The liberal education syndicate

I’m using syndicate to imply a negative connotation. Here at Conservative247 we try our best to pass along information that is educational. Generally, it’s no holds barred when it comes to providing lessons about what defines conservative concepts here in the United States.

If you have not added Walter E. Williams to your reading list, you really should. Yesterday’s syndicated column – this time using syndicate in the mass media distribution way – brings Williams back to one of his top issues; black education.

Black schools in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore developed top-notch graduates including doctors, lawyers, civil rights leaders, military commanders and a Supreme Court justice; all prior to the 1950s.

Lessons from the past are important, especially when the public education bullies are constantly blaming poor graduation rates and low performance on student to teacher ratios and a lack of funding. Hogwash, all hogwash.

Williams refers to books written by Dr. Thomas Sowell, a Stanford University senior fellow at the Hoover Institution in his column this week.

Washington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School is one black school that Sowell writes about. From 1870 to 1955, most of Dunbar’s graduates went off to college, earning degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Williams, Wesleyan and others. As early as 1899, Dunbar students had higher scores on citywide tests than students at any of the District’s white schools. Dunbar’s attendance records were generally better than those of white schools and its rate of tardiness was lower. Latin was taught throughout the period from 1870 to 1955 and in the early decades, Greek was taught as well. Large classes were the norm, 40 students per teacher. It was more than 40 years before Dunbar had a lunchroom, which was then so small that many children had to eat lunch on the street. Blackboards were old and cracked. It was 1950 before the school had a public address system. Most of the parents of Dunbar students worked in unskilled and semiskilled occupations. White-collar and professional parents totaled 17 percent.

Sowell also writes about Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School, whose education tragedy was featured last June in the HBO documentary “Hard Times at Douglass High” and my column “Black Education” (July 23, 2008). Frederick Douglass was founded in 1883 as the Colored High and Training School before it was renamed in 1892. It survived for decades with inadequate support, located in a succession of hand-me-down buildings that whites had discarded, old textbooks used years before by white students, refinished desks from white schools, secondhand sports equipment and so on.

Teaching styles at Douglass approximated those of rigorous colleges: discussion rather than lectures, reading lists rather than day-to-day assignments and papers rather than reliance on “objective” tests. The interest of teachers in the students was reciprocated by the parents. According to alumni, “The school could do no wrong” in the eyes of parents.

Douglass produced distinguished alumni, such as Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway, as well as several judges, congressmen and civil rights leaders. Douglass High was second in the nation in black Ph.D.’s among its alumni. Dunbar High’s distinguished alumni included U.S. Sen. Ed Brooke and physician Charles Drew. During WWII, Dunbar alumni in the Army included “nearly a score of Majors, nine Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels and a Brigadier General.”

Forty students per teacher? Forty students per teacher?

I felt the need to write that twice, but anyway… I remember that my high school classes usually had between 20 and 30 scared souls in front of professionals like Ms. Canora – our physics teacher – who was able to easily rule the classroom from an elevated desk and a cold, but very effective stare.

To this day, I still enjoy physics.

It’s not the dollars spent per child, student to teacher ratios, the number of computers in the classroom or even the racial makeup of the classroom. An trust me, the federal government can not help.

Former teachers and alumni, whom Sowell interviewed, said that the most basic characteristic of their school was law and order. Respect was the term most used to describe the attitudes of students and parents toward the schools. “The teacher was always right” was a frequently used phrase. Without a civilized learning environment, academic excellence is impossible no matter how much money is spent.

Law and order. We’re not talking the syndicated TV program here.

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