Thomas Sowell

Unfortunately, it is the students who will pay the price -- big time and for the rest of their lives -- for the fads and fetishes which substitute for education in our schools. No one will pay a higher price than low-income minority students, who often have nowhere else to get a serious intellectual foundation, other than the public schools which keep shirking this responsibility in favor of "activities" and "exciting" experiments.

Now that a study has shown that minority students benefit from tests with consequences, do not expect teachers or administrators to pay the slightest attention to this study -- except as something to deplore or try to discredit. Real teaching is hard work. Job fairs, play-acting, assigning students to keep diaries or write letters to public figures, or encouraging them to vent emotions in class -- all these things are a lot easier than teaching.

Tests with consequences make it harder to play all these games. Moreover, these tests give parents, voters and taxpayers some way to keep track of how well or how badly the public schools are doing their work. No longer can a lot of cheery-sounding mush from teachers and administrators substitute for hard facts.

The idea that schools are doing minority students a favor by going easy on them shows either unbelievable naivete or calloused cynicism. Nor are parents or community "leaders" doing these students a favor by sending them to school with negative attitudes or a chip on their shoulder over the past.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Courts have made it a legal ordeal to get rid of disruptive students who are preventing other students from learning.

There are lots of people who need to change. We might start with getting rid of such things as job fairs for kindergartners.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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