Thomas Sowell

A finer breakdown of American teenagers' test scores shows that while white and Asian American students meet international standards in math, blacks and Hispanics fall well below those standards. Those students who are already less fortunate have the most to lose by turning classrooms into chatter sessions. The children of affluent and well-educated parents can learn a lot at home, even if the schools waste their time on "activities" and "projects." But the kid from a low-income family in the ghetto or barrio usually has just one shot at a decent life -- and that shot is in the school. Teachers who fail to equip these youngsters with mental skills send them out into the battles of life unarmed.

Teachers who think they are doing something good for those kids by sympathetically dwelling on racial grievances are giving them chips to carry on their shoulders instead of brainpower in their heads. Is anybody going to be more employable with a chip on his shoulders? Is anybody more likely to be work hard on improving himself when he is led to believe that his problems are caused by other people? The message that gets through to many minority youngsters is that you are a chump for trying when The Man is not going to let you get anywhere anyway. Those minority students who still try hard are often accused of "acting white" -- and that accusation can bring anything from social ostracism to outright violence.

Schools that give easy grades are setting their students up for a very hard life without the skills to compete. Instead of giving students and their parents a realistic picture of where they are, while there is still time to do something about it, schools are passing the job of confronting reality on to employers who get these youngsters when it is usually too late. Yet schools think they are teaching "ethics" when their whole abdication of adult responsibility is profoundly immoral.


Thomas Sowell

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

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