The chief aim of US public K-12 education over the last half century had been to get children in the 85 to 90 IQ range (i.e., mainly blacks and Hispanics), most of whom are poorly motivated, to perform as if they were well-motivated students with IQs of 100 or higher. Billions have been wasted on every educational gimmick imaginable, and even larger futile government expenditures are on the horizon. It is almost like drug addiction.
How can this be reversed? This is no small task, given the powerful political forces pushing for gap-closing, regardless of cost. Any solution requires a clear-eyed understanding of what education means to most blacks.
First, blacks, especially lower class blacks, generally care more about the outward appearance of “being educated” (e.g., the diploma, social prestige) than actual learning. This is why blacks often accept inflated graduation statistics and cheating on standardized tests. Many even demand diplomas for students who fail school exit exams, and promote self-esteem over actual accomplishment. Genuine academic excellence is being pushed primarily by middle-class whites and Asians.
Second, many blacks see schools as a source of jobs and contracts rather than as places to acquire knowledge. Jobs and contracts, moreover, are to be awarded to blacks regardless of qualifications or experience. Given a choice between a Spartan white-run school with stellar academics (even for blacks), versus an over-the-top black-run Taj Mahal with hundreds of jobs and lucrative contracts but a dismal academic record, many blacks prefer the latter.
Third, blacks generally are more forgiving of the traits of “bad schools” that most whites find deplorable: classroom disorder, criminality, lack of discipline, vandalism, thievery, and the like. If white administrators attempt to shutter these chaotic, violent schools, black parents typically resist. This is hardly surprising; these schools mean jobs for fellow blacks.
We therefore have a clash of cultures: Well-intentioned middle-class whites are trying to transform schools dominated by underclass blacks into “white” schools. Most blacks want the economic benefits of a “good education” but, alas, refuse to pay the price of attending “white” schools. They will resist reform, regardless of how whites approach the task, while white reformers refuse to realize that many (if not most) blacks refuse to understand that “education” means learning. This battle is a recipe for bankruptcy, since nothing–absolutely nothing–will produce miracles.
The only solution is to free “black schools” from white standards, and let blacks run them according to their own values. This is easier than one might guess–drastic decentralization will do the trick, and will satisfy everyone ideologically.
Begin by eliminating tests on which blacks perform poorly. If it is too tough politically to abandon them outright, just dumb them down so everyone passes. Or we can just tolerate cheating in black schools.
Likewise, stop insisting on a standard (“white”) curriculum. If blacks replace US history with African-American history, even Ebonics or Swahili, so be it. Also drop the demand for minimal literacy and numeracy. Let’s just call this “academic freedom” (or “intellectual diversity”), and make things more palatable by stressing the importance of non-academic skills in education.
This solution hardly condemns blacks to an inferior education. Blacks who want a decent education for their children (and there are many) can enroll them in “white” schools. Nor is this a return to government-imposed segregation; it simply acknowledges that groups differ in educational expectations.
Indeed, cultural sensitivity is ubiquitous in American education and not something to be reserved for blacks. American education in general is notable for its variety, and this is judged a virtue, not a liability. There are white schools that stress athletics over academics or give watered-down, feel-good diplomas. We have religious schools of all faiths, military schools, schools awash in progressive ideology, and schools specializing in music, art, technology, language, or vocational skills. In fact, there are already a fair number of schools (both public and private) that are explicitly “African,” and few complain.
Local control is a throwback to the now infamous New York City Ocean Hill-Brownville experiment during the late 1960s. With help from the Ford Foundation, the city’s Board of Education turned over a group of schools in a black neighborhood to local blacks. The aim was to boost sorrowful black academic performance on the theory that blacks could better teach their own. The upshot was wholesale firing of white teachers, and contracts awarded to black businesses. There was corruption, cronyism, incompetence, and anti-white rhetoric. Scores on standardized tests soon declined.
The experiment was eventually ended due to (largely) white union opposition over the lack of due process in teacher terminations, not because the black community was upset by deteriorating schools. Conceivably, if the fired white teachers had received generous severance packages or were just re-assigned to other schools, these corrupt, inept, community-run schools would still be in existence.
The mechanics of updated community control are simple. Each school (or school district) would receive a lump sum for discretionary expenses based only on enrollment figures (adjustments might require extra money for disabled students as per federal law). To prevent complete collapse, the central administration would pay fixed expenses such as utilities, insurance, capital improvements and the like. Additional funds could be secured from foundations and from all those liberals who are always eager to help struggling blacks.
The money could be spent with the widest possible discretion, subject only to certain legal prohibitions. If black-dominated school boards want to hire unqualified black teachers, their friends and relatives, and use textbooks published by black-owned firms, no problem. Ditto for funding extravagant proms versus buying science equipment. Most importantly, graduates of these schools will not be measured against “white” standards. And, truth be told, outcomes would probably resemble what already occurs when black students are forced into the Procrustean bed of “white” education.
White middle-class reformers will be outraged, but this solution reflects today’s widely accepted notions of multi-culturalism and sensitivity to the needs of victimized populations. Localism also reflects school choice, and since black parents will be making the choice, white liberals will keep quiet. Other groups will benefit. Asians, for example, will reject frills and fads in favor of science and mathematics.
Moreover, since everybody will get exactly the same public educational funding, and many blacks will get exactly the kind of public education they want–not what whites think they should want–the days of limitless spending to close racial gaps will come to an end.