California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell has figured out a way to aid students of whatever race to come closer to fulfilling their potential.
He is denouncing white public school teachers as bigots.
According to O'Connell, white teachers contribute to the racial gap in educational achievement by imposing excessively strict discipline.
The Superintendent's bizarre statements illustrate why VDARE.COM chose to be one of the few publications to defend the great geneticist James Watson: when the truth is denounced as unthinkable, madness results.
And people get hurt.
Jared Taylor did an excellent job in VDARE.com on Tuesday, Nov. 13 of analyzing O'Connell's bullying "Achievement Gap Summit" held last week for 4,000 attendees in Sacramento. But this episode is so illustrative of the pervasive dysfunctionality that Political Correctness inflicts upon modern America that it's worth exploring further.
O'Connell, a politically ambitious white Democrat, is a potentially significant figure. He has already received a million dollars from the founder of NetFlix to kick off a run for governor when Arnold Schwarzenegger is term-limited out in 2010.
This isn't just local news. California governors are automatically Presidential Possibilities. A Governor O'Connell could be in the hunt for a Vice-Presidential nomination in 2012 or a Presidential nomination in 2016.
O'Connell got his political start over a quarter of a century ago on the school board of then-idyllic Santa Barbara County. In those days, the big challenges facing Santa Barbara schools included higher absenteeism when surf's up.
This sheltered politico was shocked to discover recently (after five years on the job as Superintendent) that the lower average school performance of Non-Asian Minorities [NAMs] can't be explained away by poverty.
At all income levels, there remain substantial racial differences in average achievement. For example, whites and Asians who are so poor that they are eligible for the National School Lunch Program still earn higher average NAEP scores than NAMs from families above the income cutoff.
Maybe O'Connell has watched too many inspirational inner city teacher movies, like Hilary Swank's Freedom Writers, Meryl Streep's Music of the Heart, and Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds—a genre memorably parodied by MadTV in its trailer for a fictitious film entitled Nice White Lady. He's apparently decided that the performance chasm is caused by Mean White Ladies.
According to O'Connell, church-going black youths are being persecuted by Mean White Lady schoolteachers:
"O'Connell now believes that widespread cultural ignorance within the California school system is responsible for the poor academic performance of many black and Latino students in school.
"He offered the example of black children who learn at church that it's good to clap, speak loudly and be a bit raucous. But doing the same thing at school, where 72 percent of teachers are white and may be unfamiliar with such customs, will get them in trouble, he said.
"The achievement gap is 'absolutely, positively not genetic,' O'Connell said.'All kids can learn. I'm saying it's racial.'" [Summit called to address racial disparities in academic performance, by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12/07]
O'Connell's statement caused a controversy, leading him to apologize … not to white schoolteachers, of course (there wasn't any media tumult over that), but to black churches.[CA Schools Superintendent Criticized For Alleged Racist Remarks, KNTV, November 13, 2007]
After the conference, O'Connell kept up his attack on white teachers, telling the Los Angeles Times:
"O'Connell concurred, talking of 'a cultural bias that impedes instruction. Well-meaning, well-educated people can unintentionally be part of perpetuating institutional racism.' The nation's schooling system, he said, 'developed to educate white children and remains most advantageous to white children.'" [State summit targets ethnic gap in student achievement,By Howard Blume, November 18, 2007]
None of this talk about "white privilege" makes the slightest sense, and everyone who lives in California knows it. California isn't Mississippi—where there are only two ethnicities and it can be hard to know if you're making a fair comparison because there's no third race to serve as the control group.
In California, in contrast, there are over a half million Asian public school students. They now actually outnumber black students. And their academic achievement isn't undermined by "white privilege". On average, they outperform whites in school, just as all the classroom lore about whose test to cheat off would suggest.
Moreover, if O'Connell isn't aware that California public school teachers are already subjected to long hours of ethnic sensitivity training, he must have spent his first term as Superintendent in a cave.
Finally, O'Connell's implication that too much classroom discipline is holding NAM students down is just barking mad.
For example, Nanette Asimov (yes, she's the niece of science fiction great Isaac Asimov) pointedly reported in the SF Chronicle on the only session out of the 125 at O'Connell's conference where real high school students were asked what would help them:
"'If the room is quiet, I can work better—but it's not gonna happen,' said Nyrysha Belion, a 16-year-old junior at Mather Youth Academy in Sacramento County, a school for students referred for problems ranging from truancy to probation.
"She was answering a question posed by a moderator: 'What works best for you at school to help you succeed?'
"Simple, elusive quiet.
"Nyrysha said if she wants to hear her teacher, she has to move away from the other students.'Half our teachers don't like to talk because no one listens.'"
After five years of Jack O'Connell as head educrat, California nearly hit rock bottom on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. California students' reading scores are horrible, with the state ranking 48th out of 50 states in 4th grade reading and 49th in 8th grade reading.
California's dim future is mostly not O'Connell's fault. The primary culprit is "demographic change"—i.e., immigration.
I suspect that the Superintendent is babbling insane nonsense because he's terrified of blurting out what he suspects is the real reason for the gap…and finding himself Watsoned out of his precious political career.
But, unfortunately, as Richard Weaver pointed out long ago, ideas have consequences …no matter how stupid the ideas are. O'Connell's ridiculous rationalizations have taken on bureaucratic momentum. He hired Glenn Singleton, [Send him mail] a black professional diversicrat, as his racial sensitivity consultant and wants to subject white public school teachers to Singleton's system of Maoist-style self-criticism sessions (Singleton calls them "Courageous Conversations") about "white privilege."
The last thing California public schools need is for O'Connell and Singleton to wage a Cultural Revolution from above against school discipline. That would tell NAM students, in effect, to play the race card even more than they do now when they get in trouble.
Now, I sent my son to a California public school and was quite satisfied. If you can find one in a decent neighborhood with entrance requirements and an outstanding principal (which is hard, because big city public school principals, although they would seem the epitome of "management", often have their own principals' unions to shelter them), a public school can thrive for a number of years…before the educrats downtown finally notice its excellence and stamp it out.
I've talked to lots of parents and teachers over the years and have heard California public schools praised and damned. But I've never ever heard anyone say there was too much discipline in them.
In my son's classes, discipline wasn't a big issue. But he was in the school's exclusive Science Academy, which was run by a charismatic action movie actor who was a martial arts black belt.
But with run-of-the-mill students, teachers, and schools, discipline can be a massive problem. (For a report from the trenches about the "pandemonium" reigning in some schools, check out Friday's WorldNetDaily article Battle-scarred 'sub' in L.A. barrios speaks out by substitute teacher Migdia Chinea.)
One growing difficulty: in many schools these days, the main discipline tool is for teachers to threaten, like E.T., to phone home.
Yet when they do call the parents, it frequently doesn't work because:
Or the parents (especially the father) aren't around much;
Or they don't care;
Or the parents mean well but just aren't very effective people.
If these parents were better at accomplishing their goals, they wouldn't be sending their kid to such an undisciplined school, now would they?
In fact, since problem-solving has never been their strong suit, the parents were kind of hoping, reasonably enough, that society's giant institutions would help with disciplining their kids—not just try to dump their problem with their little hellion right back in their laps.
Sometimes phoning home works a little too well. The kid comes to school the next day with a black eye. Students know that's a get-out-of-jail-free card for the rest of the semester—because the teacher is then terrified that if she calls Papa a second time, he'll smack the brat with his bottle and put him in the intensive care ward.
Still, on most middle and high school campuses, there are school employees who are reasonably good at getting energetic, muscular young males to obey them. They are called football coaches.
Clearly, some of their success is due to being able to bench or toss off the team players who won't subordinate themselves. But good coaches also have the right kind of alpha male personalities to first intimidate and later impress young males. As Tom Wolfe mentioned to me a couple of years ago, lots of men have made it their life's study to dominate other males through force of personality.
You don't even have to pay them a huge amount of money to impose their wills on students. They like doing it.
Of course, many of the best disciplinarians were hellraisers themselves when young. Bad boys generally have no philosophical objection to authority in the abstract; instead they just object to somebody else being in charge.
That's why wild young males are more likely to respond positively to authority figures whom they could imagine themselves growing up to be. They'll never grow up to be a Nice White Lady. So the schools have to provide the teachers with a second line of disciplinary defense, composed primarily of men with necks thicker than their heads.
So, as a public service, let me offer my plan for improving school discipline:
Huh? That's it?
Pretty much, but there are a few wrinkles:
I realize that there's nothing innovative about my plan. It's just old-fashioned common sense.
But, in our PC era, common sense is under siege.