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Transcending Race

Gateway Pundit has a 1995 video of Barack Obama blaming white executives in the suburbs for not wanting their taxes to help black children.

I'm sure he's changed his mind since, though, right?

[Late morning update]

Barack Obama's redistributionist obsession:

I suggest henceforth that every time readers hear the word "change" from Team Obama, they insert the work "redistributive" in front of it.

Indeed. He said those words in 2001. Why should we think that he's changed since? Particularly after his Freudian slip with Joe the Plumber?

[Update early afternoon]

Goody. Here's some more race transcendance: white people shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Whenever I hear nutty proposals like this, I always wonder, who will decide who is and isn't "white"? Does Barack Obama get half a vote?


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Brock wrote:

It's not cool making this a race issue, but he is right about the suburban schools getting much more funding than inner city ones. If there's an argument for "redistribution" anywhere, it's in educating the next generation of Americans. We all have a vested interest in that, and you certainly can't say that the inner city children did anything to "deserve" being born into the situation they were born into.

If the government is going to get involved in funding education, each child needs to receive an equal share (adjusted for local cost of living only). Nothing else is equitable or just.

Rand Simberg wrote:

The problem with inner-city schools isn't funding, per se (Washington DC spends a lot). It's the teachers' unions.

ken anthony wrote:

I'm a late boomer, 1959. Grade school classes had 30 or more students and one teacher. Our textbooks were used by the class before us and we were expected to turn them in at the end of the school year unmarked for the class behind us. Undisciplined students went to meet the board of education, which was 3 foot long and made of wood.

My family moved a lot; I went to many different schools (5 different 7th grades one notable year) from city to town, suburb and rural.

The only time class size fell was in the MGM programs in California high school (to about 20) and the Arizona special studies program (my second year I was the only student for about a month.)

The only social engineering I remember was the teaching of Lamarckian evolution which was already known to be false and at eight years of age gave me my first serious distrust of adults (my family was not religious, just Easter sunday Catholics) because I saw through the lies. I preferred science.

The idea that money is the problem is just wrong. After a certain minimum amount, all the rest is a waste. The problem is attitude. Parents and teachers used to be a team... not adversaries. My fifth grade principle not only gave me some whacks with the board of education, but brought me homework and signed my cast when I had a broken leg. His son was my best friend in class and those whacks did there job because I respected and even loved those adults around me.

They didn't rewrite the history books for a social agenda. Adults and children learned the same history. Math was not social studies. We had winners and losers and the losers worked harder. Everybody was expected to compete for better grades.

None of my generation are voting for Obama, unless they had a radically different education than mine. Anybody calling me a racist is an idiot and I resent it. I would have voted for Powell before he revealed his true self. The 95% of a certain group voting pigmentation are the racists although I don't blame them all because it's a lack of good education. My generation knows you don't elect a Marxist.

The failure of inner city schools can probably be traced to Marxist liberation theology. The department of education which allowed this (and probably promoted it) has got to go.

Dennis Wingo wrote:

Bush increased education department funding from $28 billion a year to almost $70 billion per year. Has anyone noticed an improvement in education?

Me neither.

Carl Pham wrote:

but he is right about the suburban schools getting much more funding than inner city ones.

WTF? Are you saying this because it just sounds reasonable, Brock? That is, it's just an unconscious prejudice? Or do you have actual data?

Because here is some actual data. Let's compare LA Unified, the most inner-city of inner-city California school districts, with something like a 90% minority enrollment, and Irvine Unified, a suburban district in wealthy Orange County, where million-dollar houses are the rule, not the exception. We'll also put in the average numbers for all California districts.

Here we go:

Expenditure per student:
California average: $8,345
LA Unified: $9,906 (19% more)
Irvine Unified: $7,913 (5% less)

Average teacher salary:
California average: $63,640
LA Unified: $62,408 (2% less)
Irvine Unified: $70,116 (10% more)

Pupil-teacher ratio:
California average: 21.0
LA Unified: 20.6 (2% less)
Irvine Unified: 22.8 (9% more)

I'm afraid I see zero evidence of your assertion, that inner city schools are getting less funding. In fact, it appears to be the reverse. Los Angeles inner city schools appear to be enjoying a nontrivial advantage in funding over their suburban counterparts.

The only place the suburban schools do even slightly better is in teacher salary, and, what with the rigid union rules that tie pay completely to seniority, almost certainly results from the fact that the suburban teachers are simply older on average.

By the way, I don't know about you, but an average salary of $70,000 for nine months' work seems pretty handsome. So that should put the fork to the other usual canard about schools, that teachers are overworked and underpaid.

I'm afraid Obama was just spewing the usual racist unthinking prejudice with which he was raised. Someday, we'll have a candidate for President who goes beyond unthinking prejudice, who appeals to us to judge things as they really are, and not according to the assumptions and stereotypes of the past. But not this year. And almost certainly not from the Democratic Party, the party of Slogans From The (Early) Twentieth Century.

Brock wrote:

Agreed that teacher unions are a bigger issue than funding. Another bigger issue is the single-provider model and lack of competition between schools. (these two issues are related, but not perfectly so). But I wasn't making a definitive list of what's wrong with education in this country, just touching on the blogged about post.

Carl, for all I know LA Unified is an aberration. I don't live in CA or know how it's funded. I can only speak for the schools I have direct knowledge of, where my assertions are true.

Does Barack Obama get half a vote?

No. His black background is morally superior to his white background, so it's worth slightly more than 1/2. Why don't we give me 3/5 and call it equitable?

Brock wrote:

Blargh. I ruined my punchline with poor grammar. I meant to say "Why don't we give him 3/5 and call it equitable?"

Curt Thomson wrote:

The problem with inner-city schools isn't funding, AT ALL. The numbers just do not support that assertion. You can argue all day what the problem is with inner-city schools, but that ain't it.

Carl Pham wrote:

Carl, for all I know LA Unified is an aberration.

Uh..say what? It's the biggest district in the country, I believe. Maybe three-quarters of a million students. Even if it isn't like some other inner-city districts, it's still so huge that it must substantially define what we should think of by "inner city" schools. That is, if LA Unified with nearly a million students is like this, but four tiny 5,000 student inner city districts in San Ysidro and other places are not -- it's still LA Unified that should dominate our thinking about what "inner city" schools are like.

But, you know, you can look up any school district in California at that site. Pick one you think represents "innert city" and run the numbers. I'm perfectly confident you'll find a consistent result.

I can only speak for the schools I have direct knowledge of, where my assertions are true.

What schools are those? Let's have the numbers, then. I'm perfectly aware that schools will tell you they're poor, and the inner-city schools are getting the shaft, and so forth. Unfortunately, they're lying. Maybe it sounds shocking, that teachers and school administrators would lie, but they do. They're so well trained in rationalization that it doesn't bother them. They can easily construct a version of reality where what they say is, technically, and if you use the right definition of "is" and other words, true.

Listen, while you're at it, look up the numbers for parochial (Catholic) schools. These schools are often in the same "inner city" neighborhoods, and they get substantially less money (because they don't get state money and they rely on the same poor parents), but they turn out consistently better student performance. How does that work? It's not the money. It never was, and never will be. The quality of the job done is only correlated with the money spent when you insist that the money earned be correlated with the quality of the job, and teachers' unions have long made sure that the latter is not true in public education.

Brock wrote:

Jesus fucking Christ people, do I have to start using expletives and caps to get you to read the part of my post that says FUNDING IS NOT THE BIGGEST ISSUE WITH OUR SCHOOLS TODAY. It's not. I agree with you. Drop the point already; nothing to discuss there.

All I said, and all I'm going to say, is that if government is going to be in the business of using tax dollars to fund schools than each US child-citizen should get a pro rata share of the funding. Spending $X on one child and $2*X on another isn't fair or equitable.

As for the spending differences I have friends in local government (mayors and such) and on local school boards in various towns within my county, some of which are quite affluent and some of which are quite poor. I'm aware of the numbers for my county and it's an injustice. That's all I'm saying. Maybe my county is the aberration, whatever. I don't really care what LA's situation is, and since it's not even relevant to my main point I'm not going to document this for you. Be worried about your own community on this one.

Carl Pham wrote:

Calm down, Brock. No one's going to sell your children into slavery. If I've missed your main point, well, maybe next time put it in your first sentence? Just a thought.

Anyway, my own community is those school districts, and I have three children in them, so that's why I know the numbers, and that's why I know the argument about poor funding is, in this case -- and Southern California is a big case -- pretty much complete bullshit. I agree with you that funding isn't the main point -- indeed, I'm going as far as saying it isn't any point at all, it's a positive distraction from the real issues, put about by people who don't want us to think about the real issues.

But I'm also going to disagree with you that government should fund all schools identically. There are excellent reasons why per-pupil expenditures at one school might be quite different from another, and in different areas.

Let me give an example. In my childrens' schools, there is no gym and no cafeteria. Why's that? Well, because they're in Southern California, where it just doesn't rain very much. So they eat and do phys ed outside, except on the rare occasion when it rains, and then they just sit at their desks. It works out OK. But could you get away with this on the East Coast, or in Minnesota? Heck no. So every school there has to have a (very expensive) indoor gym and indoor cafeteria. And, of course, those schools pay a fortune in heating costs during the winter that ours don't.

Even further: there are no schoolbusses in my school district. Elementary schools are cheap enough that they put one within walking distance of every house in the district, and you're expected to walk. When you get to middle school and high school, you bike or drive. That, too, would be totally impractical in an area of the country where you have a serious winter. You can't have 6-year-olds walking to school in January in New Hampshire.

Then again, you've got rural schools where your student population is spread out over 100 square miles. You've got to bus everybody, and you need a lot of little buses, or else each kid has to ride a ginormous route taking hours to fill up a regular bus.

Then you've got places (like here) where the cost of living is enormous, and you need princely wages to attract good teachers, versus Knoxville, TN, where you can pay half as much and get the same teacher quality.

And so on. So, really, equalizing the dollar amount per student spent isn't much in the way of "fair" if you're trying to equalize opportunity or access. Is it "fair" in the sense, at least, that each parent gets an equal net share of government largesse? Well, no, not with a byzantine complex progressive tax structure, it isn't, not when parents are paying wildly different amounts of Federal tax.

What would I suggest instead? Well, this is just one more of those situations where good intentions get mired in the practical insolubility of the problem. I think direct Federal funding of schools creates more problems that it has any hope of solving. So I would get the Feds out of the business of directly funding schools. They can certainly manage and fund nation-wide multi-school issues, like standards setting and testing. And if there's a feeling that society (meaning childless people) in general should subsidize education, then just give parents a Federal tax deduction for school costs (not a God-damned refundable tax deduction, that 21st century abortion). Basically, you get to keep more of your money if you devote it to educating the next generation.

If schools are funded and largely controlled locally, as they were for most of our history, before we decided giving all responsibility and power to the Washington Imperium was the way to go, then local folks make the decisions about funding priorities, and the responsibility for how things turn out is very local. You know who to blame, and often exactly why.

Ryan E wrote:

The school spending/performance discussion is an interesting example, though an Obama administration would go far beyond even that. But I do agree that money is not necessarily the problem. And even if it is, in some cases, it's often a matter of using the money that is available wisely.

I may be wrong, but as I understand Obama's socialist philosophy, I imagine he would assert that the disparity in urban-suburban school funding is a result of some conscious decison by someone or some group, to discriminate. But the difference between urban and suburban school districts' funding (here in OH, anyway) is simply because of differences in the property tax bases that are the predominate source of school funding. There was no sinister plan to make it that way, though. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the reliance on property taxes was unconstitutional, however 10 years of monkeying around with proposed plans to change the system have gone nowhere, basically.

It's worth noting that poorer urban districts aren't necessarily destined to be more "unfair" to blacks. While the Ohio statewide graduation rate for blacks lags behind whites, in the Dayton city school district, it's reversed - and by a considerable margin.

In my suburban school district, years of fiscal mismanagement left the district with a huge deficit. The result was cuts in many programs and extras. (But wasteful things like the superintendent's car allowance and golf club membership remained!) After half a dozen ballot attempts, an additional property tax levy was eventually passed. Yet there has not been any noticeable improvement in the district.

In any event, giving the government this broad power to redistribute wealth that Obama wants, surely can't be the answer.

Andy Freeman wrote:

> Jesus fucking Christ people, do I have to start using expletives and caps to get you to read the part of my post that says FUNDING IS NOT THE BIGGEST ISSUE WITH OUR SCHOOLS TODAY. It's not. I agree with you. Drop the point already; nothing to discuss there.

Hmm. This other Brock guy seems to think that funding is pretty damn important and that the numbers are different than they appear to be. Perhaps you should talk with him. I'll quote

"It's not cool making this a race issue, but he is right about the suburban schools getting much more funding than inner city ones."

"If the government is going to get involved in funding education, each child needs to receive an equal share (adjusted for local cost of living only). Nothing else is equitable or just."

BTW - There is a valid equity argument that leads to greater funding for kids in worse circumstances. However, it depends on some other things that may not be true.

Andy Freeman wrote:

> Blargh. I ruined my punchline with poor grammar. I meant to say "Why don't we give him 3/5 and call it equitable?"

The punchline isn't ruined by the grammer - it was ruined by the reference to a falacious argument. The 3/5 number didn't come from the South arguing that blacks were worth less.

3/5 for census purposes was a compromise between the North, which wanted 0, and the South, which wanted 1. Why did the North want 0? Because that reduced the political power of the South. Why did the South want 1? Because that increased the political power of the South.

How can that be? Census numbers are used for deciding how many House Representatives come from a given state....

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 27, 2008 7:36 AM.

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