WaPo: DoJ trying to trap poor, black kids in failing schools

posted at 2:01 pm on September 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

“Bewildering.” “Perverse.” These aren’t the words of Charles Krauthammer or Marc Thiessen on the pages of the Washington Post in reaction to the Department of Justice lawsuit against Louisiana’s school-voucher program, but those of the Post’s editors.  The DoJ argued in its lawsuit that the vouchers intend to undo segregation, but since 90% of voucher recipients in the program are black, the Post pronounces itself mystified as to what Attorney General Eric Holder could possibly mean:

NINE OF 10 Louisiana children who receive vouchers to attend private schools are black. All are poor and, if not for the state assistance, would be consigned to low-performing or failing schools with little chance of learning the skills they will need to succeed as adults. So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.

The Justice Department has petitioned a U.S. District Courtto bar Louisiana from awarding vouchers for the 2014-15 school year to students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders, unless the vouchers are first approved by a federal judge. The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of school systems. A hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

In other words, the DoJ wants to treat education policy with the same preclearance policy as the Supreme Court struck down in the decision on the Voting Rights Act. As Holder did in response to that decision, this is just another attempt to demagogue on racial division in order to (a) expand the reach of federal power at the expense of state and local government, and (b) use that power to protect its allies in teachers unions.  School vouchers endanger public-sector education jobs by using competition and choice, two virtues the unions (and this administration) oppose in almost every manifestation.

The Post fails to draw the analogy to the DoJ’s irrational arguments on the VRA, but they don’t miss much else:

The number that should matter to federal officials is this: Roughly 86 percent of students in the voucher program came from schools that were rated D or F. Mr. White called ironic using rules to fight racism to keep students in failing schools; we think it appalling.

Unfortunately, though, it is not a surprise from an administration that, despite its generally progressive views on school reform, has proven to be hostile — as witnessed by its petty machinations against D.C.’s voucher program — to the school choice afforded by private-school vouchers. Mr. White told us that from Day One, the five-year-old voucher program has been subject to unrelenting scrutiny and questions from federal officials. Louisiana parents are clamoring for the choice afforded by this program; the state is insisting on accountability; poor students are benefiting. The federal government should get out of the way.

By the way, the headline for this post isn’t a reductio ad absurdum for the Post’s argument.  Their actual headline reads “Justice Department bids to trap poor, black children in ineffective schools”.  That’s a powerful accusation, and it’s a form of fighting fire with fire that one would not expect from a center-left editorial board such as the Post’s.

Nor is that the only surprising broadside against the education establishment on that end of the spectrum.  Last week, Salon offered an essay by Peter Gray which argued that we should get rid of compulsory education altogether — at least in the model currently used:

Compulsory schooling has been a fixture of our culture now for several generations. It’s hard today for most people to even imagine how children would learn what they must for success in our culture without it. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are so enamored with schooling that they want even longer school days and school years. Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Schools as we know them today are a product of history, not of research into how children learn. The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them. The early founders of schools were quite clear about this in their writings. The idea that schools might be places for nurturing critical thought, creativity, self-initiative or ability to learn on one’s own — the kinds of skills most needed for success in today’s economy — was the furthest thing from their minds. To them, willfulness was sinfulness, to be drilled or beaten out of children, not encouraged.

When schools were taken over by the state and made compulsory, and directed toward secular ends, the basic structure and methods of schooling remained unchanged. Subsequent attempts at reform have failed because, though they have tinkered some with the structure, they haven’t altered the basic blueprint. The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else. It’s no wonder that many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and innovators either left school early (like Thomas Edison), or said they hated school and learned despite it, not because of it (like Albert Einstein).

It’s no wonder that, today, even the “best students” (maybe especially them) often report that they are “burned out” by the schooling process. One recent top graduate, explaining to a newspaper reporter why he was postponing college, put it this way:  “I was consumed with doing well and didn’t sleep a lot the last two years. I would have five or six hours of homework each night. The last thing I wanted was more school.”

Be sure to read it all — and then ask yourself why the DoJ wants to force Louisiana’s poorest children to attend the worst of these prisons.


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Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 2:02 PM

The parents of these children are the good people. Remember, only good people force their children to attend horrible schools. The DoJ is merely helping people realize their inner goodness.

/

happytobehere on September 3, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Remember, according to the leftist Slate, if you want a better education for your child than a failing public school, you are a monster and deserve to be shunned.

Totally unrelated thought: Obama does not send his children to a public school. Thus, can we conclude that he is a monster to be shunned, and point to Slate as the reason why?

Vanceone on September 3, 2013 at 2:09 PM

So the WaPo is now racist? Who knew?

Ward Cleaver on September 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of the liberal progressive indoctrination given by public school systems, and our neverending source of party funding from teacher’s unions.

Fixed it for accuracy. This has nothing to do with desegregation, just like VRA now has nothing to do with legitimate voting rights.

NOMOBO on September 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Can’t have these kids actually learning anything and then fleeing the plantation.

CurtZHP on September 3, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Over to you Libfree.

ToddPA on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Justice Department bids to trap poor, black children in ineffective schools

Don’t the DOJ’s efforts apply to all kids?

ted c on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

They’re only Holder’s people when they’re stupid and criminals, like him.

Flange on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Aren’t kids raised in the collective? This very notion of awarding vouchers is about as anti-collective as you can get because it allows some children to escape from failing public schools- putting ahead of their peers. Keeping everybody as dumb is the only way you get people to demand $15/hour living wages for unskilled labor.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else.

Oh my gosh. I am so tired of hearing this! I bet this fellow does not have any children. Show me a child that is motivated to learn by “curiosity, blah, blah,blah” and I’ll show you a hundred that would rather go outside and play, watch tv or eat ice cream. I have home-schooled, taught Sunday school, organized kids programs of all ages and I love kids but I do not agree with this “child is father of the man” kind of thinking.
rant off/

2L8 on September 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

This one’s not too bad.

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Over to you Libfree.

ToddPA on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Please don’t chum the waters. Besides, I’m sure this particular troll is in a spirited debate- slaying all comers- about Obama’s credibility justifying the killing innocent Syrians in bombing raids.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Or maybe this one.

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Of course as always, I’d be delighted to make one for you Ed. ; )

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 2:20 PM

Salon offered an essay by Peter Gray which argued that we should get rid of compulsory education altogether — at least in the model currently used:

We homeschool our children. Many days, they may think its a prison–summer is never “free” from learning, and there is a lesson in everything so, learning never stops at our house. Mr Gray is right, the model of classroom education fit, at one time, however it is no longer a fit for today’s families nor students. Alternatives have to be considered. Homeschooling is not for all families, I’ll take that, however, we can get better outcomes for far cheaper than public schools. For example, I pay ~$3500 per year for 3 children to be homeschooled and they routinely score >85 percentile on standardized tests. My property taxes are $6000+ per year and go towards public school where few children hit those PCT ranks.

ted c on September 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Bmore, scroll down and capture this image/caption.

Schadenfreude on September 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

I guess it’s The Washington Whipping Post, now …

Racists.

/welcome to the club

M240H on September 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM

The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them.

Huh? They had public elementary schools during the Protestant Reformation? That doesn’t even make sense.

To be sure, preparation for the law or clergy or other such profession was why a child would be taught to read. But this Peter Gray guy is an idiot to suggest the model for today’s schools comes from the Reformation. Or were little kids in doublets taught about tolerance for same-sex marriage, urged to express their feelings, and encouraged by esteem-building exercises?

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:26 PM

A small glimmer of hope for establishment media?

Xasprtr on September 3, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Over to you Libfree.

ToddPA on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Please don’t chum the waters. Besides, I’m sure this particular troll is in a spirited debate- slaying all comers- about Obama’s credibility justifying the killing innocent Syrians in bombing raids.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Well, ANY thread about RACE will be Chum to a Chump….

..but I hear what you’re saying.

ToddPA on September 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Racists hate their own people.

Leftists hate the middle and lower classes.

Socialism/communism are never for them, just for you and your kids.

Melissa Harris-Perry sends her own daughter to private schools.

Schadenfreude on September 3, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Failing schools are failing due in LARGE part to the student population. Shifting the failing students around will accomplish almost nothing.

School vouchers is all about funding religious schools with public money.

aniptofar on September 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Oh my, I see bunches of IRS audits coming up. Hope WaPo is also fully compliant, to the letter, with all Labor laws, and EPA rules and regulations. Wouldn’t want some EPA apparatchik to find a little bit of Arsenic in their ink, or something.

slickwillie2001 on September 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Or maybe this one.

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Isn’t that the kid who took the bite out of his pop tart and was accused of concealed carry without permit?

NOMOBO on September 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM

We homeschool our children. Many days, they may think its a prison–summer is never “free” from learning, and there is a lesson in everything so, learning never stops at our house.

ted c on September 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

As you point out, that isn’t for everybody. I don’t think critics of homeschooling know just how challenging it can be. And, the teacher’s union efforts from decades ago that homeschooling=Jesus Freak is not entirely out of the dialogue in some places.

And I agree with Peter Gray that the traditional model does not necessarily fit. But I think that is more a product of expectations not the process. Why, for example, do we treat every child as if they are college-bound (or even college capable) all the way through high school? The whole purpose of an education is to prepare one for life. If public education isn’t doing that, we need to figure out what a child needs to be a productive member of society and make sure they at least have those skills. And for some children that won’t include reading the Canterbury Tales or being able to draw out the atoms of a particular oxide.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:33 PM

During the United States’s age of slavery, it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. These efforts were led by Democrats.

After reconstruction, Democrats, especially Southern Democrats did their best to impede the education of of Blacks.

Then, in the 1960s the Democrats discovered that the Democrats could take political power by using the votes of poor and uneducated Blacks. The key being poor and uneducated, because otherwise they did not need government largesse. Enter 50 years of making Blacks think learning was “acting white,” destroying the quality of public education in large cities (NYC once had one of the nation’s best school systems), and impeding the ability of alternate providers of education from servicing poor communities.

This latest efforts differs from that, how?

No Truce With Kings on September 3, 2013 at 2:36 PM

i’m so glad the salon article is posted here on hotair! i saw it recently and i really liked it.

over the past several weeks i have become more and more interested in the whole “unschooling” and “uncollege” movements. “uncollege” is against the idea society has that everyone should be encouraged to get a 4 year degree and anything less is unfortunate. “unschooling” is against traditional k-12 schooling. well i think that traditional schooling is fine for grades K through about 8th or 9th but i think as kids gradually get older, school should be less traditional and less restrictive. this is a vague thing for me to say. it can mean a lot of things. it’s something to think about.

Sachiko on September 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Team BO lost the longshoremen union over the weekend, he needs to shore up the teachers union. So begins BO’s “War on Minority Children”…….unfortunately the parents of those children would crawl through a football field of broken glass to vote for Jug Ears again.

David in ATL on September 3, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Peter Gray knows zilch about the history of public education in America. Our school system was brought to the U.S. in the 1800′s by Utopians enamored of the Prussian statist education.

In Against School John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down writes:

Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:

1) To make good people.
2) To make good citizens.
3) To make each person his or her personal best.

These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education’s mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling’s true purpose. We have, for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence….Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim.. . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States…and that is its aim everywhere else.

…The odd fact of a Prussian provenance for our schools pops up again and again once you know to look for it. William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of Christopher Lasch’s 1991 book, The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann’s “Seventh Annual Report” to the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its schooling to be brought here….

Gatto pulls these thoughts on the purpose of schooling as seen by Alexander Inglis [1879–1924] in his book, Principles of Secondary Education, written in 1919:

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these under- classes. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole.

Inglis breaks down the purpose – the actual purpose – of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely….

2) The integrating function. This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible….

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role….

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further…

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” …

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor….

INC on September 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — As the Obama administration tries to prod Congress into backing armed action against Syria, the regime in Damascus is hiding military hardware and shifting troops out of bases into civilian areas.

What could possibly go wrong with air strikes now?

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM

The Left’s been doing a bang-up job of this for decades, no reason to stop now.

Another Drew on September 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Huh. Liberals, even black ones, really do hate blacks don’t they?

2lbsTest on September 3, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Sachiko on September 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM

If you’re interested in learning about the Unschoolers, then you might go to your local library and check out anything written by John Holt who was the father of the Unschooling movement.

http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Your-Own-John-Homeschooling/dp/0738206946

How Children Fail

How Children Learn

Teach Your Own

Learning All The Time

Holt was a teacher who became increasingly disillusioned with the American school system. How Children Fail put him on the educational map.

I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but he cared about children and he’ll definitely blow the educational cobwebs out of your mind.

INC on September 3, 2013 at 2:54 PM

La.didn’t vote for Obama.They are enemies and are being punished just like Texas is.

docflash on September 3, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Peter Gray knows zilch about the history of public education in America. Our school system was brought to the U.S. in the 1800′s by Utopians enamored of the Prussian statist education.

INC on September 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM

That certainly makes a lot more sense, particularly from a timeframe for the kind of educational reform on which public schools are based.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:56 PM

So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.

Bewildering? Really?

It smells like money and is spelled UNION.

Bewilderment solved!

And if another vote were held today, the black community would still vote for the Obama/Holder regime on the order of 95%, so it matters not.

Carnac on September 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM

It really upsets me that an article such as Peter Gray wrote would be quoted as if he was accurately presenting the history of the educational template in the U.S.

What we have today is the outgrowth of Leftist Utopian thinking that began in the 1800′s in the U.S.

More history here:

http://upstreampolitics.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/provincial-liberty-education/

And links to posts I’ve written on John Dewey, the godfather of American education here:

http://upstreampolitics.wordpress.com/family/children/education/john-dewey/

INC on September 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Exactly. I don’t have any more time to comment right now, but I did want to bring in some dates and facts on the topic.

INC on September 3, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Republicans should have been running on this issue hard for the last two elections. Perfect wedge issue betw two major Dem blocs–unions and blacks–it’s a natural issue for conservatives to reach out to blacks (freedom of choice is the conservative way), AND, it will be helpful to religious families.

smellthecoffee on September 3, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Obama: “Private school for me, but not for thee.”

BuckeyeSam on September 3, 2013 at 3:54 PM

The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them.

Brawndo… it’s got what plants crave.

tetriskid on September 3, 2013 at 3:58 PM

The democrats want to keep minorities on the plantation. They cannot be allowed to attend private schools, where they might actually learn without being indoctrinated. If they learn reading and writing and arithmetic instead of PC policies and how to be gay, the dems stand a chance of losing them at the polls. This simply cannot be tolerated!

maryo on September 3, 2013 at 3:59 PM

For every Edison and Einstein who can educate themselves, there are 99,999,999 children who cannot. The problem isn’t the “methodology,” it’s useless curricula and incompetent teachers and perverse incentives.

But of course Democrats aren’t out to educate and empower black children, are you nuts? They might grow up to think for themselves or something, to believe they could make it on their own without a benevolent white Democratic bureaucracy to care for them.

Adjoran on September 3, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Republicans should have been running on this issue hard for the last two elections. Perfect wedge issue betw two major Dem blocs–unions and blacks–it’s a natural issue for conservatives to reach out to blacks (freedom of choice is the conservative way), AND, it will be helpful to religious families.

smellthecoffee on September 3, 2013 at 3:39 PM

That’s actually their history; greedy unions worked with the terrorist arm of the democratic party the KKK to keep blacks out of the choice jobs.

slickwillie2001 on September 3, 2013 at 4:09 PM

States should just ignore the DoJ.

Republicans should be pounding on this constantly and saying the government is involved in indoctrination and not education.

Democrats love poor, uneducated blacks because the Democrats in charge of those failing schools make damn sure the blame for their misery is directed not at the people who control their lives, but at Republicans.

GardenGnome on September 3, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Failing schools are failing due in LARGE part to the student population. Shifting the failing students around will accomplish almost nothing.

School vouchers is all about funding religious schools with public money.

aniptofar on September 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM

You are SO wrong. Failing schools are failing due to:

(1) unionized, tenured teachers who are not sufficiently educated themselves, do not know how to teach properly, and do not care; and

(2) parents (usually only one) who do not value education, treat schools as simply a free babysitting service, and do not care whether their kids are educated or not.

I’ve gotten a taste of both, up close and personal, at the beginning of my oldest child’s schooling in an integrated school where inner-city kids were bussed. Some were prepared to learn, many were not. A few teachers in this school were lousy and didn’t care. My son had one in first grade. Eventually the new principal got rid of them. But I learned that the MOST important thing is parents who care, who read at home, who send their kids to school to learn and not just to be babysat. These are the parents who demand the bad teachers be fired, who stick up for art and music classes, who raise the money for the school trips. No school can succeed without a critical mass of such parents.

Trapped in the failing schools are many children whose parents DO care, who HAVE given their children the basic buidling blocks of education, but who cannot afford either a better private school or a house in a better school district. These are the parents who will self-select for vouchers if available, and the schools their children leave will still be failing, but they won’t.

rockmom on September 3, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Schadenfreude on September 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Saw that. Classless moron. Get the feet off that desk 0!

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 4:35 PM

“The DoJ argued in its lawsuit that the vouchers intend to undo segregation

I believe you meant to write undo desegregation.

Greg Q on September 3, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Over to you Libfree.

ToddPA on September 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

“Republicans were Racists 75 years ago, so this is All Bush’s Fault now!”

Del Dolemonte on September 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM

tetriskid on September 3, 2013 at 3:58 PM

That erroneous statement by Peter Gray is so typical of progressives. The educational problems were caused by progressives, but now that things have tumbled down, they’ll never take responsibility themselves, but look for that handiest of scapegoats, Christians.

INC on September 3, 2013 at 6:06 PM

INC on September 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Thank you INC, you do a great job on these education threads. It is really scary how little people know about education in the USA. Sure they may know it is screwed up, but the roots of it go way back.

Murphy9 on September 4, 2013 at 6:06 AM