill Bradley had supported. Clinton would certainly deny that he accused Bradley racism, I suppose, but still he played the race card. If the race card can be played against Bill Bradley, where in the world does that lead? I considered that grossly unfair to Bill Bradley. But, once again, of course, it is deniable.

    We are a race obsessed nation. We know and understand the reasons for that. But must we promote it? Must we wallow in it? Isn’t it time to move beyond that? A good way to start would be to challenge that rule that anything that can be called racism will be called racism.

  20. Delinquent says:

    Re: the inference you drew from Mike’s comment:

    This is just the first article that I could recall off the top of my head. I’m happy to provide more, it will just require going through the stack that are sitting on my desk waiting to be read.

    Re: “B) That the discipline problems stem from the same cultural factors that are responsible for the insanely lopsided crime rates among some minority groups?”

    I’m also pretty sure there is a large body of research out there on disproportionate arrest and convictions in the justice system. Though I’m not 100% sure that this research controls for SES.

    I think Mr. McNamara gets it just about right when he writes:2a. “The answer to the disparity problem is not in lowering discipline rate by ignoring behavior, or increasing discipline rates artificially. The answer can begin with a focus on school culture and climate. As schools begin to demand high standards, promote success, higher and retain effective teachers, and understand that the school environment needs to be welcoming, then discipline will naturally go down.”

    While I agree with almost everything in that statement I would say that 1.) while we can’t ignore problem behavior, we can temper our response to it. Mr. Wright’s stats and the report I link to, suggest that we might be overreacting by suspending a black kid who talks back to his teacher, or refuses to take his hat off.

    and 2.) I think we need to re-examine the word discipline. Discipline does not have to mean suspension, expulsion or even detention. Discipline is not solely about punishment, it is also about instruction.

  21. Interestingly, I’ve been discussing this precise issue with my students the last few days – specifically, this article:

    And I’m with Robert on this one. The numbers show that we have a problem. What the causes are of the problem, what the solutions are….I suppose that’s debatable, though I’d argue that schools’ staffs are going to be at least part of the issue, because they’re the ones doling out the discipline.

    I’m not an expert in cultural anthropology and I’m sure many of you can tear me to shreds while walking and chewing gum at the same time, so I’m not going to get into differences in cultural norms, and the need for teaching and reteaching expectations, and acknowledging that if kids can’t access the curriculum, they’re probably going to act out in some way.

    And I’m not much of a Duncan fan either, and it doesn’t seem that he expressed any real solutions here, but the first step, I think, is acknowledging the problem.

    And the numbers show that we have a problem. We have to start somewhere.

  22. Ebony Fille says:

    “We are a race obsessed nation. We know and understand the reasons for that. But must we promote it? Must we wallow in it? Isn’t it time to move beyond that? A good way to start would be to challenge that rule that anything that can be called racism will be called racism”

    Not everything should be called racism. However, it is clear that you have no sense of what the term racist mean. Otherwise, you would likely be aware that there is far more racism out there than you want to believe.

    P.S. The only thing worse than an outright racist is a liberal.

  23. CU student’s argument that we need to first “..address the impacts of continued economic inequalities on families and students” before we can solve our educational problems is really an argument to make over our society into a socialist utopia.

    Every problem can be ignored if we first have to purify our society of all bad elements. Figuring out how to educate millions of children is much more difficult than agitating for an imaginary society without inequalities.

  24. Student of History says:

    The question of intentions becomes more apparent when you also discuss the other aspect of Duncan’s speech. He also plans to use the disparate impact analysis on who is taking the college prep and AP courses in high school.

    Russlyn Ali, who heads the Office of Civil Rights in the Justice Department, has her staff of 600 lawyers ready to go to see disparities as prima facie evidence of discrimination.

    Two days before the Common Core Standards with its vision of one magical “college and career ready” standard for all high school graduates, school districts receive an official warning that different coursework for minorities can result in federal sanctions.

    Just in case all that RTT money wasn’t enough of an incentive to get on board the CCSSI bandwagon.

    Isn’t it cool how the US will be the only country in the world without differences in analytical skills and interests among its population? All it takes is government fiat-“if a subject is not accessible to all, it shouldn’t be available to anyone” in our K-12 classrooms.

  25. tim-10-ber says:

    We have had a problem and we continue to have a problem. The data in my district screams there is a problem. One challenge is many teachers do not know how to interact with kids (usually a black male regardless of age) that is viewed as head of his household. While asking a student to do something that seems reasonable without understanding the student and where they are coming from the request may seem anything but reasonable as they are doing far more at home to survive…

    Many kids in my district (again it is disproportionately black kids) end up in MIP conduct (special ed) and have an extremely hard time getting out. Programs are being put in place (and they seem to be working) at the high school level that enables kids to work while in school, attracts older kids back to school to complete their degree, etc. I have no clue what is being done at the middle school level…

    Much of the challenges are culturally driven…the issues at the core of society and family (or lack thereof) must be addressed…kids need to value education but that is hard when their parents do not or there is no significant adult in their lives to help them understand education is a way out of a bad situation…

    In my community there are after school programs in place that we hope will make a difference but these programs reach a very limited number of students. In a district with 76% of students on free and reduced meals we have many, many kids that need help…

    Something right is going on in the hispanic community as hispanic students tend to out perform blacks on standardized tests…why is it?

    We must get to the root cause…education needs to be changed to meet kids where they are academically, forget grade level by age and help these kids back on track and stay on track…

    I would love it if this were the event that triggered this radical change…but I doubt it…education officials tend not to think out of the box and this is a radical change but I believe it would work and can be done without much trouble or added expense…who is willing to try?

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    Can’t get the report to open. I’ll try a couple of other things.
    I did notice, by squinting, a reference to an intense brawl at a high school in Decatur, IL.
    Not sure where they’re going with that, but it should be noted that the whole thing was taped. Shown over and over again. If the report’s details differ from what people saw on the tape–as did Jesse Jackson’s assertions–the report has a problem.
    It should be noted that the assertions of racist criminal justice system don’t apply in victim surveys; taken from victims, not cops and prosecutors.
    And, lastly, blacks are victims of crime far more than whites. For various reasons, the race of the perps is rarely mentioned, which would not be the case if the perps were white.

  27. Delinquent says:

    You have to purchase the report unless you already have a journal subscription or are affiliated with a university I think. CU maybe you can help? Read the abstract. If I remember correctly, the authors uses the Decatur school brawl to introduce the topic, then go on to discuss their findings – which have to do with middle school kids getting send to the principals office.

    I’ll find links to full reports today for you. I’d appreciate you posting your own stats, figures, reports, etc. to back up your claims.


    For those who are interested, below is the abstract to the article I linked to:
    Abstract The disproportionate discipline of African-American students has been extensively documented; yet the reasons for those disparities are less well understood. Drawing upon one year of middle-school disciplinary data for an urban school district, we explored three of the most commonly offered hypotheses for disproportionate discipline based on gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Racial and gender disparities in office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions were somewhat more robust than socioeconomic differences. Both racial and gender differences remained when controlling for socioeconomic status. Finally, although evidence emerged that boys engage more frequently in a broad range of disruptive behavior, there were no similar findings for race. Rather, there appeared to be a differential pattern of treatment, originating at the classroom level, wherein African-American students are referred to the office for infractions that are more subjective in interpretation. Implications for teacher training and structural reform are explored.

  28. Richard Aubrey says:

    You’ve saved me some frustrating efforts trying to get the thing open.
    From what you excerpted, I’d say somebody’s putting somebody on.
    My wife has been a teacher for more than thirty years. Currently, the school demographics are changing.
    I asked a young lady at church how the middle school was. “XXXX west”, she replied. “XXXX” is the only school district in the area where six-year olds commit murder and visiting football teams escort the cheerleaders on and off the field in a hollow square and there are metal detectors. The middle school was not “XXXX west” when my kids were there and the only change is racial.
    I have friends who taught at XXXX
    My kids played ball in a league including all SES, home and away games.
    So I can believe a study or my lying eyes.
    Cultures vary, as Thomas Sowell said, and differences have consequences.
    When my son was playing basketball and football, we had three games over the years played at XXXX which turned out to be parents’ night.
    It was pathetic. So few on the XXXX football team had two parents. The basketball team, having only twelve kids, had none with two parents. Zero. Not a single kid from an intact family.
    You’d figure that, with larger numbers, the unlikely might happen. That’s what happened at XXXX. You needed the larger numbers of the football team to get a couple with intact families.
    Duncan is going to insist on numerical parity acting as if there are not underlying differences. He knows better. Educators know better. Duncan knows that educators had better not say anything.
    And any study that starts out with the Decatur issue has shot itself in at least one foot in terms of credibility.

  29. Richard Aubrey says:

    “While I agree with almost everything in that statement I would say that 1.) while we can’t ignore problem behavior, we can temper our response to it. Mr. Wright’s stats and the report I link to, suggest that we might be overreacting by suspending a black kid who talks back to his teacher, or refuses to take his hat off.”

    Delinquent. Do you have a list of kids expelled for refusing to take hats off or talking back?
    Example. My daughter is a teacher. She asked a kid to turn in his homework. He threatened to knock her teeth out.
    In your view, is the kid getting disciplined for refusing to turn in his homework?
    The reason I ask is that I’ve been dealing with advocates on one side or another of contentious issues and would not be at all surprised, given my experience, to find this would be listed by some as expulsion for refusing to turn in his homework.
    After all, my daughter should have known…..blahblahblah.
    As it happens, I do not know the race of the perp here.
    It would be a shame if the guy got a reduced penalty on account of the school already having maxed its minority pushout quota.

    Maj. Hasan, of the Ft. Hood shooting, was passed along and upward despite appalling performance and nutty, unprofessional behavior because, as some said, they were afraid to ruin their careers by appearing Islamophobic by reporting his failings.

    After the ginned-up Tailhook scandal, the Navy was so spooked by the noise that the first two women who graduated from F14 school did so with grades that would flunk a man. One blew an approach and got killed and the other was eventually grounded for unsafe flying. The F14–famous in the movie “Top Gun”–is a two-seater, so the Navy put two rear-seaters in danger because they were afraid of Pat Schroeder. There were others in danger as well, from mid-air collisions or the deck crew in carrier flight ops.

    Like an indigestible lump of something, you can mandate ill-considered treatment, but the result will eventually out. By that time, there will be a fresh set of the usual suspects–straight white males–to blame.

  30. Delinquent says:

    Sorry again for the trouble with article. Glad I saved you some time. I’m going to respond to some of what you said – mainly your second post, because to be honest I found your first post difficult to understand (are you talking about the school in the study? or just some school some woman from your church teaches at?). But I’ll just say at the outset that I think you tend simplify the issue. It sounds like you think the only problem is the “culture” these kids come from. And I’m sure you’ve dealt with advocates who think the problem is only the “racist school structure,” or whatever they want to call it. Personally, I think it’s a little of column A a little of column B. It’s easy to demonize one side or the other; but that doesn’t really solve anything. Agreed? I hope so.

    “Do you have a list of kids expelled for refusing to take hats off or talking back?”
    That depends on your definition of expelled. I certainly have a list of kids suspended from school for what I would deem normal school age behavior, including not taking their hat off and talking back to authority figures. Further, I have a list of kids who have been arrested in school for really, really bogus reasons. Like writing their name on a school desk.

    Now let’s take the case of the kid who threatened your daughter. Yes, his behavior was unacceptable and he must suffer some consequences. My question is, what are the consequences he should suffer? This is your daughter we’re talking about, so I can only imagine how upset this incident must have made you. But I would urge you to try and look at the kid in question. Why didn’t he do his homework? Is it because there was no parent around and he was taking care of his little brothers and sisters? Is it because instead of doing his homework he was out hustling so he could get some food because he hasn’t eaten? And why does he think its ok to respond to his teacher’s legitimate request to produce his homework with violence? Is it because he watched his mother suffer domestic abuse? Perhaps he was abused himself? Or maybe he’s just seen a lot of violence in his neighborhood. These circumstances don’t excuse his behavior, but they help to explain it, which helps us to understand it, which helps us to fix it.

    Let’s say this kid is going through just one of those hypothetical situations. That fact alone puts the kid at a very high risk for dropout/school failure, which in turn puts him at high risk for entering the criminal justice system. Now let’s say we suspend him. Suspension puts him at an even higher risk for failure/criminal justice involvement. Setting aside moral arguments, let’s look at this from economic perspective. You seem like someone who values their money and would prefer to not pay as much in taxes as you do currently. If we suspend this kid, and he drops out, he’s going to cost the taxpayer a lot more money than if he stayed in school and got his diploma. If he gets locked up, he’s going to cost you the taxpayer, even more money. On the other hand, he will cost you a fraction of those amounts if he stays in school and gets his diploma. So from a purely economic perspective, a self-interested, concerned tax-payer perspective, doesn’t it make sense to a little of money to educate him and keep him in school rather than a ton of money to lock him up down the road? Or maybe you think your tax money shouldn’t go to schools at all? Let me know.

    I have a lot more I’d like to say, but I think this thread will die pretty soon and I’m pretty sure I won’t change your mind, so I’m going to wait and see if you respond before I continue with my critique of your arguments. If you want to keep talking about this offline, let me know where I can reach you.

  31. CharterMom says:

    A couple of thoughts here:

    1. Has anyone done a study that compared these statistics based on the presence of a two parent family and further if in the one parent families the second parent was available and active in the child’s life? I know that one of my greatest fears right now if somehow losing my husband not just because he’s my husband but because of the role in plays with my teenage sons. He influences them in ways that are beyond me (and I influence them in ways he can’t) but his influence is more likely to impact their current behavior.
    2. This issue periodically percolates in my highly minority school district. However I seem to remember that one of the last reports I read showed that a couple of schools with highly minority administrations and high minority student populations showed some of the highest discipline referrals. This skewed the figures for the district. So were the minority administrations being racist towards their minority students? Or was something else at work?

    I think the Duncan statistics are concerning but they do not prove racism — institutional or overt.

  32. Richard Aubrey says:

    The “XXXX west” is a coomment from a thirteen year old who has to endure what used to be a pretty mellow learning environment.

    The kid who threatened my daughter has no father–but that’s okay according to practically everybody–and his older brother turned out okay. His mother is beside herself–says my daughter–and had found marijuana in the kid’s room.
    As regards understanding the kid’s situation: Some people are just buttheads. That’s a fact.
    However, one of the lessons the world should teach to keep people out of trouble is that your personal situation is not an excuse for bad behavior. In fact, counter productive behavior can get you killed no matter the reason you were having a bad hair day. Learning to do the right thing, in several senses of the word, despite having a bad hair day or bad hair year, is a survival skill.
    If you demonstrate you can’t do it, something must be done and that first means safeguarding others.
    Personally, I don’t want my daughter or any of her colleagues or the students at the school used as punching bags in order to polich up our compassion badges.
    A negative sanction gets most people’s attention.
    The cost of having somebody in the criminal justice system is generally not netted against the cost of having him not in the criminal justice system and preying on the rest of us. Recent rape/murder case in California in point.

    You seem to think that kids turn criminal because they are not educated. How about the possibility that they turn criminal and are not educated despite the system’s attempts to do so (recall that losing a kid means losing money) for the same reason. IOW, the lack of education is a symptom of a basic problem and not the cause of his becoming criminal. Further IOW, would you mean that tying him down and forcing him to learn–how?–would not keep him on the straight and narrow.
    Yes, I know that such and such percentage of criminals were school dropouts. It’s an article of faith that criminality was caused by a shortage of education. And it’s a logical stretch, too.
    I think this punk needs a serious negative sanction and then an opportunity to learn in an alternate system where his buttheadedness is guarded against and so he can’t hurt anybody, and he can learn why it would be a good idea not to do that again, from the perspective of personal benefit. We can work on his better nature, if any, after the rest of his surroundings are protected.
    Now, in your list of bogus arrests, you don’t have things like wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of your soldier uncle (armed) on it, do you? The plastic gun hat decoration? The plastic cake knife? Stupid administrators is a different subject altogether.

  33. This is really about the underclass. Not all members of it are black. Travel to mostly white communities in midwestern states and you’ll find an underclass of white students from dysfunctional homes. They’re the welfare, single-mother, trailer park, domestic volence class. The Eminem class. In the mostly white schools they attend, they are the discipline problems. I know because it’s where and how I grew up. Unfortunately but truthfully, black are disproportionately represented in the underclass in urban environments.

    It’s about culture, not race. Our leaders, political or otherwise, should be talking about it in these terms. I get a knot in my stomach and feel utterly revolted when we have conversations about race without discussing the culture context. Arne Duncan and others like him are, it seems to me, working very hard to avoid talking about this issue in anything approaching a reality based perspective. If he wants to help black boys he should be honest about the culture they embrace and stop trying to blame shift.

  34. Just to add further to my comment above: If underclass white students are disciplined more frequently in the schools they attend, and they are, what does this show? Their teachers are probably of the same race, so does it illustrate classism? SES bias? Or do the students’ discipline issues reflect their class issues?

  35. Richard Aubrey says:

    My kids played ball in a league which included a mostly black lower SES system. There was an integrated mid SES system. And there was a relatively poor semi-rural system.
    The problems were in the community from which the mostly black system drew its students. Problems you’d read about in the paper. Crime problems. Cheerleader squads down by half due to pregnancy. Violence after games.
    It is the culture and schools are going to look pretty odd trying to excuse hitting a white kid harder than a black kid for an equivalent offense. Which is what Duncan is insisting on.
    Now, butthead kids frequently have butthead parents (odd, that) and administrators are prone to defer to the butthead parents and their attorneys, even at the expense of the rest of the students.
    Now, suppose a butthead white kid gets hammered harder than a butthead black kid and the white parents go to court….
    Delinquent refers to a number of possible reasons a kid could, say, threaten a teacher. We have to know why in order to fix it.
    Problem is, see affirmative action essays which credit obstacles overcome. White and Asian kids have no obstacles to overcome. By definition. Thus, with the same thinking, white and Asian kids don’t get the sympathy about what unfortunate issue in their background caused them to threaten a teacher.
    We’re going to see some entertaining excuses from the administration. Maybe “Arne made me do it.” would fly. Ya think?

  36. Delinquent says:

    You wrote: “Some people are just buttheads.” Finally, we agree.

  37. CU – start right here

    “Seems to me that illiteracy, administrative systems, parental apathy, and inadequate teacher training (or lax policies accepting various forms of alternative teacher licensure) are a direct result of institutional racist and classist policies.”

    This is just the typical patronizing racism of the left. People can’t be responsible for their own actions and consequences because they’re incapable of making their own decisions because of “institutional racism”. Do you want to define what institutions are racist? How about pointing out what individuals or what actions are responsible for this racism. Sorry but besides being an idiot you’re a racist idiot who insults every persons academic achievements by trying to deny their accomplishments.

  38. Delinquent says:

    Classy Bandit.

  39. This is typically what happens.

    First, we look at the numbers, which are rather dramatic.

    Second, we discuss causes and solutions.

    Third, discussion gets heated and there are very sharp differences of opinion sprinkled with ad hominem.

    Fourth, since consensus can’t be reached and fighting isn’t productive, no action is taken.

    Fifth, we go back to work, keep our heads down, collect our pay and try not to return to the first step again, looking at those numbers.

    I started teaching 35 years ago. In my first month, I wondered aloud why, in an off campus education forum, that in a school with a less than a 5% black population, that the only kids sitting on the bench in the office, day after day, happened to be black.

    I got called into the principal’s office the next day during my lunch. The two counselors were there and so was the vice-principal. They told me that the blacks in our school have come a long way, that what I was saying could set off a fire-storm in the community, that it was a hell of an insult to imply that they were racists, that I lacked the knowledge and understanding of the socio-economic factors involved, that if I didn’t have something nice to say about the school, that I should say nothing at all, that I did not yet have tenure.

    I thought my teaching career was over. For days I shook with fear. But they never did get around to firing me. I think it was due to pure laziness.

    Sadly, after 35 years, the numbers I quoted above are still the same. Exactly the same.

  40. Richard Aubrey says:

    Jared Taylor who has gotten a rap as a racist or separatist or something wrote a book called “Paved with Good Intentions” in which he discusses, among other things, what is allowed to be discussed and what had better not be.
    He asserted that the FBI crime records do an interesting thing. If a perp is Hispanic, they record him as white. If the vic is Hispanic, he’s….Hispanic. You can see what might happen if Hispanic identical twins got into a fight. I called the FBI and asked about it. “Oh, we’re very careful to…blahblah.” Means Taylor’s right.
    See Bill Cosby.
    One of his points was that when the government and other institutions force certain lines of thought underground, the lines of thought don’t go away. They fester and get worse than if they were being discussed openly.

  41. “First, we look at the numbers, which are rather dramatic. Second, we discuss causes and solutions…..etc, etc.”

    No, Robert, first we observe the nonsense that takes place in government schools. Second, we avoid all government schools like we avoid plague and disease. Third, we find schools that have NO government involvement whatsoever and send our kids there so that they are not subjected to the nonsense. Fourth, our kids receive an education. Fifth, we did even deeper into our pockets (because the government schools get to keep our money no matter what they do) and support those schools. Sixth, hopefully, our kids learn to avoid the nonsense in government schools when they have their own kids. Repeat the process for each generation.


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