Thursday, February 14, 2019

Teaching in New York City High Schools

I trust that everyone knows it, but, to make the point clear, the vast majority of New York City parents who can afford it send their children to private schools. These good liberal progressives would sell their souls to the devil if it meant that their children would not be subjected to the conditions that pertain in the average New York City school. 

As you also know, there are a handful of superior public institutions in the city. Most of them admit students on the basis of an examination. For now they offer a superior educational experience, but the new schools chancellor and the radical leftist mayor have decided that they are not sufficiently diverse… and thus are doing their darndest to destroy the last sliver of educational opportunity that the city offers in its public school system.

But then, how many of us really know what happens within these institutions? How many of us really care… as long as our own children do not have to attend them. Mary Hudson taught in the New York City public high school system for a number of years. She has recounted her harrowing experiences in a long essay for Quillette (via Maggie’s Farm.) The phrase that pops immediately to mind is: the inmates are running the asylum. Teachers exercise no authority. Students do not respect teachers. Students are defiant, hostile and contemptuous. They have no interest in learning anything and will learn nothing. You would have had to try very hard to make it worse.

Among the schools Hudson taught at was Washington Irving High School. It is located in one of New York City’s most charming neighborhoods, Gramercy Park.

Hudson begins her story by recounting her students’ reaction to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Thousands of people were dead or injured. The students at Irving cheered lustily. You would have thought that they had been brought up in the pews of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church.

Let’s not call their reaction patriotic:

A plane flew right overhead a mere moment before it blasted into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At break time word was spreading among the staff.  Both towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval, some getting out of their seats to do a sort of victory dance. It was an eye-opener, and indicative of what was to come.

The salient characteristic of this high school was that no one was going to learn anything. It was unthinkable Teachers had to redefine their job in terms of keeping a semblance of order:

As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldn’t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, “I don’t talk to teachers,” turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.

In Texas teachers could exercise discipline. In New York, it would have been discriminatory. You recall the case of Hektor Cruz. You recall that school administrators could not discipline him… because the Obama education department thought it was discriminatory. Keeping unruly children in school makes it impossible for anyone to learn anything:

This was unthinkable in New York, where “in-house suspension” was the only punitive measure. It would be “discriminatory” to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.

It wasn’t just that the students had no loyalty to their nation. They had already learned how to resist… before it became a national movement. Worse yet, the cultural climate disparaged educational achievement. Anyone who excelled at school was bullied and harassed:

Throughout Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who “cooperated with the system” was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldn’t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There were certainly precious few books being brought home.

Students understood that they could get away with abusing teachers. So they abused teachers. Since discipline was out of the question, teachers learned to absorb the abuse.

The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms I’d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.

The abuse ranged from insults to outright violence, although I myself was never physically attacked. Stories abounded, however, of hard substances like bottles of water being thrown at us, teachers getting smacked on the head from behind, pushed in stairwells, and having doors slammed in our faces. The language students used was consistently obscene. 

Of course, the school handed out diplomas… because, what difference did it make? But the ambient culture so thoroughly disparaged education that the students did not even pretend to have earned their diplomas:

High school diplomas were among the trappings, handed out to countless 12th graders with, from my observation, a 7th grade education. The elementary schools had a better record. But everyone knew that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.

Besides, the students already understood the diversity racket. They knew that they would not be judged by the same standards as anyone else, so why bother to put in extra work:

Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing: As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

That isn’t the end of Hudson’s story… but it gives you a taste of what the New York City public educational system is like.


trigger warning said...

"High school diplomas were among the trappings..."

The Wizard hands out diplomas to brainless scarecrows. The WoO movie also has a little-noticed, but telling, moment when Scarecrow recites the Pythagorean Theorem... incorrectly. This Hollywood depiction of Progressive believe-in-yourself "maff" evolved into the AOC/Markey Green New Deal.

Data showing that IQ scores are going down have been widely reported in the media (oddly, media personalities have missed the hint). Whatever one may think of IQ as a proxy for intelligence, there's no good news in those data.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the British Education System!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


I usually object to IQ testing and use of the data because the “brights” love to use it as the SOLE determinant of a human being’s worthiness of being on the planet. IQ has never been a reliable determinant of economic success. Academic success, perhaps, but it’s also designed by academics as a self-fulfilling prophesy that feeds the ego.

That said, I do think that IQ is a solid tool for measuring analytical intelligence. Certainly there are many other talent factors for human success (what some call “varieties” of intelligence). But IQ is useful for analytical quantification.

Which is why the dropping IQ score is instructive.

The Glowing Box turns people into pure consumers, not analytical thinkers. The joke of “I saw it on TV, so it must be true” isn’t the guaranteed laugh line it once was. You point out the holes in the conclusions drawn from their pixelated information consumption and are immediately confronted with this helpless, puzzled look. Followed by silence. Followed by anger and name-calling. “Hater!” or “Racist!” or “Bigot!” or “You’re so MEAN!” usually being the first thoughts that come into play, whether uttered or not.

Scary, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hard for me to feel sorry for teachers because, in most cases, they created this problem. They made their bed, and now they have to sleep in it. Another example of "We told you" this was going to happen.

UbuMaccabee said...

First, Quillette is an excellent publication. I met Toby Young (associate editor) by accident many years ago right after 9/11 in a bar in Albuquerque. I recall telling him that the Left in the US would be back to hating and blaming America for everything in just a couple years; that the Left was just laying low because of the temporary political climate, but that nothing had changed whatsoever because of 9/11.

IAC, I read Arthur Jensen's books many years ago. Pure heresy. The very subject of psychometrics is the most career damaging subject you could possibly study. You can murder infants and still sit down to the cocktail circuit, but reading Jensen will get you thrown out in the cold forever. Look at poor Charles Murray. Arthur Jensen is the most dangerous writer in the last 100 years. But in China, I bet he's required reading.

Sure, there is a giant elephant in the room in this story; I'm not going to say it--I don't have to. I have had first-hand accounts of this for decades. The subject isn't new and it's well know by anyone who wants to know. It's still terribly depressing when someone lays it out there so clearly. There is a great book on the NYC school system when the black radicals defeated the old-guard teacher's unions for the control of the Brownsville school system. Wish I could recall the name. Effectively, the black racists said that only other black racists could create the appropriate teaching environment for black students--and the government capitulated in the interests of racial harmony that never came and never will. It was the rise of Sonny Carson. It has an undercurrent of Jewish teacher vs black radical racists. The racists won. And the NYC school system was never the same.

Our lying media does not want anyone to know this. And neither do the lying teachers unions or the lying political apparatus. Generations and generations have already passed through this stupefaction and that has created a well-established culture with 77% plus illegitimacy rates (90% plus in parts of the city). Our whole media culture is based on lying about this, then double down on lying and then intimidate anyone who challenges the lies.

It cannot be fixed because we are not even permitted to speak about it. That's why I see no positive long-term future for a unified America. You can't have huge portions of the populace functionally illiterate, violent, angry, sullen, and aggressive and expect to remain a functional nation. It's just not possible. The lumpenproletariat has gotten too numerous and too influential: it's just going to take a couple of demagogues to light that fire. It's colloquially known as the "zombie apocalypse." A big economic downturn and the zombies will get rolling.