Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Bush at Yale - Embracing Mediocrity

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Bush at Yale - Embracing Mediocrity

Article excerpt

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Bush at Yale -- Embracing Mediocrity

Excuse me if I am not charmed by President George W. Bush's self-deprecating good humor. When he pokes fun at himself, in my opinion, he is also letting others know that, at the end of the day, the joke is on them. Consider, for example, his commencement address at Yale University. While congratulating those who earned academic honors, he reminded those with "C" averages that they, too, could become President of the United States. Sure they could, if they had the money and the hubris to shoplift Florida the same way a petty thief with light fingers cleans out the corner grocery store.

While Mr. Bush would have us consider him the "education president" -- with his plans to decimate public education with private school vouchers and reduce teaching creativity to the regimentation of annual standardized tests -- his fun-in-your-face Yale commencement speech suggests that he could not pass the tests he so relentlessly pushes on others. Further, it suggests that while this president speaks of educational excellence he is willing to poke fun at excellence and embrace the mediocrity he has wallowed in for much of his life.

As a White male beneficiary of affirmative action, Bush has inherited the smugness he needs to tell Yale graduates that a "C" average will do. Meanwhile, with unemployment rates rising in the African American community and with new college graduates facing employment challenges, those African Americans who get "good jobs" will have to show better than "C" grades to get a foot in the door. Of course, if they had dads like Baby Bush, then life would be nothing but a party until 40. Unfortunately, for young Black men, life begins at 13, when they are subject to adult penalties for committing capital crimes. The fact that Mr. Bush fails to understand, or address, this double standard speaks to his racial and social myopia. The same bully pulpit that he used to tell bad jokes about himself might have been used to advance important causes and speak to the great hurdles that those African Americans who graduated from Yale had cleared.

That would have required some introspection, though, and that is something that Mr. Bush does not specialize in. He delights in being portrayed as the bumbling frat boy who made good, the fella who can't string a sentence together but can plunge a nation into war. He has the luxury of eschewing hard work in his personal life and declaring the world as nothing more than his hand-me-down oyster. …

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