We, the American public, hold it as an article of faith that those responsible for devising and implementing public policy have our best interests at heart. Our best minds are hard at work, striving to make the world a better place. Our elected officials are dedicated to protecting our freedoms, increasing our prosperity, and securing justice for all.
What, then, is the public to assume when, in spite of the best efforts of our most brilliant thinkers and politicians, freedoms erode, prosperity decreases, and for a great many, justice seems elusive? Surely, sinister forces must be at work.
Let us take for an example the nation’s system of public education. For years, American taxpayers have been sold on a triad of public policy fixes for public education. In order to improve student performance, state and federal governments must dedicate a greater portion of their budgetary dollars to education; class sizes must be reduced, and there must be greater oversight by the federal government. So fervent is the belief in this holy trinity of education, that to even ponder the efficacy of the federal Department of Education is seen as heresy. Any politician who attempts to curb the unrestricted flow of tax dollars to public schools is accused of not wanting to “invest in education.”
And yet, increases in spending have not resulted in a corresponding increase in student achievement. Studies have shown that over the last 50 years, student proficiency in math and English has shown little improvement even as spending and federal government oversight has increased and class size has decreased. Given the brilliance and dedication of our public servants, the failure of significant academic gains to materialize, in spite of billions spent on education, can only be the devil’s work.
And if you are a black man, the devil must, indeed, be working overtime.
Information recently culled from the National Assessment for Educational Progress, based on national math and reading tests given to students in the fourth and eighth grades, revealed some rather disheartening results. According to the New York Times, the report paints a picture for black males that is, “even bleaker than generally known.”
In 2009, math scores for black boys lagged behind those of both Hispanic boys and girls, and black males fell behind white boys by an average of 30 points, which is interpreted as three academic grades. Black males drop out of high school at a rate twice as high as white males and their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower. In short, the report shows that black males fall behind academically early on and never regain ground.