Belmont Club

The Million Dollar Babies

The recently concluded Zimmerman trial  put race into forefront of the American public debate again. But along the way it touched upon an issue more important than human hardware, as exemplified by skin color. It raised the question of mental software. It is the characteristic of humans to be largely software driven. We are largely what our minds become. Before humans acquired their present knowledge tigers would win against them nearly 100% of the time. But after man got the software he drove tigers into near extinction.

Some time ago I heard a proposition almost too ridiculous to be true.  The assertion was that if students could escape from certain public school systems they stood to gain nearly an additional million dollars in lifetime earnings.  All they had to do was get beyond the clutches of the public education system and into a charter school that had less money and there obtain a vastly superior education.

In the United States, charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money (and may, like other schools, also receive private donations). They are subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, but generally have more flexibility than traditional public schools…. In exchange for flexibility, charter schools receive less funding than public schools in the same area …

Some charter schools are founded by teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by traditional public schools. … Where enrollment in a charter school is oversubscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions systems. However, the lottery is open to all students.

Here was the argument for the million dollar differential from a philanthropist who was helping the charter schools.

KIPP has very high standards for its principals, rejecting more than 90 percent of those who apply. Teachers also must perform at a high level, and it is not uncommon for a new teacher who is not doing well—and not responding to KIPP efforts to help them improve—to be fired before the December holidays. YES is every bit as selective….

Every student who wanted to go to KIPP or YES but couldn’t was losing out on a million dollar deal—literally. “We did this analysis,” says Leo Linbeck III, a prominent Houston businessman who has become an indispensable advisor to the expansion effort (see sidebar). “We took KIPP’s educational performance, how many kids graduated from high school, how many are projected to graduate from college, and we took census data. We took outcomes from HISD and outcomes from KIPP, and we applied those on a percentage basis to figure out the value added.”

Based on his analysis, Linbeck concluded that the loss to those students who applied to KIPP but could not get off the waiting list was enormous. On average, a student who went through the KIPP program was going to have lifetime earnings $900,000 greater than the average student who remained in a regular Houston public school. The same calculations applied to YES graduates. “It was like winning the lottery,” Linbeck says.

It was a large claim from a man I respect. And though I did not doubt there would be some gains from the transfer, a million dollars seemed excessive. After all, how good could the charter schools be? But I was looking at things the wrong way.  The real question was how bad could the public schools be.

The answer apparently is very bad.  CBS Detroit local writes: “Report: Nearly Half Of Detroiters Can’t Read”. Can’t read? In the 21st century? Detroit made the news today for being the largest American city to go bankrupt. If it is true that half of Detroiters can’t read it would go a long way to explaining the city’s collapse .  They had spent billions on a school system that apparently accomplished nothing whatsoever.

DETROIT (WWJ) – According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are ”functionally illiterate.” … Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said.

“I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” Tyler-Ruiz said….

“For other major urban areas, we are a little bit on the high side… We compare, slightly higher, to Washington D.C.’s urban population, in certain ZIP codes in Washington D.C. and in Cleveland,” she said.

It is the last phrase in the CBS story that is most worrisome. Apparently bad as Detroit may be, it compares quite favorably to certain districts in Washington DC and certain of Cleveland. Which raises the question: how bad are those?

That comparative superiority recalled the self-assessment of Rachel Jeantel, a witness at the George Zimmerman murder trial who shocked viewers when it transpired she could not read a letter she allegedly dictated into evidence. Yet she said in a recent interview “I am educated. Trust me, I have a 3.0 I’m good”  You might laugh, but she might well have been telling the truth. Who can say but that she is in the top of her class? In the world of the blind, the merely cross-eyed would be king.

You can take either of two points of view in this situation. This is either the worst outrage ever inflicted on Americans since the Death March in Bataan or the most rip-roaring, creative and over the top scam ever perpetrated in the history of confidence. This is the king of swindles. The absolute epitome of villainy.  The caviar of crime.

The public educational bureaucracy has apparently ripped off the black community to a degree that almost beggars description. Perhaps the most well known of these rip-offs was perpetrated by the Atlanta public school system. The teachers apparently taught their students what might charitably be called a mediocre lesson and then rigged the assessment tests to make it appear they were actually delivering a quality education. What they were really doing was defrauding the taxpayer to collect an unearned performance bonus.

The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal refers to the accusation that teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) district cheated on state-administered standardized tests, and the subsequent fallout. The scandal began in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published analyses of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results which showed statistically unlikely test scores, including extraordinary gains or losses in a single year. An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released in July 2011 found that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the 2009 CRCT. 178 teachers and principals were found to have fixed incorrect answers entered by students. The size of the scandal has been described as one of the largest in United States history.

The scandal was in part uncovered by the parents themselves who wondered at how their children could score so well when they could barely read. What made things even more incredible was the Atlanta Public School’s success at portraying itself as a center of excellence. “Superintendent Beverly Hall, who served from 1999 to 2010, was named Superintendent of the Year in 2009.” Prison Superintendent, more like, for all the while she was robbing an entire generation of their future, wasting ten years of their lives in sham classrooms teaching them diddly-squat.

What is even more astounding is that efforts by members of the black community to rectify the situation are met by sneers from the white liberal media, as exemplified by the heated discussion between Piers Morgan and Larry Elder. Elder was horrified by Jeantel’s inability to read, while Morgan seemed almost to expect it, to see it as the natural order of things and Elder’s objections as mere bigotry.

MORGAN: Why would you — why would you be so scathing about Rachel Jeantel and so patronizing to a young woman who’s clearly been through an appalling ordeal and who when I interviewed I found to be a smart cookie like I said. I found her to be fun, warm, engaging, street smart, and clearly from her educational background nowhere near as stupid as you’d like to think she is.

ELDER: Once again, I never used the word stupid. You did. … And I would recommend, Piers, that we do something about the 50 percent dropout rate in the inner city and about the fact that President Obama opposes allowing parents to use vouchers to get their kids out of bad government schools and into a better school so they can have a possibility to get to the middle class. …

It is outrageous. Hard work wins. Get an education. Don’t pay attention to the negative people and stay focused and you’ll be OK in America. That’s why most of the people in the world want to come here. That’s why you want to come here, Piers.

What was the reaction? Soon after the interview Twitter was alive with messages describing Elder as an Uncle Tom. No mention was made of Simon Legree. But now it is easy to see how no good deed goes unpunished. More importantly, it is now easy to understand that million dollar differential. That’s the gap between what a sub-standardly educated person can earn in a lifetime and what a person with a regular or superior one can pull down.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small

No Way In, a novel at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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