Sunday, November 12, 2006

Affirmative Reaction Roundup - Perchance the Left’s infatuation with affirmative action reflects their sense, however opaquely veiled, that African American students are in fact intellectually inferior to whites, Hispanics and Asians. There certainly seems to be unanimity of opinion among both black and white liberals that black students are unfit to compete with any but the most addle-minded white school children. The difference, as any exists, is in their sense of the method (and in the minds of more than a few liberal elites, necessity) of remediation. Most liberals will publicly espouse their interest in improving educational outcomes for black children.

Blacks by and large believe that the variances in academic performance between students of each race reflect a disparate allocation of resources between communities (ergo, equal funding will lead to equal performance.) However, the liberal thought leaders who direct education policy for school systems that serve African American students never speak directly to the issue of black educational excellence, which is to say, preparing black kids to do their absolute best. The talk is always of “closing the educational gap,” or something equally imprecise.

Framing the discussion in terms of an education gap frees liberal educators to vainly experiment with various educational techniques, such as the so-called “whole language” method or outcome-based education; any modicum of improvement, however modest, is seen as a great success, especially in light of the insurmountable odds that the educators were up against. But rather than engaging in masturbatory self-congratulation, liberals would do well to at least acknowledge that they have had a death grip on the entire enterprise of education, from wielding control over teacher training and certification, to budgeting for schools, to negotiating contracts for inner-city teachers and principals.

They have resisted every effort at meaningful reform, to include more rigorous standards for teacher credentialing, increased parental involvement and of course, educational vouchers. In all of this time, the educational performance of black students has stagnated at every level. And all the while, white academic (read intellectual) superiority, and by extension white supremacy, has remained unchallenged. If liberals were genuinely concerned about the education of black kids, they would implement a more exacting pedagogy in the classroom, and would have higher expectations of parents and the culture at large.

In practice, affirmative action appears to represent a case of “too little, too late.” Innumerable studies have shown that scholastic performance for black and white students begins to diverge as early as kindergarten, with many African American students not fully prepared or motivated to learn on day one of their educational careers. The factors that create this disparity are at work early on in the lives of black children and manifest themselves very quickly. It makes little sense therefore for African Americans to place so much emphasis on a program that does not take effect until at least 18 years after the problems of underperformance of black students have manifested themselves, and does not bear fruit until many years after that.

We ought to be crystal clear about one thing regarding Michigan's recent adoption of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative as it pertains to the larger conversation on race in America. This rejection of race and gender-based affirmative action by voters is a watershed event. Affirmative action taken by itself defines the fuzzy margins of liberalism, and adds punctuation to it's unspoken, but very essential underlying thesis. Namely, that liberal elites are comfortable dispensing petty largess as long as the recipients are never in a position to compete with them for special consideration in employment and education.

This exegesis on affirmative action reveals one more central tenet of liberalism. At it's core, liberalism is racist and elitist. It is beyond coincidence that Michigan was the stage for this recent drama. As a state, Michigan is as politically liberal as it is racially segregated.

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