Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Racism obsession interferes with school discipline

WND reports that "A school district in Arizona has come under fire after a newspaper columnist highlighted the district's newly adopted racial policy and called it a "two-tiered form of student discipline: one for black and Hispanic students; one for everyone else." According to the columnist [Doug MacEachern] "TUSD [Tucson Unified School District] principals and disciplinarians…are being asked to set two standards of behavior for their students…Some behavior will be met with strict penalties; some will not. It all depends on the color of the student's skin."

School district officials claim they are just trying to correct racial discrimination in disciplinary practices. They set "the goal of reducing suspensions and expulsions of minority students to reflect "no ethnic/racial disparities." As evidence of these disparities, their plan cites "statistics that while American Indian students make up only 4 percent of the student body, they account for 20 percent of the suspensions across the district. And while black students make up 7 percent of the student body, they account for 16.3 percent of out-of-school suspensions."

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with so-called "liberal" arguments as to racial discrimination, the cited statistics don't necessarily prove their point. An Arizona Star editorial, written with sympathy for the school officials, points to the fallacy involved. "One explanation is that some kids are misbehaving more often than others, while another could be that minority kids are written up for the same actions more often than Anglo kids or that minority kids are given harsher punishments. The reasons are myriad and probably a mix of the above." Apparently the school district officials also recognize the possibility that the overall statistical disparity may be related to the behavior of students rather than discrimination against them. Their new policy promises that "School data that show disparities in suspension/expulsion rates will be examined in detail for root causes, …Special attention will be dedicated to the data regarding African-American and Hispanic students."

Here's the obvious question: Why implement a policy based on the assumption of racial discrimination before analysis of the data has confirmed it as the cause of the statistical facts? When dealing with a malfunctioning piece of equipment, it may be reasonable to take precautions against possible causes before determining the actual one. But people aren't machines. The policy being implemented in this case has the quite possibly slanderous implication that teachers and school administrators are racist bigots. It quite possibly encourages misbehaving students to lean on the crutch of racial resentment, rather than accept full responsibility for their own actions. With teachers afraid to discipline because they'll be perceived as racists, and students emboldened to misbehave because they're just getting their own back for racist treatment, the policy seems likely to worsen behavior rather than improve it.

The default of reason here isn't just logical. It arises from the predisposition to define problems in racial terms, rather than in terms that take seriously what ought to be the essential goal- the development of students' moral character. The school officials appear to have some sense of this. "TUSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Fish told the Star that MacEachern had misunderstood what is meant by the board's plan to adopt a more "restorative" culture and that seeing a two-tiered system of discipline was "far-fetched." "This would apply to all children," Fish said. "There is no such thing as treating one class of students differently….We're teaching kids about the mistakes they've made….If you're out of school 10 days or 45 days and you're not dealing with the infraction, you haven't changed your thoughts or behaviors or actions."

There is something sad (pathetic in the non-pejorative sense) about Fish's effort to make the simple point that punishment alone doesn't build character. There's something pathetic about the fact that the school district obscures and distorts their desire to address what ought to be a pervasive common sense goal of every aspect of education by presenting it in the context of 'politically correct' but irrelevant racial rhetoric and statistics.

This failure of common sense actually encourages insensitivity to the differences between one ethnic community and another, differences that have a bearing on the task of character development. Ethnic communities are in fact not defined by physical differences, but by the different paths, institutions and behavior they use to convey moral truths and priorities. Willingness to see and try to understand these aspects of a student's ethnic background, and to understand as well the strain placed on their effectiveness by the cacophony of contemporary life, should be part of the make-up of teachers and administrators trying to play their part in the task of character formation. Instead of putting this ethnic aspect of the task in the context of unproven and destructively inchoate assumptions about racial discrimination, school officials would do better to begin from the straightforward premise that education requires and must be based on responsible cooperation between the institutions of family, school and moral understanding (religious/ethical institutions). Disciplinary procedures would then be developed with a view to assuring the responsible involvement and cooperation of these institutions in achieving the positive goal of good character. It's old fashioned language. It implies respect for things the "liberal" leftists (whose initials are NEA) regard with hostility and contempt. But it might just work better than policies hampered by the strait jacket of the "liberal" obsession with race.


Foxwood said...

I've tried, but you can't argue with indoctrinated idiots. Best you can do it point them out and hope the real thinkers will wake up and see what is happening.

warpmine said...

Liberals must all be demented in some fashion to think that any of these racially inspired policies could ever work.

We as conservatives always think that education means to better the students knowledge of mathematics, science, history and literature. Unfortunate for those that are amongst the captive audiences in liberal institutions, they are being assimilated into group think based on which one you belong.

Rachael M said...

I am concerned because I believe that our current education system is a form of indoctrination. There isn't a real encouragement for 'thinking outside the box' for most students, despite what the citizenry is told. It becomes more about standardized testing, rather than trying to really understand the forces that are at work. The ability to perform well on a such tests is not an indication of knowledge; it is more about the control of the future. The fact that racism has become the clarion call for anything that is supposedly wrong in our society is actually a disservice to the student. How can we expect a student to learn from the mistakes of the past and interact with other individuals from varying culture groups if we, the older generation can't move forward? I am not advocating that we forget the past, but this constant invocation that everything comes down to race is rather asinine.

dlpannebakker said...

What is sad is that maybe we should adopt a new school plan. One school for the people of color run by the people of color and taught by people of color.
Secondly, have a school for Euro-Americans (white), Asians, Arabs and Hebrews only. Not to sound like a bigot but in all honesty, these class of kids are the kids wanting to be educated. Now, as time passes, you find those children that are of color and move them to the school where you have children wanting to be educated as well as removing and placing those in the school of those children that do not want a the best education offered. It sounds horrible, but face the truth, why bring down such racial despare on a good school because of children and their parents who don't care about education. 9 chances out of ten, the unruly children will end up in gangs, dead on dope, on welfare or in jail. Jail in America is the greatest welfare system in the world. It houses, it feeds, it cloths. The live better than many unfortunate Americans. Lack of education is the issue for the unfortunate's. We need to stop the drop out rate and try harder to bestow to the children that education is the utmost important thing in one's young life.

Cathy said...

Dear Dr. Keyes,

I don't think this is anything new. My mom fought the school board over a situation where my brother was jumped by a group of young black men when they left the school bus in junior high back in the 70's. My brother had confronted one of them after he had slapped my sister. The result was that my brother, after almost having his eye gouged out, was suspended from school for fighting. The same punishment was not given to the young black men involved in the confrontation. My mom took the issue to the school board, and while she won her case, she ended up having to take us all out of public schools because our family became targets of the educators. Being two weeks away from the end of the school year, we couldn't be transferred to private schools at that time. Anyway, a counselor at the school warned my mom that the school was going to try to get back at her. He told her to bring my brother and sister to school and not to let them out of the car until the start bell rang and to be there to pick them up as soon as school got out. The first day my mom did this, as soon as she got home the phone rang and the school called to say they caught my brother drinking before school, kind of hard to do when you're dropped off a few minutes before you need to go to home room. Anyway, she confronted them with this information and their story changed to he was around students caught drinking, however, he was the only one accused. This was a very long two weeks for my family. I guess the point that I'm making is that I don't blame the young men involved in the fight, I blame an education system that chooses to punish any child discriminately. This did not improve "race relations", it simply created an environment of reverse discrimination. To our own demise, the current culture seems bent on rewarding in accordance to sympathy while holding actual acheivement in disdain.

Thanks and God bless you!

Anonymous said...

"If apologizing could fix everything we wouldn't need laws or policemen."

Would you say that the above statement would be characteristic of a society which didn't assign much value to sincere expressions of regret over everyday infractions of appropriate behavior? Think about it. How sincere would you consider an apology if you knew that it was proffered in the expectation of avoiding a heavier penalty?

Penitence cannot remove the consequences of previous actions. It only serves to avert the commission of similar actions in the future. We should not underestimate the enormous benefit this is, after all, infractions against common decency have a way of escalating. The child who sincerely repents for hitting another may thus avoid a career as a multiple murderer. But sincerity is absolutely essential. The child who expresses regret merely as a way of evading punishment learns only that crimes needn't be avoided if an apology is offered afterwards.

Yes, the racism of accusing the white teachers is horrible. But let's not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution is bad regardless of the racism involved.

NorthPal Communications Corp. said...

Well Alan I hear you but you have to walk the walk in order to talk the talk.
Can you help this man, watch the video at this link.
Typical liberal rot that is gonna eventually break America right down to tribal loyalties.
Once a nations peoples are fractured, stick a fork in.

Alan Keyes said...

The desire for education is not determined by skin color. It's the result of moral understanding and influences. That's the whole point. Rather than pretend these issues are somehow the result of physical characteristic (or the reaction thereto, we should deal with the real causes, which are moral and spiritual rather than merely physical.
It makes no more sense to use race as a basis for schools than it does to use it as the basis for punishment.
That said, it is sensible to have schools that are locally based, founded on the involvement and responsibility of parents. That may sometimes result in schools where one ethnic heritage predominates. In and of itself this is no more objectionable than the fact that schools in Ireland have student bodies that are predominantly Irish.
In America the only thing we need to make sure of is that the common American heritage of liberty is everywhere taught and respected.

gilbertabrett said...

In my humble opinion, it all goes back to the parents. No discipline at home. Everyone already knows since the mid-to-late 70's, there was NO discipline in the schools. It did not take long for the kids to figure out they could cuss teachers out and hit them. And it does not matter what color or financial background you have. I have been to the project abodes of friends of mine with strong moral parents (even single moms & grannies) and also to the wealthy white (spoiled rotten) rich kids. The children behaved in school as their PARENTS permitted (and more importantly) TAUGHT them to behave at home.

Everyone also should know that children are taught little anymore in school. There are not as much expectations for them either. There is NO such thing as history, but a lot of altered reality. You think Barack Hussein Obama is something... wait until these kids get a chance to vote...

Digital Publius said...

Brilliant article Dr. Keyes!

Mr. Obama is as far away from the principles that drove the founders as it is possible to be, which places him even further away from the Divine Providence that inspired them. It is my daily prayer that Mr. Obama be delivered from evil personally, that he come to know the Lord Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible personally, then and only then will he move beyond his threadbare form of godliness. I pray this for his benefit, the benefit of his family and our nation.

Digital Publius

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