10/11/2000 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams
It's indisputably beyond question that black Americans have a level of loyalty to the Democratic Party and its big-government policies second to none. They connect political power with economic power. But the evidence that I see is that individual application and effort are far more important determinants of socioeconomic progress than dependence on government. If anything, government is the primary source of handicaps suffered by a large segment of the black community. Let's look at one of those handicaps, education.
Quality education is a serious problem for black Americans. There's little dispute that government-operated schools deliver grossly fraudulent education to most black students. The quality delivered to white students is nothing to write home about, either.
By any measure of academic achievement, black students score at or near the bottom. It's typical for some black high-school seniors, with a record of A's and B's, to have an academic achievement level two, three or four years behind their white counterparts. At many predominantly black high schools, it's common for Scholastic Assessment Test scores to average 600 or 700 out of a possible 1600. Four hundred points are awarded simply by taking the test. Low academic achievement means that admission to even second- and-third tier colleges requires admission standards lower than that for other students.
In an increasingly high-tech world, fraudulent education is a growing barrier to upward mobility. What do black Americans do about the systematic academic destruction of our children? We surely don't hold those responsible for that destruction accountable. To the contrary, we generously support those responsible, in the name of "saving public education." Personally, I care much more about saving children than saving public education. I support any method of education delivery that provides high quality education, whether it's parochial schools, private schools -- both religious and non-religious -- and public schools.
When people's primary concern is about individual children, they shouldn't focus on repeated failed attempts to save a particular system. Instead, if schools are failing to educate, they should try to provide means to get children out of problem schools into succeeding schools. That's done by empowering parents, not the failed school system.
For four decades, the education establishment has made one promise after another that more education dollars would improve education. School budgets have skyrocketed, but educational achievement has declined. Now the "solution" proffered is to hire 100,000 more teachers so as to reduce class sizes. Here's my guarantee: Like nostrums of the past, this will not make a bit of difference in black academic achievement, and in five or 10 years we'll see the academic destruction of black children unabated.
The children of the black "leadership," politicians and those of many teachers will be spared this tragedy; their children attend private and suburban schools, not the dangerous, poor quality inner city schools.
Which candidate and party advocate giving all parents the chance to opt out of failing schools? It's George Bush and the Republicans who support educational vouchers, a mechanism whereby poor parents have some of the options of non-poor parents, namely removing their children from unsafe and failing public schools. It's impossible for Democrats to support competition in education; they are too politically dependent on teachers' unions.
Sen. Lieberman learned this when he signed on as the vice-presidential candidate. He had to recant his earlier support for education vouchers. Black politicians can't even demand getting rid of incompetent teachers, dumbed-down education and elimination of harebrained education schemes that are destroying their constituency's children, lest they lose teacher union political support and campaign contributions. That's a good deal for black politicians but devastating to the people for whom they make a pretense of representing.