Jewish World Review April 16, 1999 /27 Nissan 5759
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
If so-called educators were as serious about educating minority youngsters as they are about getting federal money, we would see a stampede toward outstanding ghetto schools, to find out how they do it. There is no such stampede. There is not even a crowd gathering.
It is much the same story at the college level. No one cares that the most black students who go on to become doctors come from a small black institution named Xavier University in New Orleans. Although black colleges enrol only 25 percent of all black college students, their students receive 40 percent of all science and engineering degrees received by black students. Of the ten undergraduate institutions whose black students go on to receive the most Ph.D.s in science, six are black institutions.
This is far more remarkable today than it would have been during the Jim Crow era, when most black students went to black colleges. But today there are more blacks at Ohio State than at Xavier.
Ironically, a recent and much ballyhooed book by two retired Ivy League university presidents claims that racial preferences at elite institutions are the key to creating a black middle class. Yet here is non-elite and little-known Xavier of Louisiana sending more of its graduates on to receive science degrees than does Harvard or Princeton.
Nor is Xavier the only institution defying the conventional wisdom on minority education. So are those ghetto schools which succeed academically, despite sociologists and psychologists who assure us that they must fail because of poverty, broken homes, and the rest.
The magic political word is "investing" in education. But the painful fact is that decades of pouring massive amounts of federal money into our public schools have not only failed to improve the academic performances of the students, this flood of money was for years accompanied by declining SAT scores that we have never been able to get back to their 1963 level. Worse yet, all this money has spawned a whole generation of hustlers concocting "programs" that promise miracle cures for educational woes.
When those woes can be turned into hard cash from Uncle Sam, do not be surprised that failure attracts so much more attention than success. With failure, you have a case for getting more money for bilingual education, for black English, for "self-esteem," for "whole language," for "sexual awareness," for whatever.
In this context, ghetto schools that achieve academic success without all these programs are at best a distraction from the real goals of harvesting bountiful crops of federal largess. At worst, they undermine the whole shaky set of assumptions and theories that justify this outpouring of cash from Washington.
Ordinarily you might expect that shaky claims by people seeking money would be examined with some skepticism by those handing out the money. But the money involved here is not the money of those who are handing it out. It is the taxpayers' money.
What matters to those in Washington is not whether pouring more billions down a bottomless pit will improve education. What matters is that dispensing federal bounty will improve the political image of those doing it. It will also gain the formidable political and financial support of the big teachers union, the National Education Association.
Strings that come with federal money will enable Washington to control the local schools, maintaining those programs and practices that are in vogue inside the Beltway, whether or not such programs or practices work, and whether or not parents or others object.
Those who talk loudest about "investing" in education are also the ones most opposed to letting parents have choices as to where to send their children, through vouchers, tax credits or otherwise. The education establishment wants those children kept in the public schools for the same reason that cattle barons want their livestock kept in a corral. That's how they make their money.
Leave those corral doors open just a little and there could be a stampede
out of there. That is why the teachers union and their political allies are
bitterly opposed to even the most modest voucher
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