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Jewish World Review / June 15, 1998 / 21 Sivan, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell A changing of the guard?

IT WAS BIG NEWS WHEN MARION BARRY announced that he would not run for re-election as mayor of Washington. It was not nearly as big news when Pennsylvania state representative Dwight Evans -- also black -- won 75 percent of the vote in his local Democratic primary, despite the opposition of unions that poured $150,000 into the campaign to try to defeat him.

Marion Barry epitomized the old and now increasingly discredited black political "leadership" that has so long been the tail on the liberal kite. Fighting the battles of the past, these "leaders" pay little
He was once dubbed "the mayor for life."
The times, they are a changin'. Maybe.
attention to the social tragedies within the black community today. Any criticism of these politicians' own shortcomings, corruption or even crimes are automatically met with charges of "racism."

Worst of all, the black political establishment has become so self-serving that it opposes things urgently wanted and needed by the very minority communities they claim to represent. No segment of the American population is more in favor of school vouchers than blacks. Yet no political bloc is more solidly opposed to vouchers than the Congressional Black Caucus.

To put it bluntly, the black establishment is dependent on the liberal establishment in general and the labor unions in particular. The National Education Association, with a substantial bloc of delegates to the Democratic convention, is one of the biggest political contributors to both national and state political campaigns -- almost invariably for the Democrats.

The NEA is bitterly opposed to school vouchers, and those who want its support had better be. The NEA is the 800-pound gorilla of the Democratic Party.

State representative Dwight Evans is one of the first black elected officials to break ranks on this issue. He has come out in favor of vouchers. That is why the unions poured in 150 grand to try to defeat him in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

The fact that this massive union effort failed completely when the voters went to the polls is one of the most heartening developments in itself and may encourage other blacks in politics to start representing their own communities, rather than the fat cats and rain-makers of the Democratic Party.

If so, this year may be remembered not because a sickening demagogue like Marion Barry bowed out but because there was the beginning of a changing of the guard among black elected officials.

It won't happen overnight. But time alone is guaranteed to remove from the scene those generals who keep fighting the last war instead of taking on the battles ahead.

Among the most urgent of those battles is bringing black youngsters up to standard educationally. Instead, black "leaders" are spending their time attacking the tests that show how far behind these students are.

That is certainly a lot safer politically than attacking the National Education Association. But it will not help the substandard educational performances revealed by the tests.

These tests are like thermometers -- and most of the criticisms of these tests could be made against thermometers. After all, no one considers thermometers infallible predictors or the be-all and end-all of medical science. But when your temperature reads 104 degrees, that is the time to get help fast, not score points against thermometers.

Ironically, black students have not always performed as badly on these tests as they do today. Back in 1899, Washington had four academic high schools -- three white and one black. On standardized tests given that year, the black high school outperformed two of the three white high schools.

Today, nearly a century later, anyone who even proposed such a thing as a goal would be considered hopelessly utopian. Yet the black high school that held its own in competition with white high schools in 1899 continued to do so for more than half a century.

But that same school cannot come close to doing so today. How could it have succeeded in the era of racial segregation and discrimination, including overcrowded classes, and yet fail miserably today when it has a modern building and the D.C. schools have some of the highest expenditures per pupil in the nation?

Black "leaders" don't even want to ask such questions because it might reveal that they have been barking up the wrong tree for a very long time.

6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.