Poor Bill Cosby. He doesn't deserve the fallout that followed his remarks about the dropout rate of some poor students. Even Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, said that most of the uproar in the press and on the Internet is not about the facts Cosby cited but because he said it publicly.
The emperor may have no clothes, but nobody is supposed to notice.
Cosby and other dignitaries were participating at a gala event at Constitution Hall on May 17 in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That school desegregation decision in 1954 came with high hopes that integrating public schools would assure a good education for black children and put them on the road to full integration in America's economic life.
Vashon High School in St. Louis is a good example of why Cosby has reason to be exasperated with failures to educate blacks. It reopened with fanfare in the fall of 2002 after being rebuilt at a cost of $40 million.
A year and a half later, it is a symbol of the failure of big dollars to deliver education in a depressed urban area. Dramatic photographs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed students ruling as a "mobocracy," assaulting and intimidating teachers and students, disrupting classes and ruling the halls with fistfights and "bold defiance."
Most of the Brown anniversary gatherings were clouded by the realization that the promise of Brown has not been realized. CNN's anniversary documentary dared to ask the question "Did the Supreme Court make a mistake?", interviewing black students who complained about the assumption that "blacks can only learn when white kids are around."
I empathize with Cosby for daring to demand accountability from both parents and schools about a major social problem, but I also empathize with the kids who dropped out. Why should they stay in school if they can't read high school books?
According to a study released by the American Diploma Project, a consortium of education-reform groups, employers today consider high school diplomas as proof only that 18-year-olds attended school. They say that high school exit exams required by nearly half the states fail to measure what matters to colleges or employers, and generally assess only eighth- or ninth-grade content.
The project's two-year review of education in five states found that more than half of all high school graduates need remedial classes in college.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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