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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post


Brought to you by Christopher Rake
















PostWatch
 

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
 
1:00 PM

Folks, inadequate racial quotas aren't what's slowing minority progress in this country. Look to debacles like this instead, an account of a new teacher's experience in inner-city Washington, from City Journal.


We have several categories to consider. One is the damage done by irrelevant or false indoctrination:

...In the seminars we attended when we weren’t teaching, I learned the basics of lesson planning and teaching theory. I also internalized the TFA philosophy of high expectations, the idea that if you set a rigorous academic course, all students will rise to meet the challenge.

But the training program skimped on actual teaching and classroom-management techniques, instead overwhelming us with sensitivity training. My group spent hours on an activity where everyone stood in a line and then took steps forward or backward based on whether we were the oppressor or the oppressed in the categories of race, income, and religion. The program had a college bull session, rather than professional, atmosphere. And it had a college-style party line: I heard of two or three trainees being threatened with expulsion for expressing in their discussion groups politically incorrect views about inner-city poverty—for example, that families and culture, not economics, may be the root cause of the achievement gap.


Or disarming teachers' ability to enforce norms:

This lack of consequences encouraged a level of violence I never could have imagined among any students, let alone second-graders. Fights broke out daily—not just during recess or bathroom breaks but also in the middle of lessons. And this wasn’t just playful shoving: we’re talking fists flying, hair yanked, heads slammed against lockers.

When I asked other teachers to come help me stop a fight, they shook their heads and reminded me that D.C. Public Schools banned teachers from laying hands on students for any reason, even to protect other children. When a fight brewed, I was faced with a Catch-22. I could call the office and wait ten minutes for the security guard to arrive, by which point blood could have been shed and students injured. Or I could intervene physically, in violation of school policy.

Believe me, you have to be made of iron, or something other than flesh and blood, to stand by passively while some enraged child is trying to inflict real harm on another eight-year-old. I couldn’t do it....


Which is why author Joshua Klapowitz got sued for trying to break up a fight.

Then you have the ineptitute of school administrators who fail to back up teachers when they need it most. I can't vouch for the alleged failings of this individual, but this is a common problem:

I had read that successful schools have chief executives who immerse themselves in the everyday operations of the institution, set clear expectations for the student body, recognize and support energetic and creative teachers, and foster constructive relationships with parents. Successful principals usually are mavericks, too, who skirt stupid bureaucracy to do what is best for the children. Emery’s Principal Savoy sure didn’t fit this model.

To start with, from all that I could see, she seemed mostly to stay in her office, instead of mingling with students and observing classes, most of which were up at least one flight of stairs, perhaps a disincentive for so heavy a woman. Furthermore, I saw from the first month that she generally gave delinquents no more than a stern talking-to, followed by a pat on the back, rather than suspensions, detentions, or any other meaningful punishment. The threat of sending a student to the office was thus rendered toothless....


These are the problems, not the failure of our universities like Michigan to literally give you more credit for your skin color than for scoring a perfect SAT.







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