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Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2001 / 28 Shevat, 5761

Walter Williams

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Consumer Reports

Fiddling whilst rome burns -- WHAT'S an important priority for black politicians and civil-rights organizations? First, there's the Confederate flag that must be removed from public buildings in South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. Then there was the John Ashcroft attorney general nomination that had to be fought. Of course, we can't leave out the importance of the dimpled ballots and chads in Florida's presidential election.

Low on black politicians' and civil-rights organizations' priority list is an education system that's making many young blacks virtually useless in the high-tech world of the 21st century. A sample of this folly can be seen by looking at education in California. "Cal State Expels 2,009 Students for Lack of Skills," read the Jan. 24 Los Angeles Times headline. Kenneth R. Weiss, L.A. Times staff writer, reported that the California State University system kicked out 2,009 students, 6 percent of last year's freshman class, for failing to master basic math and English skills in their first year of classes.

Seventy-three percent of black freshmen and 37 percent of white freshman require remedial math. Sixty-six percent of black freshmen and 28 percent of white freshmen require remedial English. On California State University campuses with large black student enrollment, such as the Dominguez Hills campus, 80 percent of freshmen require remedial math and English. At times, close to 90 percent of freshmen required remedial classes.

Black students who attend California State University campuses are more than likely not high-school troublemakers and they probably received good grades. The fact that high proportions of them require remedial classes in English and math, and many are failing to master remedial material, ought to tell us something. That something is: Both the high-school grades they received and high-school diplomas conferred were fraudulent, and grossly so. The tragedy is compounded by the fact there is no way that four years of college can make up for 12 years of shoddy education.

The education establishment has many excuses for black low academic achievement: apathetic and irresponsible parents, violent and disruptive students, and students who are alien and hostile to the education process. The education establishment is correct when it says that these anti-learning factors are beyond their control; however, it has total control over grades assigned and diplomas conferred. When a diploma is conferred, it certifies that the recipient has mastered high-school level material. A student so certified who cannot perform at the eighth- and ninth-grade levels has a fraudulent diploma. It's like meat sold as fresh and, when you get it home, you find it maggot-laden.

Many students with fraudulent diplomas reside in California Democrat Maxine Waters' 35th Congressional District. But when have you heard of her demanding an investigation or doing anything meaningful about the fraudulent education delivered to her constituents?

Waters isn't alone in aiding and abetting a corrupt education system; just about every black and civil-rights leader is doing the same. They don't intend to sabotage and mediocritize black education; it's an unfortunate end-product of the alliances they've formed.

The National Education Association (NEA) is an important ally to black politicians; the largest percentage of black professionals are primary- and secondary-school teachers. As such, the only "solutions" black politicians can demand are those the NEA would have them demand: more money, more teachers and lately smaller class sizes. Strict accountability for fraudulent education destruction is off the table.

History won't be very kind to today's black mayors, state legislators and congressmen when it examines how black youngsters have had their futures compromised by a callous, corrupt education system while black politicians not only fiddled but organized resistance to any measure that might introduce accountability.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate