The Civil Rights Movement Goes Into Reverse

The Civil Rights Movement Goes Into Reverse by Robert Weissberg for UNZ Review

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No element of American culture is more axiomatic than the link between education and upward mobility. This relationship virtually defined the early civil rights movement but, as we shall see, not only has this link weakened, but the very opposite seems to be emerging —destroying education, especially public education, has, ostensibly, become the path to racial progress.

At least until the 1960s, the education and economic progress nexus was beyond dispute since the facts—blacks were shortchanged educationally and also lagged behind whites economically–were shockingly obvious. Civil rights organizations thus reasonably zeroed in on educational equality, and by the mid-1960s trillions were flowing into schools promoting racial uplift. There were free meals (“can’t learn on an empty stomach”) plus countless programs targeting “root causes” such as Head Start. A vast close-the-gap industry emerged, and every proposal seemed sure-fired. Recall the massively funded Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind that mandated clear metrics for progress and incentives. Experts announced that black students could only learn from black teachers or that school textbooks needed more black faces and African American history. And on and on, endlessly but all had at least some reasonable relationship to boosting learning.

Now, over 60 years past initial efforts, it is clear that no elixir performs as advertised, regardless of ideological pedigree or how many trillions are “invested in the children” (the inflation adjusted spending on education since the 1960s has increased by 280%). Nor has the black/white gap in wealth narrowed since the late 1960s despite soaring educational spending. What is to be done? The answer: quackery, schemes that will only exacerbate an already troubling situation for black children. Putting the civil rights revolution into reverse, so to speak. This educational foolishness may well have been invented by the same egalitarian zealots who insist that the cure for black criminality requires abolishing the police. Let me offer just a sampling of this pernicious nonsense.

The most notorious of these misguided “leveling” policies is forcing schools to discipline students by racial quota—non-blacks are to be discipline at the same rates as blacks. This policy officially began in a 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter from President Obama’s Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Enforcement claiming that school districts that disproportionately suspended, expelled of otherwise penalize blacks pupils were in violation of federal anti-discrimination law, and thus risked losing federal funding. The principle of even-handedness was to be replaced by disparate impact, i.e., uncovering discrimination by the numbers.

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Unz Review

For decades I have spent a couple of hours every morning carefully reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and several other major newspapers. But although such a detailed study of the American mainstream media is a necessary condition for remaining informed about our world, it is not sufficient. With the rise of the Internet and the alternative media, every thinking individual has increasingly recognized that there exist enormous lacunae in what our media tells us and disturbing patterns in what is regularly ignored or concealed. In April 2013 I published “Our American Pravda,” a major article highlighting some of the most disturbing omissions of our national media in issues of the greatest national importance. The considerable attention it attracted from The Atlantic, Forbes, and a New York Times economics columnist demonstrated that the mainstream journalists themselves were often all too aware of these problems, but perhaps found them too difficult to address within the confining structure of large media organizations. This reinforced my belief in the reality of the serious condition I had diagnosed.