This needs to be said: Public schooling is perpetuating a black underclass and Obamaschool will make this worse, and more permanent.
The Obamaschool “Race to the Top” panders to black kids (or to put it politically correctly: to minority kids). ED.gov describes the program this way: “Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms . . .” (which are summarized on the EdFed website). “Reforms” means fix things. Obama is looking for positive vibes by allocating big money (again!) to fix schools. Billions more tax dollars are about to cascade into public education. We already spend over $11,000 per child each year in pubic schools, more than a third more than it is taking in private schools to provide a far superior year of learning. (Chart from Cato video Economic 101)
This fixing the schools approach is perpetuating a black underclass. Making a public school a little bit better than awful does not release its students to partake at the bountiful intellectual table. They remain in the education underclass. I have watched it happen up close for thirty years.
Since 1982, I have worked in various capacities as a partnering volunteer in the New York City public schools. I got some background back in the 1960s when I taught high school for one year in El Paso, Texas. During that year I organized and coached debate teams at El Paso High School where I was teaching history. The boys I coached won the Texas State AAAA Championship and the girls team won the West Texas District title.
In the 1990s when I volunteered to coach a debate team at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in New York City, I learned first hand what we are doing in public schools to bright black students. King HS is only a block from the Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan, and is across the street from LaGuardia High School (of “Fame” fame). The neighboring schools are exciting centers of learning; King not so much, and its students are primarily black. I once asked the kids I was coaching at King if there was any student in their school who was white, and they told me they did not think so.
The students who volunteered for the King debate team were at least as intelligent and intellectually curious and agile as the El Paso High School students whom I coached. The two boys who won the Texas debate trophy were accepted at Stanford University and Northwestern University respectively. The plans after high school graduation for the students I coached at King were go into the military, attend a traditional black college, or not to get any further education. One of the girls told me she would go the black college because they would give her remedial classes when she got there to “teach me what I didn’t learn in high school.”
During my three decades of knowing New York City public school students I have met many bright, able, eager black boys and girls. I have judged them in citywide debate contests, I have watched them in a large moot court competition which I helped organize during the decade that I administered a MENTOR program that paired dozens of public high schools with law firm mentors.
There is a common denominator among brilliant black kids who go through non-premium public schools. The common denominator — that cuts off their future — is that the have not learned much. Their vocabularies are noticeably small. They have little depth of knowledge in science. They have not read extensively in literature. And so, sadly, on.
Handschooling can fill the knowledge access deficit in a big way.
At the least, handschooling can make a pivotal difference for bright kids like the King debaters. We can put the internet in their pockets even as early as when they start school. Youngsters like these can be given the responsibility to take care of a mobile device. Even if we keep on forcing them by law to sit through public school classes where little is taught, they can uses their mobile devices to follow their natural curiosity to extend their learning online.
I think of one of the King debaters named Kurt — a handsome fellow, who was modest, highly intelligent, well-mannered, determined, and a natural leader. He entered the U.S. Army after high school. I feel sure he devoured the instruction the Army gave him, gaining competency. But in grade school his young brain did not ramify with math concepts to enrich it — because only the simplest arithmetic was offered in his public grade school. His early reading years were not as voracious as they could have been, his vocabulary remained small, limiting his concepts. Kurt and the other debaters treasured a class given by a tiny, aging assistant principal who challenged them with some discourse in literature. These gifted teenagers hungered to learn from a sparse intellectual table.
Many race to the top sorts of efforts have been made during the thirty years I have been acquainted with King HS. When I first got involved with the New York City public schools, for six years I helped staff President Reagan’s annual White House Conference on Partnerships in Education, an event that brought together hundreds of programs seeking to make schools better. That was followed by President George H.W. Bush declaring himself the “Education President.” Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush made education a priority as well. These efforts tried to move schools toward the top. Many efforts have been and are being made to improve the achievement of various schools and minority groups. Schools have not improved.
The real race to the top is among individuals. Black students like the debaters I coached at King should be at the head of the race but they are cut off at the knees at public school in the overall race to the top of their generation. At King all the students — not just the brightest — are held back by being there because expectations are low and knowledge scarce. There are races for the middle, and races to do a little better. Knowledge is the fuel for the sprint and for the marathon of education. Handschooling is a straightforward way to connect all of the the young generation with full knowledge — to make the race to the top individual and fair. Let’s do it!