Part 1—Calling Professor Guinier: Lani Guinier is a professor at Harvard Law School—has been since 1998.
Her latest book notwithstanding, her professional work isn’t heavily involved with K-12 public education. In fairness, there is no particular reason to expect her to have much to say about the functioning of American public schools.
That said, Guinier was recently asked about public schools on C-Span’s monthly program, In Depth. Midway through her three-hour tour, a caller from New York City lamented “the miseducation of African-American students.”
“We are destroying another generation of African-American students,” the caller gloomily said. She then asked Guinier to state her view about the benefits of voucher programs.
She further suggested that New York City should liberalize its licensing procedures to attract more capable teachers. Under current arrangement, Louie Armstrong couldn’t teach music in New York City, the caller gloomily said.
Just for starters, are we “destroying another generation of African-American students?” Not exactly, no.
Substantial “achievement gaps” still exist, in both reading and math, between the nation’s white and black public school students. That said, the gaps are smaller than they once were. And the gaps persist only because white kids are scoring much higher in these subjects, just the way black kids are.
People, you read that correctly! On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s black students have been scoring much higher in both reading and math over the past several decades! Hispanic kids are scoring much higher in both subjects too.
Black and Hispanic students are scoring much higher on the NAEP, the widely-praised, constantly-cited “gold standard” of domestic testing! But very few people have ever heard these important, encouraging facts.
In a nation scripted by corporate elites, it seems to be against the law to let the public hear this.
Perhaps for that reason, the caller was full of the gloom a person might feel from observing the gaps which still exist on the NAEP. But she seemed to have no idea about the very large score gains recorded in the past several decades by all major student groups.
Most people have never heard about those large score gains. As it turned out this day, it seemed that Professor Guinier was one such person.
For whatever reason, our upper-end journalists seem committed to keeping these score gains under wraps. In a truly appalling display, our pampered, privileged, overpaid professors play along with this practice.
We’ve discussed this topic many times at this site. To state the obvious, we liberals simply don’t seem to care about this important topic.
We don’t seem to like or admire our nation’s superlative black kids. We’re happy to keep running our black kids down—except when one of these kids gets shot, in which case we start stampeding around and inventing facts, our way of pretending to care.
As noted above, Professor Guinier doesn’t specialize in public education. There’s no reason to expect her to have sophisticated ideas about the public schools.
That said, the analysts were already crying as she started her answer to that gloomy C-Span caller, even before she took the trip to Finland. This is the halting, stumbling way the professor’s answer began:
GUINIER (3/1/15): Sheila, you raised so many different aspects of the education challenge. I’m not sure which one to address or to emphasize.This full exchange can be heard starting around 1:35:00 of the three-hour C-Span tape.
I think you are making an excellent point that in the United States of America, we are not teaching, we are not taking advantage of our—our skill, our skill set and there’s a sense that people in affluent communities deserve to have excellent schools and people in poor communities are entitled to go to school, but there’s less concern about the excellence of the school.
So your first comment, that you’re disturbed by the miseducation of African-American students, I agree with that. I think that there is a failure to educate, not because people are unable to educate, but because we haven’t, we haven’t as a society really invested our attention and our knowledge and our—and identified the opportunities that are available for more people to be teachers.
I think we could use a lot more teachers because you have classes sometimes that are, you know, 30, 40 people. And that there should be more emphasis on having students go to the library, having opportunities to use the library as a place of learning. And I think it’s also important for our country to understand that a better educated citizenship—not just one’s own children, but the children in the community you live in, or the children in the state that you live in, or the children in the country that you live—that we will all benefit if there is a better sense of, or a better commitment, a stronger commitment, to the education of all students.
When we see them on TV, we’re often struck by how unimpressive our ranking professors are.
On this particular day, we thought Guinier was strangely shaky as she discussed a wide array of topics. Her halting, stumbling, peculiar performance only continued as she began to discuss public schools.
In fairness, we liberals might be inclined to agree with several of the professor’s frameworks. Even in these first remarks, she has already said that we aren’t trying very hard to educate black kids.
(That tends to make us feel good.)
She also sounded pleasing points about the advantages which accrue to affluent kids. (Her own son graduated from Harvard Law School and got a Supreme Court clerkship, she had pointed out moments before.)
For ourselves, we don’t exactly buy that pair of frameworks. That said, they’re the kinds of remarks a liberal can make even if she doesn’t know jack about the public schools.
Our impression? We think a lot of people have tried very hard, in the past thirty years, to improve our low-income schools. The very large score gains on the NAEP suggest the possibility that some of these efforts may have paid off.
That said, Professor Guinier showed no sign of having heard about the large gains recorded by black students. As she stumbled ahead in these early remarks, she offered specific suggestions which can only be termed absurd.
Students should go to the library more! Also, we need more teachers! These were the thoughts which emerged from the head of the Harvard Law School professor.
The analysts were already crying as they heard the professor begin to respond to the gloomy caller. But then, ohourgod! It couldn’t be true!
Their crying turned to caterwauling as they sensed what was coming next!
The ranking professor seemed to know very little about the work of the public schools. But she did know the Finland script, which she now recited!
As we watched the analysts weep, we thought about the way the Guiniers reflexively denigrate the nation’s black kids. And we thought about the gruesome ways our pampered, privileged, overpaid professors tend to perform.
We’ll sample professors all this week. There’s a lot to cry about in the way these high-ranking slackers perform.
Tomorrow: As seen two weeks before on Vox, our own new brainiac news org!