The Coming Stolen Generation Of African-Americans
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The New York Times Magazine has an article by Maggie Jones, The Inner-City Prep School Experience, on a Washington D.C. version of the old Australian plan, the SEED School, a grades 6 to 12 boarding school for black ghetto children ("admission by lottery"). It was started in 1998 by two management consultants, Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota. (Not at all surprisingly, Thomas Friedman wrote a NYT column about the wonderfulness of SEED.)

Boarding school for blacks exemplifies one general concept that has been growing in the minds of liberal activists about what to do with ghetto black students (witness the demands for mandatory preschool, longer school days, shorter summer vacations, and universal post-high school education) is that since we all know that blacks are equal in intelligence by nature, therefore their unfortunate performance on average means that they must be victimized by their nurture. So, the solution is to take them away from their families to the maximum extent possible and have them raised by salaried professionals. The problem is that we simply haven't spent enough money on them. It's our fault.

In other words, the trend is to re-enact the Australian Stolen Generation scheme. As you'll recall, in the 1930s, half-blood children of alcoholic Aboriginal mothers were sent to boarding schools to learn how to function in white society by well-intentioned whites. This was condemned in the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, but, amusingly, the director, Philip Noyce, wound up paying to send his adolescent half-blood female star to boarding school to get her away from her alcoholic family.

SEED costs $35,000 per year for five days per week of school and boarding, but most of the article concerns whether or not having the kids go home on the weekends (which keeps the cost from being a lot higher than $35,000) just ruins whatever good is done by locking them up away from their friends and relatives on weeknights.

While SEED enrolls plenty of at-risk students, critics argue that SEED and other charter schools skim the cream of inner-city youth, attracting the families who are motivated to fill out the paperwork to apply to the school. Meanwhile, some of the most high-risk kids, whose parents are barely functional and place more value on their child’s being home every day to baby-sit or do housework than they do on education, are left behind.

But SEED’s statistics have impressed fans of the school, including President Barack Obama, who called the school ”a true success story”: at least 97 percent of SEED graduates are accepted to colleges, including Princeton, Alabama A&M and Connecticut College. And 90 percent of SEED graduates immediately enroll in college, compared with 56 percent of African-American high-school graduates nationally. (About 70 percent of SEED graduates are currently in or graduated from college, although the program is new enough that the sample size is small.) Though SEED also outpaces D.C. public schools in reading and math, reading is still a weakness for many SEED students and, not coincidentally, the school’s SAT scores have been unimpressive. ...

Some kids don’t last beyond the first year or two at SEED. Until recently, the school lost about 20 percent of the student body each year – mostly in middle school and mostly boys. The incoming class of 70 students slowly dissipated each year so that by senior year, the remaining students barely filled a gym bleacher. The high attrition made the school’s much-lauded college acceptance rate less impressive: If a class of 70 seventh graders fell to 20 students by the time of graduation, those remaining 20 students were arguably among the best – at least in terms of self-discipline and a willingness to stick it out – of the original class. Adams, who became the head of SEED two years ago, has been improving the attrition rate by reducing the number of staff members with authority to dismiss students and taking a more nuanced view of dismissal-worthy offenses. During this past school year, the attrition rate dropped by more than 50 percent.

Recently, the Prime Minister of Australia issued a lachrymose apology for the Stolen Generation. (Of course, the levels of alcoholism and sexual abuse of children in Aborigine towns only got worse under the administration of culturally sensitive anti-racist post-1960s people, but who's counting?) It would not at all be surprising if about 2080, the President of the United States issues a similar apology for the Stolen Generation of blacks in the 2010-2040 era.

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