THE HOPE FOR BLACK EDUCATION

Daily Press - - Opinion - Wil­liams is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity. Send email to [email protected]

In ref­er­ence to ef­forts to teach black chil­dren, the pres­i­dent of the St. Peters­burg, Fla., chap­ter of the NAACP, Maria Scruggs, said, “The (school) dis­trict has shown they just can’t do it . ... Now it’s time for the com­mu­nity to step in.” That’s a recog­ni­tion that politi­cians and the education es­tab­lish­ment, af­ter decades of prom­ises, can­not do much to nar­row the huge ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment gap be­tween Asians and whites on the one hand and blacks on the other.

The most cru­cial in­put for a child’s education can­not be pro­vided by schools or politi­cians. Con­tin­ued calls for higher education bud­gets will pro­duce dis­ap­point­ing re­sults, as they have in the past. There are cer­tain min­i­mum re­quire­ments that must be met for any child, re­gard­less of race, to do well in school. Some­one must make the young­ster do his home­work — and pos­si­bly help him with it. Some­one must en­sure that he gets eight hours of sleep. Some­one must feed him whole­some meals, in­clud­ing break­fast. Fi­nally, some­one must en­sure that he gets to school on time, be­haves in school and re­spects the teach­ers. If these min­i­mum re­quire­ments are not met — and they can be met even if a fam­ily is poor — all else is for naught.

Scruggs says that it’s time for the black com­mu­nity to ac­cept part of the blame. Part of the prob­lem is the lack of par­ents’ in­volve­ment in their chil­dren’s education — for ex­am­ple, their not at­tend­ing par­ent-teacher nights. Hav­ing chil­dren’s books around the house and read­ing to preschool­ers is vi­tally im­por­tant. By the way, one doesn’t have to be rich to have books around the house. Plus, there are libraries.

One vi­tal mea­sure for com­mu­nity in­volve­ment in black education is that of prevent­ing young­sters who are alien and hos­tile to the ed­u­ca­tional process from mak­ing education im­pos­si­ble for ev­ery­body else. That can be ac­com­plished by ig­nor­ing politi­cians and the lib­eral vi­sion that restricts schools from re­mov­ing stu­dents who pose se­vere dis­ci­plinary prob­lems. The prob­lem goes be­yond sim­ple mis­be­hav­ior. An ar­ti­cle in Education Week last year, ti­tled “When Stu­dents Assault Teach­ers, Ef­fects Can Be Last­ing,” re­ported: “In the 2015-16 school year, 5.8 per­cent of the na­tion’s 3.8 mil­lion teach­ers were phys­i­cally at­tacked by a stu­dent. Al­most 10 per­cent were threat­ened with in­jury, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral education data.”

Given the huge ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment gap be­tween blacks and whites, one might ask whether black peo­ple can af­ford to al­low stu­dents who have lit­tle in­ter­est in be­ing educated to make education im­pos­si­ble for oth­ers. Stu­dents who assault teach­ers ought to be sum­mar­ily re­moved from the school. One might ask, “Wil­liams, what are we go­ing to do with those ex­pelled stu­dents?” I do not know, but I do know one thing for sure: Black peo­ple can­not af­ford to al­low them to re­main in school and sab­o­tage the ed­u­ca­tional chances of ev­ery­one else.

The ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment gap be­tween blacks and whites is hid­den from black stu­dents and their fam­i­lies. All too of­ten, a black stu­dent with a high school di­ploma can­not read, write or com­pute at a sixth- or sev­enth-grade level. This tends to make high school diplo­mas held by blacks less valu­able in the eyes of em­ploy­ers. As such, it sparks ra­cial di­vi­sion where it oth­er­wise would not ex­ist. There have been com­plaints that po­lice and fire de­part­ments and other civil ser­vice jobs don’t have many black em­ploy­ees. The prob­lem is that to get hired in the first place — and get pro­moted if hired — one needs to pass a civil ser­vice exam. If one’s high school di­ploma is fraud­u­lent — mean­ing he has not mas­tered the 12th-grade lev­els of all sub­jects — he is se­ri­ously hand­i­capped.

I say hats off to the vi­sion be­ing pro­moted by the NAACP’s Maria Scruggs. She and her sup­port­ers have their work cut out for them, but it’s doable.

WAL­TER WIL­LIAMS

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