March 31, 2007

"Question any excuses ..."

That Seattle School District is really nutty. Hube and I have written about that nuttiest here at Colossus in the past (see here, here, here and here); looks like we'll have to do it again because now it's looking for a new superintendent. And, of course, as before, one of -- if not THE -- main topics the candidates need to address is racism in the schools!

Midway through a January meeting about choosing a new superintendent, Seattle School Board member Darlene Flynn suggested candidates have a "clear understanding of institutionalized oppression" when it comes to improving grades of African-American students.

Yeah. Just imagine if [white] teachers and administrators said the following about black students:

  • Many African-American students are just too lazy, hence they don't do well in school;
  • African-American students are unable to sit still, work independently and keep quiet in the classroom;
  • Black students are just naturally louder than other students;
  • Black students just can't keep from fighting; they're prone to violence.

Harsh stuff, right? Well, some of that is almost exactly what those advising the Seattle schools have said -- they themselves African-American! But this isn't the sort of "institutionalized oppression" that Ms. Flynn is talking about -- the kind of "bigotry of low expectations" that way too many educationists flout about. No sir. It's white institutionalized racism. After all, how dare white teachers expect their black students to sit still! Don't these teachers know that their students' future bosses in the real world will allow them to roam around the office at will because they have "have louder, more direct speaking styles" and "more physical [working] styles"? Aren't they aware that black students aren't "talking back" -- they're just accustomed to "speak[ing] to adults more as equals than as authority figures"? Of course, we all know that these future job holders should expect their bosses or managers in the real world to be aware of just this, and not reprimand and/or FIRE them for speaking to said boss as "an equal," right? And hell, why should office managers prevent two African-American employees from "play fighting" around those office cubicles, eh? I mean, "these mock battles are [merely] more prevalent among African American boys"!

Remember: It is permissible for minorities to express [negative/potentially negative] stereotypes about themselves, but most especially about the majority (Caucasians). This is what the essence of "institutionalized racism" is all about -- that whites are inherently racist, mainly due to long-established cultural norms. (Just don't attempt to use any of this same logic in reverse because you'll just go nuts trying to make sense of it all.)

You'd think that Seattle, one of the most liberal areas of the country, would be much less susceptible to racism and bias. Curious, then, that they pay a six-figure salary to someone to help "combat" their district's "institutional" prejudice. (I could never figure out, similarly, why so many colleges do the same thing since these institutions are supposed to be the most "enlightened" and "safest" places for minorities to be.)

Since 1986, the district has launched at least three plans to close the achievement gap between African-American students and other groups. An effort in 2002 pledged to erase racial disparities in three years. But last year, 73 percent of white 10th-graders passed all three parts of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, compared with 23.8 percent of black students.

The district has sought to determine how discrimination affects student learning, and its mission statement, adopted in 2004, reads: "We must recognize the impacts of institutional racism on student success and question any excuses for not making necessary changes."

I got the title of this post from that last quote. I wonder what would happen if an educator (not an educationist) suggested that "we should question any [minority] students' and/or educationists' excuses for their lack of achievement." I do believe if that happened that there is a significant possibility the "R" word might be invoked.

Institutional racism, as defined by the district, is "an indirect and largely invisible process that operates automatically and results in less access to services and opportunities of a society based on race."

This is virtually akin to a religious belief: "Indirect" and "invisible." "It's not tangible, but trust us -- it's there, all right!" And again, where precisely are access, services and opportunities being denied to minority students in Seattle schools?

To combat bias, Superintendent Raj Manhas in 2004 created the Office of Equity and Race Relations and appointed its first director, Caprice Hollins, a licensed psychologist, charged with examining curriculum, textbooks and other policies.

She also runs workshops on cultural diversity for administrative staff and oversees teams of teachers, principals and parents who monitor race relations in schools.

I wonder if Ms. Hollins has ever traveled abroad at all. How intensively has she studied the cultures that make up the Seattle schools? (Keep in mind, too, that being OF a particular ethnic group does not make one "an expert" on that culture.) Being located in the Pacific Northwest, I'd surmise that there is a fairly significant Asian population in the district. Has Ms. Hollins spent a good amount of time in China? Japan? Korea?

In a recent interview, Hollins said she found no specific district program that was institutionally racist, but she pointed to summer break as an example of systemic problems. Initially devised to allow school-age children to help with farm labor, summer break serves no educational purpose, Hollins said, and the disruption puts struggling students further behind.

I'll restate from above: "But trust us -- it's there, all right!"

Summer break is the best she can come up with? Hey, I got it: Establish academic programs (just like summer school) in the summer for the struggling students! Problem solved! And here I did this for free! How much does Ms. Hollins get paid? Too much, if the following quote is any indication:

"Jewish folks hid their cultural identity. Irish changed their name. Some groups can assimilate and others can't. There's one thing that will never change -- and that's the way I look," said Hollins, an African American. "When people target you [a white person] for being racist because you're white, people associate you with their collective experience. It's about the power dynamic, understanding how your whiteness impacts people of color."

Once again, consider if a white person targeted a black person (or people) for epithets and/or criticism because of his/her "collective experience" with black people. Would this be socially acceptable? Of course not. But, somehow, it is in reverse. Don't try to figure it out!

Last year, Hollins' Equity and Race Relations Web site attracted national attention when she defined "individualism" and a "future time orientation" as "those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and whiteness and devalue, stereotype and label people of color ... "

After an outcry, she removed the statement, and has yet to finalize a new one. Her interim message reads: "Our intention is not to put up additional barriers or develop an 'us against them' mindset; nor is it to continue to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality."

So it was her! Hube addressed the part in bold here back last June.

While districts across the nation struggle with raising test scores of minority students, it's difficult to find language similar to what's in Seattle's official statements.

Maybe that's because other districts across the country aren't as preposterously PC and laden with liberal edubabbler guilt?

Thank goodness Seattle is 3000 miles away, that's all I can say.

UPDATE: See the addendum to this post here.

Posted by Felix at March 31, 2007 02:24 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

After 300 years of a slave/master culture, and another 100 years before emancipation starts to kick in, should it be a surprise 50 years later that the inferiority complex is still alive in too many?

Having been there, I share your frustration but not your impatience, your lack of compassion, and your pathetic attitude, Felix.

The solution is to keep working at it, like the Seattle School System appears to be doing. Perhaps then, in another 100 years, the gap will be gone!

Posted by: Perry at March 31, 2007 10:07 PM

"Having been there..."? Where, exactly, Perry?

I (like Felix) have sat through these ... "programs." They're hardly empathetic. If anything, they serve to imbue your "inferiority complex" even more. Sort of like many of the "Great Society" programs, y'know. The "compassion" that has sentenced generations to a culture of relief and parasitical gov. dependence. And how can you say 100 years? Where did you pull that out of your ass? How about 200? 300? People like Jesse Jackson and Ms. Hollins (from the article) will say it's never going to be solved.

What do you call people like La Shawn Barber, Perry? Go ahead, say it. You know you want to: "Uncle Toms," right?

What's pathetic, Perry, is your constant hit and run comments everywhere, never answering queries posed to you, and your fake "it's a bipartisan thing" attitude when all the time you're just a moonbat liberal. (I noticed you never did point to an American citizen who was "nabbed off the street" arbitrarily due to Bush's policies.)

You keep this crap up you'll be nothing but a troll and then your "comments" get zapped, get it?

Posted by: Hube at April 1, 2007 08:57 AM

As I have noted before, Hube, when someone disagrees with your perceptions, you respond with personal attacks, innuendos, and gutter language. Add to that list 'ignorant generalizations' that smack of political bias, nothing more. They're of little meaning other than arrogance. And now you threaten me with being zapped. So it is all a control issue with you: Agree with you or get shut out. That's weak and stupid!

I have ten years experience teaching at a diverse (30-30-30-10) high school in Virginia in the 90's, so I am well aware of the positives and negatives of these gap closing programs. I also have a feel for the obstacles that African-American youth face. Moreover, I come from poverty, but without the black face added to the challenges.

One hundred years refers to the 1860's to 1960's time period.

La Shawn Barber, I am not familiar with her; had to look her up. I'll look into her philosophy, since you have brought her up, presumably as some sort of a pundit on this issue.

That said, of course there will be those who have what it takes to meet the challenges, but they have been/will be few in number, hopefully continuing to grow as progress on this issue continues to occur. Progress will follow if racial discrimination continues to fade, this then corresponding to increasing hope for the achievement of "success" with hard and wise work efforts. The government and schools obviously have and continue to play a constructive role here, although many mistakes have been made as well.

Posted by: Perry at April 1, 2007 09:53 AM

As I have noted before, Hube, when someone disagrees with your perceptions, you respond with personal attacks, innuendos, and gutter language. Add to that list 'ignorant generalizations' that smack of political bias, nothing more.

Oh, right Perry. Like this, you mean: I share your frustration but not your impatience, your lack of compassion, and your pathetic attitude, Felix. Let's see, you disagreed with Felix's perception and you responded with ... a personal attack and ignorant innuendo! Do you see NOW how ridiculous you are? No WONDER you're not around WGMD anymore! You probably couldn't keep track of the myriad times you totally contradicted yourself!

Add to that list 'ignorant generalizations' that smack of political bias, nothing more.

Need I point out that YOU need to look in the mirror just a tad? LOL!

And now you threaten me with being zapped. So it is all a control issue with you: Agree with you or get shut out. That's weak and stupid!

No, if you bothered to READ what I said (take a course in it, hear?), you do not have an absolute right to comment here w/o addressing substantively those who challenge your [ridiculous] assertions -- if you address them at all. This is NOT a forum for you to prosthelytize; if that's what you wish to do, get your OWN blog and set your OWN rules. It's very easy to do. You can disagree w/me (and the others here) all you wish, but 1) don't be a hypocrite, 2) don't claim one thing and then do another, and 3) don't filibuster.

I have ten years experience teaching at a diverse (30-30-30-10) high school in Virginia in the 90's, so I am well aware of the positives and negatives of these gap closing programs.

Except that if someone disagrees with their effectiveness (and you), their "attitude is pathetic," and they're "lacking in compassion," right? And when someone responds in kind, you get all huffy. Awwww, poor baby.

I also have a feel for the obstacles that African-American youth face.

Based on what, precisely? Because you were poor, as you claim? Sorry, the two aren't synonymous. Do I "have a feel" for the obstacles blacks face because my wife's grandfather was black (which is indeed the case)?

Your last paragraph is fine, but is mere fluff. You have offered nothing substantive as a solution nor rebuttal to Felix's initial post.

Posted by: Hube at April 1, 2007 10:15 AM

So you continue, right Hube? And now you are making comment rules as you go, on the fly, depending on your political whims. Makes sense!

"Your last paragraph is fine, but is mere fluff. You have offered nothing substantive as a solution nor rebuttal to Felix's initial post."

That is in your view, Hube. Are we to meet your criteria for PC? There are others who read your blog, hopefully. Judging from the paucity of comments, one wonders!

Talk about "fluff", look at Felix's piece: He quotes, then expresses an opinion, throughout. That's what this blogosphere is all about, isn't it? He puts up his piece, we respond. What is it that I don't understand?

I look forward to what Felix has to say re my comments, since you felt the compulsion to jump right in instead. Nothing yet from Felix.

Back to the gap issue, it seems to me that the Seattle School District has been making honorable attempts to address the gap. What approach do you think should be used, Hube? My approach in the classroom was to exhibit high expectations for all my students, giving personal attention to those falling behind, including frequent dialogs with parents and other staff members. This approach was effective to different degrees; my continuing challenge was to perfect it.

I observe that narrowing the gap has been extremely challenging, because it has a strong cultural component that presumes scant hope for the future traditionally, thus other avenues for "success" become more appealing and frequently have been achieved. Therefore, providing the basis for hope is crucial and difficult to achieve due to the complexity of the root causes of the American societal deficiencies. So the teacher is left with the one-on-one opportunities being most productive, within and outside class hours.

The negativism I sensed in Felix's piece offers no such progress because there is no solution offered, only partisan criticism, like in his concluding remark: "Maybe that's because other districts across the country aren't as preposterously PC and laden with liberal edubabbler guilt?"

My god, their ought to be guilt, and that guilt should be a motivator to move on with focus on remedies to these endemic problems.

"Thank goodness Seattle is 3000 miles away, that's all I can say."

Brilliant!!!

PS: I voluntarily resigned as an author on the WGMD blog, because I objected to having my pieces reviewed and edited prior to posting; so your assumption is incorrect.

Cute, isn't it, but worthless, in my view!

Posted by: Perry at April 1, 2007 12:14 PM

You can edit out the "cute" statement as being irrelevant, carried forward at the bottom by mistake.

Posted by: Perry at April 1, 2007 12:16 PM

So you continue, right Hube? And now you are making comment rules as you go, on the fly, depending on your political whims. Makes sense!

It makes sense especially since this has been posted since day 1: We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comment made on this site. Do you continually feel the need for me to make you look foolish, Perry? And anything not directly related to the topic of discussion clearly pertains to your need to refuse to address questions posed to you, and your constant filibustering. If you do not like it, go elsewhere. Your snide "paucity of comments" does little to "embarrass" us as the founders of this blog (I'm not one) initially did not WANT comments enabled anyway. I helped to persuade them otherwise. Hence, this is also why Felix rarely responds in comments.

The main problem I have with "solutions" like Seattle's is that their MAIN ingredient is that white teacher racism is the primary factor in minority student underachievement. The author of Seattle's "Courageous Conversations" himself says so. Why would [white] teachers purposely put themselves in positions to HELP black students if they were so ... "racist"? The entire premise is ludicrous on its face. Much like the "solutions," as noted in Felix's article, are just what he stated: Excuse-making. And, racist "in reverse." Can you imagine if white people stated some of those "cultural attributes"? You'd be one of the first in here using the "R" word, Perry. Nevertheless, the Seattle program (and others) themselves imbue ALL white teachers (in this case) with racist attributes -- all white teachers are "inherently racist" and thus are keeping their minority students behind.

My solution is pretty much in line with the Thernstroms: No excuses. Seattle uses the bigotry of soft expectations -- the belief that white teachers are "holding back" minority students is just that -- an excuse. The fact is that there is little if anything in a school setting that holds a student "back" -- except the student him/herself. Social, cultural and parental factors are of prime importance, especially in the prime growing (younger) years.

My approach in the classroom was to exhibit high expectations for all my students, giving personal attention to those falling behind, including frequent dialogs with parents and other staff members. This approach was effective to different degrees; my continuing challenge was to perfect it.

As any teacher worth his/her salt would do. But "high expectations for all my students" in Seattle would mean that you rightly could NOT enforce uniform standards of behavior (and even academics) because to do so is "Eurocentric" and "culturally insensitive."

Again, you're not addressing Felix's points, even though I concur with you that he isn't exactly full of solutions. But there isn't really a need for a solution when there really isn't a problem now, is there? Sure, the achievement gap is a problem; however, Seattle's way of dealing w/it is a problem, not a solution. That's what led to Felix's denunciation of it. You've just criticized his criticisms (and mine) by merely saying "we're insensitive and pathetic" without stating what was actually wrong in the post (and comments). And you didn't answer my question from my last comment: How do you "have a feel" for the obstacles that black students face?

Posted by: Hube at April 1, 2007 12:55 PM

Yeah, that's what I thought, Perry. This is exactly what I was talking about -- you refuse to answer questions directly posed to you. I've asked you twice about how you "have a feel" for what black students face. Twice, no response. Just like you couldn't provide definite proof/example that "an average American" has been "abducted" by our own government due to suspected terror connections from another past comment of yours.

You don't want dialogue. You want to pontificate. Which is all fine and good -- just get your own blog to do that. You do it here, people call you on it. And when you refuse to answer the call, you get ignored.

Posted by: Hube at April 2, 2007 07:31 PM

Like I said before, Hube, it's a matter of patience, of which you have little, correct? This time I did not step up to your assumed time-line, correct? You have no idea, Hube, only nastiness! And then you feel compelled to say: "Do you continually feel the need for me to make you look foolish, Perry?" Are you the sole beholder? If you look back over the exchange in this topic alone, there is plenty of dialog; must my part fit every expectation you have, else ridicule from you?

Now let us get off these personal exchanges, since they are hardly of interest to others who read this. I have already expressed my views in previous comments on this topic here.

As to having a "feel" for what black students face, that comes from incidental immersion as a child growing up in West Philly in a mixed neighborhood with white's fleeing as quickly as possible, fleeing blacks who actually were trying to step up from a worse place, my family being in poverty as well. Add to this my experiences as an educator in a high school with a diverse population and many other life experiences, and you have the origin of my "feel".

What set me off on Felix's piece is that he appeared to be taking a cavalier approach against a school district which was making an honorable albeit clumsy effort to address the achievement gap issues in Seattle, he with no solutions, only criticisms. This is why I responded as I did at first. His concluding sentences set the tone of his piece; go back and reread them. It really was "pathetic", in my view.

Then while swimming upstream against your demonizing contercurrent, I'm told that Felix does not usually respond. What is this double standard all about? Talk about hypocrisy!

"...Seattle's way of dealing w/it is a problem, not a solution." I agree with you, and Felix. Tolerating a reverse racism attitude certainly is counterproductive.

In addition to my personal efforts as an educator, mentioned before, our school needed more qualified minority teachers, not easy to acquire due to the scarcity; therefore, I understood that it will take time and patience to develop this resource, like a couple more generations at least.

In the meantime, school districts like mine, like Seattle's, like those surrounding Wilmington, will have to continue to create novel stop-gap approaches to focus on the troubled students and their families, knowing that these efforts will not motivate any more than an increasingly small number each year, but not being discouraged either with this result.

NCLB, an effort to have test score results promote efforts for improvement, has not been effective enough due to underfunding as well as over reliance on test scores and their negative ramifications; but that's another topic.

Nevertheless, especially more effort/money allocated to the preschool programs and full year kindergarten is in order and overdue in DE, in my view.

Moreover, a major problem we have here is the flight of whites to private schools, like the flight from the changing neighborhood that I experienced. While quite understandable, this represents just one more form of racial segregation that is a hard nut to crack.

If only we had focused/will focus effectively in making our integrated schools top quality. I do think it is all about money, money purchasing the human and physical plant resources required to really do the job right. The resultant quality work force than pays back the investment we have yet been unwilling so far to make.

Posted by: Perry Hood at April 3, 2007 10:41 AM

About your comment rules, you said: "We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comment made on this site."

Here is what is actually posted: "(Note: We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments that do not conform to common standards of decency. This includes profanity, ethnic/racial/religious slurs and anything not directly related to the topic of discussion.)"

In my view, you are writing rules on the fly, as I stated. Rewrite your rules to conform to your control compulsion, then at least we will all know!

Posted by: Perry Hood at April 3, 2007 10:50 AM

Perry: This link has been up since day one. This is where I extracted the comment quote.

Now, I was 6th grade when the voluntary deseg. plan started, and 8th when the mandatory plan began. I grew up, thus, in desegregated schools, and I now teach in the same county. This makes for a total of 31 yrs experience with African-American children. Do I "have a feel" for the black experience? And is my experience "less authentic" b/c I concur with Felix that Seattle's way of dealing with gap is, in a word, a travesty? You say that at least Seattle is trying -- alas, the "road to hell is paved with good intentions," now ain't it?

Posted by: Hube at April 3, 2007 05:48 PM