Walter E. Williams

NOTE TO WALTER WILLIAMS READERS: THE FOLLOWING COLUMN CONTAINS LANGUAGE AND REFERENCES TO LANGUAGE THAT MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME READERS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.

Five police "mini-stations" will be located in Detroit public schools this year, primarily due to the merging of students from several high schools on the city's west side. According to a Sept. 1 Detroit Free Press article, armed police officers will patrol the hallways in an effort to stem violence.

During the 2005-06 school year, officials issued 39,318 disciplinary referrals and filed 5,500 crime reports, and that's not including truancy and property damage. Uniformed and undercover police officers ride on city buses that transport students to and from school. As of last year, according to a June 2006 USA Today report, Detroit's public school graduation rate is only 21.7 percent, the lowest among the nation's 50 largest school districts.

During the 2003-04 school year, only 52 of the nation's 92,000 public schools were labeled "persistently dangerous," a designation under the No Child Left Behind Act entitling students to move to an alternate "safe" school.

Philadelphia had 14 schools labeled as "persistently dangerous" and Baltimore had six. The level of violence in Philadelphia schools is so high that each high school is equipped with a walk-through metal detector, security cameras and a conveyor-belted X-ray machine that scans book bags and purses.

Philadelphia and Baltimore, like Detroit, have armed police to try to stem school violence. School violence, including assaults on teachers and staff, is not restricted to inner city schools but occurs also in suburban and rural schools. However, the bulk of the violence is at schools with large black populations.

One has to ask: What happened? I graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1954. Franklin had just about the lowest academic rating of all Philadelphia high schools and probably the city's lowest income students. But what goes on today in Philadelphia high schools would have been inconceivable back then. There were no policemen in or around the schools, there wasn't wanton property destruction, profanities weren't heard up and down the hallways, and the farthest thought from a student's mind was to curse or assault a teacher.

Much of what's seen today is a result of harebrained ideas and a tolerance for barbaric behavior. Kathleen Parker cited such an example in her May 16 syndicated column. The case concerned teacher Elizabeth Kandrac, who was routinely verbally abused by black students at Brentwood Middle School in North Charleston, S.C. A sample of the abusive language: white b----, white m-----f-----, white c---, white ho. Despite frequent complaints, school officials did nothing to stop the abuse. They told her this racially charged profanity was simply part of the students' culture, and if Kandrac couldn't handle the students' cursing, she was in the wrong school. Kandrac brought suit alleging a racially hostile work environment, and the school district settled out of court for $200,000.

People with such a tolerant mindset are in effect saying that blacks are not to be held to civilized standards of conduct and academic expectations that might be enforced for others. That's a disgusting and debilitating notion. I guarantee you that years ago, such nonsense would not have been tolerated, and a person making excuses for barbaric behavior by black students would have been considered a lunatic.

What has been allowed in predominantly black schools is nothing less than a betrayal of the struggle paid with blood, sweat and tears by previous generations to make possible the educational opportunities so long denied blacks that are being routinely squandered today. Blacks who lived through that struggle and are no longer with us wouldn't have believed such a betrayal possible.

There's enough blame to go around for each to have his share: students who are alien and hostile to the education process, parents who don't give a damn, and the education establishment and politicians who accommodate and excuse this tragedy of black education.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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