For nearly four decades, the education establishment has delivered one failure and set of excuses after another. Education for blacks is nothing less than a catastrophe and education for white kids is nothing to write home about. People can and do make mistakes and produce never-worked-anywhere nostrums. In most cases, we fire them or run them out of town on a rail. But educationists are immune to those corrective forces. Instead, in the wake of one education disaster after another, we call them back for more advice and yet another half-baked experiment. Black kids are fair game for half-baked schemes and their academic performance shows it. Higher quality education is no mystery; lets look at some historical data from the New York Board of Education.
On achievement tests given in 1941, some elementary schools in Harlem (P.S. 5, 90, 136, and 194) had grade equivalent scores in paragraph and word meaning, arithmetic reasoning and computation that were equal to or higher than those in elementary schools in predominantly white working-class schools on New York's Lower East Side. Harlem school six-graders averaged a grade equivalent score of 5.5 in paragraph meaning and 5.4 in word meaning. That's to be compared to averages in Lower East Side schools (P.S. 23 and 130) of 5.1 and 4.6. The New York citywide average was 6.8 and 6.5 respectively. In no cases were Harlem school students as much as a year below grade level. Harlem third-graders were at or above grade level and in some subject fields scoring higher than their counterparts on the Lower East Side, including arithmetic reasoning and computation as well.
How do we explain the fact that black kids back then were holding their own? First, let's try an explanation that's consistent with how liberals view the world: Back in the 40s, Harlem blacks faced no discrimination; school budgets must have been higher than they are now; teachers were more highly paid; classes were smaller and Ebonics must have been the classroom language. I'm guessing those explanations and other educationist "requirements" for improved education are balderdash. Instead, I'd put my money on differences like: teachers being able to read and write themselves, school discipline, homework being assigned and done, and parental support of the school's education objectives.
White liberals, black and white politicians and civil rights organizations have done far greater harm to black academic excellence than yesterday's racists could have ever done. They have given unquestioned support to an education establishment whose actions have condemned large numbers of black youngsters to lives of educational mediocrity while simultaneously bleeding taxpayers to death. But black parents cannot be held blameless. Out of a misguided sense of loyalty, they have allowed the education establishment to lead them down one blind alley after another. Take Washington, D.C. If a Klansman was mayor, superintendent of schools, and the majority of school principals and teachers were Klansmen, it is hard for me to imagine education being any worse than it is now with a black as mayor, a black as school superintendent and blacks as principals and teachers. The only difference would be that black parents would be up in arms about the education rot.
I think it high time that black parents, and for that matter white parents as well, stop listening to the excuses and promises of educational quacks. They ought to demand, not next year but this year, that schools cease their practice of educational fraud. If not, demand wholesale firing of administrations and if the mayor won't fire them, fire the mayor.
Walter E. Williams
February 1, 1997
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