The Wrong Education Target
Walter E. Williams

A Washington Post editorial (7/24/97) said that had the reading portion of the Stanford Achievement Test been used as this year's criterion for promotion, 33 percent of D.C.'s third-graders and 29 percent of its eighth-graders would have been left down. Test results in math were just as dismal: three out of four eighth-graders and one in three third-graders scored below the norm. At the other end of the education continuum, the President and civil rights activists are wringing their hands about the effects of California's Proposition 209 and the University of Texas Hopwood decision outlawing racial preferences in university admission. Noting that black admissions this year have fallen precipitously at professional schools in California and Texas, in answering a question posed by a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Clinton said, "I don't know why the people who promoted this in California think it's a good thing to have a segregated set of professional schools."

The President's use of the word segregation is incredibly stupid. It makes just as much sense to call UC Berkeley's Law School segregated as it is to call the NBA segregated. If whites could do 360 slam dunks in-your-face as well as blacks, their numbers in the NBA would be greater. By the same token, if blacks could get the same scores as whites, on the law school (LSAT) or medical school (MCAT) admissions tests, their numbers in professional schools would be greater.

The interests of most blacks are not served well by Clinton, other politicians and civil rights activists. The fraudulent education received by blacks in D.C., and most other cities, is devastating. Blacks are not a super-race of people whose children can graduate from high school, with what might not be the equivalent of even an eighth-grade education, make up the difference in four years of college, and be admitted to professional schools on academic merit.

But where's the civil rights establishment? The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has launched a ludicrous investigation to determine whether refusal by the University of California to have racial preferences itself constitutes unlawful discrimination. Neither politicians, government agencies nor civil rights organizations show much interest in stopping a callous public education establishment from making black academic excellence all but impossible.

There's no question there are many problems that plague predominantly black schools. Many of them cannot be laid at the feet of public school teachers and administrators. However, public school teachers and administrators are totally responsible for promoting kids who haven't mastered grade material and granting diplomas that attest that a kid has achieved a twelfth grade level of education when in fact he may not have achieved even an eighth-grade level of education. That is no less than open, pernicious fraud.

But getting back to the decline in black enrollment at prestigious California universities, I'm not wringing my hands. More than 60 percent of blacks admitted, for example, to UC Berkeley do not graduate. But there are 3,000 less prestigious colleges, with more compatible student bodies in terms of academic achievement, perhaps more individualized attention and thus a greater chance for catching, up that blacks can attend. Not getting into Berkeley is not the same as not getting into college. "But, Williams," you say, "without racial preferences there'd be far fewer blacks attending our prestigious universities." I say: graduating from a less prestigious university is better than flunking out of a prestigious one. It's better for both the student and blacks as a group.

Walter E. Williams

July 25, 1997
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