Unsayable Truths About a Failing US High School: Racial Gaps in Education

Unsayable Truths About a Failing US High School: Racial Gaps in Education, by Kay Hymowitz.

Last week, my high school alma mater in the prosperous Montgomery County suburbs of Philadelphia went viral. A video of a student brawl injuring four security officers and eight teachers appeared on YouTube, bolstering long-whispered rumors of the district’s decline.

Four students were taken into custody; one of them, 18 and charged as an adult for four counts of aggravated assault, is still in jail as I write. All four of the students were black females. …

It became clear almost immediately that the brawl was no one-off. “Really we have experienced [this kind of fight] our entire high school career,” said the student council president, the first speaker lined up at the audience mikes. “We complained. We never got any response. We were told all disputes were personal and the school was safe. Why now?” she asked tearfully. “Because a video of it was leaked to the media?”

Students described rape threats, stalking, kids sent back to classrooms after menacing teachers or classmates, teachers walking past fighting kids, security guards looking the other way. The problems, students insisted, weren’t limited to the high school; they remembered thuggery in middle and even elementary school, too. …

There was no way to chalk up these complaints to adolescent theatrics. A February survey of CHS teachers had already revealed a school that resembled Lord of the Flies. Cursing, yelling students roamed the halls, pushing, shoving, ramming each other into walls, sometimes “accidentally” colliding with teachers. Thirty-six out of 79 teachers surveyed believed that they were unsafe in the hallways, and those who didn’t acknowledged either being big enough to stare down students or practiced at minding their own business.  …

What could not be said out loud was that the problem kids were all black … Like many inner suburbs, once predominantly white Cheltenham has become increasingly African-American over the past decades. Back in the day, only about 10 percent of the high school population was black …

Forty-five percent of the black children in Cheltenham are born to unmarried mothers …

If those households are like the struggling single-parent homes studied by social scientists, then the children are experiencing radically different domestic lives than their middle-class black and white classmates — with few routines, disappearing fathers and stepfathers, and little adult interest in homework, teachers, and discipline. Researchers have repeatedly found that boys growing up in single-mother households are especially prone to “externalizing” behavior like fighting, impulsiveness, rudeness — in other words, precisely the sort of behavior that the community meeting was demanding the administration do something about. …

Political correctness makes even talking about reality impossible:

This class and family divide, intertwined as it is with race, is off-limits to polite discussion, leading conversations like the one at the community meeting into a verbal traffic jam of contradictions and dodges. …

For three hours, parents and students demanded that the administration impose clear “consequences” for fighting and rudeness. The administrators have their self-contradicting marching orders: stigma-free consequences. …

What else can be done?

One solution is alternative schools, which would place the small number of students making education impossible for the majority into schools explicitly designed for kids unable to function in ordinary education environments. The February teacher survey showed that the vast majority of instructors supported the approach; several black parents also endorsed it at the meeting. (A white father reviled the idea as stigmatizing.)

It is documented beyond measure that there is a large difference in the average IQ of blacks and whites in the US, but because this reality is politically unacceptable poor policy solutions keep being tried. How frustrating for all involved.