For a glimpse of the plain wrong-headedness that can seep into school districts that are ultimately governed by politicians, give Katherine Kersten’s recent City Journal article a read. It’s about the St. Paul, Minnesota, district’s experience attempting to follow the Obama administration’s push for “racial equity,” particularly in discipline statistics.
[Pacific Educational Group (PEG)]-trained “cultural specialists” reinforced the administration’s “blame-the-teacher” approach. They advised that if kids cussed teachers out, those teachers should investigate how their own inability to earn students’ trust had triggered the misconduct. The end result of a discipline infraction “should be more than just kids apologizing,” Kristy Pierce, a cultural specialist at Battle Creek Middle School told City Pages, which ran a series of articles on the mounting chaos in the St. Paul schools. “When you use the word ‘black’ versus ‘African American’ and the student flips out, understand where that might be coming from.”
A quick review of Rhode Island’s policies suggests that the Ocean State didn’t lunge quite so hard in that direction. Perhaps no Rhode Island superintendent was sufficiently radical, particularly under Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who served, in the relevant time periods, under Governors Donald Carcieri (more conservative) and Lincoln Chafee (more interested in other things). It wouldn’t be surprising, though, to find that PEG was to education in St. Paul what PolicyLink was to housing in Rhode Island (that is, a far-left activist group propped up by the president).
Be that as it may, the St. Paul policy illustrates how ideological policies grounded in a terrible misunderstanding of reality can bring about dystopia:
We have a segment of kids who consider themselves untouchable,” said one veteran teacher as the 2015–16 school year began. At the city’s high schools, teachers stood by helplessly as rowdy packs of kids—who came to school for free breakfast, lunch, and WiFi—rampaged through the hallways. “Classroom invasions” by students settling private quarrels or taking revenge for drug deals gone bad became routine. “Students who tire of lectures simply stand up and leave,” reported City Pages. “They hammer into rooms where they don’t belong, inflicting mischief and malice on their peers.” The first few months of the school year witnessed riots or brawls at Como Park, Central, Humboldt, and Harding High Schools—including six fights in three days at Como Park. Police had to use chemical irritants to disperse battling students.
Classes were disrupted, students weren’t learning, and teachers would “often go home in tears.” As the situation became increasingly intolerable, the teachers’ union did get involved, but the resulting solution wasn’t to reevaluate the flawed policy, but to buy the union off with higher pay and new union jobs:
… In March 2016, the board averted a strike by approving a new teachers’ contract. The contract gave teachers what could be called hazard pay—the highest in the state, according to the Star Tribune. But St. Paul citizens’ confidence in Silva had evaporated. Teachers launched a petition demanding her resignation, and black, white, and Asian community leaders echoed that call in an op-ed in the Pioneer Press. At last, on June 21, 2016, the school board announced Silva’s departure after buying out her contract at a cost of almost $800,000.
In its new contract, the union also won funding for 30 new school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. But unless district leaders resolve to adopt and enforce high standards of student conduct, a significant long-term improvement in school safety appears unlikely.
The running theme is that the Left, which dominates education and only recently lost the White House, does not want to address the core problem, because fostering that problem has become critical to its strategy for maintaining power:
The deepest source of the racial-equity discipline gap is profound differences in family structure. Young people who grow up without fathers are far more likely than their peers to engage in antisocial behavior, according to voluminous social-science research. Disordered family life often promotes the lack of impulse control and socialization that can lead to school misconduct.
Children grounded in healthy families build their own, independent generations. Those who prioritize government as the center of our lives (so they can tell us how to live) need to break that cycle and replace it with dependence on their bureaucratic deity. No doubt, they genuinely would prefer if the transformation of society could be done in a happy, peaceful way, but the power, not human fulfillment, is their primary purpose.