I started out liberal: the child of Asian immigrants, both parents always voting Democratic.
Then, at college one day, I was sipping coffee in the cafeteria, which featured an enormous glass window. Suddenly, my reverie was broken by the crash of that window being smashed. It was broken deliberately by a mob of black students carrying signs such as “Free Housing for Bridge Students.” “Bridge” was a program that admitted blacks and Hispanics to my prestigious public university with far lower grades and test scores than those required of Asians and whites. That struck me as an example of biting the hand that feeds you: increased entitlement rather than gratitude and subsequent hard work. It was also my first awareness of redistribution, since my parents’ taxes would be paying for the damage. My dismay accelerated when, in my classes, it was clear that most of the black students were grossly underprepared yet felt entitled to ask question after question, slowing the class down.
The next prod toward a realistic view of race occurred when—still as a liberal—I took a job running drug-prevention groups in a largely non-white high school. A number of the kids were very undisciplined—running around the classroom—and when I firmly but calmly asked them to sit down, I was met with such responses as, “Make me! You ain’t my father.” I could not believe that such behavior was caused by the explanations they taught me in college: “the legacy of slavery,” “income inequality,” or “white privilege.”
I quit in shame because of my inability to control the class, let alone get them to slow their drug use; by high school, they already were well beyond experimentation. But with liberal ideology so firmly implanted in my brain, I mainly blamed myself and decided that what I needed was more education, so I got a PhD in education from an Ivy League university.
Despite that university’s liberal reputation, I occasionally had a professor who was not liberal. One said, “80 percent of kids will learn to read and 20 percent won’t, no matter what methods you use and how much you spend.” Even my liberal professors provided solid evidence that IQ and its correlates (SAT, GRE, etc.) are the strongest predictors of school and life achievement, and that they overpredict black student performance. That is, blacks, on average, do worse in college than their test scores would predict. (For a current review of the literature on this, see The Neuroscience of Intelligence.) That was a major turning point for me. Before, while I was aware of blacks’ high crime rate and poor performance in school and at work, I ascribed it to the usual liberal explanations.
In graduate school, I attended a talk by a libertarian woman—unfortunately, I can’t recall her name—who said something I’ll never forget. She asked, “If the reason for high black crime rates and low achievement is racism, elitism, classism, and so on, why has there not been one country in the world, at any time in history, in which black achievement isn’t at the bottom? That’s true of majority-black nations, formerly colonized nations, as well as other nations.” She then said, “Now let’s look at Latinos. There are 21 countries in Central and South America. Can you name one that gives you confidence that a Latino USA would be a better USA?”
After completing my PhD, armed with the best that educational theory has to offer, I returned to inner-city high school teaching. Alas, despite a class size of just 15 and profound effort, I felt I was making little difference. I prepared carefully for all lessons, tried to be charismatic and kind while firm, and maximized time on crucial subjects such as reading, writing, and math. I came up with unusual motivating methods. I visited my students’ homes to try to engage the parents. I so often saw a drunken or stoned parent living in a smelly pigsty. Could this really be caused by racism?
But the coup de grace was this: I had recruited a neighbor, a kind woman, to be my classroom aide. And in yet another attempt to be a good liberal, I invited my entire class to stay at our home for a weekend so my students could experience a middle-class life, including being around my daughter. There wasn’t enough room in my house for all of them, so some stayed at my aide’s house. Two of them raped her. The aide—a Berkeley liberal hippie—insisted that I not report the rape to the police. She said she didn’t want to “ruin their lives.”
I quit, not only because of that, but because despite all my efforts—and I had the same kids for two years—I felt I made no significant, enduring difference. Indeed, a few of the kids (now decades later) keep in touch with me and each of their lives is the stereotype: They have lots of children and are in and out of government programs. One proudly told me she’s a lesbian and has sex with men so she can “give ’em my HIV.”
Over the years, I learned that trying to close the achievement gap is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. Even the Obama Administration’s meta-analysis of Head Start found it doesn’t work. Spending $7 billion to turn around “low-performing” schools was a failure. The U.S. ranks at or near the top on education spending yet scores near the bottom on PISA scores among developed countries and the achievement gap remains as large as ever.
What feels most unfair and bad for society is that the liberals have reallocated resources from average and top students to the weakest. For example, for decades now, schools replaced ability-grouped classes with mixed-ability classes on the assumption that low achievers will benefit from being with brighter students. Not surprisingly, any benefits are outweighed by the decrease in the amount of appropriate-level instruction because of the wide range of students in the class. A second-order meta-analysis of the effects of placing students in groups by ability demonstrate that all students—high- medium- and low achievers—benefit when they are grouped separately by ability. But that doesn’t stop the liberals, who’d rather see students do worse as long as it’s equal. Similarly distressing, most programs for the intellectually gifted have been largely or completely defunded and repurposed as programs for the “gifted and talented,” which means the programs do not help intellectually gifted kids live up to their potential as our future leaders, doctors, and bridge builders.
The focus on redistribution extends even to special education students. Students with severe behavioral or learning disabilities—with autism, retardation, etc.—are required by law to be mainstreamed to the maximum extent possible, meaning they are in over their heads and the bright students are bored.
As I’ve become more sensitized to these issues, I’ve wanted to write about them. But while I’m easily published on apolitical topics, when I write about the issues I discuss here, I’m censored—always. For example, I wrote what I believe is my best book, which discussed these issues. It was rejected by 20 publishers. The editor at Simon and Schuster wrote me, “Your book is excellent, but I’d be scared to even bring it up to the publication board—they’re all liberals, women, and minorities.” The censorship from the Left is far more crushing than the McCarthyism that liberals continue to harp on decades later.
This has increased my sensitivity to media bias. While I have concerns about President Trump, the juxtaposition of mainstream media running essentially an eight-year commercial for Obama and Hillary, and the 24/7 assault on Trump is unfair and not in society’s interest. The media has gone from its appropriate role as presenter of the full range of responsibly held positions to leftist agitator-in-chief.
I’m not an across-the-board conservative. I think protectionism is a short-term feel-good, long-term disaster. I’m not a fan of materialism. I’m pro-choice, and favor gay marriage and the right to die. I’m in favor of modest regulation. But many of my views are now conservative because I believe the world is best when—as every battlefield medic knows—most resources are invested in the people not with the greatest deficit but those with the greatest potential to profit. I also believe that government is a terribly poor steward of our tax dollars. Our money is better left in our pockets.
I am not brave enough to write this under my name but hope this encourages others to stand up—if only anonymously—lest the biased voices of the media-inflamed public burn down America to replace it with what is likely to be just another struggling Third-World nation.
The author is a well-known public intellectual who has been published and interviewed countless times in America’s most prestigious mainstream media. She feels she cannot be honest publicly about the issues discussed here.