More Insanity from the Obama Administration: Racial Balance in School Discipline

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Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Obama justice department is pushing for racial balance in school discipline. On July 26 he gave an executive order to set up a panel funded by the federal government. This panel is empowered to find ways to lower the “disparity” of discipline between black and white students. In effect, school administrators will suspend more white students to have an allegedly more racially balanced discipline environment.

The fallacy is to move from (A) there is a disparity between the number of black students suspended vs. the number of white students to (B) such disparity reflects racial bias rather than the actual discipline situation. (B) does not follow from (A). If a higher percentage of black students commit suspendible offenses than white students, a “disparity” will take place, but that is not due to racism. If a predominately black school suspends more black students than white students, that would reflect the demographics of that school. School administrators, fearful of federal action, may set up a quota system in which every time a black student is suspended, a white (or perhaps an Asian) student will also be suspended.

This is the insanity of federal control at its finest, especially when the Obama Administration is filled with radical left wing race baiters. Putting in a quota system would inevitably result in a white student or Asian student being suspended for a relatively minor offense in order to keep “racial balance.” The same situation would take place with other forms of school discipline such as expulsion or (in the South) paddling.

It is well known that in many urban areas in the United States the black family has been in crisis for years, and the lack of two-parent families and high illegitimacy rates along with limited parental discipline lead to a hotbed of crime. Children sometimes can escape such a background, but it is difficult. Thus, many black children are coming to school as behavioral challenges. Note that the same process is starting with white families, with the white illegitimacy rate around 26% and rising. If this rises more, the suspension rates most likely will balance out. To ignore individual discipline situations and place a quota system (or even to bring “racial balance” into the discipline equation) is madness. Such a system will automatically be unfair.

Like forced busing, “racial balance” in school discipline is another federal social engineering scheme that is doomed to failure. It will lead to more whites and Asians fleeing public schools. If a private school accepts federal aid, that school will be vulnerable to be placed under Mr. Obama’s executive order. Will higher education be next? After all, colleges and universities who accept students with federal grants and loans are vulnerable to federal regulation.

This executive order is another reason to vote for Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama is bringing the country back to the age of race-based quotas in education and jobs. In the meantime, if the government panel makes recommendations that are adopted by federal regulators, schools will be forced to be unjust to white and Asian students in the administration of discipline. How far is this administration willing to go in pushing its vision of racial balance onto the world? Very far, I think, and that is frightening.

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On the Ban of Bake Sales

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at the bake sale

at the bake sale (Photo credit: tiny banquet committee)

Almost every day I read an article from a news source and wonder, “Is this for real?” and I cross-check other sources to make sure the story is accurate. Here is an example that turns out to be accurate: A number of schools in the United States have banned bake sales as fundraisers due to their selling “junk food” and alleged encouragement of obesity. Apparently one place this has happened is in the schools of Massachusetts (surprise!) and another place is a district in Maryland.  Now obesity is not a good thing–it can lead to serious health problems. It is also true that Americans have an addiction to junk food. However, to police what children can sell at bake sales smacks of Puritanical totalitarianism. Those Americans who are not busybodies about violators of religious orthodoxy find another religion, whether it be the War on Drugs or the fight against junk food. In the past, Prohibition was the great Puritanical crusade. Some Americans are not happy unless they can force their nosiness down the throats of others by government power. Thus, food totalitarians have banned bake sales, which are excellent means of fundraising by school organizations. Many clubs on the university campus where I teach have bake sales, and I buy and enjoy the “junk food.” To any Puritan who wishes to force his beliefs on me, my response is “Don’t tread on me.” Thankfully, parents see the silliness of the bake sale ban. A simple way to stop such nonsense is to elect a school board that is not composed of nosy busybodies who have nothing better to do than to police free people’s food. They may reply, “But some of this junk food is being sold to children!” Unless parents have a child who is morbidly obese and overstuff him, which is an extreme case anyway, if parents have no problem with their children eating what is sold at bake sales, there should be freedom to decide what foods to buy. Those arranging bake sales should also have the right to sell cookies, brownies, and other staples of bake sales, as well as the usual hot dogs and hamburgers. If Ms. Yogurt Breath still wants to discourage junk foods (by the way, I like yogurt), she can use education and try to convince people to change their minds. It is way past time to get the food police out of the schools of the United States.

 

The Insanity of “Zero Tolerance”

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Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...

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I sometimes wonder if public school administrators have any of what Aristotle called “practical wisdom.” The proliferation of “zero-tolerance” policies that punish children for doing the kinds of things children normally do is insane.  Legitimate concerns about school violence have degenerated to suspending a student for weeks for bringing a squirt gun to school. A child who left her unloaded hunting rifle in the trunk of her car and was responsible enough to tell school officials about it was suspended. In North Carolina, a seven year old boy who kissed a girl in class was suspended for “sexual harassment.” A student had better be careful not to write a short story involving violence; he may be removed from class and suspended or expelled from school. Schools have become the haven of a “New Puritanism.” In the past, children enjoyed playing with toy guns or play weapons, and they still do. If a child leaves a toy gun in his pocket by accident and goes to school, he had better hope a teacher does not find it–some fool of a principle or superintendent may suspend him for the remainder of the school year. If a child has a headache and brings baby aspirin to take, he could be suspended in some school districts. Yep, aspirin use leads to marijuana use which leads to the use of LSD and cocaine. Riiigggghhhtttt….  I wonder how long it will be before students who espouse unpopular political opinions, especially from a conservative point of view, will be suspended or expelled.

Now if a student brings a loaded pistol to school, that student should be suspended or expelled. If a student brings a knife to school, depending on the type of knife and the circumstances, that student may be suspended. Considering individual circumstances is a major part of the virtue of phronesis, practical wisdom or what many people call “common sense.” It seems that an education degree, which in most colleges and universities is nearly worthless anyway (there are a few exceptions) is a ticket to losing one’s practical wisdom. The farther one goes up in administration in the public school system, the less practical wisdom there is. The Peter Principle is alive and well in public school districts across the country.

Common sense would take individual circumstances into account in each case. If a child brings a squirt gun to school by accident, simply talking to the child about being more responsible about bringing such items to school would be sufficient. As far as medications for real illnesses or conditions, if they are prescribed to the child or are legitimate non-prescription medicines for that child’s condition, then it makes no sense to deny the child the right to take those medications to school. And anyone with any common sense realizes that a seven year old’s puppy love for a girl is not “sexual harassment.” Most people in the real world realize this. They do not have M.Ed.s and Ed.Ds that suck the brain power clean out of a person’s skull. Actually these degrees should be called “M.Pc.s and Ep.Cs–“Master of Political Correctness” and “Doctor of Political Correctness.”

Parents need to pressure school districts to have common-sense policies instead of “zero-tolerance” policies. If school board members refuse to discipline overly zealous administrators, the public should vote such school board members out. The taxpayers who support the school system should have some say about who works in the district; if an administrator shows he has no practical wisdom when it comes to discipline, he should be fired without any penalty to those firing him. Only if public school administrators are held accountable will they be forced, even if they lack practical wisdom themselves, to at least practice it in their policies.

 

How to Better Train School Teachers

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Red House School

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Abolishing college and university education departments should be the first step in training better teachers for our K-12 public and private schools. Education is a soft field; other academics privately mock it. It is overly bound to theory, more interested in political indoctrination of children rather than teaching basic skills, and tends to focus on the new “trendy term” of the day (such as “facilitative teacher”) rather than on substantive ways to help actual teaching. Education school graduates may know a great deal about educational theory and new methodologies of teaching but very little about the basic grammar, mathematics, and history they will be teaching. Such graduates have been indoctrinated in left-wing political ideology, and emphasize diversity (which to many liberals only refers to race rather than true diversity of cultures). The goal of education becomes indoctrination in politically correct radical points of view. “Sex education” is taught as early as elementary school in some districts, sometimes with a unit on homosexuality. Students who espouse conservative political views have, at times, been castigated by the teacher, such as the student in Fayetteville, North Carolina who supported Mr. McCain in the last presidential election. Her teacher humiliated her in front of the class. That is a great way to teach diversity, isn’t it?

A better system of training teachers would be for them to get a solid liberal arts degree. Then they could learn their practical teaching skills in a one or two year internship. Political indoctrination should not be considered part of their mission, but the ability to teach basic skills such as reading, grammar, mathematics, history, and science. Pseudo degrees such as M.Ed.s would disappear and would no longer be helpful in promotion or salary decisions. However, if a teacher works toward and achieves an M.A. in English or History, this would be considered as a factor in raising a teacher’s salary or in promotion. Teachers would be intellectually curious and desire to learn more about the areas they teach. Surely such a system would be an improvement over a failed educational system that places American children behind many others in the world.