Dubious Scholarship Feeds Racial Politics in Schools

Article excerpt

Is your local school district racist? According to a new think-tank report, the answer is surely yes. The report, "Facing the Consequences: An Examination of Racial Discrimination in U.S. Public Schools," published March 1 by the Oakland, Calif.-based Applied Research Council, or ARC, was coauthored by Rebecca Gordon, Terry Keleher and Libero Della Piana.

You've probably never heard of the Ford Foundation-supported ARC, aka ERASE (Expose Racism & Advance School Excellence), but take heed: American education is dominated by radical, racialist groups like it and by the research they produce.

The ARC/ERASE report, the recipient of a 1,000-word puff piece in the March 1 New York Times, maintained that in the 12 school districts studied, minority students and teacher applicants were the victims of vicious discrimination. The districts were in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Miami-Dade County; Denver; Durham, N.C.; Missoula, Mont.; Providence, R.I.; Columbia, S.C.; Salem, Ore.; and San Francisco. The alleged discrimination took the form of much higher suspension and expulsion rates for black students; zero-tolerance policies that have a disparate impact on black students; fewer advanced-placement classes for black students; and proportions of black and Hispanic teachers that were lower than those of black or Hispanic students, respectively. Another form of alleged "proof" of racism was a district's refusal to hand over the racial information the researchers demanded.

The report's centerpiece was its "racial-justice report card," which flunked schools that did not subordinate all of their hiring, grading and disciplinary decisions to racial quotas. It never occurred to ARC/ERASE that making people's treatment dependent on their race or ethnicity itself is racist.

Consider teaching. In New York City, where more than 80 percent of public-school children are black or Hispanic, one-third of all active teachers have flunked the New York state certification exam three or more times. That is grounds for automatic dismissal. But when the city board of education sought to fire the incompetents, the vast majority of whom were black or Hispanic, activists cried "Racism!" and the city backed down. Since a teacher's own academic talent is the primary determinant of his success as a teacher, these inept teachers are robbing students of an education. No wonder then that half of New York City's 1.1 million public-school children are illiterate.

As Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom showed in their epic 1997 work, America in Black and White, things are hardly better in California. In 1996, a California judge threw out a lawsuit by 50,000 applicants for minority teaching positions who had failed the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). Charging racial discrimination, the plaintiffs "not only sought to dumb down or abolish the CBEST altogether; they also wanted back pay for all prospective teachers who flunked the test and additional monetary damages to compensate for psychological trauma," the Thernstroms wrote. …