Thursday, October 8, 2020

Undermining Education in the Inner Cities

Could it be that city government in a place like New York City is sabotaging educational opportunity for underprivileged children-- in order to improve Joe Biden’s electoral prospects?

Could it be that city government, aligned as always with the teachers’ unions, is keeping children out of school because they can thusly damage the local and the national economies, the better to defeat Donald Trump?

I have occasionally argued the point. Others have done the same. It is a monumentally cynical maneuver, sacrificing children’s lives in order to pick up more federal funding.


Now, Ross Douthat has considered the issue and he comes down on the same side. He is less cynical than I am, so his conclusions merit a post:


But at the very same time, the pandemic-era policies of many progressive jurisdictions are sabotaging basic civic goods, with anti-Trump zeal as an accelerant and with effects on minority communities that are likely to far outlast the Trump era. This means that for many African-Americans and Hispanics, a key legacy of 2020 may be a well-intentioned liberal betrayal of their interests, a hollowing-out of the institutions that protect and serve them, and the deepening of America’s racial inequalities even if Trumpism goes down to defeat.


This means-- we are going to sabotage services for minority children in order to show that we are anti-racist. How stupid do you have to be to believe such a thing? 


But, the same argument has been outlined in considerable detail in The New Yorker. And The New Yorker is not a Trumpian media organ-- to say the least.


The most important part of this sabotage, which is the subject of an essential Alec MacGillis article for The New Yorker and ProPublica, is the failure to reopen public schools in many liberal cities, which is consigning a heavily minority and low-income school-age population to a far-inferior virtual experience or (for many kids) no real education at all.


But in MacGillis’s account it’s clear that anti-Trumpism, and particularly a partisan impulse to resist the White House’s push for reopening, created a permission structure for teachers’ unions that already opposed in-person school to force a continued shutdown.


Of course, there is much evidence to suggest that opening schools does not produce a viral calamity:


Without minimizing the real uncertainties around reopening and student health, he [MacGillis] suggests that advocates of closure ended up cherry-picking studies to exaggerate the dangers and ignoring the evidence that a reasonably safe reopening was possible — including not only European case studies but more local examples like Baltimore, where MacGillis lives and where in-person summer schooling produced zero new known cases.


The “urban shutdown” has damaged minority children. White children, those who attend private or suburban schools, have not been affected. It's called structural inequality:


The result of this urban shutdown is an autumn in which schools have successfully reopened for much more of white America than minority America: Approximately half of white kids have access to in-person school, compared with just about a quarter of African-American and Hispanic students, according to a recent survey MacGillis cites.


Obviously, not going to school is bad for children:


This is definitely bad news for the students themselves: MacGillis notes that losing time in school tends to negatively affect subsequent educational attainment, literacy rates and employment. At the same time, the shutdown threatens to undermine public education more generally, by undercutting parental faith and commitment to the public system and pushing more families into private education (including the varied “pods” and home-school start-ups the coronavirus has encouraged).


Union officials are not worried. Translated, that means that union officials do not care about the children. They are playing politics with children’s lives. Obviously, Douthat continues, this shutdown will compromise public confidence in public schools-- and tell parents that they had best send their children to private schools or to move to the suburbs:


In interviews, MacGillis quotes union officials expressing a confidence that after the pandemic, families and their kids will simply come back to public schools. No doubt most will; most parents, after all, don’t have the resources to go elsewhere. But the entire challenge of education and integration in America turns on the challenge of keeping a subset of affluent, engaged parents involved in public education — and not just involved but also willing to send their kids to racially diverse schools that aren’t set up as incubators of privilege.


He continues:


Part of this pattern reflects the impulse among Trump-era liberals to have no enemies to the left, lest they vindicate the president’s flailing attacks in any way. This is politically understandable, but the consequence has been that various forms of naïveté, utopianism and outright idiocy have hijacked liberal politics, marching under the banner of anti-racism while leading progressive policy astray.


As it happens the BLM movement wants us to move away from educational rigor and toward indoctrination in the dogmas of anti-racism. If you wanted to dumb down minority children, you could not do better:


And it’s happening within the educational bureaucracy, where there’s a Trump-era vogue for attacks on “whiteness” that often seem to double as attacks on standards, discipline and rigor — with urban schools as the most likely laboratory for whatever educational alternatives the new progressivism dreams up.


How far any of this goes will depend on what happens after — after (as seems quite likely this year) Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, after we reach the post-pandemic era, after the current sense of wild abnormalcy recedes. But right now, the same anti-Trump progressivism that’s crusading against presidential racism is also presiding over a mix of policy choices and abdications that’s worsening life for racial minorities across multiple dimensions, making their school systems less stable, their streets less safe, their kids less likely to succeed.


To say that the BLM protesters, along with the teachers’ unions and radical leftist mayors cannot think straight is slightly exaggerated. It would be more accurate to say that they cannot think at all.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everything sounded good until: "How far any of this goes will depend on what happens after (as seems quite likely this year) Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump." Quite likely that Joe Biden beats Donald Trump? Biden can't attract 10 people to hear him ramble incoherently. I don't think Kamala can even attract that many.

Sam L. said...

"This means-- we are going to sabotage services for minority children in order to show that we are anti-racist. How stupid do you have to be to believe such a thing?" "LIBERAL" STUPID. That's how stupid.

"To say that the BLM protesters, along with the teachers’ unions and radical leftist mayors cannot think straight is slightly exaggerated. It would be more accurate to say that they cannot think at all." Oh, yes they can. BADLY. They are haters, and the children must be sacrificed to feed their lust for hate, Hate, HATE.