Pain is inescapably part of life and a pre-requisite to accomplishment (“no pain, no gain”). But, that said, fortunes await those who can promise all the benefits sans any pain—think miracle weight loss pills. Most of these schemes just waste money but when it concerns helping the African American underclass, the consequences of eliminating discomfort are disastrous, a perfect example of killing with kindness.
This misguided anti-pain policy is perfectly illustrated by Obama’s plan to soften the consequences of criminal behavior–early release of some 6000 supposedly non-violent convicted felons, revising mandatory federal sentencing laws, prohibiting federal agencies to ask about criminal convictions in initial job screening (banning the box) and perhaps most of all, pressuring local police departments to lighten up on enforcing laws against African Americans (e.g., ending racial profiling).
But, far worse is Obama administration’s effort to shield black K-12 students from punishment. This is a politically driven policy detached from reality, and that this bogus “kindness” appears to be wildly popular among many blacks only adds insult to injury.
All learning necessarily involves pain so attending school means suffering. That’s why school is compulsory and the parents of truants are punished by fines and jail time. Students must be in school regardless of contrary inclination or minor health problems, learn to sit still, suppress their urge to socialize with classmates (or gossip on cell phones), master uninteresting subjects, obey orders from adults, go to the bathroom and eat only at scheduled times, and experience the damaged self-esteem that comes with publicly screwing up. Even more distressful will be the regular punishment for violating standards of school conduct: being chided by sarcastic teachers, after-school detention, calling parents in and for particularly serious violations, suspensions, expulsions and at least in some schools (mainly in the South), corporal punishment. In a sense, school learning is about pain management.
Now for the unspeakable truth: many—perhaps most–underclass children, regardless of race, require remedial, forceful socialization to compensate for the deficiencies of their home and community environments. School administrators need not worry about the children of Tiger Moms running wild given their already laudable disciplinary habits. Matters are quite different, however, when children grow up in chaos, lack adult supervision, have minimal self-control and similar traits needed for academic achievement. It is hardly accidental that authoritarian, highly structured, discipline-heavy Catholic schools often out-perform public schools with troubled under-class students.
Now, given plain-to-see inner-city schools filled with disorderly students, how might the Obama administration help improve educational outcomes? Should the Department of Education fund “best practices” research on schools that have successfully put youngsters on the straight and narrow? What about laws that indemnify school personnel from frivolous litigation if a teacher pushes junior when breaking up a classroom fight?
No such luck. Instead, the Obama administration focuses on racial disparities in punishment as if unequal punishments were cause of dreadful educational outcomes. Now, ending inequality of punishment—disparate impact in legalese–outranks discipline as the pathway to black academic progress. Thus, in 2014 and cheered on by civil rights activists and many African Americans, both the Department of Justice and the Education Department issued new (though non-binding) guidelines to ensure that minority students were punished through expulsion, suspensions and other measures at the same proportions as their white (and assumingly, Asian) classmates (the “African American Education Initiative”). The underlying logic here is that penalizing African American students at the same rate as white students would slow the notorious school-to-prison-pipeline. Of course this public reasoning is a smoke screen—proportionality is just a façade to reduce the suspending or expelling of blacks.
Tellingly, Obama’s Executive Order uses language suggesting that black students just happened to encounter this unpleasant experience. Zero about what instigated punishment or how misbehavior destroyed the education of others. In a mind-boggling statement, the then Attorney General Eric Holder asserted that “This guidance will promote fair and effective disciplinary practices that will make schools safe, supportive and inclusive for all students.” Safer? And, if schools were clueless on what to do, districts also received a directory of federal school discipline resources plus an online catalog of relevant laws and regulations.
This softening of punishment may be spreading beyond presidential edicts. The New York City school chancellor recently proposed regulations that would forbid teachers from removing from class students who disrupted their classmate’s ability to learn, engaged in obscene behavior, or were insubordinate. The city council speaker, who is contemplating running for mayor, complained that these suggested changes didn’t go far enough.
Everything is absolutely Orwellian. According to one educator, kicking disruptors out of school deprives the miscreant of “valuable learning time” and often result from “mere” defiance of authority, not actual criminality. Meanwhile, punitive measures create “barriers” to graduation all the while hindering adult accomplishment. Suggested instead is “restorative justice”—permit youngsters to reflect on their behavior and then repair the damage done to others so as to build a “more equitable learning environment.” Discussing micro-aggressions is also encouraged. Going unmentioned, of course, are the classmates and teachers now happily liberated from trouble-makers.
Clearly, this discipline-by-quota will further racial segregate public schools since many disruptive blacks will go unpunished unless whites up their misbehavior so administrators can easily be even-handed. And better students of all races will predictably flee when miscreants discover their new-found diplomatic immunity. Ironically, the perfect tactic to eliminate disparate impact will be to create racially homogeneous schools, no doubt a god-send for administrators who can now freely expel half or more of the students and concentrate on those anxious to learn.
Unfortunately, the problem here runs deeper than Obama’s twisted vision of “good” (i.e., proportional) school discipline. If that were the only problem, the mess will disappear in 2017. Alas, the aversion to painless learning has infiltrated our DNA so retuning to the earlier era of domesticating young mischief- makers has become unthinkable. Picture the community outrage if the desperate principal at Thomas Hobbes Middle School brought back from retirement that take-no-prisoners, she-who-must-be-obeyed nun, Sister Anna Marie Godzilla, to terrify youngsters into learning? What parent would admit that their little darling makes learning impossible for everyone?
Ours is now the painless world of Sesame Street-style entertainment, computer games, field trips to museums, hands-on group projects that require no memorization or drill. Consider what recently occurred at New York City’s discipline-oriented charter school, Success Academy. To condense a long story, this school stresses order enforced by punishments but when it discovered that the school was ridding itself of its most disruptive students, embarrassed school officials had to apologize, calling a once secret “got to go” list an administrative error. Indeed, the Success Academy is being condemned for achieving its academic accomplishments by expelling chronic trouble-makers. What’s next— accusing MIT and Caltech of deceit by refusing to admit mediocre applicants? Perhaps troublemakers are now deemed endangered species needing federal protection.
By any objective standard, President Obama and his co-believers are undermining the education of young African Americans. Why? Two possibilities suggest themselves. First, thanks to their ideologically corrupted thinking they are well-intentioned but misguided. They honestly believe that leveling expulsions rates will boost black achievement levels and they are impervious to reason or evidence.
The second explanation is darker: educational attainment is filtered through a muddled Marxism definition of equality. So, given a choice between wide race-related outcomes where some excel versus a society where everybody is barely able to read, the latter outshines the former. Better everyone suffers than just a few prosper. Thus understood, whatever the source of their thinking, Obama and other ideologues reject educational excellence though they are will to spend billions to sustain the charade.