by Chris Bodenner
The Dish has received a deluge of long, thoughtful, well-informed emails on this topic and I wish we could post them all. So a big thank you to everyone who wrote in. To recap, the "Depressing ... Persuasive" thread in chronological order is here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. A reader writes:
Fifteen years ago you published the debate on The Bell Curve in The New Republic. How can you not raise the issue of average racial cognitive differences, human biodiversity ("HBD"), so-called race realism, and other such topics in the context of the McWhorter review, school performance, etc.? You know it is relevant and you occasionally allude to the fact that it is a real issue. So why do you post a range of views on the "tragedy" of inner city school performance without any reference to HBD?
Your latest readers, claiming that urban school systems are well-funded, may be speaking of isolated cases. Per pupil expenditures were not equal for the public school students of Philadelphia for my entire life as a student there. Classroom supplies and infrastructure are sorely lacking in the traditional public schools of New Orleans. This is clearly one of those things that gets people really hyperbolic on both sides.
Nothing infuriates me more as a lifelong urban resident and public school graduate than people who blame culture without accounting for structural racism (in education, in criminal justice). Fundamentally, the issues are not mutually exclusive and people who advocate for urban communities do themselves a disservice when they separate culture from societal structure.
I am a product of both the Ivy League and the Philadelphia public school system - you know, one of those massively underfunded havens for institutionalized bigotry and eventual failure. I would love to pat myself on the back for my work ethic and desire for achievement, but I know that it all started with my parents.
Through the wonders of social networking, I've been able to keep track my classmates more than 10 years after graduating high school. The one factor that separates the haves from the have-nots is parental involvement. Race, class, or creed has nothing to do with the various paths my classmates have taken. I remember going to parent-teacher conferences with my parents and it is almost without fail that those parents (or parent) who showed up had the kids who eventually went on to successful careers.
I'm absolutely sick of hearing funding or bad teachers used as an excuse for failure by those who make absolutely no effort to improve their own children's lives. I understand that I was fortunate to have two parents to support me, but plenty of my classmates had only one caring parent and they made it out just fine. I can't even pretend to have a way to motivate those parents to take an active interest int their children's lives, but we are getting to the point where blaming institutional racism and the underfunding of schools has far passed its efficacy and basis in reality.
I've enjoyed both your readers' response to McWhorter and your readers' responses to your readers' response to McWhorter. And to quote Toby Ziegler from The West Wing: "I agree with Sam, I agree with Josh, I agree with Leo, and I agree with C.J., and you know how that makes me crazy."