Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Real Crisis

Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today,” Ohio State University, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, PowerPoint presentation (slide 22 of 36), April 2004;

As Richard Rothstein, David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, and others have reported, schools have been steadily providing an ever-increasing level of education to American students, despite all the constant haranguing we hear about about an education “crisis” today.

Crisis: 1a. A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point. b. An unstable condition, as in political, social, or economic affairs, involving an impending abrupt or decisive change (American Heritage Dictionary)

There was never a golden age of education prior to this era, unless it was the time when public schools and their teachers were not under this current aggressive and vicious attack, which was initiated and is being sustained by the corporate class. It is they, using political puppets, who have actually now created a true crisis in public education, by invading school districts to implement their chaotic, top-down transformations!
The war against public schools, and the teachers who work in them, is serving two purposes. One, in the true neo-liberal fashion, it is paving the way to the privatization of public education. Secondly, it has provoked a constant chatter and bickering about "education reform" which serves as a distraction from the more important issues and crises which the corporate/political leadership continually refuse to address.
I urge readers to look at the data in the PowerPoint presentation produced by Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, “Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today.” (I am unable to set the link but you can locate it with Google). This April 2004 document reveals facts about African American/White disparities in Education, Housing, Poverty, Employment, Income, Crime, and Health.
For instance:
In the past several decades, educational attainment for African Americans has increased considerably.
  • Since 1957, the proportion of the African American population with a high school degree has increased by 300% (18.4% to 79.2%) and the proportion of the African American population with a 4-year college degree increased by almost 500% (2.9% to 17.2%).
  • High School dropout rates for African Americans have decreased substantially in the last thirty years, dropping from 33.5% in 1974 to 17% in 2002.
  • College enrollment rates have increased from 36% in 1960 to 57.7% in 2002 for African Americans (an increase of 66%). College enrollment rates for Whites increased by 45% during this forty-four year time period.
By no means has the disparity between these races been erased, but there has been a huge, steady improvement in the educational attainment of African Americans over the past 50+ years. Obviously, all the schools are not "failing" and there is no educational “crisis!”
You may wish to ask yourself why it is that Broad, Gates and the other business-minded education reformers don’t ever care to address, via their "venture philanthropy," these other social/economic indicators:
  • African American child poverty rates were approximately double the rate of white child poverty in the 1990’s.
  • African American unemployment has been approximately twice as high as white unemployment, at least since the 1950s.
  • Disparity in income has actually grown been reduced since 1954. The median African American family income in 1954 was 55% of the white median. In 2002 this figure had grown to 62%.*
  • In 2000, the median assets ($7,500) for African American households was 9.5% of the median assets for non-Hispanic whites ($79,000).
  • The number of incarcerated African Americans has increased 800% since the 1950s, the number of incarcerated African Americans surpassed the number of Whites incarcerated in the late 1980s.
It is of utmost importance to note that, despite the tremendous increase in educational attainment over the past 50+ years on the part of African Americans, their achievements have not decreased the racial disparities for their employment or family income.* This simple truth reveals that the current propaganda about education being "the answer" to all of the socioeconomic problems of African Americans is a lie.
As for the last point in the bulleted section above, the incarceration figures are displayed in the graph at the top of this post. It is from the Kirwan Institute PowerPoint and I apologize for it being so faint.
The two lines and trajectories look quite similar, until one realizes that that the figures are in numbers, not in percentages, and that the African American population in 1997 was about one sixth (1/6) the size of the White population (it was 1/10th in 1930).
The TRUE crisis is the impact these figures are having on the current and future generations of the urban African American community. SO WHY NOT APPLY VENTURE PHILANTHROPY TO DEVELOP SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM? For instance, Broad and Gates could use their multi-millions to lobby other corporate powerhouses to forgo some of their astronomical, global profits, and create some jobs for people living in America's urban areas!
According to a February 2008 Washington Post article about a released Pew Center study:

More than one in 100 adult Americans are in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released Thursday.
With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States. [And we consider ourselves to be the world's overseer and guardian of human rights!?!]

The article also states that, over the past two decades, state spending on corrections (adjusted for inflation) increased 127 percent, while spending on higher education rose 21 percent. One estimate is that incarceration costs approximately $27,500 a year, many more times than the average public school per pupil spending.
I did learn though, recently, that Oakland Unified spends nearly this much on the students enrolled in Community Day. This very small secondary school (10 students last year) is for students who have committed extremely severe disciplinary infractions and who have been expelled from the district as a result. At the school they receive educational and mental health services, working closely with clinical therapists and case managers. During 2006-07, the total expenditure per pupil at this school was $20211. This is ten students getting too little, too late.
There is no doubt that the public schools have been made into scapegoats that are blamed for not being able to carry the burden of our nation's failures on their own. Teachers and schools are being forced to jump through senseless, exhausting, futile, and demoralizing hoops which have been set up by the corporate schemers, while so many other things that need to be addressed are being completely ignored.
Public schools and their teachers are NOT the cause of our nation's problems, nor have they ever been. I am not an urban public school teacher, but, as an active and engaged parent, I have watch them deal with the challenges at their schools for nearly 17 years. Honestly, I believe it is time for them to stand up to the bullying and madness, feel confident about speaking the truth, and rebel. Teachers: you are being ground into the ground, and you don't have to take it anymore!
IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: Read Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship, a 2005 report produced by The Sentencing Project. The extreme incarceration rate is exhibited in multiple graphs which are then contrasted with other graphs which exhibit a crime rate which has remained nearly steady. As the report states:

Negative Impacts on Family and Community – The rapid growth of incarceration has had profoundly disruptive effects that radiate into other spheres of society. The persistent removal of persons from the community to prison and their eventual return has a destabilizing effect that has been demonstrated to fray family and community bonds, and contribute to an increase in recidivism and future criminality. Moreover, these trends are exacerbated as prisoners are increasingly incarcerated in facilities hundreds of miles from their homes. Research by the Urban Institute in a number of cities indicates that a critical predictor of success for persons returning to the community is family connections, and prospects for employment are strengthened for persons who are able to maintain some degree of attachment to their former networks of contacts. However, as the use of incarceration continues to grow, there is a resultant decline in these contacts, and a harmful impact on the individual, the family, and the community at large.
A huge number of kids are entwined in this scenario. They should become the focus of the education reform efforts.

*I’ve now taken the liberty to change the original phrasing which I had copied from the Kirwan Institute report, because it was misleading. h/t to Ron for pointing this out. The gap between the incomes has indeed been reduced. In 1954 the ratio of African American/White family income was $13,481:$24,206, or 55.7%. In 2002, the ratio was $33,598:$54,067, or 62%. However, while this is an improvement, it is still a remarkable disparity.


Ted said...

That post pretty much gets to heart of the urban public education situation at the moment.
The corporate educators will never see it this way however, since it is not in their interest.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Just in case you’re curious, the report states it obtained the educational attainment figures from the following two sources:

1. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Census of Population, 1960, Vol. 1, part 1; Current Population Reports, Series P-20 and unpublished data; and 1960 Census Monograph, “Education of the American Population,” by John K. Folger and Charles B. Nam. From U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 2002

2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Post Secondary Education Opportunity at: http://www.postsecondary.org

These are the sources for the other indicators:

1. Changing America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being by Race and Hispanic Origin (1997), By the Council of Economic Advisors for President Clinton

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract and Net Worth Report

4. Bureau of Justice Statistics

5. Lewis Mumford Center (2004)

6. Harvard Civil Rights Project “A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools Are We Losing the Dream?” (2003)

7. USDA, Economic Research Services, Brookings Institute

8. Dissimilarity Index Data from Lewis Mumford Center, School District Data from National Center for Education Statistics

The Perimeter Primate said...

You can view a graph of dropout rates differences by race and ethnicity from 1972 to 2005 at http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/figures/1-figure-1.gif

The figures correlate with those from the Kirwan Institute study.

Sorry, I don’t see a dropout “crisis” there, either – only a steady decline in the rates over time.

The Perimeter Primate said...


"What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Jobs" by Andy Kroll, 7/5/2011

"The unemployment lines run through history like a pair of train tracks. Since the 1940s, the jobless rate for blacks in America has held remarkably, if grimly, steady at twice the rate for whites. The question of why has vexed and divided economists, historians, and sociologists for nearly as long."