Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hearing whistles, they bark


The following article appeared in Powerline on March 20th

By Scott Johnson

This past Sunday the Star Tribune published Katherine Kersten’s column on the looming crisis in Minnesota public schools. A Minnesota state agency is out to eliminate racial disparities in the response of schools to student misbehavior. For some mysterious reason, the numbers don’t come out the same across racial groups and educational considerations must be subordinated to numerical equality in suspensions, expulsions, and so on. The sagacious Ms. Kersten cited the St. Paul public schools as a case study in the destruction that ensues from this particular edition of the left’s eternal project. Not pretty.

For poor and disadvantaged students, education presents a way out and and a way up. It is a very strange “civil rights” crusade that would deprive well behaved minority students of an environment conducive to learning. To put it diplomatically, the people promoting this crusade are nuts.

First they complained that the Star Tribune had published Kersten’s column. She can’t say that!

Now in the person of Julia Hill (“a reading specialist in the St. Paul Public Schools”) and Dana Bennis (“director of learning at the Institute for Democratic Education in America”), the left strikes back. They charge Kersten with “another attempt to create fear of people of color in order to further dangerous and racist policies — in this case a fear of students of color in order to instill ever-harsher school discipline policies.”

They somehow hear a “dog whistle” in Kersten’s column. What does that say about them?

To save you the trouble of a click on their column, I present the heart of their response emphasizing “what’s most important to know here.” This is it:

What’s most important to know here is what Kersten conveniently left out: that schools and districts around the country are implementing policies to reduce racial disparities in suspensions using research-based practices such as restorative justice and circle processes that are tremendously effective. They provide young people and educators with the chance to see one another as humans, to look at the reasons behind actions, and to seek out solutions that result not only in reduced violence but also in greater understanding of how to sustain strong communities of support and trust.

Furthermore, in the St. Paul Public Schools in particular, where 82 percent of the teaching staff is white while 79 percent of students are children of color, the district and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers are trying to take on the real work of supporting teachers to own and understand the role that white privilege and institutionalized racism play in the struggles we face in public education.

They conclude with a return to their favored trope: “Scare tactics and dog whistles won’t work any longer.” And with wishful thinking in a rhymed slogan, Jesse Jackson style: “People are wising up and rising up.”

As Marx and Engels put it in a certain manifesto, they have a world to win.

If only Hill and Bennis could throw off the chains of their clich├ęs! Hill and Bennis are themselves in need of a panoply of education specialists — specialists in writing, thinking, and argument.

If one were cynical, one might infer that Hill and Bennis are secret admirers and supporters of Kersten. Beyond the chest thumping and the name calling, they have precisely nothing of substance to say in response to her column. If one takes their column at face value, of course, they also have precisely nothing of substance to say. One needn’t listen closely for whistles only dogs can hear. One need only read closely — hey, I’m beginning to wonder about that reading specialist — to draw the appropriate conclusion.


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