“Regrettable” that Blacks/Latinos are Naughty: Race/Racism Expunged in US

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An infinity of good and bad things get unevenly distributed across populations for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the kinds of discrimination that are banned in our laws and Constitution. Chester Finn

Congratulations, us Americans can officially pat ourselves on the back. From my estimation, from where I sit, women have now gained full equality in the United States, and the world for that matter. I realized that they only gained the right to vote in the past century. I also acknowledge that the data continues to show differential gaps in equality, such as in the wage disparity for the same jobs. But heck, from where I sit as a man, women have gained full equality. All this talk about disparate impact is just silly, sexism is NOT alive and well. And well, if you insist on talking about the differential treatment that women purportedly receive in society, you are sexist yourself. I don’t experience this boogie man that you call sexism, so it does not exist. So there.

Inane isn’t it? If I were to make this statement, I will have willfully ignored my own positionality as a man.

And so, Chester Finn, recently weighed in on school discipline, racism and students of color in EducationNext. Who is he? Wikipedia:

A former professor of education, an educational policy analyst, and a former United States Assistant Secretary of Education. He is currently the president of the nonprofit Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington, D.C.He is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Education, an Adjunct Fellow at theHudson Institute, and a senior fellow at Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution where he chairs the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

You knew it was going to go sideways when he began with this:

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest?

Then ended with this:

What if it is simply true—regrettable, but true—that some kids or groups of kids break school rules more often than others?

He then blames the victim. Why do students of color receive poorly qualified teachers. Well because of them of course!?

Many reasons, of course, including the disruptive and insufficiently disciplined atmosphere in some such schools, but also because—thanks, once more, to the teacher unions—veteran instructors enjoy contractual provisions that allow them to choose their schools and for some reason (badly behaved students, perchance?) more than a few shun inner-city postings.

So what his solution? Choice of course. Who is the boogie person? Unions.

Data such as these create an even stronger argument for school choice—charters, vouchers, and more—to enable low-income families whose kids are serious students to escape intolerable schools for better ones. (Let’s hope Ms. Ali’s enforcers don’t bully the charter and private schools into disciplinary submission, too.) On some parts of the choice agenda—charters in particular—the Obama-Duncan administration has been positive. It’s been death on vouchers, though, even in inner-city Washington D.C., due in no small part to its pals in the teacher unions.

Passé. See my thoughts on “choice”: (Parent Trigger, Vouchers, Charters)

He says beware of this “sort of thing.” You know, Civil Rights enforcement. He quotes Gary Orfield:

Long-time activist Gary Orfield is calling for “stepped-up enforcement actions by the Office for Civil Rights to respond to the stark disparities in discipline, not to mention the many other indicators of injustice and inequity. For example, the number of “disparate impact” interventions has been disappointing… OCR should actively investigate the pronounced disparities revealed by the data. Where unjustifiable policies are to blame, OCR should use its enforcement authority as well as technical assistance resources to spur schools and districts to replace the ineffective policies with less discriminatory ones.”

I don’t think Chester Finn will be accused of being too informed anytime soon.

Clearly, school discipline is metted out in unequal ways. Research has long shown that for the exact same disciplinary issue, that Blacks and Latinos receive disparate treatment— especially boys. For education talking heads, dealing with and conceptualizing discipline in schools appears to be a mystery to them.

According to Chester Finn, regrettably, Blacks/Latino students are just naughty and race/racism have been expunged in the US. He hasn’t seen or experienced it recently.

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Categories: African Americans, Latina/os, Vouchers

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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3 Comments on ““Regrettable” that Blacks/Latinos are Naughty: Race/Racism Expunged in US”

  1. Monty J. Thornburg
    April 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Chester Finn:

    From my perspective, as a white teacher, Chester Finn’s comments are racist and sexist on their face. I want to note that my high school students, who live in a “white world environment’ where several have parents and grandparents blatantly make racist and sexist comments at home; in homes where racism, anti-Semitism, and particularly homo phobia are also apparent; see the racism going on in society.

    Of course, Chester doesn’t see it where he lives, I assume, or why would he say these things? And, he would likely resent me having said this here! I’ve been accused of being racist and I know how much that can hurt! Personally, for the sake of my comfort, I would appreciate it very much if what Chester Finn says were true! And, I think simply believing what he says provides comfort for some. After all; he is an “expert” in the field of education; and in the area of school discipline, or claims to be.

    However, as an “expert” myself, Re: school-wide discipline, and violence prevention strategies (my dissertation topic)! I feel a need to say I NEVER found anything credible on the topic by Chester Finn!

    There are many authors whose work is credible and I’ll leave you with some of their names: Aber, L., Bogotch, I.E., Baker, K., Borelli, J., Curwin, R.C. & Mendler, A., Devine, J., Elliott, D.S., Goldstein, A.P., Hoffman, A.M., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., King, J.E., Kozol, J., Lantieri, L. & Patti, J., McNiel, L.M., Miron, L.F., Munger, L., Noguera, P., Prothro-Stith, D., Rodrick, T., Starratt, R.J., Stavahn, L., …

    While some of these names and their academic research is now dated, (my dissertation was completed in 2001), I can also add real life experience far beyond what I imagine Chester Finn could provide. That is, I have been, a “white teacher” in “black schools” and he’s just full of it! What was MOST FRUSTRATING for me was the lack of resources and “tier level effect” (Devine, J., McNiel, L.M., Noguera, P.)! These authors all elegantly discussed the “effect” from different perspectives and their work is based on RESEARCH.

    It is disheartening to learn that such attitudes pass in the “high minded” institutions named.

  2. thisguyteaches
    April 25, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Perhaps there is a mid-ground between, “teachers and administrators are a pack of racists” and “white kids are just better”?

    That kind of thing doesn’t make for good advocacy writing, but it’s naive to think that the impact of systemic poverty among racial minorities in America disappears at the school door and that there are no differences between racial/economic groups.

    Teachers in truly diverse schools (an actual mix of many racial groups, not just “diverse” meaning “non-white”) see that there are real differences in behavior patterns. This is not necessarily a value judgment, but a simple acknowledgment that what the kid has seen at home and lived in his neighborhood impacts what he does and how he reacts at school.

    – Is he from a household where authority is discussed respectfully or disrespectfully?
    – Does the parent use his child as a sounding board for stress and dissatisfaction?
    – Is the child taught racism/sexism/homophobia at home?
    – Was the parent experience at school positive or negative?
    – How does the parent talk to the kid about school expectations and quality?
    – How much does the parent seek to find out from the kid about the school experience?
    – Does the parent regularly read to the child?
    – What kinds of role models are presented to the child?

    We are looking to schools and seeing the results of economic and social injustice, and then we are attempting to use schools to fix the problem. The real problem is not the schools. The real problem is outside the school’s reach.

    All we are doing, Appleseed included, is consistently lowering standards. This is problematic because it is based on the faulty proposition that the kids are all right when they come into the doors when. If your estimation is based on any non-school data (health, weight, stress, reading-at-home rates, screen time, emotional security, financial security, etc…), then it becomes clear that the kids are NOT all right. It is the racism of lowered expectations.

    There is also the extremely problematic practice of visualizing an elementary school while analyzing middle school discipline rates.

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