Last week I attended the Colorado Springs School District 11 World Café meeting. The district, to its credit, invited citizen input on the draft “equity” policy which will be used to justify the distribution of resources to provide all students an “equitable” education. The premise: Students who have historically underperformed academically — that includes African-Americans, statistically — will have to be accommodated in order to improve their academic performance and close the gap with white students.
I recently read that The National Coalition for Parent Involvement, a research group of professional educators, concluded: “No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.” And in what families is such “involvement” likely to be lowest? Single parent families, fatherless families, divorced families, otherwise troubled families, etc. For a host of reasons, that group skews minority. So I made the point in our World Café discussion that no matter how we manipulate the curriculum, no matter how many teachers minority students see who “look like them,” no matter how many black authors we insert (and white authors we remove) in the assigned literature, there will still be underperforming minority students... due to the dissolution of families.
Immediately, an African-American woman in my discussion group pounced. “Your people,” she began, “have held us down with a 400-year narrative of slavery and inequality.”
My goodness. How can we have a dialogue as reasonable, contemporary citizens when centuries-old sins can be accepted as a legitimate rebuttal to matters of fact?
Such institutional victimhood makes constructive dialogue impossible. The perennial “slavery narrative” is a distraction. If African- American activists and others concerned about creating and maintaining a healthy society would focus first on repairing fractured families, then a host of social ills would dissolve with no need for government intervention to help any specific demographic.
But many, like my table-mate, refuse to accept the unambiguous social science. Only 33% of U.S. liberals “agree that marriage is needed to create strong families,” according to a survey from the Institute for Family Studies. And yet the National Institutes of Health concludes, after three decades of data crunching, that “children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being.”
The fact is, poverty rates in America fell dramatically between World War II and the 1960s, an era of strong black families. Then the War on Poverty kicked in. Since then, though U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs, the poverty rate has barely budged. The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of this lack of progress credits the effect of family disintegration. “The anti-marriage penalties should be removed from welfare programs,” says the report, “and long-term steps should be taken to rebuild the family in lower-income communities.”
African-American author, Taleeb Starks, strikes a realistic tone in a PragerU commentary on the challenges faced by black Americans: “Does racism exist? Sure. But there are other problems far more serious.”
Many Americans of all backgrounds long for the day minority students close the performance gap. They deserve all of the advantages associated with success in the classroom.
In the meantime, I’d prefer that my tax dollars not be spent by District 11 on equity “cures” so obviously destined to fail these children who need serious solutions.
Patricia Dusseault, of Colorado Springs, holds a Master’s in Public Health from St. Louis University.