March 06, 2011
By Clarice Feldman
This picture tells what I mean to say about this week: The persistence of false memes and how they are destroying America's poor and the fabric of our nation. We must be more successful in persuading those who believe them that they are false. Because we cannot count on our cultural elites to do this job, we must carry the torch.
Study it. Here's a shot of an apparently poor black man. He is picketing in Chicago carrying a misspelled sign which charges that charter schools are being promoted by "big business."
To my mind, it suggests the following:
- 1. The man who produced the sign is very poorly educated. When to use "whose" or "who's" is something that ought to have been learned in first or second grade.
- 2. The picketer thinks that big business is evil and profit-making institutions are working against his interests.
- 3. He also thinks by implication that unionized teachers provide a better opportunity for a good education than a private education can.
Not only the poor hold such misconceptions, but that they do goes some distance toward explaining why in a land full of boundless opportunities, the poor stay poor. They have aligned themselves with people who are not working in their best interests. Richer, better-educated people may share these views but they have other options in life that help them escape the consequences of such folly.
Among those who share the picketer's expressed views is the NYT columnist Paul Krugman who, moved by the plight of Wisconsin's unionized teachers engaged in thuggish and unethical behavior because the governor who has no more money to pay them the lavish benefits promised -- but not budgeted for -- by his predecessors finds he must cut those back or discharge thousands of state employees, wrote a column suggesting that unionized teachers in Wisconsin provide better educations than non-unionized teachers in Texas.
This prompted Iowahawk to strike back at the sophistry of that argument.
As a son of Iowa, I'm no stranger to bragging about my home state's ranking on various standardized test. Like Wisconsin we Iowans usually rank near the top of the heap on average ACT/SAT scores. We are usually joined there by Minnesota, Nebraska, and the various Dakotas; Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire...
... beginning to see a pattern? Perhaps because a state's "average ACT/SAT" is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion's share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition. Minority students -- regardless of state residence -- tend to score lower than white students on standardized test, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be.
Please note: this has nothing to do with innate ability or aptitude. Quite to the contrary, I believe the test gap between minority students and white students can be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status. And poverty. And yes, racism. And yes, family structure. Whatever combination of reasons, the gap exists, and it's mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) with a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic).
Iowahawk wasn't saying something new. In Defining Deviancy Down Senator Patrick Moynihan noted that some forty-six years earlier he said much the same thing:
"A few months before Barton's study appeared, I published an article showing that the correlation between eighth-grade math scores and distance of state capitals from the Canadian border was .522, a respectable showing. By contrast, the correlation with per pupil expenditure was a derisory .203. I offered the policy proposal that states wishing to improve their schools should move closer to Canada. This would be difficult, of course, but so would it be to change the parent-pupil ratio.
Indeed, the 1990 Census found that for the District of Columbia, apart from Ward 3 west of Rock Creek Park, the percentage of children living in single-parent families in the seven remaining wards ranged from a low of 63.6 percent to a high of 75.7. This being a One-time measurement, over time the proportions become asymptotic. And this in the nation's capital. No demand for change comes from that community - or as near to no demand as makes no matter. For there is good money to be made out of bad schools. This is a statement that will no doubt please many a hard heart, and displease many genuinely concerned to bring about change. To the latter, a group in which I would like to include myself, I would only say that we are obliged to ask why things do not change.
But so many of us still ignore the basic truths that "there is good money to be made out of bad schools," that family structure matters and that there is no evidence that paying teachers more and vastly increasing the size of our administrative staffs, in large part to comply with federal mandates, creates better educated pupils,
In fact, where voucher programs exist -- as they do in Milwaukee -- parents seem very happy with them. We had a small voucher program here in Washington, D.C. but this Administration, bowing to pressure from the teachers union, which sees alternatives like vouchers as a threat, demanded the program end. With the exception of Carter, presidents with school age children here send their children to private schools, as does virtually every Democrat in Congress, who lives with children here.
Political leaders are not the only hypocrites on the matter. Public school teachers show us what they think about the quality of their own teaching--- in very large numbers they pick private schools for their own children:
Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.
In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; Rochester, N.Y., 38 percent. The same trends showed up in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where 34 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children; 33 percent in New York City and New Jersey suburbs; and 29 percent in Milwaukee and New Orleans.
Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, the 2.7-million-member public school union, declined a request for comment on the study's findings. The American Federation of Teachers also declined to comment.
"Across the states, 12.2 percent of all families -- urban, rural and suburban -- send their children to private schools," says the report, based on 2000 census data.
Public school teachers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Baltimore registered the most dissatisfaction with the schools in which they teach.
... in cities like Milwaukee... where 29.4 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools... [Emphasis supplied.]
Bluntly put, it is a mistake for poor blacks like the picketer to support teachers unions. They do not represent their interests.
But the ill-educated picketer might be forgiven his failure to understand this. We need to do a better job at getting the word out, that the government, and in particular, unionized teachers are no friend of the poor. Government workers have not the same interest business has in a well-educated, healthy and productive work force.
What cannot be forgiven is that better educated citizens persist in clinging to and promoting false and damaging memes that undermine society.
No better example of this is Attorney General Eric Holder, B.A. Columbia College, J.D., Columbia Law School, who outrageously tried to deflect justifiable criticism of his decision to drop a case his department had won against thuggery at the polling place in Philadelphia by the New Black Panther Party by dealing the race card from the bottom of his deck.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the case, he kept giving evasive answers. Congressman Culberson pressed Holder to answer the charge by another witness that the Panther behavior was the worst voter intimidation case he's seen in his lifetime, Holder responded, "When you compare what people endured in the South to try to get the right to vote for African-Americans to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia...does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all for my people."
Holder, of course, is the representative of ALL the people in the U.S. and has taken an oath to defend the Constitution and laws of this country, which most certainly means he is duty bound to enforce equally all cases of voter intimidation, whether the voters being intimidated are white or black. His answer proves the charges against him that the Department is selectively enforcing the Voters Rights Act in line with some benighted notion of payback or what is unaccountably referred to as "social justice." Racism is racism and has an equally pernicious, corrosive effect on society no matter who is engaging in it. People obey the law because they think that overall it is fair and is being fairly enforced. When it is obviously not the case, people see no reason to comply or to try to get legal redress and are encouraged to seek extra-legal means to resolve disputes.
Holder is not alone in suggesting that social justice requires disadvantaging whites. The city of Seattle's leaders apparently share this view. Its "race and social justice initiative" aims to redress past discrimination against blacks and other racial minorities by reducing minority prosecutions for law breaking by 90 percent, subjecting immigrants -- legal and illegal -- to lighter sentences for fear they might get deported and jiggering its hiring policies because jobs requiring college degrees are considered "racist" since more whites than minorities have such degrees.
Finally, there's a suggestion that the President, under deserved fire, grabbed for the race card. U.S. News and World Report, flogging a book by one of its correspondents, said that in a May 2010 private White house dinner suggested that the tea party protests were probably motivated by racial animosity toward him. Tom Maguire suggests that Obama was just pandering again to rich donors like those who he once talked about bitter clingers.
"I think (hope?!?) he was being polite to some fat-cat donors rather than describing his own convictions (and I am bitterly clinging to the notion that he has some convictions)." Tom, did concede though, that given his track record, Obama might actually believe that opposition to his policies is racist: "THEN AGAIN: The First Panderer is also the First Condescender, so he might very well believe the worst of these lowly Tea Partiers..."
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal says the magazine, in promoting a book by one of its own, may have sensationalized the exchange and the President only said that a "subterranean [racist] agenda exists'.
To my mind even the most generous version, Taranto's, suggests a lack of character and is no more defensible in a President than Holder's and Seattle's actions. Perhaps if our elected officials understood that opposition to their policies might be meritorious and worth listening to, they might craft laws and practices worth respecting. Perhaps if they did the harder job of actually trying to deal with the causes of racial disparity -- fighting the teachers unions, encouraging intact families, defending capitalism and abjuring racial pandering -- we all would be better off.
In the end though, what I think of their conduct doesn't matter as much as the fact that Holder, Seattle and Obama are playing with dynamite and the damage -- whether intentional or "subterranean" -- would be to an orderly, productive, law-abiding society, which offers the best possible life for people of all races and economic station.
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