Bad teaching is a common explanation given for the disastrously inadequate public education received by America’s most vulnerable populations. This is a myth. Aside from a few lemons who were notable for their rarity, the majority of teachers I worked with for nine years in New York City’s public school system were dedicated, talented professionals.Before joining the system I was mystified by the schools’ abysmal results.I too assumed there must be something wrong with the teaching. This could not have been farther from the truth.
Teaching French and Italian in NYC high schools I finally figured out why this was, although it took some time, because the real reason was so antithetical to the prevailing mindset. I worked at three very different high schools over the years, spanning a fairly representative sample. That was a while ago now, but the system has not improved since, as the fundamental problem has not been acknowledged, let alone addressed. It would not be hard, or expensive, to fix.
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The salient question should never have been who to blame for blacks’ predicament, but who is able to fix it. If the problem were simply a lack of cash, then the government would be the ideal candidate. But if we learned anything from the explosion of violent crime and single motherhood following welfare expansion in the late 1960s, it was that cash transfers cannot solve a problem that the absence of cash didn’t cause. Herein lies one of the many issues with reparations: it would not address the root causes of black underachievement. Fans of the concept should ask themselves: what will happen the day after reparations are paid, when black students still spend less time on homework than their white peers, blacks are still making poor financial decisions, and two out of every three black kids are still living in single-parent homes? On that day, I’d hope to see progressive scholars acknowledge that they had been asking the wrong question for 50 years. But I would not be shocked to hear them insist that, if only the reparations checks had been a bit larger, black America’s problems would have been solved.
It is a tragedy, perhaps, that the Roman model was abandoned. The modern era, for all its material comforts, is perhaps incapable of returning to it. The Roman model of ‘diversity’ sought not to emphasise ethnic differences, but to relegate them to a secondary and ultimately inconsequential status. For a while, all that really mattered was that one aspired to the status of civis Romanus. Roman diversity also required something that the modern West is incapable of providing: a critical, but in the end self-assured and even triumphalist vision of its own history, and with it a belief in the value of one’s own society and the ability to make membership of that society a desirable end in itself. The modern West is fractured, and just as in the Rome of third and fourth centuries pleas to encompassing civic virtues seem to hold less appeal in the face of fragmentation and conflict. We cannot, and should not follow the Romans in all matters, but we might learn something valuable if we take their emphasis on a universal and aspirational mode of civic participation seriously.
The arrogance of most of the comments reflects exactly the type of smug self-appointed superiority that has led to widespread resentment of the left among reasonable people. To the extent that such views correspond to those at Google, they vindicate the essayist’s claims about the authoritarian and repressive atmosphere there. Even the response by Google’s new VP in charge of diversity simply ignores all of the author’s arguments, and vacuously affirms Google’s commitment to diversity.