Center for Equal Opportunity

The nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.


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Back You are here: Home Other Issues Let the pandering begin!

Let the pandering begin!

Last week President Obama announced in a speech to the Urban League that he was going to sign an executive order launching a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, to be housed in the Education Department.And, later in the week, he did.

It is a bad idea for the president to set up a new bureaucracy with a focus on one particular racial group, to the exclusion of all others.  As the NBC (!) news story on this pointed out, up to now President Obama has often resisted this sort of blacks-only program (though he has supported other kinds of racial preferences and race-based policies):  “In an interview on BET last September he answered a question about why he didn’t create more policies specifically targeted at African Americans: ‘That’s not how America works,’ the president replied, ‘America works when all of us are pulling together and everybody is focused on making sure that every single person has opportunity.’”

But apparently election-year pressures to pander to his base have gotten too strong.

The executive order and the accompanying statement are also silent on the main reason for racial disparities in educational outcomes:  More than 7 out of 10 African Americans (72.5 percent) are born out of wedlock.  Kids just do better, it turns out, in a home with a mother and a father.  This is also the reason for related disparities, like those in crime and school-discipline rates; the executive order mentions those disparities, but makes it sound like they are unconnected with disparities in behavior. 

Of course, they are indeed connected.  A disproportionate share of crimes is committed by African Americans, and they are disproportionately likely to misbehave in school.  Again, these problems are all rooted in the fact that so many African Americans are being raised in a single-mom homes without a father.  The president should be focusing on this problem — which is worst among African Americans but is an increasing problem for all racial and ethnic groups —instead of setting up a new bureaucracy with a racially exclusive agenda.

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Alas, it is not just the President of the United States who is oblivious to these realities, as two recent developments closer to the Center for Equal Opportunity’s home show.

In the first, a complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education by the local NAACP and another group because of the fact that the admissions process into a highly selective high school here — the nationally recognized Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — has a “disparate impact” on the basis of race.  But it is very unlikely that racial disparities in admission here have anything to do with discrimination.

The second matter involves this month’s“Report of the Maryland State Board of Education” on “School Discipline and Academic Success:  Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform.”  The Center for Equal Opportunity is particularly concerned with the report’s proposal (see page 6, emphasis added) of “a regulation that requires [the Maryland State Department of Education] to analyze the impact of school discipline on minority students and special education students within each school system.  When MSDE determines that a disproportionate or discrepant impact exists, our proposed regulation requires that the school system present to this Board a plan designed to reduce the impact within one year and to eliminate that impact within three years.”

We are preparing a formal comment on this proposed regulation.   In it, we will point out that, with all respect, this amounts to a requirement that schools follow a racial quota system in disciplining students.  We will discuss that this is a bad policy, which will result in some students who should be disciplined not being disciplined, and in some students should not be disciplined being disciplined — all chosen because of their skin colors.  What’s more, this violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As discussed above, racial disparities in illegitimacy rates make racial disparities in school discipline problems no surprise.   Yet if discipline problems are not evenly distributed across racial lines, but educators are required to mete out discipline evenly across racial lines, then it is inevitable that they will either end up not disciplining some students should be, or disciplining some other students who should not be, or both. 

This is not just speculation.  Edmund Janko, who taught in the English department of Bayside High School in New York City from 1957 to 1990, explainedhere how he himself did this when he was similarly pressured. To avoid charges of “racism,” he disciplined black and white students differently. 

In it comment, the Center for Equal Opportunity will also note that, if African American students are not disciplined who ought to be, the students who will suffer will of course be their classmates — who are themselves likely also to be African American students.

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Again:  More than 7 out of 10 African Americans (72.5 percent) are born out of wedlock, along with more than 6 out of 10 American Indians and Alaska Natives (65.6 percent), and more than 5 out of 10 Hispanics (53.3 percent) — versus fewer than 3 out of 10 whites (29.0 percent) and fewer than 2 out of 10 Asians and Pacific Islanders (17.0 percent). Disturbingly high for all groups (the composite figure is 40.8 percent), but there is an obvious connection between these demographic-by-demographic numbers and how each group is doing educationally, economically, criminally, and on and on.

This is not politically correct, but it is the truth—a major truth that has huge implications but that politicians and policymakers don’t want to acknowledge.