The Tampa Bay Times has just won a Pulitzer Prize for its discovery of five black elementary school “failure factories” in Pinellas County FL, where I now live. The implication: if weak teachers are removed, the five failing schools will metamorphose into satisfactory schools. As a career education professor, I roll my eyes. The Times’ intellectuals (Michael LaForgia, [Email] Cara Fitzpatrick [Email] and Lisa Gartner[Email] ) were apparently unaware of the pattern of “failing” black schools in places like Newark, Camden, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta…in fact, everywhere. Why?
By an amazing coincidence, after the Tampa Bay Times’ series began, U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (right ) a long-time comrade of President Obama, appeared to investigate the five “failure factories.” [Education Secretary Arne Duncan to visit Campbell Park after Failure Factories investigation, By Cara Fitzpatrick, October 22, 2015] Duncan pointedly accused Pinellas leaders as having committed “education malpractice” in allowing these schools to become homogeneously black after 2007 when “school choice” was eliminated. ['Failure Factories': Duncan blasts Pinellas school system for 'education malpractice' (w/video),By Fitzpatrick, Gartner and LaForgia, October 23, 2015]
But while Duncan was right to claim that blacks do better academically in racially-mixed schools, the improvement is very modest. Superior teachers teaching inferior black students can raise their achievement slightly, but the “gap” has not truly been modified unless white students had equally competent teachers.
The brutal reality underlying Pinellas’ “failure factories” was spelled out in Robert Weissberg’s rigorous 2010 book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools: the pervasive and persistent racial gap in both IQ and academic achievement between blacks and whites.
This gap has been known for over a century but is never acknowledged by policy makers, despite the explosive success of The Bell Curve in 1994.
Additionally, blacks are notoriously anti-social to such a high degree that expulsion and suspension rates in public schools have reflected poorly on blacks for at least half a century. And bad students are not only incapable of high academic performance, they often disrupt entire schools. But Obama’s Executive Order in 2014 demands that public schools conform to a Disparate Impact proportionality system so that black and white expulsion and suspension data are the same. Many white and Asian students with good minds will languish as Social Justice Warrior fanatics steer America’s schools down the wrong road.
Conversely, without intervention elite high schools like the Bronx High School of Science, or Montclair High in New Jersey where I once taught, are usually about 89 or 90 percent white and Asian.
At the age of 83, I recall two personal experiences that I think have special relevance to the current educational impasse.
I will compare my own high school years of 1947-1950 with Los Angeles in 1967—when the gates of society had opened to vastly increased power for minorities to get what they considered human rights.
I was a student at Rahway High in New Jersey, the only high school in a city of about 30,000 people.
The huge drug manufacturer Merck and Co. divided Rahway into white and black neighborhoods. I dimly recall that the single movie theater had a special enclosed section for blacks, although it vanished at some point. Segregation of course was illegal in most Northern states but there were social norms and blacks seemed uninclined to push for integration.
Among about 1100 students, there were some 60 blacks. For four years we attended school together peacefully, without a single memorable fight. Buses arrived to return all blacks to their homes across town. Most others, like me, walked a few miles back to our homes.
But although coexistence was peaceful, none of my college prep classes had any blacks. In four years I never saw a black student in a class. They were quietly earning diplomas related to practical careers and created no friction over racism. Indeed, the use of words like “racism” was non-existent.
I mention Rahway High not because it was ideal but because blacks were able to function and eventually graduate with few feelings of hatred or even distrust.
America then presented a culture vastly different from today. It was much more conservative and religious. Traditions had real meaning. When I became an atheist at the University of Maine at age 19, I found myself surrounded by good Christians who had very low tolerance for my strange beliefs.
Rahway in the early post WWII era was still a society full of constraints related to Christianity and the Protestant work ethic. Discipline, including corporal punishment, was simply normative. Teens rarely ventured out during school nights as parents had genuine authority and practiced it daily. Strict discipline permeated old Rahway High and miscreant behavior was quickly punished despite the total absence of resource officers or cell phones.
The lives of black children were therefore far more demanding than they are in today’s amoral PC cul de sac. Thoughtful blacks close to my age, like Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, remember a family life that differs greatly from the toxic life in black female-headed homes today. Thomas benefited from being raised by a strong, wise grandfather after his father disappeared. Sowell is truly exceptional in qualifying for the rigorous Stuyvesant High School in New York City via a test that historically screened out all less able students and effectively prevented poorly qualified blacks or Hispanics from admission. In other words, Sowell and Clarence Thomas earned their way.
Black children in Rahway came from mostly intact Christian families composed of two parents, one of whom was often a tough father willing to use corporal punishment much like Adrian Peterson did last year. I saw nothing to approximate the epidemic of chaotic behavior of recent years—as blacks have gained more than equal rights by becoming beneficiaries of enormous governmental, corporate, and private largess by liberals.
Black children were taught some rudiments of civility in my youth. But they are now in “families” who survive on welfare and engage actively in drugs, early sex, hip-hop and crime in neighborhoods full of dysfunction. Pop culture now has gargantuan power in a declining America and, for example, cable TV is saturated with assorted black programs that are Politically Correct but depraved and corrosive to civilized traditions.
In contrast, some twenty years later, two teachers, both black, at Crenshaw High School in Watts, the notorious part of Los Angeles that had experienced riots and mayhem in 1965, asked me, by then an education professor, to boost the faculty’s self-esteem with a motivational talk.
But when I realized that such teachers were trapped in a prison-like atmosphere without the authority needed to teach the values that were utterly lacking in their students, I knew that my attempt was entirely futile. Before these undisciplined, impulsive, often violent students could ever improve their academic performance in even a modest way, they needed a strong dose of civilization—which was now lacking.
The faculty itself was mostly very bright, dedicated liberals. But they were trying to achieve goals that were impossible, given the chaos that dominated life at Crenshaw. Crenshaw was the victim of the quality of students rather than defects in the quality of faculty, school resources, or curricula.
Needless to say, the school administrators, black and white, were usually political chameleons who kept their jobs by using suspension and expulsion as ways of keeping the ship afloat.
African- Americans derive from West Africa and evolved on a continent still exhibiting hunter-gatherer living. Since genes and culture interact via different selection pressures in different habitats, only whites and East Asians, whose ancestors left Africa to eventually become farmers and builders of industries and civilization, underwent the accelerated evolution elaborated upon by Greg Cochran and the late Henry Harpending in their The Ten Thousand Year Explosion.
Building industrialized civilizations fostered selection for brains better at abstract thinking. Sub-Saharan Africa’s inhabitants never experienced the nature-nurture coevolution processes that would reduce violence while raising IQ—which has remained at a mean IQ of 70. Disorders such as psychopathy and ADHD are much more common among blacks than whites. All of these differences are based upon drastically different evolutionary histories in which selection pressures were entirely different.
I propose that 1947-50 American blacks lived under social and cultural constraints that suppressed their natural tendencies—which in Africa were also suppressed by tribal power hierarchies. Tribal leaders had absolute power because tribal life would disintegrate without it. Blacks in my youth behaved in a more civilized way because they had little choice as discipline was strict in both home and school. ADHD is a in effect a new disorder, because blacks today exhibit far more impulsivity, inattentiveness, and violence than they did in Rahway High from 1947-1950 when societal constraints were much greater
But today, adult authority is missing in both home and school. Worse this has set in motion a new dynamic in which black parents will sue school boards for damages if their precious youngster is physically touched or even berated verbally. [The Costly War on Painful Education, by Robert Weissberg, The Unz Review, November 7, 2015]
Black elites firmly believe that white society oppresses them in chronic poverty and “bad” schools—but the fact is that any school with a substantial black fraction is highly prone to chaos and failure.
In a PC-driven society, Political Correctness can impose fearful consequences. The Left currently holds all the cards.
But the truth exists, in the slowly-emerging HBD movement originally begun by Steve Sailer and a small group of blogging anthropologists. Admittedly, a black “intellectual” like Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose high public image is inversely proportional to his scientific knowledge and use of logic, wins a half million dollar MacArthur Genius Award while Steve Sailer must look for financial support online despite his prodigious output. But he is getting support—thanks in part to VDARE.com.
Weissberg’s careful study of the social science evidence concludes that gap hunters are doomed to failure. In my opinion, HBD strongly supports the idea that divergent racial histories explain our current futile efforts to fit square pegs into round holes.
Cornelius J. Troost [Email him] author of Apes Or Angels?:Darwin, Dover, Human Nature, and Race, was a professor of science education at UCLA and chair of graduate studies at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. While at Brock Dr. Troost created an MA degree program in environmental education. He also worked on critical thinking tests for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto