The Real Problem with Obsessing About Black Studies
I found out 50 years ago when Paul and I were at Stanford Law School that he was the the thinker and I was the hayseed — the guy holding forth with his feet up on the cracker barrel.
Things haven’t changed much. I could scarcely improve on Paul’s important and comprehensive post about the AP African-American Studies Program that Ron DeSantis has targeted in Florida. Paul shows in depressing but needed detail why DeSantis took the only responsible course.
My take is not as nuanced. In a nutshell, the problem with AASP is that it’s not education. It’s propaganda impersonating education, and the propaganda is risible. The “lesson” is that white people stink and Amerika stinks. The difficulty with this “lesson” is not that it’s slanted. The difficulty is that it’s false.
But there’s another problem, one that points to a deeper and possibly even more pernicious sickness in the education we’re providing, or perhaps more correctly, forcing on, our children. Jonah Goldberg puts his finger on it in his essay, “Reading, Writing, and…Black Queer Studies?”
Let us return to what should be one of the simplest, most obvious, uncontroversial, and truly bipartisan ideas in all of politics….Before you are given the opportunity and responsibility to do something very difficult, complicated, and risky, you should prove competency at easier, simpler, and less risky tasks.
Any responsible course about American civics must, and such courses do, cover the slave trade, slavery, Reconstruction and its failures, Jim Crow, and the heroics and sacrifices of the civil rights movement. That is difficult, sobering, subtle, and often unhappy terrain, but it’s the truth. It’s hard enough to teach it honestly without its being hijacked to be a springboard for politics. But it turns out that “springboard” is a mild word for it. Goldberg — no big fan of DeSantis — notes:
[T]here is, in fact, a lot of ideological indoctrination in this African American Studies framework. There’s a lot of intersectionality jargon that sets off red flags for me. It’s not all mumbo-jumbo or nonsense. But there’s no getting around the fact that it’s full of all sorts of left-wing framings and assumptions. It seems of a piece with the Howard Zinn school of American history: Drown kids in reasons to think they should be angry and ashamed of their country.
This is bad enough taken on its own terms, but there’s something more to consider. The school day is not unlimited. For every hour spent teaching your kid that Amerika stinks, the schools are not teaching him something else.
And what would that be? The depressing answer won’t surprise you.
[A]re American high schools doing such a bang-up job on the stuff that everyone agrees they should be doing—teaching basic math and science, English, American history (including black history), and rudimentary civics—that teachers, administrators, and students alike have the extra bandwidth to tackle this stuff?
The most recent “report card” on American education was a disaster. From the New York Times last October:
In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.
In the test’s first results since the pandemic began, math scores for eighth graders fell in nearly every state. A meager 26 percent of eighth graders were proficient, down from 34 percent in 2019.
Fourth graders fared only slightly better, with declines in 41 states. Just 36 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, down from 41 percent.
Of course, the drastic decline was fueled [in part] by the pandemic and the school closures largely forced by teachers’ unions. But whatever the cause of the decline, the takeaway from people concerned with education might reasonably be, “let’s refocus on the basics.”
Your middle-schooler can’t do long division or read a short novel by Hemingway, but he knows that the main thing about George Washington is that he was “an enslaver.”
I don’t entirely trust statistics about illiteracy, but according to estimates conducted by, among others, the U.S. Department of Education, more than half of Americans (54 percent) read at the sixth-grade reading level. The widely accepted number is that 79 percent of Americans have a “medium” literacy rate.
Translation: If you can read this relatively straightforward post at all, you’re probably functioning at a well above average level. If your 14 year-old can read it, congratulations — your home schooling worked.
Goldberg’s conclusion seems inescapable: “If schools were churning out literate, well-educated kids, not just among the minority who even go to college at all, but among the majority who don’t, I’d be like, ‘Tell me more about this African-American Studies idea.’ But that’s not the situation we’re in, now is it?”
Marcuse & Co. sowed the identitarian, pop-Marxist rot in post-war American public school pedagogy. This today is the apotheosis, or rather the nadir. Gerrymandered "equity" at the lowest common denominator of ignorant, entitled mediocrity. Addition itself as "racist", let alone merit in general. Potentially, it's much more effective than the proles rising the way Marx envisioned.