Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Studies Might Show

Ed Whitfield

September 5, 2007

There are some more studies that have been released showing that black kids learn better in mixed settings. At this point in my life I am not even interested in reading them. Let me explain why.

Suppose someone offered to do a study to see whether or not it made sense for you to continue to raise your young children or turn them over to the state. They might justify the study by saying that scientific data driven evidence was needed to see if the basic family was as efficient as larger institutions for child rearing where the economies of scale and availability of trained experts might allow the raising of children to conform more to the needs of industry and the government. My guess is that you would look at anyone making such a proposal like they were crazy and let them know in some possibly colorful language that you weren't very interested in the results of their study. Somehow the results, whatever they may be, would not make a lot of difference in your insistence that they are your children, you will accept the responsibility for their upbringing and you will not entertain the possibility of giving them up without a fight. Let the study be damned.

That is about how I feel when I hear about some new research which has been done on the desirability of public school balance and the expediency of school diversity for the benefit of African American children. All the studies in the world, pretending to show that children learn better in mixed settings, cannot convince me that powerful learning environments are impossible in schools with black majorities. Now, I want to be clear. I am not claiming that black children can only learn in such settings. I am saying, rather, that there is nothing about majority black settings, per se, that prevents learning and that when such settings are found and learning is not taking place there is some other problem that prevents it -- not the over abundance of black children.

In fact, to accuse me of seeking to exclude whites or blame them for educational shortcomings stands reality on its head. I am arguing against those who are comfortable claiming that black instutions are "inherently inferior" because they read it in "Brown". And by implication I want to point out that that would only be true if there was something inherently inferior about black people.

I have been told that I am arguing for a return to the "Plessy" idea of "seperate but equal" and I want to comment on that too. "Plessy" was mis-named. That doctrine would have been more accurately called "Excluded and denied equality". There was nothing ever equal under the Jim Crow segregation policies and the separation was exclusion from white spaces even while black spaces had no such exclusion but whites chose not to come. My insistence that separate can indeed be equal should be evident on its face. Any study which shows otherwise would have to be asking the wrong questions. Who is it that persists in his belief that African American people are incapable of raising their own children, advocating for them and educating them? What is it presumably about us that would make this impossible?

I am regularly told that resources will follow white children. Are we to accept this as inevitable? Shall we accept it at all? There was a time when Woolworths' lunch counters were only available to whites. Some young people thought that ridiculous enough and enough of an affront to their dignity that they fought to end such restrictions. If we need to, we can examine policies that allow for inequitable allocations of school resources and fight for their end as well. If the black community thinks that we have some intellectual deficit, on the other hand, then we should still be able to fight for access to the intellectual resources that we would like to have available for our children even if we have to hire them from outside our community. Most of us drive cars that we don't make ourselves, but instead, buy from others. We can similarly buy calculus and physics instruction if we are incapable of making it, although I am not convinced that we have any such deficit.

The whole of this is to say that I and many others are just as offended at the notion that the black community should put itself at the mercy of middle class white America for the education of its children as I would be at the idea of turning over my children out of my family to an orphanage for rearing. It doesn't make any sense to me, and no study could show otherwise.


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