When the army of social-justice warriors hears about a racist flyer being distributed on campus or a noose that was found in a bathroom on campus, it becomes the lead story on the news. There is an immediate call to arms. Marches are organized, pledges are made to institute more race-sensitivity training and cultural awareness workshops, and minority-owned consulting firms that specialize in offering such training see their profits soar.
Yes, these are ugly signs of hatred, but we should consider to what extent they affect the most critical issues facing this country, and conditions of low-income blacks in particular.
When confronted with their schools’ dismal records in student performance on standardized tests and embarrassingly low graduation rates, school officials in D.C. and Maryland chose to take the easiest route to secure their salaries and bonuses. They focused on tweaking the data in their reports, rather than investing in actually boosting the students’ performance and class attendance.
One of the most recent cases that emerged in the news — with little notice — was a graduation ceremony at D.C.’s Ballou High School, in which 50 percent of the students receiving diplomas had missed more than three months of school, and one in five had been absent more than they were present. Although, two months prior to graduation, only 57 students were on track to graduate, 164 received diplomas. Not surprisingly, in 2016, only 9 percent of the school’s students passed the English portion of the D.C. standardized test and literally no one passed the math section.
On the heels of this scandal of falsifying and fudging graduation requirements for the sake of reports that would reflect well on the district, the situation was echoed in DuVal High School in Prince George’s County. There, a highly-touted 92.4 percent graduation rate was undercut by a report finding that late grade changes had been made and that 27 percent of a student sample lacked documentation showing graduation accountability or did not qualify to graduate.
These scenarios were preceded in Atlanta in 2015 by what has been described as the largest school-cheating scandal in the nation’s history, in which 11 educators were convicted for altering students’ answers on standardized tests to inflate grades. As the judge in that case declared, “This was not a victimless crime.” His comments resonate with those of teachers in D.C., such as: “It’s oppressive to the kids because you’re giving a false sense of success”; “To not prepare them is not ethical”; and, “That’s setting that kid up for failure just so you can showboat you got this graduation rate.”
The brave, honest, hard-working teacher who brought these issues to the attention of D.C. officials was fired; her service contract was not renewed. Why isn’t this courageous woman considered as a martyr for standing up to protect the students? Where are supporters demanding that she be reinstated? Her dismissal was accomplished in silence. No one spoke on her behalf. There were no demonstrations to support her.
When the social-justice warriors talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, they are referring to an amorphous enemy of “institutional racism” that they say exists throughout the various institutions of society. But the real school-to-prison pipeline begins within various public-school systems, many of which are run by middle-class blacks. The rampant corruption and gross incompetence that is visited upon low-income black children amounts to moral treason, and it is worthy of the level of public outrage that is directed at a racist flyer or a symbolic noose.
Robert L. Woodson Sr. is founder and president of The Woodson Center, established in 1981 to help residents of low-income neighborhoods address problems of their communities. He has headed the National Urban League Department of Criminal Justice, and has been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Foundation for Public Policy Research. Follow him on Twitter @BobWoodson.