George Will

If Duncan is looking for the high SAT scores that correlate with, and often are consequences of, AP courses, he should look for schools where educated parents are intensely involved with their children. The best predictor of SAT scores is family income, which generally correlates with family structure -- two parents in the home. Family structure is pertinent to the 9/91 factor -- between their births and their 19th birthdays, children spend 9 percent of their time in school and 91 percent elsewhere. For many children, elsewhere is not an intact family.

Government can do next to nothing about family structure, which is why it is pointless for Duncan to suggest that "access" is why "the door to college still does not swing open evenly for everyone." It will not so swing as long as 71.6 percent of African-American children and 51.3 percent of Latino children are born to unmarried women. The political class flinches from talking about those numbers, preferring to take refuge behind talk about "rights." But those numbers go far to explain numbers that Duncan does cite: White high school graduates are twice as likely as black or Latino graduates to have taken AP calculus classes. The political system cannot candidly discuss, let alone cope with, the reasons why, for example, there are few if any high-performing inner-city school systems.

Duncan seems to fancy himself an Earl Warren, expanding civil rights. Actually, he resembles Mrs. Jellyby.

While his lawyers seek evidence of displeasing enrollments in AP courses, he is complicit in strangling the scholarship program that enables 1,300 District of Columbia low-income minority students to escape from D.C.'s execrable schools. Like Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens' "Bleak House," who was indifferent to her chaotic family while fretting about conditions in distant Borrioboola-Gha, Duncan practices what Dickens called "telescopic philanthropy." Sensitive about supposed injustices in distant AP classes, Duncan is worse than merely indifferent to children within sight of his office at the foot of Capitol Hill.

No segregationist politician is blocking schoolhouse doors against D.C. children; congressional Democrats are. Until Duncan and the talkative president he serves speak against the congressional Democrats who are strangling D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarship Program, he should spare us the exhibitionism of explaining problems of social class in the Sixties vocabulary of civil rights violations.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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