Thursday, August 09, 2012

The "D" Word

Today's reading assignment is from Heather MacDonald, writing in the indispensable City Journal.

As she observes, one of the Obama Administration "reforms" that is flying beneath the public radar is its crusade for "equity" in school discipline. In other words, Team Obama believes that minority students are unfairly singled out for the most severe forms of punishment, including suspension.

In other words, the Obama White House and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are trying to destroy what little bit of order and discipline remain in America's classrooms. MacDonald recounts one example from the St. Paul (Minnesota) school system, which has spent millions of dollars on "anti-suspension" programs:

Aaron Benner, a fifth-grade teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota, scoffs at the notion that minority students are being unfairly targeted for discipline. “Anyone in his right mind knows that these [disciplined] students are extremely disruptive,” he says. Like districts across the county, the St. Paul public school system has been on a mission to lower the black suspension rate, following complaints by local activists and black parents. A highly regarded principal lost his job because his school had “too many” suspensions of black second- and fourth-graders. The school system has sent its staff to $350,000 worth of “cultural-proficiency” training, where they learned to “examine the presence and role of ‘Whiteness.’ ” The district spent another $2 million or so to implement an anti-suspension behavioral-modification program embraced by the Obama administration.

Benner sees the consequences of this anti-discipline push nearly every day in the worsening behavior of students. He overheard a fifth-grade boy tell a girl: “B----, I’ll f--- you and s--- you.” (“I wanted to throw him against the locker,” Benner recalls.) The boy’s teacher told Benner that she felt powerless to punish the misbehavior. “This will be one of my black men who ends up in prison after raping a woman,” observes Benner. Racist? Many would so characterize the comment. But Benner is black himself—and fed up with the excuses for black misbehavior. He attended one of the district’s cultural-proficiency sessions, where an Asian teacher asked: “How do I help the student who blurts out answers and disrupts the class?” The black facilitator reminded her: “That’s what black culture is”—an answer that echoes the Obama administration’s admonitions to teachers. “I should have said: ‘How many of you shouted out in college?’ ” Benner remarks. “They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.”

Tired of writing up disciplinary referrals that had no further effect, Benner finally did the unthinkable: he spoke out to St. Paul’s board of education last December. “Disruptive students cannot remain in my room and affect those who want to learn,” he pleaded. Even more controversially, he laid the primary responsibility for student misbehavior on parents and community leaders, rather than on racism and cultural insensitivity. The “achievement gap / suspension gap is a black issue. My community must take the lead in correcting our children’s behavior,” he said.

For his honesty, Mr. Benner has been called an "Uncle Tom" (and worse) by members of the civil rights establishment. But his description of out-of-control schools has been verified by a number of other educators across the country. Yet, the Obama Administration is continuing its crusade against "unequal" school discipline. Of course, this is the same bunch that recently ended work requirements for welfare recipients, so why not go to bat for the the most disruptive (and dangerous) students in the nation's public school systems?

A few years ago, USA Today conducted a survey of the nation's teachers. Almost half said they spent most of their time trying to maintain order in the classroom. Since then, we imagine, things have only gotten worse. All of the pathologies that have wrecked the nation's families are well-established in the nation's schools, creating students who are out-of-control and make it impossible for anyone to learn.

Once upon a time, suspension and permanent removal were once effective tools for getting rid of trouble-makers in our schools, but those days are long since past. Today, principals, superintendents and school boards cower in fear of civil rights attorneys and lawsuits. And, with the Obama Administration squarely behind the miscreants, efforts to suspend (or expel) these students will effectively end.

As with much of Ms. MacDonald's work, the article is well worth the read. And, if you care about education, consider flagging it for future reference. If you think America's public schools are bad now, given them another 5-10 years, when the last vestiges of discipline and order have vanished from the classroom. At that point, we'll be racing countries like Zimbabwe for the very bottom on standardized tests.

If you have children approaching school age, think long and hard before enrolling your kids in the local public system. "Discipline equity" may well be the final nail in the coffin of American education.

1 comment:

Vigilis said...

"...'Discipline equity' may well be the final nail in the coffin of American education."

No argument with the corrosive effect on education, but the ill-conceived measure would have more far-reaching implications than burying America's public education. Imagine the lifelong expectations ingrained into graduates of such stilted discipline. Next, imagine them as sitting trial jurors.

Any pretense of blind Justice will go by the boards. Crimes by affected youth and no doubt their offspring would inevitably increase.

An obvious result would be heavy demand and job security for trial lawyers, but stilted verdicts by misguided jurors could corrupt America's system of due process, which would become a rusty nail in our U.S. Constitution!