The idea of putting the cheating Atlanta educators in prison is racist, say a group of black clergy in Atlanta. Just what’s racist about it they don’t bother to explain.
Do they mean that, if the offenders had been white, there would have been no chance of them going to jail? Are they saying that prison itself is racist, since a disproportionate number of inmates are black? Or is the charge of racism so reflexive by now that they’re not even thinking of a justification for it?
The irony here is that it seems the vast majority of the characters in the story are black: the perpetrators, the DA who wants prison terms for them, and the victims, the schoolchildren and parents of Atlanta. Most Atlanta public schools are virtually all black—and quite a few of them, such as Booker T. Washington High, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, have never been integrated, passing seamlessly from the days of de jure segregation to de facto segregation despite official integration.
The Atlanta cheating scandal has shed a light on the current state of public education, particularly for black students in poor urban areas. If education has any chance of countering trends in that community towards family disintegration and the glorification of an anti-academic, outlaw mentality, it isn’t being helped along by certain attitudes of the leadership of the black community, as exemplified in these clergymen—or by some of the moves of the NAACP and the teachers’ unions:
The American public education system is failing many groups, but none more miserably than black males. The numbers are shocking. The Schott Foundation recently reported that only 47 percent of black males graduate from high school on time, compared to 78 percent of white male students…
The way urban city school districts fail black males is more disconcerting considering that black professionals are in charge. Urban districts are among the worst at graduating black males: Atlanta, 34 percent; Baltimore, 35 percent; Philadelphia, 28 percent; New York, 28 percent; Detroit, 27 percent; and St. Louis, 38 percent.
There are surely many reasons for such failure, and family breakdown must rank high among them. Schools may be powerless to transform black family life, but they should not be left off the hook for turning in a dismal performance. In a recent interview, Dr. Steve Perry, principal and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., repeatedly places the blame for the black achievement gap at the feet of the partnerships between the teachers unions and the NAACP, “a civil-rights relic.” The places where black students excel, says Perry, are those where students have access to choice. Sadly the NAACP and the NEA have long undermined the push for low-income black parents to exercise freedom to choose the best schools as a national norm.
For example, even with mounting evidence demonstrating that single-sex education for blacks males from low-income households represents one of the best opportunities for graduation, the NEA petitioned the Department of Education in 2004 to prevent single-sex options from becoming nationally normative, balking because “the creation of an artificial single-sex environment [will] ill prepare students for life in the real world.”