Black suc­cess mat­ters but most politi­cians don’t care

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - VIEWS & VOICES - THOMAS SOW­ELL Thomas Sow­ell is a se­nior fel­low at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Hoover In­sti­tu­tion.

We keep hear­ing that “black lives mat­ter,” but they seem to mat­ter only when that helps politi­cians get votes, or when that slo­gan helps dem­a­gogues de­mo­nize the po­lice.

What about black suc­cess? Does that mat­ter? Ap­par­ently not so much.

We have heard a lot about black stu­dents fail­ing to meet aca­demic stan­dards. So you might think it would be front-page news when some whole ghetto schools not only meet, but ex­ceed, the aca­demic stan­dards of schools in more up­scale com­mu­ni­ties.

There are in fact whole chains of char­ter schools where black and His­panic young­sters score well above the na­tional aver­age on tests. There are the KIPP (Knowl­edge IS Power Pro­gram) schools and the Suc­cess Academy schools, for ex­am­ple.

Only 39 per­cent of all stu­dents in New York state schools who were tested re­cently scored at the “pro­fi­cient” level in math, but 100 per­cent of the stu­dents at the Crown Heights Suc­cess Academy school scored at that level in math. Blacks and His­pan­ics are 90 per­cent of the stu­dents in the Crown Heights Suc­cess Academy.

The Suc­cess Academy schools in gen­eral ranked in the top 2 per­cent in English and in the top 1 per­cent in math.

His­panic stu­dents in these schools reached the “pro­fi­cient” level in math nearly twice as of­ten as His­panic stu­dents in the reg­u­lar pub­lic schools.

Black stu­dents in these Suc­cess Academy schools reached the “pro­fi­cient” level more than twice as of­ten as black stu­dents in the reg­u­lar pub­lic schools.

What makes this all the more amaz­ing is that these char­ter schools are typ­i­cally lo­cated in the same ghet­tos or bar­rios where other blacks or His­pan­ics are fail­ing mis­er­ably on the same tests.

More than that, suc­cess­ful char­ter schools are of­ten phys­i­cally housed in the very same build­ings as the un­suc­cess­ful pub­lic schools.

In other words, mi­nor­ity kids from the same neigh­bor­hood, go­ing to school in classes across the hall from each other, or on dif­fer­ent floors, are scor­ing far above aver­age and far be­low aver­age on the same tests.

If black suc­cess was con­sid­ered half as news­wor­thy as black fail­ures, such facts would be head­line news — and peo­ple who have the real in­ter­ests of black and other mi­nor­ity stu­dents at heart would be ask­ing, “Wow! How can we get more kids into these char­ter schools?”

MANY MI­NOR­ITY par­ents have al­ready taken no­tice. More than 43,000 fam­i­lies are on wait­ing lists to get their chil­dren into char­ter schools. But ad­mis­sion is by lot­tery, and far more have to be turned away than can be ad­mit­ted.

Why? Be­cause the teach­ers’ unions are op­posed to char­ter schools — and they give big bucks to politi­cians, who in turn put ob­sta­cles and re­stric­tions on the ex­pan­sion of char­ter schools. These in­clude politi­cians like New York’s “pro­gres­sive” mayor Bill de Bla­sio, who poses as a friend of blacks by den­i­grat­ing the po­lice, stand­ing along­side Al Sharp­ton.

The net re­sult is that 90 per­cent of New York City’s stu­dents are taught in the reg­u­lar pub­lic schools that have noth­ing like the suc­cess of char­ter schools run by KIPP and Suc­cess Academy.

That makes sense only po­lit­i­cally, be­cause it gains the money and the votes of the teach­ers’ unions, for whom schools ex­ist to pro­vide jobs for their mem­bers, rather than to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren.

If you want to un­der­stand this crazy and un­con­scionable sit­u­a­tion, just fol­low the money and fol­low the votes.

Black suc­cess is a threat to po­lit­i­cal em­pires and to a whole so­cial vi­sion be­hind those em­pires. That so­cial vi­sion has politi­cians like Bill de Bla­sio and Hil­lary Clin­ton cast in the role of res­cuers and pro­tec­tors of blacks from en­e­mies threat­en­ing on all sides. If politi­cians can pro­mote para­noia, that means big­ger voter turnout, which is what really mat­ters to them.

That same so­cial vi­sion al­lows the in­tel­li­gentsia, whether in the me­dia or in academia, to be on the side of the an­gels against the forces of evil. That’s heady stuff.

And a bunch of kids tak­ing tests doesn’t look nearly as ex­cit­ing on TV as a mob march­ing through the streets, chant­ing that they want “dead cops.”

Black suc­cess has very lit­tle to of­fer politi­cians or the in­tel­li­gentsia. But black chil­dren’s lives and fu­tures ought to mat­ter — and would, if politi­cians and the in­tel­li­gentsia were for real.

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