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Public Education’s Dirty Secret

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.

Washington Irving High School, 2001–2004

My NYC teaching career began a few days before September 11, 2001 at Washington Irving High School. It was a short honeymoon period;  the classes watched skeptically as I introduced them to a method of teaching French using virtually no English. Although the students weren’t particularly engaged, they remained respectful. During first period on that awful day there was a horrendous split-second noise. A plane flew right overhead a mere moment before it blasted into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At break time word was spreading among the staff.  Both towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval, some getting out of their seats to do a sort of victory dance. It was an eye-opener, and indicative of what was to come.

The next three years were a nightmare. The school always teetered on the verge of chaos. The previous principal had just been dismissed and shunted to another school district. Although it was never stated, all that was expected of teachers was to keep students in their seats and the volume down. This was an enormous school on five floors, with students cordoned off into separate programs. There was even a short-lived International Baccalaureate Program, but it quickly failed. Whatever the program, however, the atmosphere of the school was one of danger and deceit. Guards patrolled the hallways, sometimes the police had to intervene. Even though the security guards carefully screened the students at the metal detectors posted at every entrance, occasionally arms crept in. Girls sometimes managed to get razors in, the weapon of choice against rivals for boys’ attention. Although I don’t know of other arms found in the school (teachers were kept in the dark as much as possible), one particularly disruptive and dangerous boy was stabbed one afternoon right outside school. It appears he came to a violent death a few years later. What a tragic waste of human potential.

As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldn’t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, “I don’t talk to teachers,” turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.

This was unthinkable in New York, where “in-house suspension” was the only punitive measure. It would be “discriminatory” to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.

Throughout Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who “cooperated with the system” was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldn’t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There were certainly precious few books being brought home.

I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed and I was reprimanded. This was “discriminatory.” The students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet. 

The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms I’d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.

Actually, the girls were meaner than the boys. The latter did not engage at all. They simply ignored me. Except for the delinquents among them, the boys didn’t make trouble. The girls on the other hand could be malicious. One girl even called me a “fucking white bitch.” It was confidence-destroying and extremely stressful. I was often reported to the principal for one transgression or another, like taking a sheet of paper from a student. Once I was even reprimanded for calmly taking my own cellphone from a girl who’d held on to it for half an hour, refusing all my requests to hand it back. The administration was consistently on the side of the student. The teacher was the fall guy, every time.

The abuse ranged from insults to outright violence, although I myself was never physically attacked. Stories abounded, however, of hard substances like bottles of water being thrown at us, teachers getting smacked on the head from behind, pushed in stairwells, and having doors slammed in our faces. The language students used was consistently obscene. By far the most commonly heard word throughout the school, literally hundreds of times a day, like a weapon fired indiscriminately, was “nigga.” The most amazing story from those painful years was the time I said it myself.

Sometimes you just have had enough. One day a girl sitting towards the back of the classroom shouted at some boy up front, “Yo! Nigga! Stop that!” I stood up as tall as I could and said in my most supercilious voice, “I don’t know which particular nigga the young lady is referring to, but whoever it is, would you please stop it.” The kids couldn’t believe their ears:

“Yo, miss!  You can’t say that!”
“Why not? You say it all the time.”
“Uhh…  Because you’re old.”
“That’s not why. Come on, tell the truth.”

This went on for a bit, until one brave lad piped up: “Because you’re white.” “Okay,” I said, “because I’m white. Well what if I said to you, ‘You’re not allowed to say some word because you’re black.’ Would that be okay?” They admitted that it wouldn’t. No one seemed to report it. To this day, it’s puzzling that I didn’t lose my job over that incident. I put it down to basic human decency.

Of course my teaching method had to be largely scrapped. The kids didn’t listen to me in either French or English. But they had a certain begrudging respect for me, I think because I told them the truth. I’d plead with them, “Look, kids, you’re destroying yourselves. Yes, the system stinks, but it’s the only show in town. Please, please don’t do this to yourselves. Education is your only way out.” But it was useless. I didn’t possess whatever magic some teachers have that explains their success, however limited. 

Aside from the history teacher from Texas, other Washington Irving educators stood out as extraordinary, and this in an unimaginably bad learning environment. One was a cheerful Lebanese math teacher who had been felled as a child by polio. He called himself “the million dollar man” because of his handicapped parking permit, quite a handy advantage in Manhattan. Although he could only walk on crutches, he kept those kids in line! His secret? A lovely way about him and complete but polite disdain for his students. Where he came from, students were not allowed to act that way. Another was a German teacher, the wife of a Lutheran minister. Her imposing presence—she fit the valkyrie stereotype—kept those mouths closed. You could hear a pin drop in her unusually tidy classroom, and she managed to teach some German to the few hardy souls who wanted to learn it. 

The most impressive of all was a handsome black American from Minnesota. He towered over us all, both physically and what the French call morally. He exuded an aura that inspired something like awe in his colleagues and students. I think he taught social studies. He was the only teacher who got away with blacking out his classroom door window, which added to his mystique. He engaged his students by concentrating their efforts on putting together a fashion show at the end of each school year. They designed and produced the outfits they strutted proudly on the makeshift catwalk, looking as elegant and confident as any supermodel. To tumultuous applause. They deserved it.

Although the school was always on the verge of hysteria and violence, it had all the trappings of the typical American high school. There were class trips and talent shows, rings and year books—even caps and gowns and graduation. High school diplomas were among the trappings, handed out to countless 12th graders with, from my observation, a 7th grade education. The elementary schools had a better record. But everyone knew that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.

Students came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came from black leaders like Martin Luther King and some of the best writing from authors like James Baldwin. I would tell them that there was nothing wrong with speaking one’s own dialect; dialects in whatever language tend to be colorful and expressive, but it was important to learn standard English as well. It opens minds and doors. Every new word learned adds to one’s wealth, and there’s nothing like grammar for organizing one’s thoughts. 

It all fell on deaf ears. It was impossible to dispel the students’ delusions. Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing: As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

The most Dantesque scene I witnessed at Washington Irving was a “talent show” staged one spring afternoon. The darkened auditorium was packed with excited students, jittery guidance counselors, teachers, and guards. Music blasted from the loudspeakers, ear-splitting noise heightened the frenzy. To my surprise and horror, the only talent on display was merely what comes naturally. Each act was a show of increasingly explicit dry humping. As each group of performers vied with the previous act to be more outrageous, chaos was breaking out in the screaming audience. Some bright person in charge finally turned off the sound, shut down the stage lights, and lit up the auditorium, causing great consternation among the kids, but it quelled the growing mass hysteria. The students came to their senses. The guards (and NYC policemen if memory serves) managed to usher them out to safety.

Once, on two consecutive days, enormous Snapple dispensers on a mezzanine were pushed to the floor below. Vending machines had to be removed for the students’ safety. On another occasion, two chairs were chucked out of the building, injuring a woman below. Bad press and silly excuses ensued. Another time, word spread that a gang of girls was going to beat up a Mexican girl. There was a huge crush of students who preferred to skip the next class to go see the brawl. The hallway was packed, there was pushing and shoving, causing a stampede. I was caught in it and fell to the ground; kids stepped over me elbowing each other in the crush of bodies. Eventually, a student helped me to my feet. Badly shaken, I was taken to the nurse’s office. My blood pressure was dangerously high; I was encouraged to see a doctor, but declined. My husband came and brought me home.

Shortly thereafter, the teachers union (United Federation of Teachers, or UFT) fought the Department of Education, which had recently loosened the already lax disciplinary rulings. They organized a press conference and asked me to speak at it about the worsening security situation. The principal refused me permission to leave even though my supportive assistant principal found a fellow language teacher to take over my classes. As soon as school was out, though, a union rep implored me to rush downtown with him as the press conference was still going on. Questioned by reporters in front of the cameras, I spoke about the stampede. There was a brief segment on the local evening news.  The principal was furious, and the next morning screamed at me in the lobby that I was a publicity seeker who just wanted to give the school a bad name. However, the UFT was successful in this case, as the former, less inadequate disciplinary measures were restored, and things went back to their usual level of simmering chaos.

Although it was clear that my generally robust mental state was deteriorating, I did not want to quit. The UFT encouraged me to go into counseling; I didn’t see the point but acquiesced and agreed to see one of their social workers for therapy. Her stance seemed to be, “What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like that?” I started to write about the situation to people in authority. The UFT president Randi Weingarten and the DoE head Joel Klein were among the recipients of my letters detailing the problems we faced. I visited my local city councilman, who listened politely. I did not receive a single response.

Soon thereafter, my beloved husband died after a brief illness. The students knew, so were somewhat subdued when I returned to work. But one afternoon a girl, I forget why, muttered “you fucking bitch.” I finally broke. I screamed at the whole class and insisted that they all get out of the classroom. Furiously. Any physical contact was strictly forbidden between staff and students, so my voice alone did the job. It was also strictly forbidden to send one student out of the classroom, never mind the whole class. The good-hearted teacher next door came to my aid. The administration took pity on me and did not press charges.

In the meantime, the UFT somehow found the “nice girl” a job at Brooklyn Technical High School. There was one going for a French and Italian teacher, as there were not enough classes for another full-time French teacher.

Brooklyn Tech, 2004–2009

Brooklyn Tech was considered one of New York’s “top three” high schools. Students had to test in. My first principal was a big, jolly black man, but he got caught on a minor offense and was sent packing. His misdeed was bringing his daughter to school in New York from their home in New Jersey, which, although against the rules, was hardly unheard of. There was a $20 million restructuring fund in the offing for his replacement. The new principal ended the unruly after-school program that purportedly prepared underprivileged children for the entrance exam. Disruptive behavior subsequently dropped considerably.

The new principal ‘s word was law. Under the last-in-first-out system, my job was never secure. Most students were the children of recently arrived immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. A minority were from older Irish and Jewish immigrant families. The many obvious cultural differences were fascinating.

Our assistant principal was an amusing old cynic who loved a hassle-free life. Under him, teaching was a pleasure. It was hard work, as classes were large and students handed in assignments to be graded, but it was rewarding. On Friday afternoons he would announce, “Okay, girls and boys, it’s time to go to the bank,” our signal that we could leave with impunity before the legally stipulated hour. However, some teachers always stayed behind for hours on end to avoid bringing work home.

Despite the disruptive students at first, the classes were manageable. What the youngsters lacked in academic rigor, they made up for in verve. However, as the years passed, micro-management became more burdensome. Supervision became stricter, with multiple class visits and more meetings. Some “experts” up the DoE ladder decided that we had to produce written evidence that our lesson plans conformed to a rigid formula. The new directives did not take into account that foreign-language teaching requires instilling four different skill sets (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and therefore a different, more flexible methodological approach. Unfortunately, our easy-going assistant principal had his fill of the worsening bureaucratic overload and retired. Instead of an eccentric opera buff with a sense of humor, an obedient apparatchik would enforce the new rules. 

In the spring of my 5th year there, he informed me that I had been chosen to replace the Advanced Placement French teacher, as her results were poor. I did the AP training course and prepared for the new challenge that would begin in September. The day before school began, however, he phoned to say that my job was terminated. “There wasn’t enough interest in French” to justify my position, apparently. This was despite vociferous protests from students and parents. I would like to know if, as a member of the UFT’s advisory council, I had asked the principal too many questions. He was so kind as to find me a place at a “boutique” school way down in Brooklyn’s Flatlands.

Victory Collegiate High School, 2009–2010

Victory Collegiate High School seemed promising. It could boast of Bill Gates money, and was one of only two or three new experimental schools co-located in what was once the venerable South Shore High School. It served the local, partly middle-class, partly ghettoized black community. The principal informed me proudly that the students wore uniforms, and no cellphones were allowed. The classes were tiny in comparison to other high schools, and there were no disciplinary problems.

Despite the devastating blow to my career, I set out hopefully on the long commute to Canarsie. The metal detectors should have clued me in. Any pretense of imposing uniforms was eventually abandoned. Cellphones were a constant nuisance. Administrators turned a blind eye to the widespread anti-social behavior.

It would be repetitive to go over the plentiful examples of the abuse teachers suffered at the hands of the students. Suffice it to say, it was Washington Irving all over again, but in miniature. The principal talked a good game, believing that giving “shout-outs” and being a pal to the students were accomplishing great things, but he actually had precious little control over them. What made matters worse, the teaching corps was a young, idealistic group, largely recruited from the non-profit Teach For America, not the leathery veterans who constituted a majority at the two previous schools. I was a weird anomaly to these youngsters. What? I didn’t feel pity for these poor children? I didn’t take it for granted that they would abuse us? The new teachers were fervent believers in the prevailing ideology that the students’ bad behavior was to be expected, and that we should educate them without question according to the hip attitudes reflected in the total absence of good literature or grammar, and a sense of history that emphasized grievance. 

One example of the “literature” we were expected to teach was as racist as it was obscene. The main character was an obese, pregnant 14 year-old dropout. The argot in which it was written was probably not all that familiar to many of the students. Appalled, I asked an English teacher why the students had to read this rubbish. She was shocked at the question: we have to teach “literature the kids can relate to.” Why on earth did the school system believe that such a depraved environment as depicted in this book was representative of the very mixed group of families that inhabited the area, many of whom were led by middle-class professionals from the Caribbean? The “language arts” department (the word “English” was too Euro-centric) made one obligatory bow to Shakespeare—a version of “Romeo and Juliet” reduced to a few hundred words. It was common knowledge that the Bard was “overrated.” 

My small classes faced a large photograph of Barack Obama displayed proudly in front of the classroom over the title “Notre Président.” The picture resonated as little with the students as the Pledge of Allegiance. Like at Washington Irving, all I managed to do was to get them to stand for it and sing some songs. I did have the rueful satisfaction towards the end of the year, however, of being told after the class trip, “Mary, you won’t believe it! The kids sang French songs all the way to Washington!”

In the classroom, the children did as they pleased. Since the classes were smaller, some students managed to learn a bit of French, but most obdurately ignored me. One memorable 16 year-old fresh from Chicago loved French but was contemptuous of me. She was tall and slender, quite beautiful, and in love, it seemed, with another girl in the class, who was not blessed with similar beauty. Throughout the year they were an item. I finally managed to separate them, insisting that they change seats when it became increasingly difficult to stop them from necking in the classroom. That was when, despite her love of French, the Chicago girl left my class never to return, except once, when we were watching a movie. She came in, sat down and watched with us, breezing out again at the film’s end. This was not unusual behavior. Some students had the run of the hallways, wandering around as they pleased.

As before, students engaged fully in the ancillary aspects of high school life. As before, I tried to encourage them to engage in the learning process. On one memorable occasion, I said to them: “You are not here to play, you are here to develop your intellect.” The puzzled stares this remark elicited spoke volumes. It seemed an utterly new concept to them.

The school had an exceptionally good math teacher, among other excellent ones. In November, students sat for the preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test that all juniors were required to do in preparation for the real thing in the spring. I had to proctor the first half. As instructed, I walked up and down the aisles keeping an eye on things. It all went smoothly. When the language section was over and the math part began, however, students stopped working. They sat there staring at the desk. I quietly encouraged them to make an effort, but the general response was, “I ain’t doin’ it, miss, it’s too hard.” I could not get them to change their minds; they sat doing nothing for the rest of my shift.

The preliminary test results that came back in the spring were abysmally low—despite the fact that every single response bubble on the math test had been filled in. Either the next proctor forced the kids to randomly fill in the bubbles, or some administrators did so, another example of the rampant deceit the school system indulges.

After the terrible 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a number of Haitians joined the school. These youngsters were remarkable for their good manners and desire to learn, for their outstanding gentility in fact. They provided a most refreshing change, but it didn’t last. They quickly fell into the trap of hostile resistance.

By June, things were really depressing. Not only was the academic year an utter failure, word spread that 10 girls had become pregnant. Since there were only about 90 girls in the school, this represented over 10 percent. The majority of the pregnant girls were freshmen, targeted it was said by a few “baby daddies” who prided themselves on their prowess and evolutionary success. One of them, however, was the beautiful “lesbian” from Chicago. As her jilted partner moped around, cut to the quick, it was impossible not to feel terrible for her.

Once again, I finally and suddenly broke. The threat was from an unlikely source, a big lad who was always subdued. He was in the special education program, and never gave any trouble when I substituted in that class. But one afternoon, for some unknowable reason, this usually gentle giant came up to me and said, “I gonna cut yo’ ass.” That was the final humiliation I would suffer in the New York City public school system. 

I left that afternoon never to return. I left much behind: trinkets I’d brought from France, hoping to use them as prizes for the highest achievers; my beautiful edition of Les Fables de Jean de la Fontaine; class records, French magazines, CDs and other educational materials. But I brought away something priceless: an insider’s knowledge of a corrupt system.

One teacher phoned me to say that in her culture “I gonna cut yo’ ass” should not be taken literally, it just meant that he would teach me a lesson. “I don’t care,” I replied. Another called to express her astonishment that I would abandon my students. Why on earth did that matter, I answered, they hadn’t learned anything anyway. The school would hand out passing grades no matter what I did. 

*     *     *

It is not poor teaching or a lack of money that is failing our most vulnerable populations. The real problem is an ethos of rejection that has never been openly admitted by those in authority.

Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less capable? It makes perfect psychological sense. Being very young, however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and their teachers.

They also take revenge on a fraudulent system that pretends to educate them. The authorities cover up their own incompetence, and when that fails, blame the parents and teachers, or lack of funding, or “poverty,” “racism,” and so on. The media follow suit. Starting with our lawmakers, the whole country swallows the lie. 

Why do precious few adults admit the truth out loud? Because in America the taboo against questioning the current orthodoxy on race is too strong and the price is too high. What is failing our most vulnerable populations is the lack of political will to acknowledge and solve the real problems. The first step is to change the ”anti-discrimination” laws that breed anti-social behavior. Disruptive students must be removed from the classroom, not to punish them but to protect the majority of students who want to learn.


Mary Hudson is a former teacher and the translator of Fable for Another Time and The Indomitable Marie-Antoinette. She has a PhD in French Literature from CUNY Graduate Center, and got her late husband Jack Holland’s last book, A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, published posthumously when Viking Penguin abandoned it upon his death. It has recently been reprinted. You can follow her on Twitter @merrycheeked1


    • Constantin says

      “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che’entrate!” indeed! I guess such teachers must be grateful that that these kids weer not given the power of life and death over them – as in Maoist China. 🙁

      • Apex Predator says

        Give it a little more time, we are well on the road there at an accelerating pace…

    • I disagree with the root cause statement:

      “Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less capable? … the adults in charge hide the truth. ”

      The soft bigotry of low expectation, you hear it all the time. But if we’re being truthful, you can not expect an illiterate to learn to read starting in High School, let alone trig, algebra etc. Too much permanent damage in place to overcome discipline and scholastic limitations in any one classroom. Differentiation and remediation must start much sooner.

      • absolutely- if it were just expectations it would be easy- but my 16-17 year olds at our continuation school averaged 3.8 in grade level reading, Dante was not an option, unless you used the cartoons

    • Mary Issa Racist says

      i see mary has deleted my previous comment but please let it be known: if it smells like a racist, drops the n word in front of black kids, calls them “ghetto-ized,” then she’s probably a racist.

      god, i wish white people would stay in their damn bubble in the suburbs and leave inner city black kids alone! we don’t need racist white saviors like Mary HudsoN!

      • Num num says

        Notice (re comment above) how leftist thinking these days tends to go to segregation. If whites are the inherently horrid monsters the left frames them to be, it seems POC would be better off if those demons were kept far away.

      • Bullitt says

        Your type of thinking has done more harm to blacks in this country than the whole history of the Klan. David Duke surely would thank you.

      • Tim Taylor says

        Ha ha! No, Mary Issa (is that your real name?), you are a reverse racist. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Your suggestion that white people should stay in their bubble is apartheid, pure and simple. Is that your big solution to your country’s problems: apartheid? Wow! But of course, white people aren’t allowed to use the “A word” against blacks, that’s discrimination! Every word you write is a nail in your country’s coffin, and when your country goes down, YOU’ll go down with it. I hope you get some satisfaction out of that.

      • Michele says

        Get a teaching degree and go teach the children so the “white” teachers can stay in their bubble. You are a racist my dear.

    • The “ethos of rejection” starts in their own homes. Zero discipline, zero anything from shit parents. Yes, the cries of “racism” scare schools off from discipline, but this shit starts at home. It’s time to start discussing why there’s a pervasive problem with shitty black parenting.

  1. Morgan Foster says

    This is a horrible story, but not a new one. There’s nothing secret about it, dirty or otherwise.

    It appears that the author’s one and only suggestion is to remove disruptive students from the classroom so that other students may learn.

    People have been saying this for years.

    • People have been saying this for years because nothing is done about it in the public schools. I teach in an inner city school and NOTHING is done about chronic misbehavior. Luckily, only one of my class periods is like the ones this author mentioned. My remaining English classes are pretty well-behaved, but there are still 30 to 40% of students who do NO homework and barely pass. And somehow they still get to go on to the next grade. Even worse, are the students with chronic absenteeism. Nothing is ever done about that either.

      • Here in Baltimore City we actually had the mayor driving around on a weekday asking ‘squeegee kids’ why they weren’t in school. This while the prevailing narrative seems to be one of aspiration and opportunity – as a professional unsolicited windshield cleaner, I guess? Not exactly playing the long game. And just ask at any gas station where the squeegees come from. Then there was the charter school we closed after some students beat a neighborhood man to within an inch of his life because he told them to stop jumping on his car, a sufficient last straw. Obviously white America is terrified of holding black people accountable until it’s too late, but to the extent that this is generally a progressive over-correction for history, it’s as dangerous and detrimental as it is childish and increasingly ill-reasoned. On top of all that it’s seemingly the vast bulk of the liberal platform anymore (with other traditional trademarks like the environment or abortion or gay rights taking a distant second place if not losing out entirely to unforeseen intersectionality and the reliable social conservatism of our sacred cows). So without getting the social justice problem under control, the party itself will likely continue to suffer, and Trump or somebody like him will keep winning while we keep insisting on the worst possible reasons for their victories.

      • Nick Hunt says

        A bit of Trump talk about winners and losers, plus a few personal accounts by visiting regretful losers from such schools, would certainly help. But nowhere near as much as ending the culture of excusing villains and deriding authority, leftist dogmas and practices that soon infect most public schoolkids regardless of race

    • ga gamba says

      The Obama administration rejected that, making it even more difficult to remove disruptive students.

      The students who somehow remained would likely be tormented after class by the hoodlums removed. Soon you’d have a group of ministers and their hangers on at the door throwing a conniption. TV cameras follow. Journalists tweet. The internet combusts.

      Pay offs as apologies demanded and received.

    • Phillip Galey says

      The ancient Greeks taught that, when a society becomes chaotic, war occurs, . . .

      • america has kept war away in other countries…now the war is coming home as america turns in on itself and implodes…it is the work of the internationalists who wish to collapse america to bring in a ‘true’ fascist world government…

      • Mathew Natale says

        It was with a heavy heart that I read this article. I, too, worked at BTHS from 1987 to 2016. I was a math teacher, and I knew from speaking to the best of my own students that you were an excellent teacher who really cared about students’ success. I am pretty sure that you probably never knew my name, but I did compliment you a few times in italiano, which made you put on a very big smile. I felt really bad when you left because I knew that the school lost an excellent and dedicated teacher.

        It’s a real shame that those kids at that last school at which you worked lost an excellent teacher, although they wont realize it they are older, if ever. The saddest part of your story is that the majority of kids who want to learn at least enough to obtain the skills to get some type of decent job will never be able to do so until the system finally separates the worst troublemakers and scumbags from the other students.

        As for me, I retired in June 2016. I just couldn’t take the micromanaging , the heavy handed administrators, and the diminution of the quality of the students at the School. Plus the Cell phones and the myriad other disruptions. My head and heart were no longer into it, so I got out. I Could only imagine how infinitely worse the circumstances that you worked under at South Shore High were. I do hope that you are currently doing well and free from all of the stress , aggravation and horror that comes with the job of teaching in these tumultuous times.

        • Howard Hirsch says

          Astonishing that all this could take place at Brooklyn Tech–alma mater of Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s daughter. No wonder the competition to get into Stuyvesant is more intense than ever. In a school 80% Asian, I would think the student culture there would be quite a bit different.

          As for me, I graduated from Bronx Science back in the Stone Age. I sure hope things haven’t deteriorated there. Meanwhile, DeBlasio wants to get rid of the specialized high schools altogether, but is prevented by a 1970s era bit of legislation known as the Hecht-Calandra Act. That requires admission only by competitive exam, with allowance for a few who just tested just below the cut. Repeal efforts until now have been unsuccessful, but given the new “progressive” majorities in the state legislature, I wouldn’t bet on it remaining on the books for much longer.

        • Powerful response! I love it. I’m a veteran educator. Love it with a passion. But the powers that be haven’t a clue! Enjoy your retirement.

      • Amy Craig says

        You wont make as much money and your union status wont count but if you love teaching beautiful romantic languages i bet small private schools would welcome your talents. And they will even let you begin with the little kiddos.

        We were unable to take a foreign language in my public school district until our freshman year way back in the 70s and 80s. When i finally was allowed to do so, so many of us signed up they had to rethink the program and re-assigned the abyssmal english teacher the task. At least i know what “ferme la grande bushe” – spelt all wrong fo shizzle – means.

        My point is “language arts” is a game played in american public schools – the whole world knows second languages need to be taught at much younger age – to pretend they can compete globally.

        • William Graves says

          You can drop a couple of 5-7 year olds into an American classroom, and the result will be that you can’t tell them from the other kids by the end of the year.

    • Robert Jeffrey Schundler says

      The disruptive students at one time wanted to learn, but the system that was designed in the 1800s failed them ….. we need Universal School Choice so that parents can pick a school that meets the needs of thier child ….. it has been known for years that different people learn differently … and that one educational style does not meet the needs of all ….. I have visited may schools in the inner city, and the Charter Schools do better than the “PUBLIC” Schools …. but we need parents to pick any schools even religious schools (all schools teach some form of religion even if it is a god-less religion, all schools teach values …. it is unavoidable …. parents need to pick the school they feel is right for their child!

      • Michael Jankanish says

        I have been in the classroom for 45 years. For most of my career I held to the notion of the benefits of the “common school” as essential to maintaing our body politic. However, the notion of the “neighborhood school” is long gone. So, I have had a change of mind. I now support an open voucher system, for reasons you outline. By the way; I have put up the good fiight. I simply have never; I mean never allowed students to control my classroom. That includes school administrators, who are all about mediocrity; as long as they can maintain a high (let’s pretend) graduation rate; at the expense of any concern about quality. By the way; I teach in a mid-size urban city high school with a very diverse student body.

      • We still pay as a society for those children whose parents don’t care. These children, who don’t want to learn become failing employees, criminals, and worst of all failing parents themselves. We don’t need school choice. We need effective programs that turn failing parents into successful ones and then our schools will be successful. School choice is the solution that successful countries have found. Successful countries have populations of students who overwhelmingly want to learn.

        • Jim Gregory says

          A disheartening analysis, but I agree completely completely. The failure of some public schools to educate is simply a sympton of a disease: the failure of a family to discipline and motive its own children. When a whole sub culture is a part of that problem, and one encouraged by liberal solutions, “better” teachers, “better” schools, more money, etc. are not the answer.

          • Rohit says

            ” the failure of a family to discipline and motive its own children.” But it is not possible for a family to fight an entire culture. A family needs a sufficiently large subculture which emphasizes discipline and enables the family to bring up its children properly.

        • Charlie says

          Agree. There needs to be a 3- 4 tier education system like Germany/Switzerland.
          1. If 25 % of a class or school are troublemakers one is not involved in education but riot control.
          2. IQ varies from 70 to 160 and one school cannot cover all abilities.
          3. Intelligence can be seen by the age of 9 years and bright children start pulling ahead. History has shown bright children can start learning French at 6 years, Latin at 7-8 years and Greek at 8-9 years such that by the age of 13 years they are reading Caesar and Xenophon. Maths, classical music and ballet need to be taught from a very age. History has shown bright children can cope with calculus from the age of 14 years
          4. In Germany and Switzerland children are selected into 3 types of school- trade ( bottom), craft /technical and gymnasia for those going to top universities. Children can start working relevant to their training at 14 years of age and still attend school. Switzerland shop assistants can speak foreign languages
          5. There is a need for reform school to teach the violent.
          6. Only about 15-20 % of the population needs to go to university and this should be geared to STEM subjects. Arts subjects should be limited to history, languages and media studies and the like closed down.
          7. Germany and Switzerland do well because there is no large uneducated feral class; vocational training is a very high standard and university is biased towards STEM subjects . Most G/S apprentices are trained to technician levels.
          8. In Switzerland , lorry drives undergo 3 years training at trade school.
          9. Disruptive 14 year olds need to be placed in the hands of tough adults not effete teachers. Foremen will not tolerate bad behaviour.
          10. Rugby, rowing an boxing are excellent ways of burning up the energy of disruptive children and teenagers.
          11. Many problem are caused by the young not burning energy either through sports or hard work. A 14 year old is not particularly strong and 8 hours on construction, site, mine, logging operation, oil rig or trawler will tire them out.
          12. In inner city area, parents of thugs have the vote, teachers often do not, they live elsewhere. Politicians bow towards those who have the vote. At Motown. Gordon Berry had a lady who gave deportment classes to the young singers. In the late 1960s urban culture went from respect for education and manners to contempt. I think this was in part to left wing middle classes taking over the running of inner cities from practical blue collar types brought up with Christian Ethics.

          • Dan Hamilton says

            Germany DID well because there is no large uneducated feral class.
            They imported a feral class. The Feral class will win.

          • Well said! But left wingers believe in too many chances, and compassion. Its now become my least favourite word.

          • William Graves says

            Basically, to learn to read well and early, your parents have to do it. At age 2, they want to do whatever mommy and daddy are doing. If you crash on the couch and watch TV, then you’re going to have a little TV watcher. So at about age 2, I decided to see if I could teach them to read. I started off with whole language books. Total disaster! That lasted about a week, when we switched to phonetics. Result: They could all read by age 3. By about age 5, they were reading Harry Potter. Material that interests them is essential.

            So the contrapositive is also true: If nothing good was achieved, you can infer that the parents went missing. No school system ever conceived can make up for parental sloth.

  2. I have had many similar experiences – not nearly as extreme as detailed in this essay, but painting the same picture. Bureaucrats are killing the school system and it’s the most vulnerable kids who are suffering daily in non-learning environments.

    • ga gamba says

      I have had many similar experiences – not nearly as extreme as detailed in this essay, but painting the same picture.

      Sees the problem.

      Bureaucrats are killing the school system and it’s the most vulnerable kids who are suffering daily in non-learning environments.

      Is bureaucrat a code word for one that rhymes with it?

      • Sally says

        Bureaucrats are killing the system. If things don’t go according to their expectations ( often based on latest educational fad) there are lesson plans and reports to write. Goals to set.

        I taught Kindergarten and what they do to those kids is suck the fun out of reading and learning. There is no consideration of developmentaly appropriate lessons. So school is boring and Guess who those kids grow up to be? The ones causing trouble in high school.

        • Sandra Williams says

          I have come to believe that school is designed to “suck the fun out of reading and learning.” It breaks my heart.

          • jakesbrain says

            The public school system was adopted from Prussia, of all places. It was NEVER designed to instill knowledge or critical thinking skills into the students — its sole purpose was to cram just enough knowhow into them while getting them used to the idea of regimentation. It is designed, has always been designed, to churn out good soldiers and factory workers and bureaucrats and laborers, i.e., polite little cogs in the machine who never think to question their place.

    • “It is designed, has always been designed, to churn out good soldiers and factory workers and bureaucrats and laborers, i.e., polite little cogs in the machine who never think to question their place.”

      Uh-huh. One can only hope.

  3. Right on! Good for you for getting out of there with your mental health still intact! I believe if Americans could see for themselves what really happens day to day in today’s schools, they’d shut them down in horror. I taught in a rich suburban school, and people don’t believe my reports of what were real and sadly common occurrences.

  4. The word ‘vulnerable’ seems to now include black, anti-social, criminal, a bit thick, bloody annoying among its other meanings. If it were an accurate umbrella term that would be fine. However, I don’t hold to the ‘innocents corrupted by evil’ world view and it sounds to me like the author doesn’t either. So how about dropping the ‘vulnerable’ shtick and calling a spade a spade?

    • Native jo says

      Yep, then they pass laws, and force people to hire them whether they are incompetent or if they create a hostile environment.

    • Phillip Galey says

      How about returning education to each state and the local school boards~abolishing the Washington DC collectivist nightmare?

      • Thomas Rocker says

        this is not about which bureaucrat gets overpaid. it is about common decency and respect being abandoned. Until they are restored and enforced nothing will change.

  5. astro says

    This is a point that must be made but which invariably falls on deaf ears. Our entire culture of affirmative action creates a culture of dependency that is antithetical to achievement. A culture grounded in the assumption of failure produces failure. And it also produces resentment. Imagine having to bear the supposedly well-intentioned stigma of being treated as if you are inferior. Beyond what it does to a person’s self-esteem, it makes the entire system seem hostile. So this badge of failure must be explained and rationalized, and it is in increasingly grasping and desperate ideas about alleged power structures ansd privilege. It also encourages segregation. It has poisoned everything. .

    • Anonymous says

      Imagine if you were a highly competent black doctor. You would have the additional burden of fighting the stereotype of affirmative action.

      A lot of people might wrongly assume that you were incompetent because of the fakers who get pushed through the system because of affirmative action.

      Thus, nobody is harmed more by affirmative action than competent blacks.

      • I taught medical students for 15 years. The black students were mostly either African or Caribbean in origin. The American blacks tend to have real issues with self confidence. One American black kid was so strange that I feared he might be schizophrenic. It turned out both parents were Black Panthers in Oakland CA and he did not know how to talk to white people. I made-up a script for him to interview patients, It helped and he went on to graduate.

        • Wow, crazy story. Thanks for sharing. As a sociologist, I’m fascinated by these kinds of ‘script’ problems. And more generally, by people lacking communicative resources outside of a particular (sub)-culture. “Not knowing how to talk to white people” is such a curious problem to have, as you would think that Americans growing up consuming American media would have enough common reference points. But apparently not. Or not immediately.

          • -Not knowing howto talk to white people-, not so strange for me, reminds me of not knowing how to eat and sit at the table with civilised people (with knife and fork, etc, in my youth, half of the students from lower class and farm background had to be taught how to do that, and were pretty much ashamed not to behave well in decent surroundings). It must happen everywhere where people of different cultural backgrounds meet and congregate and have dinner together.

      • luysii says

        The early days were worse for the competent black physician. They were thin on the medical ground as were all black docs, which made the following much worse.

        Two American (social) tragedies

        When the team members entered the clinic, they were appalled, describing it to the Grand Jury as ‘filthy,’ ‘deplorable,’ ‘disgusting,’ ‘very unsanitary, very outdated, horrendous,’ and ‘by far, the worst’ that these experienced investigators had ever encountered. There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff – long before Gosnell arrived at the clinic – and staff members could not accurately state what medications or dosages they had administered to the waiting patients. Many of the medications in inventory were past their expiration dates… surgical procedure rooms were filthy and unsanitary… resembling ‘a bad gas station restroom.’ Instruments were not sterile. Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed…”[29]
        [F]etal remains [were] haphazardly stored throughout the clinic– in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers… Gosnell admitted to Detective Wood that at least 10 to 20 percent… were probably older than 24 weeks [the legal limit]… In some instances, surgical incisions had been made at the base of the fetal skulls. The investigators found a row of jars containing just the severed feet of fetuses. In the basement, they discovered medical waste piled high. The intact 19-week fetus delivered by Mrs. Mongar three months earlier was in a freezer. In all, the remains of 45 fetuses were recovered … at least two of them, and probably three, had been viable.”

        A classic back alley abortion mill, except that it was all quite legal.

        This wasn’t supposed to happen after Roe vs. Wade. It is so uncanny that the doc (Kermit Gosnell) convicted yesterday of these 3 infanticides graduated from a med school in Philly (Jefferson) the same year (1966) that I graduated from another (Penn). At the time Philly had 3 more (Hahnemahn, Women’s and Temple).

        What is so socially tragic about Gosnell, is that he was one of very few blacks in medical school back then. Our class of 125 at Penn had one, but he was a Nigerian Prince. Whether Gosnell liked it or not he was a standard bearer for what we hoped (at the time) was the wave of the future (it was). For just how very few Blacks were being educated at elite institutions back then please see

        The second tragedy is a black woman M. D twenty or so years younger (Harvard undergrad, Penn Med followed by an MBA from Wharton) who lost her license to practice in NY State after she went off the deep end and became a holistic practioner (or whatever). She treated a new onset juvenile diabetic with diet and juice after which he came to the ER in diabetic ketoacidosis with a sugar over 300.

        My father was an attorney as was my uncle, later a judge. They took it very personally when an attorney was disbarred for some malfeasance or another. I feel the same way when this happens to an M. D. Imagine how the black docs must feel about Gosnell, or the idiot, Conrad Murray, who basically killed Michael Jackson with Diprivan.

        If you didn’t follow the link, I’ll close with a more uplifting ending from it.

        My wife has a cardiac problem, and the cardiologists want her to be on coumadin forever, to prevent stroke. As a neurologist, having seen the disasters that coumadin and heparin could cause when given for the flimsiest of indications (TIAs etc. etc.), I was extremely resistant to the idea, and started reading the literature references her cardiologist gave me, along with where the references led. The definitive study on her condition had been done by a black cardiologist from Kentucky. We had a long and very helpful talk about what to do.

        Diversity is not an end in itself, although some would like it to be. I’ve certainly benefitted from knowing people from all over. That’s not the point. Like it or not, intelligence is hereditary to some extent (people argue about just how much, but few think that intelligence is entirely environmental). The parents and grandparents of today’s black MDs, Attorneys, teachers etc. etc. were likely just as intelligent as their offspring of today. This country certainly pissed away an awful lot of brains of their generations.

        • Dan Hamilton says

          Who cares what YOU think? You “acting WHITE!” You think you better than us./sarc

          How do you answer THAT? How do you FIGHT THAT? A culture that determined to fail.
          But a culture supported by Media, Rap, Sports, and Politicians (Democrats).

          The ONLY person that EVER spoke directly about this problem was vilified and is now in Jail, disgraced Bill Cosby.

          The Black Culture doesn’t want to change, it refuses to even admit that there is a problem, and even if there would be a problem “It is all Whites fault”.
          How do you change that?

        • I cant make out if youre excusing their behaviour or outraged? Giving juice to a diabetic, omg its freely available on the internet that sugar plus diabetes = tragedy

  6. I had not entered a public school since I graduated a few decades ago until I took on a project for our school system so I would not have to travel anymore. I was stunned. You have pinpointed the problem. Deception from admin and elected officials. Our system even had shadow data showing the real number of referrals that was leaked to media. Why? So the money from Obama’s Promise Program would continue. The same program at Parland in Fla. the inmates run the asylum. At one school, a small handful of students wanted to get rid of a white principal. They had a meeting with him about starting a black lives matter chapter. (The school had a BSU chapter already). The principal used a sort of Socratic approach to their demands. He didn’t know they taped it and immediately sent it to the local media. He was fired for questioning them.

    The public school system Cannot. Be. Fixed. Stop trying. I used to be very involved with school choice even before I had children. There was a school choice scholarship we tested for 5 years and the working class and black single moms lined up in droves. It is an issue that cuts across party lines and republicans in states are fools for ignoring it because they are scared of unions.

    Competition. Let’s see some innovation. People are ready to take risks they are so desperate. There are a million problems with school choice and charter schools. So what? I am sick of hearing bureaucrats tell me what the problems are. Look, poor people who want to move forward are being held hostage by horrible public schools.

    • Daniel says

      Agreed. If poor performance meant termination, principals, teachers and students would all find a way to do better. Private (in some cases, charter) schools, vouchers, etc. are the way to go. You mentioned politicians citing millions of problems with school choice; most of those problems would solve themselves in the face of the relentless push of competition.

      • Suckrates says

        > “If poor performance meant termination, principals, teachers and students would all find a way to do better.”

        You clearly learned nothing from the article. The best teachers in the world would fail abjectly in the environments described in it.

        If termination were made even easier, principals, parents and students would simply keep on blaming the teachers for everything, with the difference that now there would be a permanent revolving door of new teachers to replace those who started a year or two ago.

        • Stephanie says

          Yes, Daniel, you have learnt nothing from the article. Competition is pointless when the root problem is bureaucratic micromanagement that ties all teachers’ hands.

          • Stephanie – I think you’re missing the main feature of competition. To wit, in a system that has competition and brings consumer (parent) and producer (school in general, teacher in particular) closer together the cost of bureaucratic micromanagement is borne by the producers and passed to the consumer. Therefore, assuming these bureaucrats are not improving the product (and c’mon, they’re definitely not) they will not be a luxury that a school can afford.

            An actual market would separate out those parents who give approx 0.00 f*cks about their kid’s education from those who care a little, and from those who care a lot. Such a phenomenon exists for children’s food, drink, clothing, and private educational products yet it is only formal schooling that must, for some reason, be constrained by the horrible incentives of a taxpayer-funded, government-administered system.

            The author talks around the issue but in the end is merely describing the symptoms of a socialist education system.

        • Anonymous says

          Actually, it already IS what you say. The public, misinformed by the press, seems to think that the unions protect bad teachers.

          That is only true of TENURED teachers. Some of the finest incoming teachers who can manage to survive the awful working conditions are railroaded out of a job by corrupt administrators.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            @Sam and @ anonymous – you can both be right because any system will produce catastrophic results when unaccountable and therefore corrupt which can comprise outright backhanders or merely getting paid with producing anything. Rentiers, be they commissar or cartel, funnel wealth to themselves whilst blocking the evolution of the organization to everyone (else’s) detriment.

            Transparency and accountability are needed for *any* system to do anything other than fatten those at the top of it.

          • The cardinal sin of the Unions isnt protecting bad teachers, its actively covering up for a bad system. This is doubly evil as it betrays the teachers they purport to protect. They have both drunk the social justice koolaid and benefit from the corrupt system. If they unions stood up and protected teachers that blew the whistle in mass, something might be done. But they wont, they know where their bread is buttered.

        • Daniel says

          Suckrates (love that name, by the way!) and Stephanie,
          Your assertion that I “clearly learned nothing from the article” notwithstanding, I stand by my point that competition is valuable. This is an important conversation, and each of you have worthwhile contributions, but I don’t think you’re addressing the point I was making. So that we’re not talking past each other, allow me to clarify. Of course nobody who read the article thought that the author was performing poorly. And of course she was in a terrible situation. But I think you’ll agree that the poor performance in each of the situations she described was primarily at the administrative level. Poor school boards, superintendents, poor principals and so on and so forth. In my experience, administrators that abdicate their responsibility of discipline are inevitably in charge of terrible schools. Learning doesn’t happen without discipline, and discipline doesn’t happen without the principal/board/superintendent/etc. If they don’t care about discipline, they need to be fired. Period. I wonder if this is a point we agree on?

          The idea of firing teachers for poor performance is something of a digression from the content of this article, since Mary Hudson was diplomatic enough to refrain from getting into that. But it’s an interesting topic in and of itself, and warrants some discussion as part of the larger picture. So here’s my point: in reasonably-disciplined schools, everybody knows of a teacher (probably several) that has no business being in the classroom. Some of them need to find a new line of work, while others would benefit from the accountability of having to perform to defend their jobs. This is a totally separate situation than having teachers like Mary Hudson be fired simply for having disruptive students in her class.

          That also doesn’t change the fact that schools would benefit if the hell-raisers were kicked out. Some, perhaps more than expected, of the hell-raisers would start behaving better if they were held to a standard of behavior.

          I agree that teachers’ are blamed for all sorts of ridiculous nonsense, and shackled with micromanagement. Ye gods, what a travesty.

          Also, let’s take time to acknowledge that all these ideas will never. EVER. be implemented in public schools. None of the suggestions in the whole comment section, I’d bet.
          But a bunch of them (and all of mine) are being implemented by private schools. If Mary Hudson had been free to ditch the idiot administrators and jerk kids and go to a school where there were no substantial discipline concerns, her career would have been totally different. That’s what I had in mind with reference to competition; where schools would be free to compete for teachers.

          What do you think?

    • My grandchildren attended a public school in a nice neighborhood in Orange County CA. My grandson was having trouble witch 4th grade math, His teacher told his mother that she could not do the problems using “Common Core” math either and suggested his mother teach him at home using traditional math methods. He and his younger sister are now in a charter school and doing much better, This is an upper middle class area. Imagine what a ghetto school is like. Charters and vouchers are the only hope.

    • I don’t think you’ve read the essay. Gutting public schools *won’t solve the problem* because the problem is the culture, not the schools.

      I teach in a public school and am far more qualified than most charter school teachers. charters also have similar or worse results than publics even though they cherry-pick the students. I think that’s because the teachers at charters are generally far less experienced (I won’t teach there because I’d have no autonomy and the pay is worse.)

      At any event, the culture aligned with politicians and professional bureaucrats is the problem. Giving students choice isn’t going to solve the culture. Read her essay. No matter what school she went to, the problem remained.

      The solution is to change the culture long term. Short term, it’s to suspend and expel far more students than currently, and to have special schools for them to teach them self discipline, respect, and perhaps teach them a trade (since so much of the ‘college!” taught at school is useless for large swaths of the population).

      • Peter from Oz says

        Bring back harsh discipline and the problem would be solved.
        Exclusion and suspension are not punishments to those who don’t want to be at school in the first place.
        You need to devise punishments that can be enforced and have the full backing of the teachers and administrators.
        You also need some way of making exclusion or suspension very unpleasant.

        • Lightning Rose says

          In my experience, “drop and give me 30!” (pushups, that is) works really well. Immediate, humiliating, unpleasant, and doesn’t leave a mark.

          • Rose, My wife retired from the military before she started teaching. “Drop and give me 20!” works very well in Catholic schools. She is not allowed to do that in public school. In fact, even if she were allowed, the “learners” would not comply.

      • I’d expect better from a teacher. Some charters outperform traditional schools. Some perform comparably. Some worse. The failing ones can be shut down, unlike traditional schools. This introduces competition.
        Many if not most cities only allow lotteries for charters, so they cant cherry pick their students.

        Its sad that teachers are so invested in the awful status quo that they wont even try to look for innovative solutions (aside from ‘pay us more’).

    • Dan Hamilton says

      “the working class and black single moms lined up in droves”
      But their children are from this Black culture. That has not changed. It is tribal. Those students that try and GET an education are still “Acting White” and will be punished by the rest of the tribe. You are maybe fixing the school part but are not touching the Culture part.

      • I believe parental endorsement gives charters at least a marginal advantage.

        If mother tells a child, yeah, it’s a crappy school but you have to go there because of where we live, the child absorbs the cynicism and disparages the school and its efforts.

        OTOH, if the message is, this is the school I was hoping you could attend, and I think it will be a good school for you, the odds are at least a little bit better.

  7. Dan Love says

    “Both towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval, some getting out of their seats to do a sort of victory dance.“

    The fuck?

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Dan Love

      I can only believe the author is implying that a substantial portion of her class were Muslims.

      She seems too shy to come out and say it.

      • Anonymous says

        She did not imply that at all. I think it is quite possible that some of those students cheering the 9/11 attack were brainwashed by leftists who run the schools – and who hate America.

        I have leftist white relatives who claimed that America deserved the 9/11 attacks.

    • I don’t see how the students would have been able to attach the attack the morning it happened, as they were first hearing about it, to their religion. Putting aside the other questions about whether or not these students would have even acted this way if they believed in Islam, I frankly don’t see support for this interpretation of this part of the narrative anywhere in the article.

      In my reading the author conveyed that the student’s resistance against the “system” made them rejoice at this “victory” when the towers came down. My interpretation is that the towers and the people killed inside them were symbols of what the students saw as an oppressive system. The same system they were resisting by refusing to learn in school.

      • Heike says

        The day of 9/11, nobody knew who did it. It was not until a few days later that we found out it was the holy warriors of Islam who had attacked us.

        The kids were just being horrible people by cheering. I wonder what they would have done that cold January morning in 1986 when the space shuttle exploded.

        • Morgan Foster says

          @ Heike

          “The day of 9/11, nobody knew who did it.”

          I knew the moment it happened who did it. So did Washington. So did the news media.

          So did you.

          • Anonymous says

            I was going to work not that far from the Twin Towers – and as soon as I heard about the plane crash – I said “Bin Laden” right away.

          • stevengregg says

            BS. We suspected who did it but we didn’t know for days.

        • Caelen says

          “The day of 9/11, nobody knew who did it. It was not until a few days later that we found out it was the holy warriors of Islam who had attacked us.”

          Not true. Before the buildings even fell reporters were reporting that police had found Korans and 767 flight manuals in the trunks of cars in the parking lot at Logan airport. It was at that moment I knew that the whole thing was staged.

        • DePhlogisticated Air says

          Since the Challenger mission had a school teacher on board (which in retrospect sounds inappropriate… can you imagine a school teacher in an aircraft cockpit?) many schools wheeled out AV carts and showed the launch live.

          The reaction as I witnessed it was. “Hold up. That isn’t supposed to happen… right? No tears, no drama. Just confusion and then a slow realization of “oh man, someone sure messed up”

          Later they found people just like this school teacher who produced evidenced that they had warned NASA over and over about the O rings in the cold. NASA had to have their PR stunt with the teacher so…. darn the torpedos!

      • Stephanie says

        Muslim students rejoiced on the University of Alberta campus on 9/11. They were older, but still should not have known that day that it was an attack by Muslims. University students may have been aware of the Battle of Vienna on September 11th 1683, but more likely, like the high school students here discussed, their families taught them to view attacks on the West favorably. Statistics show that American-born Muslims are far more sympathetic to “extremist” opinions than Muslim immigrants.

        • Morgan Foster says

          Muslim students in New York City on that day would have been aware that bin Laden had previously bombed the World Trade Center and that the WTC was considered a highly desirably target by Islamic terrorists.

          They knew. Of course, they knew.

          • Morgan Foster says


            Quite right, and I stand corrected.

            It was another lot of Islamic terrorists, a fact that would have been known to Muslim high school students on 9/11.

    • A Smith says

      My assumption was that the students understood they were probably were going home for the day or several. I think it was just callous disregard, and I imagine they may not have yet comprehended how serious the situation was.

  8. Aerth says

    Seems like SNAFU. The solution would be stop giving a fuck about whatever sensation seeking media thinks and just give blacks what they want: full equality. Of course, full equality includes equality in responsibility.

    • Jin Molnar says

      If it’s OK or desireable to be middle class, and good or great to be upper class, who would one posit the existence of the two aforementioned classes without the existence of a lower class? Middle class compared to what?
      I will submit, and I’m hardly alone in this, that it is sheer torture for a huge proportion of any sizable population to sit motionless in a classroom with words flying around your head that have utterly no relevance to the life you’re about to lead, and tent to make you feel worse the more you listen to them.
      “College for everybody” is as stupid an idea as anyone can come up with. If college is dumbed down to the level at which 100% of the population feels comfortable with it and can finish in about 5 years with a C or better, what value would it have?
      I further submit that a huge portion of the population needs should a dn wants to be connected to the trade or job that they are going to be reliant on and a part of for most, if not all of their lives, as early as possible. Maybe starting at about age 5 or 6 and certainly by age 11 or 12.
      Yes trade schools or apprenticeship. Any country in the world still needs A LOT of physical labor to make it go.

      • Rev. Wazoo! says

        @Jin Molnar This (also) compresses several contradictory things into one which need to be separated.

        Here we have the worst of both worlds: neither teaching competence *nor* accurately certifying it.

        Reading and writing are useful skills, diploma or not; certifying different levels of ability/competence is also useful for helping match positions and people but aren’t the same. Some education has value apart from the value of certifying the recipient as more competent than most; ideally they’d go hand in hand as even modest competence brings great rewards when the alternative is rank incompetence, as the students above will begin adulthood exemplifying.

        Only 150 years ago in the West (and today in much of the world) strong literacy was considered beyond most people’s natural abilities but rising high school graduation and uni admissions mean little when many are getting the debased certifications depicted. Being able to frame a cogent argument and counter the best points against it is useful even when it’s in favor of something as trivially hollow as gender studies. Like bestowing HS diplomas on people with a 7th grade education, bestowing uni degrees on people who’ve never heard an opposing view so can’t even present a good argument for their own; they merely recite ignorant cant for the converted.

        Case in point: Medicare for All is a hot debate in the US now, regardless of how you feel, please bear with me. Those proposing it rightly cite Europe as an example but draw a blank at the simple question: “How do you pay for it?” They’ve never even bothered to google how it works in Europe so default to ‘tax the rich!’ Having never heard the opposing points, they fall at the first and most obvious hurdle. This is the result of degraded certifications.

        This galls me because I grew up in America but now live live in Europe, and feel my the national health insurance model where I live could easily be transplanted to America and address most people’s concerns at both ends of the income range. But the amply certified ignoramuses stumping for what I think is a good thing are killing any chance of it being enacted.

        PS:Here’s how it works here and how it could work the same way in the US:
        We pay 5% from gross income , matched by employers to the national health fund (capped at 100,000) which is enough to completely cover catastrophic illness plus, with a 20% co-pay, routine doctor’s visits and medicines. The US has had higher medical cost inflation so that would need to be 40% higher or 7% of income.

        *All* US workers already pay 1.5% (matched by employers) for similar coverage at 65. If all US workers and their employers paid 5.5% more, they’d all be covered by Medicare starting now and that’s how you pay for it. Perfect? No. Better off folks will want top-up insurance for single rooms, cosmetic dental work etc. but burger flippers and financiers both can live with this; 7% a day a month for everybody. It’s not the health providers who’d take a hit but the insurance companies – that’s a real but different issue.

        You can reasonably disagree with this plan, maybe it would be bad for America *but* it’s a real plan based on a proven track record in similar countries and a genuine proposal. Too bad (for me) Ocasio-Cortez et al are so uneducated that they can’t even make the simplest and most persuasive argument for their proposal.

        This is the direct result certification trumping education, a religious-like faith bleeding replacing evidence-based reasoning and it bodes ill for all of us. Faith (sometimes even blind faith) has an essential place for people but public health policy isn’t it.

        • Joe Y says

          This is a bizarre post, Rev Wazoo. Did you not read the article you’re posting on?The same type of people who are running the public schools will be running the public health monopoly. Funding is not the issue. The NYC schools receive far, far more money than any European system. The US government, at any level, will be trusted by no one to run our health system, nor should they be.

        • “How do you pay for it?”

          Yeah, we recently had an all Republican administration create a tax cut. I think many of them may even be college graduates, but they couldn’t answer that question either.

          I think the right answer for the Medicare for All advocates is simply: the same way we paid for the tax cut.

          • “i put some movie tickets on a credit card so why not a Ferrari”?
            There is such a thing as scale.

        • Jin Molnar says

          Well, RW: I always thought that having the gov’t pick up a large part of the funding for approved candidates who want to go to medical school was one piece of the puzzle of an affordable, more-socialist (affordable) health care system. That way the docs aren’t billing to pay off $200K of medical school tuition with financing, or whatever it is. Part two would be throwing some public money at the drug companies before they figure out ways to grow millionaires and billionaires on top of the pills they make. Part three would be to somehow get rid of the vast majority of health insurance companies and workers and just have health care. The reader will have gleaned that I’m no expert in this subject by now. This is truly tangential to the article under discussion anyway.

          My rather hastily written post earlier was a response to the Salon article / I Taught at the Worst School in Texas / but my initial comment applies similarly well to Ms Mary Hudson’s article. May she find peace and well-being in this life. I imagine I would have lasted a spectacular 20 hours or less in her shoes. Would be an interesting experience though, to put it blandly.

          • “Part three would be to somehow get rid of the vast majority of health insurance companies and workers and just have health care”

            You’ll replace them with government bureaucrats (with gold plated benefits that cant be fired). It wont save a penny. When you find an entitlement program that came in even DOUBLE the initial promised budget, we can talk.

            ‘Everything is simple when you don’t know s^&t about it.’

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            Fair enough, Jin Molnar, and some of your ideas, admittedly rough as they are, have some real merit; certainly there are many ways health-care costs in America can be reduce.

            I was merely addressing the reasonable question of how * specifically* other developed countries manage “paying for” national health insurance: by charging employees and employers enough to cover it, just as any insurance scheme works.

            Changing how health care is created and charged for is another issue and an order of magnitude more difficult but still worth examining with your suggestions under consideration. How it is paid for, however, is amenable to benchmarking and adopting best practices with decades of track record.

            Again, there can be good arguments against this method but this is at least a real, doable proposal.

            My main point isn’t that that is what should occur (I’d like it but whatever…) but the ironic absurdity that public figures arguing for it have been so ill-served by our education system that they are unable to make even this simplistic argument based on observation of other developed countries. (“Works for them; why not us?”) That intellectual bankruptcy can be laid at the feet of us teachers (mea culpa) and the the substitution of indoctrination for education which we’ve tragically allowed to flourish.

  9. Cornfed says

    A depressing look at the reality of urban schools. It’s so sad that good, dedicated teachers are worn down to the point of surrender.

    I was a little perplexed at the sudden jump to the conclusion that it was all about lowered expectations; as well as the initial assertion that the problem is easy to fix, but then never explaining why this would be easy. Undoubtedly lowered expectations are an issue, but there are others. Discipline (lack of) is a serious problem. Parenting? Culture? Yep. If one of my kids was in trouble at school, they would also be in serious trouble at home and they know that. There would not be any question about whose side I was on: the teacher’s. Further, there is no question that the primary purpose of my kids’ life as teenagers is school, and they know that too. Poor grades result in punishment. These are values that are common place in suburban schools, most of which have almost none of the issues described in this story.
    By contrast, I knew a teacher who worked in an urban school just a 15 minute drive from us, and she described conditions quite a bit like those experienced by the author. The politics of education is excruciating, and politics, being what it is, offers no easy fix. The saddest thing to me is that even those kids who might want to learn and excel in school cannot do so due to the disruption and peer pressure brought to bear by kids who have no business being allowed in school, but who are tolerated by administrators. What a tragedy.

    • The beginning of this assault on standards began some years ago when Jesse Jackson took his entourage to Peoria IL to protest the fact that black boys were more frequently suspended from school. That was long before Obama but was a forecast of what was coming. Willie Brown, when he was Speaker of the Assembly in CA, once proposed a law that all blacks admitted to the UC system be guaranteed graduation. It did not pass but I’ m not sure if it would now. UC is making so much money from Chinese students that they would probably take precedence,

  10. Conrad Spoke says

    Ms. Hudson and Editors,
    Why have you refused to state the obvious?
    The problem described here is rampant anti-intellectualism in black American households, multiplied 1000-fold by racist black administrators and bureaucrats.
    Quillette should not tolerate this kind of evasion.

    • chris says

      Don’t forget the racist white liberal politicians who think the schools are an excellent way to keep children as dumb as possible.

      • Dan Hamilton says

        “racist white liberal politicians” Democrat politicians. Fixed that for you.
        And WHY do you use White??? In most of the cities that are being talked about there are few Whites. Many have Black Mayors. You have to get into State politicians to get to Whites.
        Whitey isn’t doing ANYTHING to these people. Whitey isn’t causing their problems. Whitey CAN NOT FIX their problems!

        This is a Black Culture problem! Only they can fix it. They don’t seem to have a problem with it. There is no MONEY in fixing the problem.

  11. Ginger says

    These students sound like excellent future candidates for free housing, food, clothes, and spare income earmarked for those “unwilling to work.”

  12. Peter Visser says

    Education is too important to let it be controlled by government. Politicians, bureaucrats, teacher unions with privileges, inept teachers (a good teacher, a good person, would not keep pretending he is actually teaching in such an environment!), uninvolved parent who merely want ”free” child-day-care, all keep those who are of good will hostage through the force of the state. It is time for a new abolitionism: free the minds of children, by abolishing state-schooling.

  13. A wonderful article. However I agree with Cornfed that this problem does not seem easily fixed. Even if one were somehow able to convince the education industrial complex at every level to abandon a moral meaning system organized around compassion/sympathy for “oppressed” groups, how would the consequent realignment of school policy be implemented? How many students could realistically be cajoled into achieving the new standards? I think you would have wave after wave of graduating classes with very few diplomas awarded. This would be seen as intolerable to the higher-ups, who care ultimately about nothing more than the bottom line (I teach in the CUNY system and have learned this about administrators).

    As Cornfed noted, you’re going up against deeply-engrained cultural forces. Politically correct, intersectionalist morality certainly makes it all worse, but eliminating it wouldn’t suddenly result in an honor student culture within these communities. I think the best that can be done might be a breaking away from the public school system of those families who are determined to adhere to a strict educational model, as is this case with many charter schools such as Success Academy in New York, which returns test scores vastly superior to those from even very wealthy and largely white districts.

    That said, I don’t think my original contingency–convincing education professionals to abandon their moral belief system, one that seems only to be picking up momentum–would be very easy either. Even in Success Academy, where my friend’s daughter attends, all the reading literature assigned concerns stories about blacks suffering racism in various episodes from American History. I mean, all of it. Such literature is chosen not because it reflects the human experience, but because it feeds the moral egos of those in positions of educational power.

  14. jimhaz says

    I am Australian and was a joker/rebel type in high school. Got asked to leave in Year 11 for ‘not lifting a finger’ and drinking beer at a school dance. Somehow I think I would be either dead or in jail if I had gone to schools like that.

    Over the last 40 years, I must have seen half a dozen films about inspirational teachers and utterly disinterested kids – but it would appear nothing has been achieved in that time. Absolute zippo.

    [The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them]

    The old Catch 22 in that only with achievement of earlier groups will more be expected of them.
    Discipline certainly contains large elements of expectation of good behaviour and effort – so as every one knows, it must be among the primary tools for teachers. As she says however, discipline is frowned on by those whom are not teachers and micro-aggressions can lead to sacking. I wonder myself if this is due to the nature of women. By this I mean those women who now hold power in hierarchies, have a feminine or motherly way at looking at problems and they refuse outright to see that the masculine way, which always involves discipline, is also required.

    A similar issue arises with African Americans in hierarchies – too often they will support the underdog (the very unruly black student) even if the underdog act as if it has rabies – because the expectation is that they will support one of their own.

    I would not be expecting anything to get better. Perhaps what the rest of the world needs to do is to constantly mock American Educational Institutions, make them a laughing stock, to stop sending kids from OS there, so as to create a sort of crisis that would make the bureaucrats act with more realism. Some sort of top down approach is needed.

    Perhaps in the end though no policy can work – if the rest of a kids daily life does not involve the need for self-discipline, trying to enforce it at school won’t achieve much and might backfire.

    • Lightning Rose says

      This is why they’re now kicking around “universal basic income” in cities like Chicago, where they know the cause is lost. No coincidence weed is about to be legalized concurrently many places.
      They’ll pay the perpetual underclass to stay comfortable, stoned, out of sight and peaceful. May be the best shot we’re going to get, actually!

  15. augustine says

    A friend who teaches in a middle school that is not especially poor or rich told me something similar. If he could remove the 5% or so of the kids who are disruptive or threatening then the remaining 95% would be educated far more easily and successfully. And that 5% could be directed to a more suitable curriculum, perhaps with more emphasis on practical subjects, with better results for them as well.

    Thanks for an honest essay on this subject.

    • Leora says

      The disruptive kids are often the “cool” kids, the ones who are socially dominant. They, not the parents, set the tone. And if they verbally and physically attack the kids that want to learn – not to mention the teacher – there’s no hope without removing them. I’ve seen these kids – and I’d be scared to cross them.

  16. Fred LaSor says

    Dear God, what a horrible history. I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Mary, that you had to live through this, but how glad I am that you shared your story with the rest of us.

    If there were any shame on the part of politicians, administrators, or educators, this would go viral and heads would roll. If Eric Holder had a speck of honesty he would admit the discussion on race that he said we need to have should start right here: do we want black Americans to be a permanent under class? If our churches cared about our souls, they would be leading the charge to restore morality to our land.

    Instead? We are making excuses, allowing whole generations to destroy themselves — and their culture.

    Some time after I finished secondary school (1960), we started to normalize and accept what would previously have been called deviancy and delinquency. This was driven in large part by the rejection of authority surrounding protests of the Vietnam War, followed by the sexual revolution and then the women’s liberation movement. Each of those had a redeeming quality, but in hindsight it is apparent their redeeming qualities did not outweigh the extent to which they tore down the fabric that held our larger culture together.

    I wonder who is happy with the current state of affairs. Educators, who must realize that we no longer educate our children? Parents, who must recognize that family is no longer a real construct? Entertainers, who have been at the forefront of this social revolution but must recognize that with the current state of lawlessness we are entering, their ability to earn a living “entertaining” has lost its shock appeal and perhaps its ability to entertain? Students, who should (but probably don’t) realize they are dooming themselves to permanent dependency and a drone-like existence? Politicians? I’m not even going to describe all the hopes they speak of, or all the dysfunction they must know they will see. If any of them cares for anything other than being re-elected, they must recognize that the course we are on is a doomsday scenario.

    What will it take to re-set us? Something that unifies us, I guess: a large war, an invasion from outer space, a horrible epidemic, the loss of an entire generation. Yes, that should do it. I wonder how it could?

    • Your comment mentioning Holder (Black leader) and churches reminded me of Booker T Washington’s book, “Up From Slavery”. He makes the startling point that his biggest barrier to recruiting students to his Institute was not white people but black pastors.

  17. Thanks, Ms. Hudson, for an excellent article.

    The part of White Privilege that I’m most grateful for, is not having been told all my life that my many failures were someone else’s fault.

  18. (1) Good family upbringing
    (2) Good work ethic
    (3) Good education

    (1) We’ve done a pretty good job of destroying families in this country, particularly with the welfare state
    (2) Predicated on (1)
    (3) If you’re black, you’ve got a 95% chance of getting an inferior K-12 education

    Vouches for all.

    • Much of this started with the”No child left behind” which I believe was GW’s time. Social promotion became mandatory. Teachers can only do their best with the raw material they have to work with (students) and the tools at their disposal (administration and mandatory methods). Blaming teachers is an old excuse but not a reason. Is it ever acceptable to ask the home and community to carry some responsibility for this chaos???

      • I think the “homes” and community of these kids are so chaotic that there is little point. There are black mothers who care about their children and want them to accomplish something,. They are the ones lined up for registration in charter schools. The first priority is to get the disruptive students out of the schools and into something like reform schools. That is impossible until we have political change. Maybe never.

  19. There have been a number of similar pieces, mostly anonymous, for obvious reasons, by teachers stuck in the state system who have been confronted by the educational and social realities of attempting to teach negroes and the underclass.

    The author of this piece is a highly qualified French translator, and ought to investigate some of the French writings on the subject, e.g. Les méfaits de l’instruction publique, by Denis de Rougemont, La Face cachée de l’école, Le maître ignorant, Le Pédagogue n’aime pas les enfants, and so on. And since she evidently has no problem with so-called right-wing extremists (L.-F. Céline?), she could do all you English – or ebonics – monoglots a favour and translate Éloge de l’ignorance by the much-maligned Abel Bonnard. The question is certainly worth pursuing.

  20. There are tons of bad teachers its not a myth at all. Its a fact that some of the people with the lowest GPA’s in high school that get into college end up as education majors.

    • E. Olson says

      You are correct that education majors tend to have the weakest college entry grades/scores, but amazingly they end up with among the highest GPAs in college. Unfortunately, this only scratches the surface of the problem, because very little of the education major curriculum is devoted to learning how to effectively teach the 3 Rs, but instead focuses on indoctrination into social justice victimology.

      • Yeah – I wouldn’t take a good college GPA in Education as a sign of anything other than proof of presence. The world’s tallest midget is, well, still a midget.

      • I taught middle school, grades 6 through 8, at such a well-regarded public school many parents faked local home addresses so their kids could attend and the school district often sent state ed officials to visit. Two of the four sixth grade math teachers had to teach sixth grade because they couldn’t pass the math exams that would allow them to teach seventh. Content knowledge doesn’t rate a section on the lengthy teacher evaluation forms, which are all faked anyway.

  21. There are other factors of course for so many failing schools but facts are facts. There are a lot of bad teachers in addition to everything else.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      That isn’t what the article is about. Focus, or maybe you had a bad teacher who didn’t teach you reading comprehension?

    • D-Rex says

      Well I’ve personally only ever met about 3 truly bad teachers in my 20+year career. The system plus bad parents virtually guarantees a degree of failure and it’s amazing how many students actually go on to be successful.

  22. Matt Anthony says

    It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t start in high school. I taught in an elementary school in the ‘hood in Charlotte, NC. We had similar, although not as severe, behaviors: fights, swearing at the teachers, “students” unprepared for class, etc. They seemed to have few coping skills as their first reaction to any kind of slight, real or imaginied, from another student, was physical violence. Of course, they were not held accountable for their misbehavior. This didn’t surprise as the principal’s stated philosophy was that “when a student misbehaves, it is never the student’s fault.” I questioned him privately about that and he meant “never.” That leaves the only other party involved and that was the teacher. I related an incident where two students ganged up on another to beat him up. “How was that my fault?” I asked. He and the assistant principal then spent the next five minutes telling me all the things I should have done to prevent it. They were all things I had done. They finally stopped trying to guess although that didn’t change their minds that it was my fault. What really bothered me was that it took another area of responsibility from the students who are brought up in a culture that tells them they are responsible for nothing. They get all their school supplies from the school; they get breakfast and lunch for nothing; an outside group gives them shoes, which many of the students use to walk and get into their parents’ Escalades in the car lane after school; other groups buy them Christmas presents; and other groups provide them with all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner. You should see how the car lane grows on the day the neighborhood hears the school is giving out free food. I had to laugh, though, when the author mentioned the principal’s use of shout-outs. We always used them in staff meetings. The more cynical among us ran pools on how many we had to sit through that day.
    Well, I guess the principal didn’t appreciate me asking him about his methods, because the next year I was relegated to teaching typing to kids who could barely read. There was no curriculum, no methods. Best of all, he didn’t even tell me he had changed my assignment until less than a week before school started. I gave him my notice after Thanksgiving and left before Christmas break. He never asked my why I left.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Matt Anthony

      My mother told me stories about her education. Mr. Bartlett. If you misbehaved in his class he’d throw chalk at you, and it seems he had an arm like a sniper rifle — he didn’t miss and he gave you a big, black bruise. One punk, Gordie Bacon, tried on a smirk … once. This is in the Depression mind, lots of hard cases, kids hungry. But no excuses, can’t afford the luxury of excuses. My ma can still recite The Lady of the Lake perfectly.

      • D-Rex says

        Ray, try talking to a south east Asian immigrant about our education system. They just laugh at how insipid our standards of discipline are. They can see that our kids don’t care whereas in Bangladesh, education is a matter of survival. Their students are highly motivated and there is no safety net. Many countries have tests for every year level and if you don’t pass you simply don’t move up. Bring that in here and I guarantee you would see an improvement of educational outcomes.

  23. Jim harvie says

    So it seems the diminished expectations are lived down to by the kids. So make demands, and be honest. If a critical mass of teachers did it the parents would support it and the kids would respond

  24. Tom Shuford says

    The legal foundations for public schools are compulsory attendance laws and child-labor laws.

    These have the effect of forcing reluctant, marginal students, up to age 16 — likely up to age 18 by now in NY — into schools. They would be better off if, after age 12, they could choose to do paid work (at a “youth wage” 75 percent of the minimum wage.) They would probably learn more on a job than they could possibility learn in schools like those described above. And they would be making money at the same time.

    • E. Olson says

      Tom – I don’t disagree with what you suggest, but unfortunately I also don’t think it would be very effective in today’s modern economy. What sort of jobs are available in today’s economy for a 12 to 16 year old who has a sub-85 IQ, functionally can’t read, write, or do simple math, has a bad attitude about work and learning, likely has bad habits related to punctuality and showing up everyday, and is openly hostile to most of the people that surround him/her? Now throw in a $12-$15 minimum wage, which even at 75% youth discount is still $9+ per hour plus mandated employer SS contributions and other benefits, and how many employers would jump at a chance to pay that much for the privilege of “exploiting children” as they would no doubt be portrayed in the media?

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – I don’t know what to suggest beyond experimenting with different approaches, because what we are doing now certainly doesn’t work. The key thing is to separate out the trouble-makers early, and keep them away from the kids that actually like or value school and learning so that teachers can actually teach instead of being expensive babysitter or prison guards. Residence boot camp type schools might be tried on the most disruptive/destructive students to get them totally away from the bad influences they have at home, and away from the other kids in the classroom that actually want to learn, but this would be extremely expensive and would require the cooperation of the parent(s) who often don’t care about the best interests of their kids. A focus on more vocational type education/apprenticeships rather than languages, higher level math, and other “college track” courses might be useful to try, but the race hustlers and social justice types would no doubt see this as discrimination. Allowing administration and teachers to actually discipline disruptive/destructive kids without worrying about disparate impact statistics should also be tried. Perhaps a real prison oriented school (with guards, cells, lockdowns, etc.) might be created for the most disruptive to give them a real flavor for what likely awaits them if they don’t straighten up, and where a return to the regular school would only be allowed after a substantial period of model behavior, but again this is likely to be criticized by the race hustlers and social justice types as discrimination if blacks are represented in these schools at the same rates as actual prisons.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            Well at least you’d deal with the problem honestly. Western civilization has to abandon the Imaginist religion, and do it quickly. How long do we have? 20 years, perhaps, before salvage becomes impossible?

            “Residence boot camp type schools”

            Yes. The army tends to have success at smartening up people. They need behavioral norms and they know how to get them.

            “A focus on more vocational type education/apprenticeships rather than”

            I’m told that in Germany kids are streamed into appropriate education for their abilities. Three streams I believe.

            “Perhaps a real prison oriented school (with guards, cells, lockdowns, etc.) might be created for the most disruptive to give them a real flavor”

            Marvelous idea. Failing that, perhaps a week at Rikers Island? What ever happened to the ‘Scared Straight’ program?

        • Post-partum abortion? It’s acceptable in quite a few states (Virginia for one).

  25. Royce Cooliage says

    I live a few blocks from Brooklyn Tech. I walk past it on my way to work every morning. The student body is diverse but the largest percentage are Asian. There are very few blacks. I know this because I pass the students walking up the block to the school every morning as I walk in the opposite direction to the subway.

    About a year or two ago, there was a movement to scrap the entrance exam. I remember seeing local TV news coverage of a rally in support of this initiative on NY1. The crowd rallying for this were all black. Then the camera cut to a small group of Asians who were counter protesting the rally. The blacks no doubt think that if the entrance exam is scrapped their children can get in to Brooklyn Tech. If they succeed it will just turn tech into another shit school. (And likely will cause crime to increase in Ft. Greene.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Royce Cooliage

      I heard about that. Did they succeed? As falls Brooklyn Tech, so falls Brooklyn.

  26. Phil R says

    Didn’t we learn anything from Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me” in the late 1980’s?

    • E. Olson says

      or Glenn Ford in “Blackboard Jungle” (1955), or Sidney Poitier in “To Sir with Love” (1967), or Goldie Hawn in “Wildcats” (1986), or Jim Belushi in “The Principal” (1987), or Edward James Olmos in “Stand and Deliver (1988), or ….

      • I saw Blackboard Jungle, long ago, in High School, and remember that, in the end (as so often in Hollywood and other US productions) after chaos, agression and hopeless situations, the good forces and intentions overcame the terror. Quite a difference with Mary’s heartbreaking story!

  27. Mike Altee says

    All high school student bodies are comprised of a 9th grade that accounts for literally half the enrollment. That’s the problem. Seventeen year olds on their 3rd try at 9th grade. They come to school for free lunch, sell drugs and hang out..all while getting dey ” edjumacation”. I had kids threaten to shoot me and tell all kinds of lies about me and administrators always sided with students. My career was daily degredation and humiliation…and you just had to swallow it.

    • Gringo says

      I wouldn’t say ALL high school student bodies are like that. I would think that Good suburban high schools would have more equal class sizes. However, I once looked at certain urban high schools and noticed the same thing you did. the 9th grade had many more students compared to other grades. Yet these schools claimed dropout rates of, shall we say, 5-6%. Something did not compute.

      • ga gamba says

        Brace yourself for mass urban-suburban busing if the Democrats ever get control of all three branches of the government.

        “We ruined the urban schools, watch us as we bring that to the suburbs.”

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @ga gamba

          I read something once that claimed that the free-fall of public education in the States started at exactly the same time that Bussing started. And that the free fall was just as bad for black outcomes as for white if not worse.

          • Dan Hamilton says

            The reason is simple. The Black students were failing, to Democrats this could NOT be the fault of the students, therefore the failure was the fault of the teachers. There was no way that the teachers could fix this, so they dumbed down the classes so that the Blacks would get the grades. The Whites that could went to other schools. The trend continued. It could NOT be the students fault. Teachers had to pad the grades or get fired because the bosses REFUSED to blame the students. This has continued.
            Even in states with testing, it continues. The teachers teach to the test even though the TEST is at a VERY BASIC level. Many students STILL have problems getting to that level BUT it is never their fault it is the Teachers fault.

            Also tracking, multi-level, etc. are DISCRIMINATION. So all levels of students are in the same class. So the teacher has to teach at the lowest level. How do you destroy a good student, bore the hell out of them.

        • Read up on Boston’s experience in the 1970s. Boston’s school system was based on neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were essentially ethnic enclaves and each enclave was dominated by either old WASPs, Irish, Italians, Jews or Blacks. The forced integration of South Boston High School (Irish) was a disaster.

          About the same time the “METCO” program tried voluntary bussing of black students from Roxbury and Dorchester to the suburbs. As a practical matter, bussing students during morning and afternoon rush hours meant that only the suburbs less than 10-15 miles away were involved. A couple of bus loads, maybe 50-100 students to each high school, were distributed over a student population of 400-800 and resulted in few problems but no discernible impact on the bussed students.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


            Thanks. Yes, now that you mention it, the Boston situation was news even up here in Canada. Pretty ugly as I recall.

    • I don’t know if I ever will work as a teacher in public school in the US.
      This is just unbelievable. Something has to be done. Starts with the family, community, culture.

  28. Royce Cooliage says

    This is good article but the author blew it at the end. The issue isn’t that less is expected of blacks. The issue is black American culture itself. Most of these children believe that if they speak English properly or study they are “sellouts” or “Oreos.”

    • Debbie says

      The author covered that in the description of her first urban teaching stint.

  29. No offense to the author, but don’t we need to question why kids in inner-city schools are taking classes in French?

    If they really are graduating high school with 7th grade educations, shouldn’t we be prioritizing subjects that actually matter? Plus, the students can’t be blamed for thinking French classes are pointless, so forcing them to take French classes could feed into their sense that *school* is pointless. So let’s just forgot about French in these schools and teach things that matter.

    • Marian Hennings says

      The reason for French classes, or any foreign language classes, is that colleges expect high school students to have studied a foreign language for at least two years. Granted, most of these students are not going to get into college, but they must be offered a college-bound curriculum in high school.

      • E. Olson says

        Sadly Marian, too many of them actually will go to colleges that are very anxious to improve their diversity statistics and fill seats in an era of declining populations of high school graduating cohorts. And because they have 7th grade (or lower) abilities in basic subjects, much of their college curriculum will be remedial and easy major courses (i.e. grievance studies, humanities) that they will frequently struggle with, while accumulating large student loans. Many will drop out, but some will graduate with junk degrees and still limited ability to read, write, do math, think and reason, but many may actually land decent jobs due to the social justice orientation of HR departments, the need for diverse employees in “diversity and inclusion” administrations, and the desire for racially appropriate role models as teachers.

        • I’ve taught at similar schools in Baltimore. Trust me, these kids do not go to college. The best of them might go to a community college, but the types of students Ms. Hudson is describing are not the types of people who wind up as human resources employees. These aren’t the types of people who hold down jobs at all. The grievance studies classes are mostly made up of middle-class whites, not actual poor blacks from inner-city environments. I think you’re letting a political narrative shape your understanding.

          • E. Olson says

            I won’t doubt your experience, but 70% of high school graduates at least start at a college, so even some of those kids must be college bound.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @E. Olson

          “and the desire for racially appropriate role models as teachers”

          Like Columbus burning his ships, the system thus locks itself into it’s own trap. Jesus, what to do? Even if we started tomorrow — even if we did — it is a century of blood, toil, tears and sweat to repair this.

    • Anonymous says

      I taught HS math – but few kids had the ability to understand anything I was talking about. The subject makes no difference – you miss the point entirely.

    • Lightning Rose says

      A whole LOT of school is pointless. The entire system was designed to crank out interchangeable-part factory workers before WWII. Is it necessary, today when you can Google any fact or figure on earth with a ubiquitous hand-held device, to spend 12+ years regurgitating rote memorization? Is it necessary to laboriously perform mathematical functions that will only be used by 5% who enter advanced STEM fields? Is French still remotely relevant? Perhaps learning a language (Mandarin, Farsi) should be the REWARD for the good students! Courses like Algebra and Chemistry should not be inflicted on the rank and file who are not candidates for STEM-based college.

      Government-sponsored education should be focused on one thing only: Producing employable citizens with a reasonable grasp of the basics of how life works. How to get an apartment, a job, a checking account, balance said checkbook, manage a credit card, apply for a mortgage. Biology should focus on the basic “owner’s manual” for the human body and some knowledge of how food is grown and animals raised. A working knowledge of the weather, enough to stay safe in storms, would be useful as well. Teach also that just because something appears in the media, doesn’t make it “true.” Teach how advertising, context-free reporting, and dumbed down sloganeering all mess with your head. Teach HOW to think, not WHAT to think. And then train for specific careers.

  30. As a (white) student who went to Tech while the author was there (class of 2007), I find this fascinating. What a different perspective. I’m not sure I agree – somehow, the idea that a failing education system can be reduced to just one or two problems seems silly, when so much of our lives are interconnected. It’s unlikely that fixing one issue will solve all the problems.

  31. Joseph C Jones says

    Thank you for writing this. Much of it matches the experience I had teaching for a few years in a lower-class suburb of Dallas — given this was Texas, we had a brand-new football stadium that put my university’s stadium to shame, yet I didn’t have enough desks for my students! Several other aspects of those years made a profound impression on me:

    1. The school was predominately Hispanic, with an even mix of black and white kids for the remainder; whenever racial tension would bubble up, it was always between the Hispanic and black students, with the white students mostly just observing from the sidelines. Also, as indicated in this essay, the most volatile students were the girls, not the boys — the only times I had to call security because a student had a weapon (always a blade of some kind), it was a female student.

    2. A Hispanic male student was clearly stoned (on so-called “cheese heroin”) most of the time, and mostly passive in my class; when sober, he was amiable and interested in the topic (I taught World History); however, I was once called to a meeting with his single mother and all his other teachers, where I was stunned to discover that he was disrespectful and confrontational in the other classes; then, looking around the table, I realized what the issue was: all his other teachers were female. I can only assume that he responded favorably to me as a father-figure.

    3. The students, as problematic as they could be, weren’t nearly as bad as the administration, in my estimation: after all, they were adults and should know better. This was crystallized for me when I had an appointment with the vice-principal and, while waiting for him, I took some referral forms (to send students to the office when they were causing trouble); when I walked into the vp’s office, he saw them and prompted smacked them out of my hand, barking at me “You don’t need those!” Stunned, I was mostly silent for the remainder of the meeting, then scheduled an appointment with the principal to discuss the incident; her response: “Perhaps the problem is with you!” That’s when I knew it was time to get out, that there was little I could do to help.

    For what it’s worth, several years later, I ran into a former student who asked why I wasn’t teaching anymore; when I said I didn’t think it was the right career for me, he surprised me by saying that he thought I was a good teacher and liked my classes.

    • Administrators are the enemy, Some years ago, the Archdiocese of New York had 500,000 students in school with 50 administrators. I met the Diversity Dean shortly before I quite teaching medical students.

  32. Jezza says

    Ignorance is a fine entry into a life of slavery, a condition where someone else tells you what to do and when to it and what to think. Do these kids hanker for the old days? Here is something that might work. Residential single sex schools where students are required to stay for the entire term. They may leave, if they so desire, at the end of term but will never be re-admitted. In the case of boys, muscular male teachers only, corporal punishment allowed. Less carrot, more stick. Pitch your target to a lower level if your students have difficulty learning. Give them achievable targets and make them compete. Prizes and privileges for good results. Stream according to intellect. Divide them into houses, and encourage house rivalry. Let them earn respect. Given time, traditions and pride will develop. But above all, give them something to lose if they fail. Oh, did I mention no phones and restricted television?

    If you think this is far fetched, consider this: this is the kind of regime which produced the disciplined and intellectually competent administrators of the British Empire, the people who made it work. You may have anti-British sentiments, but this kind of schooling turned out some very capable people.

  33. Great piece Ms Hudson. Very informative in terms of vibe and attitude. There’s a point in the article where you write,

    “ But everyone knew that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.”,

    that struck me as possibly missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Puberty is definitely a trying time for children, but it’s not a process that gangsterizes kids due to some biological mechanism.

    That mentality materializes only if such a culture exists in the home. I went to school with dirt poor children from our drug infested neighborhood who would NEVER misbehave because it was not tolerated at home. Other kids flat out did not give a shit and fought and did drugs and eventually went to jail. This type of disruptive behavior emanated from the home environment. Alcoholic, abusive, unemployed, depressed, drug addicted, neglectful, sexually promiscuous home environments.

    If a child has clear expectations about how they are to act, ie. if they have been properly socialized by their parents, then trouble will still occur due to hormonal surges and testing of limits, but the trouble will be met on all sides by the proper socializing forces surrounding the child. The parents, the school, the peers.

    If no such forces exist in a child’s home life, then there is slim to no chance that they will happen upon a proper way of being in the world regardless of how good a school they go to. The best hope for those types of kids is that they be set aside as not to disturb others and given compassion, and something to keep them busy.

  34. Milano Romero says

    This article bring’s a resonating and nostalgic image of my time in middle/high school. Having only graduated last year, its all fresh and vivid in my mind.

    My middle school specifically was largely of a minority demographic, I suppose that would make them the majority in a sense but nonetheless, cynicism and pessimism was trendy among most of the student faculties with only few outliners either falling into fatalism or irrational optimism. Among the different yet similar tribes there was a common rule to stick to the informal norms and school of thought such as, explicit contempt for the system and everything it stood for. Any fault or pushback that came our way was of no fault of our own according to my friend, at the time. Anything that would challenge or distress the students would be led by a barrage of insults and tantrums, a pitiful bad act with the intent to hurt and shame whomever the recipient may be. Of course the majority who acted out were only putting up a front, more often than not it was clear.

    I never once heard a friend or student at the time take full accountability for their own actions and their life. Than again how could they? All their life they were told by their parents, peers, teachers, idols, and the media to blame the system, the oppressors, or whoever may cause any inconvenience. Ultimately, by virtue signaling and offering empty notions to these young kids I only saw contempt, incompetence, and fear emerge out of my old friend who most of them, unfortunately, fell to the consequence that such idea’s and influence lead to.

  35. I learned to read by phonics in a public school of the ’60s – it was so successful they immediately dropped the program. However, that was my saving grace. I know many schools were not as described here in the ’70s but I sure ran into one. Learning took a back seat to not being killed by a gang. Then I went to another that was half good. But by then it was too late; I didn’t know how to learn. I learned how to smoke – it was “legal” at that school. Luckily I knew how to read from my wonderful First Grade so eventually I found out how to learn by myself.

    We simply can’t depend on parents to instill normal good manners and behavior into students. Yes, send away disruptive students – to a class teaching them how to behave in school. Tell the parents they must pass this class or go home for good. And as soon as they are disruptive again it’s back to behavior class. Part of that class could be “how to learn,” listening skills, how to do homework, etc.

  36. Very sad but not at all surprising. Education has been taken over by The Left – which is focused not at all on results but on process, feelings and intentions. As long as you mean well, as long as you use the correct sympathetic, emotional terms, and as long as you FOLLOW THE RULES, you’ll be fine. The result is that there ARE no actual results.

    Teachers are now vastly outnumbered by bureaucrats and “administrators”, who are nothing but government automatons concerned first and foremost with getting paid and secondly with making sure that everybody FOLLOWS THE RULES.

    The Left doesn’t actually care about kids, of any color, they care about GOVERNMENT. They care about image over substance. They care about process over results. They care about THEMSELVES – making themselves feel good and justifying their useless existence.

    America needs to dramatically de-bureacratize education. We need to fire the administrators, hire more actual teachers, and give those teachers flexibility to use whatever methods work instead of forcing them to follow a universal, inflexible process. And we need to PROTECT those teachers and the students who want to learn by EJECTING troublemakers to provide a safe learning environment.

    The bad kids can go home or out into the streets, and if they die there or end up in prison so be it.

    Enough is enough.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Just stop with this. You clearly have your own ideological agenda that seems unrelated to reality. You attack the “left” for following the rules, but your solution is… following the rules even more. If you insist on seeing this as exclusively a political problem you’ll never get anywhere near a cohesive or thoughtful response.

      We already have massive incarceration system in this country. Apparently, you’d like to see it get much, much bigger.

      • ga gamba says

        We already have massive incarceration system in this country.

        I think there’s a case to be made that the US has a massive under incarceration problem. Recidivism rates are crazy.

        Ultimately, one has to decide whether s/he sides with the criminals or the victims. I would like to think it’s an an easy choice, but there’s a large group of people who can never make enough twisted rationalisations.

        This makes them very dangerous and a public threat.

      • So, wet streets cause rain ? There was a NY Times reporter who has been ridiculed for years for writing that it was a puzzle why the prison population was rising as crime was falling.

        • Inigo Montoya says

          The two explanations can easily be distinguished. Just look at whether unelucidated offences are also falling.

    • Dan Hamilton says

      Way to FIX the problem. All Education money must be accounted for and on display in a standard format. The Books are Open. All salary is stated, the Proposed Budget is there, along with the ACTUAL in full detail. Where is the money PLANNED to go. Where does the money ACTUALLY go.
      Let the people find out that almost ALL the extra money sent to schools has gone to MORE Administration and no where near the Classroom and see what happens.

      All the books are already supposed to be open but you have to go to the school administrators to get the information and they don’t like that and will not give it to you or will give it in such a way that it is impossible to work with or understand.

      Save the SCHOOLS, OPEN the Books!

    • Kencathedrus says

      @SpreadTheLiberty: What you say resonates with me so much. What you describe here is the very reason I quit my very cushy job in Higher Education. I was in one of the best Teaching Colleges in my country; however mediocrity was valued above excellence. When I brought this up I was told that we need to mold citizens that fit into the system rather than create those that rise above it. That that was the path to greater societal happiness. One important thing I noticed was that the brightest students became so disillusioned that they quit the Teaching College after a year to pursue a different major.

    • E. Olson says

      Only about 25 to 30% of black children are born to two parent households, and most of those will be from the middle or upper classes who won’t be attending bad urban public schools. So the answer is very likely to be close to 100% with no biological father in the picture.

    • Craig WIllms says

      You’ve hit the hammer on the nail. Fatherlessness can be traced to most of the problems touched on in this eye opening piece. The progressives (communists, if you want) have succeeded in destroying the family in so many ways…

      God help us.

  37. Stephen Phillips says

    Similar situation to that in Austealia if my brother the teacher is to be believed.
    Still it ensures that that the white, ethno-centric, male dominated system will not be threatened any day soon.

  38. Pingback: The Reader: Mindset Trumps Genetics, YA Fiction, and Growing Mushrooms – Batfort

  39. Saw file says

    As a CDN, I have been observing the comment thread since this essay entered Quillette.
    Many very interesting USA teacher’s/student comments.
    There must be quite a different ‘educational structure’ in the USA, than in CDN.
    Of course there are greater ‘issues’ in the larger CDN mid-urban cities than there across the vast majority of the rest of the country, but I can’t see a correlation.
    First: I can’t understand how it is possible to maintain discipline in junior/high school w/o there being incremental administrative punishments leading to suspension, and eventually expulsion.
    Second: (more importantly) I can’t understand why safety isn’t the primary concern? Safety of the students in a government controlled and mandated environment, and safety of the workers (teachers).
    The former point should scare the crap out of the complicit administrative levels/bodies.
    What am I missing?

    • The big difference is that your country had no period of slavery. The poorest people in cities like Toronto are newly arrived immigrants, who quickly learn to work their way up.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


        That’s changing tho. Toronto now approaches critical mass for the development of an American style black ghetto culture. We’ll all be so proud when Toronto is about the same sort of place that Chicago is.

      • The thing is, in 1960 2/3 of the US had no institutional history of either slavery or segregation and before 1960 poor Black students seem to have done better than presently and more than 70% of them were born into stable family units.

        Slavery and racism are merely excuses for the failed social policies instituted since 1965.

      • Not really. The Caribbean had slavery. The English Caribbean maintained an English educational system.

        My kids went to school there until they were in their teens. When we moved to Canada they leaped to their feet when the teacher entered the room the first day in public school. Just as they did in high school in the Caribbean.

        Needless to say, they were the only ones to stand.

    • Pagent says

      Sadly being in a Canadian school is no insulation from such situations that the author has endured. There is only a matter of scale separating the two realms. ipolitics being what is in ultra progressive Toronto, it’s the same path to hell being paved right now. I have friends who have children in a more “diverse” school environment, a Catholic school no less which used to uphold strict ideals of personal responsibility and discipline,etc. Anyhow, said friend’s child has been persistently harassed, abused and assaulted by a trio of trouble makers in the class, so much so he was hospitalized for a few days following what amounted to a nervous breakdown at both the abuse he was receiving and the absolute and total refusal to deal with the trouble makers by the school system, from the teacher up to and including the local superintendent. (Cognitive dissonance is pretty hard on a young boy when his parents drill into him that he has to behave and he’ll be rewarded for following the rules but in real life he is punished for following the rules and the rulebreakers are given a pass every day of the week because equity)

      Eventually I counselled my friend that, “You know that was assault, and you could have the perpetrators charged for that”.
      Having suffered for two years at the hands of these “special” bullies, my friend and a few other parents who were also weary of endlessly giving the “disadvantaged” kids the benefit of the doubt, got together, made statements to the police, who in turn insisted upon interviewing teachers, principals and students, all on school grounds during the school day, as the had to do it at the scene of the crime(s). Suddenly after years of stonewalling by the school everyone sat up and paid attention to the matter. of course the outcome was the recommendation that the assaulted children choose to leave the school and go elsewhere. I mean how else could backwards world be maintained?

      At the risk of being a walking talking stereotype, the offender was of single motherage, a “minority”, would stroll into school about 10:30 am on most days, had heaps of sympathy thrown upon him for his disadvantaged status and was institutionally untouchable. The school simply could not in any formal manner admit that he and his little posse were an issue. The community police officer however pointed out quite succinctly that in fact at the ripe old age of 13 this kid was already involved in a gang. Now also thanks to this kid’s stellar academic performance he was already falling behind in school which gave him the perverse “advantage” of being about 40% bigger than every other male in his class. This is part of where puberty comes into the discussion.

      The outcome, indeed the victim kid is going to end up having to move schools half way through the year as the school only ends up telling him every time he gets assaulted that he has to stop provoking the other kid, you know, by crying when he gets smacked in the face.

      My daughter enjoyed similar asymmetries of discipline and standards at her grade school. Same issue, to loosely paraphrase, “You’re white, suck it up that the minority kid steals your lunch and every other kid’s lunch most days of the week”.

      I entirely agree with the final premise of the original piece. Current teaching and discipline standards are 100% antithetical to creating a generation of students who can grow, learn and be productive. ipolitics is utterly corrosive in education and the people it harms the most are ultimately the people it purports to want to help.

      • Stephanie says

        I agree the difference with Canada is a matter of degrees. Slavery is unlikely the root of the difference, rather concentration of infantilized minority people. Kids are more influenced by their cultural idols and home environment than by events their ancestors endured hundreds of years ago.

        I went to a high school with a relatively high minority population for a suburban area in Quebec, because they had an IB program I deemed most beneficial to my future prospects. It was a small bubble of generally well-behaved students. The French Immersion people were rowdy and rude, the Regular program people downright terrifying. There was lots of drug use and the occasional stabbing. My cousins who went through those programs came out heavy weed and cigarette smokers who learned nothing but resentment of authority.

        For our ethics classes we were mixed with the immersion kids, and while the ethics teacher left us alone to pursue an affair with the music teacher, one of the immersion girls would bully me because we had the same name. I remember thinking that if I had to endure these people in all my classes school would have been a nightmare.

        I ended up not getting my IB diploma despite top scores on my personal project (like a capstone) because of my terrible performance in gym, but even at the time I realised the true value of the program was that it kept me safe from the disruptive and dangerous people who can so easily dominate in high school settings.

    • Dan Hamilton says

      “I can’t understand how it is possible to maintain discipline ”
      It isn’t that is the PROBLEM!!

      “I can’t understand why safety isn’t the primary concern? Safety of the students in a government controlled and mandated environment, and safety of the workers (teachers).”
      Because you CANNOT blame the student for ANYTHING. The Student cannot be responsible for any action. ANYTHING the student does is the fault of the Teachers or the Administration. An it is NEVER the fault of the Administrators!.

  40. Nakatomi Plaza says

    We’ve poisoned young black Americans with identity politics. They’ve learned how to weaponize white guilt and use it as an excuse for failing and a shield against anybody who expects better of them. At my school just about 25% of black students receive a degree or graduate to the next level. More than 60% of Asian students graduate, but we never talk about why. We never talk about strong families, work ethic, respect, valuing education and following the rules, all hallmarks of a typical Asian student. No, we talk about diversity and accommodating every ridiculous behavior black students throw at us. And then we wonder why black students fail and no amount of identity-based bullshit can get them to pass.

    And if I said a word of this aloud, they’d call me a racist Trump supporter.

      • ga gamba says

        More seriously, how do you feel about your allegiance to an ideology and party that requires you to either shut up or keep on perpetuating the lie?

        Clearly, you’re very worried about how others would castigate you. Is your life spent walking on eggshells amongst colleagues and other “likeminded” peers? Is there a chance that many of your cohort actually think and feel similarly, but like you they too are terrified to speak up?

        I get it. A pay cheque is a pay cheque and you have bills to pay, put food on the table, etc. I hope the pay earned is sufficiently commensurate for the self torment it requires of you. That’s gotta be high six figures, yeah? If the pay off is “fuck you” money, enough saved that once attained you may speak your mind freely knowing the consequences that may befall you won’t jeopardise your financial worthiness, then, I suppose, such a job is worth it for a few years. But, if that period is 30 to 40 years, then perhaps a re-evaluation is needed.

        • E. Olson says

          GG – good comment as usual, but most teachers are not long-term, especially in the tough urban environments, and many (most?) public school systems have a 30 and out retirement rule for a full pension. Administrative bloat has also been a mechanism for retaining burned out teachers so they can stay in the system until they get to pensionable age.

      • Dan Love says

        @ga gamba

        There is no way that’s Nakatomi Plaza. She’s either being sarcastic or someone is using her name.

  41. Saw file says

    Who is “we’ve”?
    Btw….do two different ppl share your profile here?

  42. Hudson Riviera says

    This essay was garbage, as are 99.9% of the comments on it. Just what I’d expect from Quillette.

  43. D.B. Cooper says

    It would be interesting know if similar academic/behavioral outcomes (of American blacks) are found in other First, Second, and/or Third World countries, e.g. those of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    Is there good data to suggest these outcomes are unique to America, or can similar findings be seen across space and even time? I would think a problem of this magnitude requires considering as much.

    • E. Olson says

      DB – you bring up an interesting point that is difficult to study due to selection effects. Blacks brought over as slaves were obviously not selected for their academic potential, while blacks that voluntarily come over on student visas or as legal immigrants will typically be the cream of their country’s academic crop, and hence have IQs that are way above the approximately 70 sub-Saharan African IQ average. Thus you will have a situation as seen with Indian immigrants to the US, where the average IQ is 110-115 who are clearly not representative of India where the average IQ is the mid to upper 80s. This is also evidenced by the backgrounds of black students enrolled in elite schools and universities, who disproportionately are foreign students or children of recent immigrants rather than the descendants of slaves. Unfortunately, there is also little evidence that the IQ gap between blacks and whites has shrunk significantly over the past 100 years.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @E. Olson

        I heard that American blacks cry ‘discrimination’ when foreign born blacks — who as you say are likely to be of superior intelligence — are used to fill black quotas over the former. It is interesting that a genuinely intelligent negro from Nigeria is less ‘diverse’ than just another affirmative action negro from an American ghetto.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – you are correct. The problem is that the racial quotas and affirmative action used by schools have largely been sold to the Supreme Court as a mechanism of reparation for the damage done by slavery and Jim Crow, but despite dramatic reductions in GPA and SAT entry cutoffs for blacks, there just are not enough with the qualifications necessary to achieve the desired diversity mixture. Thus the solution is to recruit foreigners from high socio-economic backgrounds who have the desired skin color and test scores, but of course this violates the entire “reparations” argument, as does giving preferences to Hispanics who were never slaves in the US.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            The five-year plan must be met, comrade.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @E. Olson

            of course this violates the entire ‘reparations’ argument

            I think, if you look closely, many on the Left who regularly advocate for AA policies have moved away from the ‘reparations’ argument and towards the ‘diversity-is-our-strength’ argument. While speculative, it’s difficult to believe the recruit of high SES foreigners as well as other factors such as Justice O’Connor’s 2006 opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary…” haven’t played a role in shifting the justification of AA policies from ‘reparations’ to ‘diversity’.

      • This is an interesting question. My experiences with African blacks are not representative as they made it over here, and must be selected by that accomplishment. On the other hand, there is the possibility that slaves were selected by being the losers of tribal wars in west Africa.

        • D.B. Cooper says


          Undoubtedly, there’s a selection bias for African blacks (as well as for other ethnic populations) in America, but that’s not really the question I’m trying to get at. What I’m asking is, is there good data to suggest similar academic/behavioral outcomes for blacks in other countries. So, for example, do we see similar outcomes for blacks living in Asian and/or European countries. If not, this would suggest a problem unique to America; while if the outcomes are found to be representative (comparatively within other countries), then it may suggest a problem that goes beyond reductive explanations such as poor teachers or low expectations.

  44. Bahuleya Minyakka says

    And yet people like Hasan Piker believe parents shouldn’t be allowed vouchers so they send their children to a different school

  45. At the same time all this occurred in NY City schools (and many other urban schools) the Catholic Church, which ran the best, affordable alternative to public schools, became infested by leftists.

    Now, the number of Catholic Schools closed in the last twenty years is astounding, and with their closing, opportunities have vanished.


  46. I taught for a long time and I have experience of dismal British schools. In the end I took over a failing private school with poor staff, poor students and hopeless management. The school was turned around by doing simple things like enforcing uniform and hair codes, insisting on behaviour and by expelling those who did not want to conform. I never rewarded failure but only success; there were no ‘all must have prizes’ moments. Getting rid of bad staff was harder but by insisting that they do their best, enforce discipline and expect the best rather than the worst from their students, we were able to get rid of some of the worst offenders. Convincing micro-managing, paper-monster management was also difficult.

    It sounds a lot simpler than it was and, of course, I didn’t do it alone, but we did succeed. If there is one piece of wisdom that I can pass on it is this; kids love rules because it provides them with boundaries and that they want those rules enforced so that they are more afraid of the teachers than they are of the bullies. Sometimes, the simple answers are the best.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Poot: are you still in charge of that school? I attended a very bad British Comprehensive in my early teens so can sympathize with you.

  47. E. Olson says

    Several commenters have discussed cultural differences with regards to education, noting that Jews and Asians highly value educational performance and attainment, while blacks and Hispanics tend to put little value in education, and whites tend to fall in between the extremes. But why do these stark cultural differences exist? Only 2 comments (so far) mention racial/ethnic differences in IQ as an explanatory factor in performance, but it seems very likely that IQ also explains cultural differences. On average Jews and NE Asians have above average intelligence, and all other things being equal are going to do well in school. Therefore they will derive out-sized economic and social benefits from their educational performance and attainment, which is likely to continuously reinforce the value of education in their culture. On the other hand, blacks (and Hispanics to a lesser degree) on average will struggle much more to learn new concepts and therefore tend to be at the bottom of their classes because of their below average IQ, which means the “payoff” for working hard at school is going to only move them from dismal to mediocre performance and attainment, and hence is likely to not be valued by the culture. The opposite may be true in athletics, where blacks on average have genetic advantages that make them faster and stronger than other racial groups, which gives them social and potential economic status as star athletes, and thus athletic prowess and a “shot at the pros” becomes a cultural value.

    Now throw in well meaning empathy that results in welfare programs that reward single parenthood and slothfulness, affirmative action and quotas that rewards weak performance, and disparate impact statistical analysis that attributes all racial poor outcome disparities to racism and discrimination, which is then used to punish administration, teachers, and employers who practice “tough love”, discipline, and color blind equal treatment, and you get what this essay describes.

    Unfortunately there is no known way to boost low IQ via education or parenting (i.e. someone born with an IQ potential of 85 can’t be “educated” or “parented” into having an IQ of 115, although nutritional deficiencies or lead exposure may mean they never attain their 85 potential), and attempts to change cultural differences (i.e. trying to turn black single moms into Tiger moms) that are built on IQ differences are also not likely to have much impact. Thus the only way to maximize individual potential is to stop with the well meaning empathy that rewards bad and destructive behaviors, and punishes people for being color blind. In other words, giving these kids a free ride to the Ivy League is not going to fix the problem.

    • If you think the types of students Ms. Hudson is describing wind up in the Ivy League, you’re quite mistaken. It’s true that Harvard University might accept a black student who would be better suited for City College or North Carolina State University, and that’s a problem, but the types of students Ms. Hudson is writing about aren’t suited for any college, and that has more to do with their antisocial behavior than anything else. In my experience in Baltimore, we were lucky if the most diligent students decided to take classes at Baltimore City Community College. The brightest student I met went to Morgan State University, a historically black university. She is now a nurse in Richmond, Virginia.

      I keep in touch with many of my former students. After three years at that high school, the brightest student I met—the aforementioned nurse—has a perfectly decent but also completely average career. She would not stand out at the racially diverse but affluent suburban school where I currently teach. Members of the next tier are holding down jobs in the service industry (hairdressers, sous-chefs, waitresses, cashiers, etc.) The rest of them—who make up the vast majority—aren’t doing anything at all because they don’t have to. They’re either on welfare or dealing drugs. Some of the boys are dead.

      I think you underrate the importance of culture. As Heather Mac Donald often writes, we do a disservice to poor urban blacks and poor Appalachian whites if we tell them that college is the only key to success. The most important keys to success are getting and keeping a job (any job), getting married, having children after you get married, and then staying married. My maternal great-grandparents were illiterate sharecroppers. My maternal grandfather at least finished high school. His children, including my mother, went to college. My siblings and I all have master’s degrees, and two of my siblings earn six figures. I chose education as a career path, so I don’t have that kind of money, but I consider myself successful and wealthy beyond what my great-grandparents could have imagined.

      For many urban blacks, success will require that kind of generations-long striving, and it’s going to require the stability of the family structure. Making it all about I.Q. sounds fatalistic.

      • E. Olson says

        Thank you for the very thoughtful comment Jay. I agree it isn’t all about IQ, and I certainly agree that culture matters, but culture is also not something that is possible to change in the short-term (i.e. it has taken 50 years to go from 25% black single parent households to 75%, and I expect it would take at least another 50 years to return 25% if any policy could achieve it at all).

        I was being somewhat facetious in my Ivy League comment, but so many politicians, race hustlers, and education “experts” promote the idea that 4 years of college (and preferably a prestigious one) can fix racial inequalities that they attribute to poor performing K-12 schools. According to the link below, just over 50% of high school graduates from high minority inner city schools start at college of some sort, which strikes me as huge waste of resources if the kids described in this article are represented in that 50%.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @E. Olson

      “and employers who practice “tough love”, discipline,”

      I saw a very illuminating documentary once about an elite all-black college, the sort of place that Obama will send his daughters. No Victimhood permitted. Standards maintained. Pregnant girls thrown out. Dress codes enforced. Expectations high, results high. Nope, rich blacks are no more interested in Victimhood than rich whites are. Victimhood is an industry for leftists and Victims are the crop that they grow on their plantations.

  48. Barney Doran says

    Shocking? Hardly. Doesn’t sound like much has changed since ‘Blackboard Jungle’ (that should date me) except the word ‘Jungle’ today would be considered unacceptably racist.

    • E. Olson says

      The music was better in Blackboard Jungle, which introduced Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock.

  49. Dave Silva says

    Really, a school 2.3 miles form Ground Zero and students (mostly hispanic) were cheering on 9/11? I’m thinking lots of them had family working in lower Manhattan and some probably lost people in the towers

    • Anonymous says

      It was surprising to hear that – but I seriously doubt that the author would just make up a lie about that. What would be the motive ? I believe her based on the accuracy of the rest of the story.

      • Dave Silva says

        Funny thing, i agree with a lot of her conclusion, but the author is delusional and a tad racist.
        How does a teacher in 2002 not know she can’t say the N-word?

        Why does she talk about a racist book she was forced to teach and not name the book?

        Why does she seem so appalled that black kids would have a portrait of the first black president hanging on the wall?

        • Anonymous says

          I have little patience for smug people who are quick to throw around the word “racist” as if they stood on some mountain of unearned moral superiority.

          There was nothing “racist” about her using the “n-word” in that context. Maybe try to read it and think about it before reflexively parroting the “r-Word” ?

          And, no, she was not “appalled” at the portrait of Obama.
          Check your own prejudice.

  50. Myself being from Europe, and knowing US only from the media and a few holidays, have the following consideration: could it be that that desegregation was, after all (as noble as it might seem) not such a good idea? What’s wrong with segregation? For both sides, I mean. I would think, 3/4 of all the painful and humiliating situations from Mary would never even have popped up!

    • Segregation is immoral, period. The government has no right to tell an individual where they can or can’t go. Integration has not been smooth sailing, but segregation attacked the dignity of the individual. If individuals choose to self-segregate, that’s their business, and I have a lot of sympathy for blacks who want to clean up their neighborhoods and support black businesses without relying on handouts from whites. But government-enforced segregation? If you think America’s racial problems would be solved by that, you’re foolish.

      • I know I’m foolish, that’s what people told me to be since I was 10. But, I’ve also traveled around the world, and what’s what I saw all over? In these new nations (invention of the imperial West) there is nothing like what’s the deal in the West, but rather separate populations (criollos, Indians (from the bush and from India), blacks, expatriates (was one of them), Chinese, Liberians, Swaheli, Arabs and many more), there was always a rather stable status quo (though, at occasions, some trouble) albeit not very equal, to say the least, but not such horrible and inhumane and hopeless, chaotic, inhumane situations as in the classes of Mary, Jesus Christ, she must have suffered. I really feel for her, and, of course, she is also subservient to the system, how on earth to come up with classes of French for ghetto children? Are you ?, is the system?, insane, or what????
        Oh God, please!

      • sumpin says

        The US government enforces DEsegregation. Segregation is closer to the natural order and is hardly immoral. Voluntary desegregation by willing parties is fine, but forced desegregation is a crime against nature, an we are living the results. Unfortunately, this has taken a political life of its own and cannot be undone politically.

      • Anonymous says

        Except most segregation is VOLUNTARY – and by the same token, if government has no right to segregate – they also have no right to integrate.

  51. rajiv says

    I realise it can’t happen in a left wing jurisdiction but maybe single sex schools is part of the answer .I realise that all streaming is verboten in modern American however

    Pity the political decison makers have a seperate education system

    • Aylwin says

      Rajiv, you raise an interesting question. I’d like to hear of some good studies isolating for the single variation of segregation by sex. My parents were teachers and would vouch for the disruptive influence of the unavoidable psychological triggers of our all too human silly, innate concerns. Unfortunately such segregation also plays into the hands of the dogmatically religious and traditionalist who would want to take us back to a time where they would to enforce their supposed morality on others, undoing hard won freedoms. There’s also the fact that growing up with your fellow future adults is a social education itself – vital to healthy relationships between the sexes. One only has to look at the horrifically inhumane and bizarre outcomes of such cultures of Catholicism and Islam. My school from 10-17 was boys only. An excellent education, but with a tangible side-effect of leaving me with a social awkwardness with women which took me quite a few years to get over (and might have led to very bad outcomes without good fortune).

      To the author of this article – thank you, and my deepest sympathies for what you’ve had to endure. I’ve seen what a bad school (meaning the culture and rules that don’t allow a school to be good) can do to the best teachers – my Dad (an immensely respected teacher) needing to take early retirement after a nervous breakdown due to the relentless, despair-inducing horror of trying to teach the unteachable (who, contrary to what others might say, are unteachable through no fault of their own – we’d all be that kind given their background, biological and sociological, and consequence-free structure)

      • I’ve been raised on a boys only school, Aylwin, from that I was 12-18 yrs. My elementary school was mixed, though. After I left the high school, this catholic institute was also mixed, new rules, modern time. Student time in university was mixed again (but women were not allowed in the social student clubs, until some time later). I wonder whether all this has influenced my life and social conduct, maybe, maybe not.

  52. Vincent Vega says

    This is what drives me crazy about left-wing (my tribe) PC culture: an unwillingness to call a problem for what it unambiguously is. It’s the same with Islamic terrorism. If somewhere some guy mows down pedestrians with a stolen truck, there are people (cough Reza Aslan cough) who upon hearing the news pretend that perhaps radicalized Mormons are responsible.

    It’s the same with the problems described here, and it seems that even the author slides into unhelpfully euphemisms now and then. The problem is not centered on “the most vulnerable kids” the problems is black ghetto culture and our reluctance to banish it from the classroom as we do with weapons.

    I think the author is right that the solution is both easy and cheap.

    Here goes:

    New rule number one: If you verbally abuse your teacher, as in calling her a “bitch”, you are suspended for a week. Do it again and you’re out for a month. If after that you still don’t get the message, you can stay home for the rest of the year.

    New rule number two: If you physically assault a teacher or threaten her with assault, as in “yo bitch I’m gonna cut you” you’re expelled from school permanently.

    The result will be that quite a few youngsters will not be educated, which is much better than the current situation where no one learns anything at all.

    • E. Olson says

      VV – some good suggestions, except that you would be called racist, and so would the teachers and administrators carrying out your directives. That is unless blacks and other victim classes were not disciplined to any higher degree that their portion of the city population, which would likely require some juggling of the rules. For example, “bitch” as a suspension word for blacks might become the use of a non-preferred personal pronouns as the suspension words for white and Asian kids. For rule 2, “yo bitch I’m gonna cut you” as the expel phrase for blacks might become “Hey teach, I’m going to dox you” for whites and Asians.

      • Vincent Vega says

        I don’t care if people call me a racist since at this point in our national conversation the word has lost all meaning. But you are right to see this fear as the radix malorem.

    • Foyle says

      Why is it always suspension and expulsion? The discipline and structure these kids need is not coming from any other part of their life so how is chucking them out on the streets going to do anything but create a useless and expensive adult for society to support or possibly incarcerate?

      The teachers have to be the most powerful and where necessary intimidating group in school, otherwise they can’t retain control – and that means they have to be able to escalate their responses more than anything aggressive or disruptive kids can do.

      Schools need the ability to escalate discipline responses for problem kids in a way that maximises positive outcomes. From in school detentions (confinement backed by muscle if needed), special classes, corporal punishment all the way up to live in reform schools, boot camps etc, even Army to temporarily remove kids from bad environments and try to change their behaviours to more positive models. In all of which the educators can enforce consistent good behaviour standards backed with physical sanction where needed – as was universal up until 30-40 years ago.

      Their parents are failing, the education system needs to be given the necessary tools to pick up the slack. These kids can mostly be saved, and it’s way cheaper to do that for an adolescent than an adult.

      • Vincent Vega says

        You could be right, Foyle, that expulsion isn’t the proper answer to this, but one way or another you have to show these kids who’s boss and punish bad behavior.

  53. Rev. Wazoo! says

    It’s like eating a drawing of a hamburger; conflating a symbol with what it represents.

    The old soviet worker’s joke was, “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” Here we see, “We run a day-care center for teenagers but pretend to run a school and the students pretend to attend one.” Both are versions of the Potemkin village, fake constructs which curry favor and funnel largesse with The Powers That Be at the expense of the ostensible reason for their existence whether production of goods, high-school educations or a prosperous peasantry unlikely to revolt and execute the czar(ina).

    Each of these are lies bolstered by misuse and fabrication of statistics and/or appearances. If people with HS diplomas do better than others, give everyone those diplomas, pretend they represent education and the progress is apparent. Oops! HS diplomas become meaningless? Repeat with university. Forget education, substitute the appearance of it. It’s profoundly ironic that purported educators have abandoned the idea that skills are valuable and can be replaced by certification akin to handing out pictures of food in a cafeteria.

    Who wins? Everyone whose rice-bowl is filled by colluding in the pretence from the Department of Education down to the person who says they’re a ‘teacher’ and get salary and benefits like one but knows they aren’t. The Administrators are the most culpable as they actually cook the books to make the whole charade possible.

    The author snapped whenever her self-respect prevented her from continuing to pretend she was a teacher when she was in fact a day-care worker for teenaged children.

    • George G says

      @ Rev. Wazoo!

      Bingo, your reward for your insight is a drawing of a cheeseburger, don’t eat it all at once

      • Rev. Wazoo! says

        Thanks! I listened to a Heinz jingle while chewing to bring out its full flavor…

    • Kencathedrus says

      I taught in the Netherlands. This was exactly my experience. Schools there are used to perform social experiments rather than teach children anything slightly useful.

    • D.B. Cooper says

      @Rev. Wazoo

      If people with HS diplomas do better than others, give everyone those diplomas, pretend they represent education and the progress is apparent. Oops! HS diplomas become meaningless? Repeat with university.

      Well said, Sir! I regularly try to explain to many of my well-intentioned, left-of-center comrades the idea that if ‘everyone has X, then no one has X’. And yet, despite my sincerest pleadings to the constraints of basic logic, they seem intent on making the appearance of education do what actual education once did. But, I think, the problem is considerably more pernicious than simply my colleagues’ crippling allergy to logic, or to my reasoned exposition of principles – a college diploma is not a civil right, it should be said.

      In its current form, the post-secondary education system isn’t necessarily designed to keep the brightest from advancing insomuch as it is to keep the mindless from not advancing. Although, as you point out, they’re not really advancing at all. Not really. In simplest terms, there is an inverse relationship between the proliferation of college degrees and their predictive value (as a signal of competence and/or job-readiness) in the employment market. In other words, by all but guaranteeing even the most feckless of characters a college degree in left-handed puppetry, the Left has only managed to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of post-secondary degrees; and in doing so, have essentially made graduate degrees do what undergraduate once did.

      If I can be honest for a moment, this realization was one of, if not the, primary catalysts behind my decision to get an MBA. In short, after noticing the level of stupidity that was advancing through the ranks, a senior exec. hinted to me through hushed tones in an elusive ‘coach speak’ kind of way that corporate had recently implemented new “diversity and inclusion initiatives”; which I took to mean don’t expect any promotions until certain quotas were filled. After taking inventory of the situation, I did what any reasonable person would do in an unreasonable situation – I went straight to HR and complained it wasn’t fair. No, I’m kidding. I went back to school and made myself more valuable, which I might add has seemed to help mitigate issues concerning the color of my skin and/or the nature of my genitalia.

      But I’m under no illusions. It’s only a matter of time before graduate degrees are as ubiquitous as undergrads are now. And when that happens, either the market will find a more reliable signal of competence or entire industries will fall (see the fourth estate) from the weight of their own socialistic endeavors.

  54. Pingback: Public Education’s Dirty Secret – Quillette | Shawn Eng's Stream of Wonk

  55. Beliavsky says

    Americans who rejoiced at the destruction of 9/11 are traitors. I used to work nearby. If the “students” wish me dead, I am indifferent to their welfare.

    • Anonymous says

      The students who cheered 9/11 have been brainwashed by the leftists who run the school system to hate America.

  56. Zane McNeil Kenney says

    Very good article. I was surprised at the conclusion. The whole time, I was thinking that the author would eventually point the finger at the parents of these delinquent children.

  57. Bubblecar says

    I would have thought that US black ghetto culture ticks all the hard masculine boxes beloved of the commenters here, who are irate that lefty psychologists are trying to “pathologize” toughness, male tribal bonding, stoicism and violence.

    But it seems that overbearing masculinity is acceptable only if the overbearingly masculine people are white. Uppity blacks displaying the same characteristics (but for real, not just as a laughable middle-class pose) are seen as a serious chronic problem.

    Well I’m sure the Right have all the solutions, so off you go – why not stop whining and weeping and actually make a better world? Your Man is in power (and setting a fine example of studious intellectualism) and he’s supposed to be making America Great Again – that’s working well for you, isn’t it?

    • Steve says

      God you’re a jackass (based on reading numerous of your idiotic comments here). Strong masculinity is personified by e.g., the US Marine Corps, not by psychopaths hosing down a sidewalk full of bystanders in order to kill a rival crack dealer.

      • Bubblecar says

        And yet when I suggested that masculinity requires an adequate process of socialization in childhood to ensure that it doesn’t end up destructive and self-defeating, I was piled on by all and sundry here – not just the wannabe Marine boys but the hard-as-nails Righty womenfolk, who assured me: “We don’t want no feminized menfolk, ya hear me? Our men need to fight and stay tough and strong blah blah blah”.

        Anyway as I say, you flag-wavin’ God-fearin’ alty-righties have all the answers, so off you go and solve all these problems instead of sittin’ there whinin’ like a ladyboy.

        • Anonymous says

          You are way off the trail on that one. Your “toxic masculinity” cliche fails to deal with the “toxic females” who figure prominently in the article. Read it again.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


          Sorry, but we Nazis are the ones who understand that masculinity requires an adequate process of socialization in childhood to ensure that it doesn’t end up destructive and self-defeating. Your types, on the other hand, seem to think that masculinity is a pathology that needs be be cured via feminization. Your view seems to be that to make men behave better, make them more like women. Our view (if I may presume) is that to make men behave better, make them more like men.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray is absolutely right here. Good luck finding a single right-leaning person who doesn’t think fathers are necessary for socialising boys.

            It isn’t ghetto culture’s emphasis on toughness or male bonding that’s the problem, it is that it is untethered to equally vital aspects of masculinity such as responsibility, discipline, and provider-mentality. Your own poisonous view of masculinity seems to lead you to believe it is only safe in some neutered form.

          • Bubblecar says

            You a Nazi? I don’t think so. You’re a little cheeky chipmunk (even if you admire the uniforms).

            “think that masculinity is a pathology that needs be be cured via feminization”

            I don’t actually have any personal use for terms like masculinity and femininity – they’re really quite primitive. I used the term “masculine” here because “you types” use it all the time, but what I’m really referring to are hormonally mediated characteristics like physical aggression, which require adequate socialization to screen out the worst effects, and which tend to be more prominent amongst males than females, which is why there are very many more men in jail than women.

            As for “positive masculine traits”, if they’re genuinely positive, then they’re traits to which everyone should aspire – ditto “positive feminine traits”. Don’t we want everyone to have a full range of positive traits? I see no need to sort them into “gender”, especially as I regard the gender fixations associated with the transgender movement, for example, as primitive, unhealthy and unhelpful. Just let people be themselves and you’ll find that nearly everyone has a blend of positive traits that were traditionally shoved into gender categories, for no sensible reason.

          • Bubblecar says


            “vital aspects of masculinity such as responsibility, discipline, and provider-mentality.”

            So don’t we want women to be responsible, disciplined and good providers too?

            Speaking as a man, I’m glad I don’t have to look after some irresponsible, undisciplined, parasitical woman.

            But fortunately, most women aren’t actually like that. Which is a good thing, yes?

            Let’s all aspire to positive attitudes and behaviours.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            Indeed, you may presume. The trouble with our Leftist friends, such as Bubblecar here, is not that they’re interpretations are unreliable, per se – though they usually are, but it’s that they’re interpretations are all too often couched in condescending recriminations of strawmen arguments.

            Surely, no honest person would claim that men aren’t prone to violence. But honesty should also compel us to admit that when the moment calls for violence, a ‘good/real’ man– be him black or white – will be violent. Similarly, when the time comes to be sensitive and loving, a ‘good/real’ man is caring, compassionate, and generous. The difference between my/our understanding of masculinity and what Bubblecar describes is in knowing which time is which.

      • Mary Issa Racist says

        now do white guys that shoot up clubs, movie theatres, and schools.

      • Dan Love says

        It’s bubblecar. She’s legitimately histrionic. Her comments are only worth responding to with a bowl of popcorn.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


        “which require adequate socialization to screen out the worst effects”

        We agree then. Socializing men is more difficult than women.

        “Don’t we want everyone to have a full range of positive traits?”

        We certainly do. However, as you seem to understand, men and women are not identical. We are designed for different roles and we have different characteristics accordingly. Thus there are the traditional male virtues and vices as well as the same for women. For example, whereas courage in a woman is very laudable, it remains the case that a woman gets a pass if, threatened by some danger, she screams for help, whereas as man would not be excused for that. But of course … well, come to that, let me put it as a question: is there any stereotypically gendered trait that is considered to be a positive vice in one sex while being a positive virtue in the other? For example whereas we might expect more patience with children as a female virtue, would it be considered a vice in men? I don’t think so.

        “Speaking as a man”


        • Bubblecar says

          “We are designed for different roles”

          Well we’re not actually designed at all, we’re products of natural selection, which is purely a process of cause and effect. To the extent that we’re sexually dimorphic, we’ve inherited this from a long line of earlier species, who were less resourceful than us and not able to create the kind of civilization in which people are free to pursue “roles” of their choice.

          “For example, whereas courage in a woman is very laudable, it remains the case that a woman gets a pass if, threatened by some danger, she screams for help, whereas as man would not be excused for that.”

          Yes but that’s largely a cultural thing, reinforced by popular entertainment aimed at very unsophisticated tastes. In real life men often shy away from danger and will sensibly yell for help in many circumstances.


          Yes, a large man with a large beard.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


            “Well we’re not actually designed at all”

            Ok, but it is permissible to use that word. Birds are designed to fly, etc.

            “Yes but that’s largely a cultural thing, reinforced by popular entertainment aimed at very unsophisticated tastes.”

            True enough. What is bothersome to we conservatives (anyone not PC) is that the progressives are telling us that the differences are 100% social construction and it becomes a sort of contest of one unreasonable statement designed to quench another unreasonable statement. I fall into it myself. If and when all the rhetoric and politics falls away, we might one day see how much of us is cultural vs. how much is genetic. But the data that’s coming in seems to suggest that the answer is mostly genetic. Further, even to the extent that it is cultural, I don’t trust the current crop of social engineers to improve us (men).

          • E. Olson says

            And why are women given a pass on the courage thing by cultural norms and socialization? Could it be because if the thing requiring courage is a threat from a much stronger/bigger man, mad dog, hungry lion, angry bear, wild pig, etc. that weaker (on average) women are going to come out of the confrontation on the losing end more often than not? Could it be that losing a fertile womb in a fight with a man, dog, lion, bear, or pig would be much more of a loss to society than losing a functioning sperm donor? And could it be that the flight or fight differences in genders is actually hard-wired into the brain after thousands of generations of natural selection for traits that benefit society, so we actually can’t just teach women to be as brave as men?

          • Bubblecar says

            @ E.Olsen

            “after thousands of generations of natural selection for traits that benefit society”

            That’s not how natural selection works. It works on traits that benefit individuals, in the sense of enabling them to pass on their genes.

            Sometimes being exceptionally brave might give you a better chance of passing on your genes (whether you’re male or female), but avoiding unnecessary danger (and teaching your young to do the same) is generally a more successful strategy.

            This is why we give out Darwin Awards to people who die as a result of taking foolhardy risks – by removing their genes from the pool, they’re demonstrating “natural selection” at work.

            As I said, it’s certainly true that human sexual dimorphism in general goes way back in our pre-human evolutionary ancestry, but that mean we’re looking at a legacy of sexual differences that are essentially very primitive.

            The fact that men are still prone to physical aggression doesn’t actually benefit us. We need soldiers and police to protect us for the unfortunate reason that there is still a lot of destructive aggression out there. We’d be better off if men (and humans in general) were less prone to violence. Around 100 million people died in the two world wars of the last century – that’s a pretty poor reflection on human nature as it’s currently constructed.

          • E. Olson says

            Bubblecar – you wrote: “This is why we give out Darwin Awards to people who die as a result of taking foolhardy risks – by removing their genes from the pool, they’re demonstrating “natural selection” at work.”

            This is precisely my point. Brave 5’1 120 lb women who battle 6’1 220 lb men are unlikely to survive and pass down their “bravery” genes, so only the meek women move ahead and likely choose to mate with big strong brave men who can protect them and their children, while meek men end up not passing their genes.

          • Bubblecar says


            Realistically, I don’t think “bravery” is a trait that can be meaningfully traced in the evolutionary record, since it’s a subjective ethical judgment. We’re really talking about a higher degree of physical aggression and risk-taking. Even amongst our ancestors, there would have been an upper limit where such traits become self-defeating, and that’s very obviously the case today.

          • E. Olson says

            Bubblecar – bravery is almost certainly linked to levels of male and female hormones, so “butch” women who act brave and get killed for their trouble won’t pass on the genetics that gave them more male hormones than their more feminine counterparts. Weak men with low male hormones are also unlikely to be chosen for mating purposes, and hence their less masculine genes also don’t get passed own.

          • Bubblecar says


            Hmm, seems you’re referring to people you don’t personally like and saying: “These people don’t actually exist, because earlier in our evolution, their genes weren’t passed on.”

            A bit pointless but since it cheers you up, I’ll leave you to it 🙂

      • Bubblecar says

        Not being American or an educator, I don’t know what can be done about the negative aspects of US black ghetto culture and how they impinge on education. Presumably the schools are doing what they can with the limited resources at their disposal, and I’d imagine some schools and some teachers are more successful than others.

        The writer of this article seems well-intentioned but admits she was wasting her time, which may be due in part to being of limited competence and poorly suited to the job – she mentions various other teachers who were more successful than herself.

        The Right love to moan but as I pointed out, your man is in power and he doesn’t inspire much confidence. Ditto your academics and wannabe-intellectuals in here and Breitbart etc. If all the left-leaning teachers and school admins were kicked out and replaced by your people, I find it hard to imagine that you’d do a better job.

        • Kencathedrus says

          @Bubblecar: I used to work in a system like this and felt very much like the author. Black students suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations which further fuels their hatred of schools and learning. The most annoying aspect of this was not the students themselves, but the institution which pandered to the students. As a teacher this completely undermines your authority, a quality that is absolutely crucial to effective teaching. You can’t teach children well unless you know that your decisions will be respected by the institution. Once the students know that the administration is not on your side, your days as a teacher are numbered.

          I don’t see this as a Left/Right thing – it depends on your personal view of people: they are either victims of social injustice or captains of their destiny. I prefer the latter.

  58. amos farrell says

    Good article, but you seem not to recognize that the system you describe is extremely well designed and highly successful. 95% of its ”graduates’ will vote democrat.

    • George G says

      @amos farrell

      I was thinking the same, the system is functioning exactly as intend, and working perfectly.
      It’s only dysfunctional if you (wrongly) thought the purpose of these schools was too educate. see @ Rev. Wazoo! comment above

  59. j bailey says

    I was kind of surprised at the end.., at the way Ms. Bailey appears to let the students off the hook so readily.
    The simple fact is that acquiring an education requires hard work on the part of the student. If the student won’t work.., nothing else matters.
    It seems clear that there is nothing anyone in the educational system can do to change the fact that many students do not want to do the work required. The only thing that can change this is a change in the family and community environment in which these students live.
    Unless that can be changed, everything else is a waste of time and money

    • Foyle says

      Military seem very able to enforce conformity to orders using escalating sanctions. Why are schools incapable of it? Obviously because they are not granted the same powers. Perhaps they should be.

  60. Steve says

    “After the terrible 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a number of Haitians joined the school. These youngsters were remarkable for their good manners and desire to learn, for their outstanding gentility in fact. They provided a most refreshing change, but it didn’t last. They quickly fell into the trap of hostile resistance.”

    So the Haitian kids displayed a civilized veneer — for short time. What about Vietnamese or Cambodian immigrants in a similar situation? Do their good manners and desire to learn collapse shortly after being exposed to such a toxic culture? Or do they instead strive to do well academically despite the presence of so many uncivilized kids? I know from personal experience that kids from Nigeria and Kenya that come here are often extremely good students and generally decent people all around. Then again, the ones I know have been immersed primarily in white culture here, not ghetto culture. I don’t know what would happen to the successful Kenyan girl whom I know had she been dumped into one of these schools instead of placed into an upper middle class white one.

    Seriously, I’m actually curious about how immigrant Asian kids do in predominantly black schools. I’m not particularly racist (other than to the extent every human being is, inherently) but the older I get the more it seems certain predilections and traits have a solid racial component.

    • Larry Elder, a black conservative lawyer and radio host describes the library in his Los Angeles neighborhood. Outside on the sidewalk are black kids doing skateboard tricks while inside the library are Korean mothers standing over their kids studying.

    • Saw file says

      Yep, my family adopted a ‘Vietnamese boat person”
      He is my brother and I would kill for him…

  61. Francisco d'Anconio says

    Great article but horrible title. This is not a secret at all. We all know every bit of this, maybe not the ugly details, but we all know there are topics that shall not be discussed, and this is at the top of the list. What good could surfacing this topic bring? None. There is simply no point in trying to discuss this topic. Occasionally we hear this country need to have a discussion, but then we remember a “discussion” means sitting quietly while being reprimanded and rebuked.

  62. I’m unconvinced. I encountered the “ethos of rejection” – students who not only aren’t there to learn, they are there to prevent others from learning – in an almost entirely white school in Midwestern America. I don’t think the cause is racial politics. I also rarely encountered that attitude with special education students; you seem to have identified the symptoms but misidentified the cause.

  63. WestPADude says

    If you think this is an “urban” matter, then come out here to try and teach the ignorant white trash junkies that infest rural Western PA and see if they are any better.

    • E. Olson says

      Low IQ, single parent households, drug dependent families, inability/unwillingness to discipline for bad behavior, and lack of administrative support for teachers are color blind when it comes to school performance.

  64. Anonymous says

    I taught in the NYC public school system for a year in a school similar to Washington Irving – and I can attest to the accuracy of everything in the article. It is not exaggerated – I saw all of it.

    I was fired for refusing to kiss the ass of a corrupt principal. Also, there is plenty of money corruption, too. They force you to order textbooks from “preferred vendors” at vastly inflated prices – obviously, there are bureaucrats collecting kickbacks and bribes from the textbook vendors to make this happen.

    Violent incidents in the classroom are often covered up and unreported by corrupt principals looking to present a fake, rosy picture of their school to the outside world – I personally witnessed that.

    Having worked on Wall Street as well – I’ll say that even the corruption of Wall Street is no match.

  65. Its sad that this woman had a failed career and deteriorating mental state, but to go and publish an essay blaming her failures on young people is shameful.

    • Martin Lawford says

      Upon whom will those young people blame their failures? Most likely, on her.

    • Anonymous says

      She actually did not do what you claim she did. Reread the article – you failed to understand.

    • Her failure was being an idealistic young person who thought education could solve societies problems. Teach for America chews up these young suckers at an amazing clip.

      For the bottom of the bell curve you need to apply harsh discipline backed by capital punishment. What comes out on the other side will likely be little more than slightly more diligent menial laborers, but hey it beats the alternative of an entirely feral underclass. Nice White Ladies aren’t the kind of people that are going to be able to run that sort of school well.

  66. Brooklyn Tech was different because it is a magnet school. People test to get in. As a result all the low IQ people have been removed.

    This is, BTW, the only way to pick out those few people from the ghetto that are genetically gifted enough to rise above their surroundings, provided you separate them from their surroundings and stick them with the other people with similar ability.

    That was the original purpose of IQ testing. To find the diamonds in the rough and GET THEM OUT.

    Unfortunately, the specialized high schools in NYC are under attack because the IQ test that creates that student body that allows them to be so successful is…too damn Asian.

    • E. Olson says

      ASDF: Very good comment, and absolutely correct. The military were big early users of IQ tests to find the diamonds that would be good candidates for officer school.

  67. Pingback: Public Education’s Dirty Secret | Sassy Wire

  68. Anonymous says

    In addition to all the other problems accurately presented here and discussed in the comments – it is also worth noting that there used to be a system of trade schools which was decimated by the destruction of industry in the USA.

    For example, New York used to be filled with garment factories which have since all moved to Asia.
    Historically, there existed MANY trade schools which produced skilled workers for this industry – and now those are gone. Same thing for other industries.

    Even a kid who is not smart enough to do proofs in Euclidean Geometry can sense that the bureaucrats who claim that he needs to do this are totally full of manure.

  69. Craig WIllms says

    Ms. Hudson – wow, I knew it was bad, but not that bad. You are a saint.

    My daughter is a kindergarten teacher in a suburb of a major city and the same mentality exists there. She had one student who was disruptive and violent (this is kindergarten!!) and the administration would do nothing.

    My daughter was successful in getting an independent audit of her classroom. The auditor didn’t last one day and informed the administration the child needed to be removed. They did nothing. The child was a minority in a predominantly white school, nothing was going to be done.

    The system is broken.

  70. Alex Bensky says

    School choice likely wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

    In the last couple of years I have substitute taught part-time in a couple of sort of mediocre suburban Detroit systems. Each is about thirty percent black and almost all of those students are from outside the district under the state’s “schools of choice” program. The saving grace is that because of the demography the black kids who want to learn can sometimes do so although I have learned that there is pressure from other black kids (“students” isn’t really accurate) even so.

    In one district the middle school is simply impossible and I only go there for special ed classes, which are tolerable and there’s always an aide or two. Otherwise, I never had control of the classes. I don’t mean it was hard to get control and I might lose it; I mean I never felt I had any control at all. I am a reasonably experienced sub and at least competent, by the way.

    Something interesting happens when they get to high school. In middle school the misbehavior–not that the non-black kids don’t ever misbehave–is both sexes and if anything the boys are worse…the girls will just chat among themselves oblivious to any lesson and the boys will run around the room and such.

    By high school it’s reversed. Some of the boys don’t come–I see a kid look in the room, see me in front of the class rather than the regular teacher, and disappear. Good, one less problem, I mark him absent. But those who stay will usually just stare into space or whatever. The girls…the polite term is “sassy” and the more accurate term is “rude and uncontrollable.” Attempts to get them engaged in the lesson are usually bootless and frankly, if they were quiet enough so I could conduct a lesson I’d let well enough alone.

    Something else about middle and high school black girls–they are very much into designer labels, and will wear the most flashy and garish clothing as long as it has the designer or company’s name. I remember a company called “Pink” was very popular.

    I should emphasize that I did come across black kids who were bright, well-behaved, managed to learn something, and I think will do well, despite the pressure from their peers.

    Here’s a point I think is important: This is not an inner-city school. These students have parents–usually a parent–who at least cared enough about their education to do more than just push them out the door in the direction of the local school. And…again, with exceptions…it’s like this.

    I finally decided not to put more of an effort than was reasonable…I eventually decided I’m just here for the day and it’s frankly undignified for me…and it should be to them…to have to badger them into doing something that is in their own bests interests.

  71. Alas Skittish to State My Name says

    This comports with my experience as a teacher in urban New York City and California public schools. Also, now as a career counselor, a number of my clients who are or have been teachers in such schools have echoed similar sentiments. One gave me a book written by a teacher in an Oakland CA public school that had to be self-published because no publisher would touch it although they said it was very good and powerful. The title was something like “Honky White Bitch.” Under pressure, she removed it from publication. And years ago, I received an anonymous article in the mail describing a similar state of affairs in a high school in the Southeast.

    Yet if one were to make an assessment of teaching in “gritty” neighborhoods as portrayed in the major media, you’d get a very different picture: well behaved kids, eagerly raising their hands to participate in discussions, making intelligent comments. The only criticism given is that those schools need more money–even though the U.S. already spends #1 or #2 in the world per capita on K-12 education yet ranks near the bottom of developed nations.

    The question: What to do—re the schools. Re large and accelerating media bias.

  72. Marcus Clintonius says

    I think a real fix to the problem would have to specifically EXCLUDE the viewpoints of ALL of the people that compose the system: teachers, teachers unions, and administrators etc.
    THEY are the ones who have created this mess.
    A true repairing has to come from completely outside the academic-industrial complex, imo.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Marcus Clintonius: that’s already been tried. Many schools have adopted a business model rather than an educational one. This has resulted in the financial hollowing of schools and colleges while the administrative leadership (usually people with non-education backgrounds) receive ever-higher salaries.

  73. Marcus Clintonius says

    Tough to read through this. But I really don’t think the author has reached the correct understanding of the situation:

    “Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less capable? It makes perfect psychological sense. Being very young, however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and their teachers.”

    It’s almost as if she herself has bought into the rationalizations. I’m reminded of what the liberal Samaritan said upon finding the victim of a mugging on the road who had been horribly beaten:

    “We have to find the person that did this! He needs our help!”

  74. Ounce Peterson says

    I’ve been reading accounts like this on anonymous teacher blogs for many years. It’s nice to get it out in the open in a venue like Quillette.

    • Mary Issa Racist says

      the president has empowered us to be more vocal and visible with our racism! #MAGA

  75. Shaqattaq32 says

    This was terrific. I felt worst for the Haitians who showed up enthusiastic to learn and were quickly disabused of the notion by the other students.

    It’s clear that the politicians and the administrators have created that problem, and sadly, that nobody is proposing anything to solve it.

    • E. Olson says

      Shaq – actually the politicians and administrators do have lots of proposals to solve this problem: more money for education, smaller classes, more administrative help, more money, nicer schools, better IT equipment for students, more money, more administration, more “woke” course materials, more money…

  76. Morgan Foster says

    Ultimately, any solution will have to include an acceptance that some children have to be left behind.

  77. Nate D. says

    Perhaps you break the school system up into two systems:
    1) a daycare system where students that don’t want to learn can be spoonfed industrial technologies and home economics. Lots of hands-on stuff and learn-at-your-own-pace workshops. You can graduate and your degree notes the classes you attended.
    2) A traditional high school for kids that actually want to learn. If you’re disruptive or apathetic to the learning environment (don’t do homework, etc.) you’re sent to the daycare.

    • Somewoman says

      Agree with Nate and this is kind of what goes on in nyc these days. The black areas have regular schools for the typical kids and then charter schools where kids that really want to learn can focus without degenerates constantly undermining them. Schools like success academy and harlem children zone don’t select based on intelligence- they just select those willing to sit down, come to class and learn. Maybe this model should be replicated through more of the country.

      Also agree that we should be honest about the courses the regular ghetto kids took in high school. A lot of them do nothing but the standardized curriculum forces the city to pretend they passed to the next grade. Reality is that If kids need to take remedial math 6 years in a row, they should be able to and even encouraged to and we all should be transparent about what they did.

    • Fed up says

      I appreciate your sarcasm, but this is actually an excellent idea. Invest in a separate, vocational school system that stresses basic literacy and mathematical/scientific competency and teaches courses that lead to certificates in areas such as hospitality, food service, building maintenance, warehouse operations, etc. I know “VOTECH” schools already exist, and that regular public schools have career track programs; but an actual parallel vocational system, capable of accommodating 50 percent of the school aged children within each district would be amazing. Stop pissing away money on “culturally appropriate” programs that serve literally no one.

  78. Pingback: The hell of being a French teacher at a NAM school in NYC | Lion of the Blogosphere

  79. John S says

    “when a student misbehaves, it is never the student’s fault.”

    There are so many lies in our toxic education culture, but this is the most poisonous of them all.

    And we wonder why these kids grow up and don’t seem to have any sense of responsibility. How could they, when no adult ever holds them accountable?

    • Kencathedrus says

      @John S: I worked at a school like this. I lasted a year before I moved on.

  80. While there’s no easy solution, I think a path out of the mess begins with a new theory of how education could work, and to gradually improve that theory by learning and teaching it together. Luckily (and thankfully) we don’t need to invent this from whole cloth, as it has been around for a while in the teachings of Dr. W.E. Deming.

    However, this requires a brave few to pick up the theory, learn it well, and begin the work of continual (/not/ continuous) improvement. It’s been done before, by David Langford in the 1980s. It can be done again.

  81. Great article, but I disagree with the ending. As a refugee from former Yugoslavia, I was thrown into an inner city “ghetto” high school and have witnessed firsthand the type of behavior described in the article above. I literally learned more in bomb shelters in Sarajevo than I did at this inner city public school. This was a huge cultural shock to me, the fact that these kids, who were given all these resources (TV in every classroom, free supplies, free meals etc.) would actively sabotage their chances at success. The complete lack of intellectual curiosity / capacity was astounding. The issue goes way beyond few bad apples, the issue is cultural. There was a complete lack of interest in academics or any intellectual pursuit. It was as if I was transported to some alien planet. Not sure how you would fix this this, but I suspect having an honest discussion about issues we face would be a good start. Living in a PC la-la wonderland and ignoring the current state of inner city schools does not help anyone.

  82. Lert345 says

    I have a friend who worked in a school like this. She lasted four weeks.

    Many kids come from community cultures and family structures that do not promote academic achievement. Let’s publically make peace with facts we cannot change. How about we lower the age at which children can legally work, say to 12-13 years, and let them exit an environment they do not wish to be in?

    Their mothers (the fathers are likely non-existent) can deal with them at home or send them out to a job involving light safe labor where they can earn money and be productive

  83. cjcmay says

    The Inverse Square Law of Teaching says that the amount of sense that a person talks on the subject of teaching is inversely proportional to the square of their distance from actually doing it.

  84. Pagent says

    Well this article certainly ripped that old band aid right off. I cannot help but sense there is an enormous cultural zit that is about to be popped and articles and trails of comments like this seem to be symptomatic of the impeding bursting of the progressive bubble.

    Why do I believe this? Because with increasing frequency it seems that sensible middle of the road people are speaking up in plain English about the societal distortions being visited upon them. Even reading slightly or greatly left leaning publications, in Canada in particular, we are seeing a lot of pushback to the progressive narrative and its not just some phantom troll army.

    In fact its a given that CBC won’t even allow comments on any article or topic that might be considered too progressive. They just cut off comments pre-emptively assuming it seems, that the inevitable dog pile of comments might throw shade on their narrative.

    It warms my heart to see your average citizen sit up and say, “That makes no sense whatsoever”.

  85. @Steve

    You ask about immigrant Asian kids in predominantly Black schools. I taught in an urban high school for twelve years. It was mostly Black with about 10% Hispanic and other immigrants. The students from China, Guinea, Iraq, D.R., Haiti, etc. were diligent and respectful, as were many of the Black students. I once asked a senior in my homeroom what the most important factor for student success was. She wisely took a few days to ruminate and then answered with one word:
    “Family.” She went to Johns Hopkins and became an actuary. There were many capable, dedicated teachers, but far too many administrators. The biggest problem was a constant shift from one new educational fad to another.

    Worth reading: “Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape From the Crowd” by Thomas Chatterton Williams

  86. As a teacher in an urban district, I have the same experience. I can’t write about it though because I haven’t quit yet and if I did, I could get sued, and I need my job. I’ve worked longer than the author.

    My own experience is actually worse than hers, but I too see fabulous teachers all over. I’ve been livid at the bipartisan attack on teaching. Just walk a single day in my shoes. A single day.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @ d

      “Just walk a single day in my shoes. A single day.”

      Are you insane? I’d rather die.

      • I’m a single mom and need the money. I’m in my 50s and no one would hire me anywhere else. Flipping burgers would be safer but wouldn’t pay my rent.

        I do like helping the kids. I also have better control of the class than the author–I’m stricter and meaner and my kids are generally fairly orderly in my class. Although they do things that would make your jaw drop for sure. I’m also “nicer,” in that I invest in candy and give it out as rewards for work. This may not sound believable, but it works quite well. I also take their lives seriously, and we talk a lot; many come to my room during lunch or after school just to talk.

        The worst part about the job is always the state, politicians, and the administration. Administration controls the climate of the school; the state issues top down decrees, such as arbitrary limits to suspensions that make for horrible behavior (i had to go to the hospital three times last year).

        Kafkaesque incidents aside, there are positives to the job, primarily the kids. The author is also handicapped in that she was a French teacher; the subject itself is going to be difficult to teach. I teach English and can encourage them with stories they write, diary entries, poetry, reading good books. It’s more amenable to the kids. I’m fortunate in that I am not micromanaged as far as what I teach. So far.

        I disagree with the author that the solution is so simple. It’s far more complex than holding higher standards for the kids. There are many many factors involved here.

        • “(i had to go to the hospital three times last year).”

          Yeah, that’s what I thought. Its going to be hard to pay your rent and look after your kid if they break your spine next time one of them has a “moment.” Lose any teeth yet?

          If I was working somewhere that got me put in hospital THREE TIMES in one year… actually I can’t imagine it because I’d have been out the door and into the frozen dark the first time. Three times in one year is mental illness territory.

          “I do like helping the kids.”

          They are using you for a damn punching bag. Might be time to examine those life choices, and downsize the apartment.

          Remember, nobody -has- to be a teacher.

  87. John Brown says

    Our public schools have been destroyed by The Democrat party, their corrupt Teachers unions, and their politics and ideology of identity politics and victimhood. For children to learn in a public school you have to have discipline. Rules and routines that are enforced. When that goes the rest doesn’t matter as this article so eloquently points out. Worse, its not just the schools folks. Its our entire society the Filthy lying Democrats and their fake news media have contaminated, and its getting worse. My own youngest sister grew up in Colorado where the situation was, and still is not at the level of Democrat controlled NYC and NY State, but its bad. The Democrats don’t care because these students are going to end up on welfare voting for Democrats which is exactly where the Democrat want them as they stoke their feelings of hate and victimhood higher and higher to hold onto those votes. These are the people who support Ocasio-Cortez and her lunatic communist vision of America because they don’t know any better and they’ve been taught their entire lives to play the victim and blame someone else because they don’t have a good job, or are the next Bill Gates. Democrats nearly destroyed our nation under Obama. He and the Democrats made everything worse, and now they are fighting President Trump tooth and nail not to make America great again, but to reinforce what we just read in this article. A country filled with victims, misery, and intolerance all stoked by the Democrat party and the Fake News Media to gain an hold political power.

  88. Somewoman says

    I am an adult who was bussed an hour away from my house for school due to desegregation efforts in the south. I can tell you a lot about what the kids we were bussed to were like.

    And now I’ve had to move 1 hour away from nyc to a suburb with good schools to avoid the bad school districts in nyc. (I can’t afford to live near good schools in nyc).

    But I can tell you this. I completely oppose school choice that will allow kids from bad performing towns into my town. I don’t want their behavior anywhere near my kids even if those are the “good” kids from the bad part of the county. I support schools like kipp and success academies which allow the motivated students to be separated from the delinquents in a low performing area, but those schools allow for all the students to stay near their own homes.

    I will vote against school choice every time if that choice involves any students from Newark coming to the schools of millburn.

  89. “Why do precious few adults admit the truth out loud? Because in America the taboo against questioning the current orthodoxy on race is too strong and the price is too high.”

    This is commonly called I think, the “Spiral of Silence”…

  90. There is a solution to this, as a parent. That is called Home Schooling. This is the solution where Mom and Dad teach Johnny to read, write, count, and ultimately do calculus, computer programming and English literature.

    The key thing to keep in mind is that even if all you teach Johnny is manners, personal hygiene and how to show up on time for an interview, that boy will be MILES ahead of every other kid his age in the public system. The other kids have been trained -backwards- to make them utterly unemployable.

    Another huge advantage specifically for girls is that they won’t get raped at 12 and pregnant at 14 by “classmates.”

    Anyone who cares a single damn about their child is doing this already.

    Important datum to know, school board budgets are based on HEADCOUNT. You take your kid out of school, they lose about $10k worth of state and federal funding. Take a thousand kids out, that’s ten million bucks. Imagine the consternation at the NYC school board if an entire racial group, Asians for example, threatened to pull all their kids out.

    So if Johnny and Janey sit safe at home all day, supervised by Mom and/or Dad, and all they do is watch TV and play on the Internet, they are getting a better education than the kid in school. If they spend a couple hours a week on Kahn Academy online, which is -free,- then they will be getting what those super duper Charter Schools are offering.

    The future of the public school system is going to be home school for the future winners in society, warehousing and jail for the losers. How it is now pretty much, just harder and faster as things keep sliding down hill.

    If Johnny’s Mom’s a drunk and his Dad was a one-night stand, Johnny is going to have to do it himself. In other news, life is hard then you die and they throw dirt on you.

    • Somewoman says

      How is homeschooling even a relevant consideration for these cases? Why would you believe the parents of the children described in the article were capable of educating their own children? Common sense dictates that the worst thing for those kids would be to leave all their learning to their own parents.

      • jaelynn'sha says

        It’s not a relevant concern, that guy is talking out his ass. Public schools are already expected to stand in for the inept parents and somehow reconstruct an entire upbringing during a series of 6-hour sessions that are already overbooked with busy work, clumsy “Common Core” pedagogy, and propaganda developed and disseminated by a certain small population that we’re not allowed to name because it would be anti-s*mitic.

        The sad truth is that by the time a high school public teacher inherits the kids, they’re already ruined. If by some chance they’re not, there are legions of well-meaning but fundamentally retarded “woke” losers who think their Foucault- and Derrida-fueled delusions have any value in the face of a tooth-sucking homeboy wearing uncreased Nikes and an afro pick.

      • “Why would you believe the parents of the children described in the article were capable of educating their own children?”

        Because if the parents do NOTHING the child will be better off than they are attending school. The school actually harms the children and destroys their capacity to learn.

        I can hire a polite, willing young person to answer the phone and take messages at my company, even if that person has no skills beyond basic reading and writing. I can’t hire a jackass with no manners and a bad attitude that only shows up when they feel like it. And who still can’t read or write.

        “Common sense dictates that the worst thing for those kids would be to leave all their learning to their own parents.”

        That, tragically, is not true. The worst thing for them is to be abandoned by parents and school both, which is what’s going on right now.

        You are operating under a very common worldview: “People are stupid, they have to be controlled.” That’s socialism once you strip away all the trappings. Control the stupid.

        News flash, it doesn’t work. The stupid cannot be controlled by government institutions. They can wreck anything. What controls stupid people is hunger, cold and disease. It is remarkable how fast even a stupid man or woman will square up and get a grip when the alternative is starvation in the snow.

  91. Morgan Foster says

    One of my nephews is expecting his first child this summer.

    The next time I see him I hope to convince him to start putting money aside for private schooling, from pre-school.

    I hope to impress upon him – and his wife – the immense importance of not exposing this child to a public school classroom.

    They are living in Atlanta, so the situation is rather urgent.

    • Somewoman says

      Why private schools? The problem with private schools is that you don’t actually know how well they teach. I went to a private school that was very bad, but had convinced my mother that it was very dedicated. You may assume the private school is good because the families attending are slightly more affluent. But maybe it isn’t. Sometimes they just appear like good schools because the student body is a bit affluent.

      If in Atlanta, It would be better to move to a good school district in Marietta (near Walton high) or lilburn. You can still go to private school if needed but if the money ever gets tight, at least the public schools have dedicated student bodies. The good thing about Atlanta is that the best public school districts in the atl suburbs have affordable homes. Not like where I live near nyc.

    • Lightning Rose says

      We have a private “Country Day” school here. For boys only. All of the little lads go to school in a button-down Oxford shirt, blue blazer and khakis and a businesslike haircut. I see them all the time in the deli down the road. They have lovely, polite manners, hold doors for their elders, and will very likely be the next generation of lawyers, bankers and CEO’s. No “personal expression” clothing, no smutty talk, and no defying the teachers allowed.

      If I had a son, that’s where he’d be going to school.

  92. david of Kirkland says

    Acting white, talking white and other “cultural” expressions speak volumes.
    One size does not fit all.
    Public schools are truly socialism, and they suffer due to this structure. There is simply no private sector or public sector “business” that can survive if it’s a coercive monopoly. There’s no need to innovate, no need to think of what’s best going forward rather than repeating what they did last year, etc.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      None of this makes sense. There are plenty of businesses that survive as monopolies – it’s actually the ultimate goal if you want to control a market. And school are constantly innovating.

      You clearly are not in education. Or business, apparently.

    • Lightning Rose says

      “Cultural expressions speak volumes.” Yes, and it was a sorry day when the Left, personified by Barack Obama, embraced gangbanger-ghetto “culture” as something “empowering” and acceptable. How the blazing hell is making pimps, dope dealers, rapists and hookers “role models” even REMOTELY okay? And yet we wonder why inner-city schools are the way they are?

      Rap. Music.

  93. @C Young

    You send us to:

    in which we read:

    “ethnic minority pupils have greater ambition, aspiration and work harder in school… London has more of these pupils and so has a higher average GCSE score than the rest of the country.” He says that white British pupils, generally the lowest performing ethnic group at school, make up just 36 per cent of the children studying in London, against 84 per cent in the rest of England. “The basis for [London’s] success,” he concludes, “lies more with pupils and parents than it does with policymakers.”

    Clearly, this is not a problem explained by racial difference; it is the culture in which the child is raised. African immigrant students in my urban high school were baffled by the American Black culture.

    • What I know from school systems in Kenya: rather hierarchical and authoritarian, school uniforms uptil university, respect for teachers, but dogmatic and scholarly education. I can believe that such students are baffled, the more so, where they see the US as a rich and well organised nation, far ahead of their own country. Most probably, they want to forget soon what they see, and direct their attention on the more positive education systems.

    • C Young says

      What’s not mentioned in that piece is the fact that many London schools have recently introduced very strict standards and very heavy security. My local high school is patrolled by large men in uniform. Anyone who steps out of line is punished until either they stop, or they are expelled from the school.

  94. Esteban Cafe says

    Ah, the soft bigotry of lowered expectations…perilous delivery by the armies of compassion.

  95. Seriously? says

    A person who is paid on the taxation of others to provide a public service and admits that they COULD NOT do the job but kept taking their paycheck for YEARS and doesn’t think the employees were the problem is a bigger problem than this run-on sentence and its poor punctuation.

    • Somewoman says

      She couldn’t do the job because the students refused to learn. She’s not at fault for what they refused to do and no one but her is claiming she couldn’t do the job.

      Blaming her for her students failing is like blaming the oncologist who attends to pancreatic cancer because none of his patients survive.

      • Mary Issa Racist says

        mary is a racist. the kids knew that about her that’s why they “refused to learn.” why learn from a white lady who feels comfortable enough to use the n-word?

        • Morgan Foster says

          @Mary Issa Racist

          I hope you continue to use this handle when you comment on other articles in Quillette.

          Diversity of view is welcome here, and I, for one, enjoy keeping it real, if you know what I mean.

  96. Marcus Clintonius says

    I think the “original sin” of our education paradigm that is at the root of most if not all of the symptoms is this:

    the belief that absent all environmental factors, people of all races and both sexes would be equally competent in all fields of knowledge (and abilities).
    This is the lie that MUST be accepted, that CANNOT be questioned (to do so elicits career suicide).

    All of the problems can be traced in one way or another to a policy put in place to support this lie.

    The solution is, actually, really simply: meritocracy.
    No social engineering. No race-tracking.

    Let all children/students pursue the interests that naturally invite them. They will almost always gravitate towards the ones that they are best at.

    All efforts to ensure that every endeavor, every field of study, will be proportionally represented by the demographics of the community can only have one outcome: Continued lowering of standards. The only way for an equal outcome is for everyone to perform at the lowest level.

  97. Inconvenient Commenter says

    “Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them.”

    How, pray tell, is the writer able to read the minds of these pupils to see that this is “the reason” for their behavior? I submit that she can’t read their minds. Rather – having just graphically described how (contrary to the official myths) the problem with American inner city education is not a lack of money or poor teachers but the attitude of the students – she desperately scurries back into the p.c. fold, like a bug fleeing the light, by throwing out some bullshit, grievance-studies-generated theory that the problem is, after all, really the fault of the unnamed larger, majority-white (for the time being), society – not the fault of the minority families and communities in which these students have been socialized.

    • ga gamba says

      Assuming companies will still use merit-based hiring.

      The progressive intersectionalists assert this is one of the worst and most immoral things a company may do.

  98. Bernard Watson says

    Certain details in your touching essay suggest you’re something of an old fashioned humanist intellectual. I’m going to guess that some of the exceptional teachers you describe were too, but had a certain charisma combined with a willingness to dumb things down to engage kids (e.g. the teacher who ran the “fashion show”). But by and large the culture of teaching isn’t compatible with that. Teachers who get certified in schools of education are encouraged to think of themselves primarily as social workers and, as other commenters have pointed out, advocates of social justice. The more ambitious teachers will consider themselves intellectuals too, but either as learning theorists (“expert” in things like social-emotional learning or “grit”) or Gramscian organic intellectuals (of whom Paolo Freire is the godfather). Right or wrong, that’s the state of the art, and as some commenters here have also pointed out, that’s not going to change.

    I don’t know what you’re doing now, but if you want to try high school teaching again I’d recommend an independent or parochial school. You’ll find a lot of contemporary social justice orthodoxy among colleagues and administrators there too, but it’ll be tempered somewhat by a parent and student clientele that takes academic learning more seriously (even if mainly as a pathway to a good college).

  99. Freddy_M says

    Except RS is not proposing creating concentration camps, genocide or invading other countries. From what she/he has written, the person would not be impacted except for the fact they could only have one child.

    While I am not convinced of this plan, I do share the frustration of the schools mentioned in the article. I do not have a solution.

  100. jaelynn'sha says

    You would benefit from a trip outside your Westchester mansion, even if it means walking through the projects en route to the private club. If anything, a solid “Shut up and learn something, you stupid lazy nigger” would spur them to action more than any amount of hand-wringing and Jews pushing the “evil whitey oppresses you” myth. Except the former is illegal to say and the latter is rapidly becoming illegal to question.

        • Morgan Foster says

          @Mary Issa Racist

          Wait a minute. You’re Mary Issa Racist. Who is Mary Issa Racistfeld?

        • jaelynn'sha says

          That’s acceptable to me. You clearly don’t have enough knowledge or experience to look past the rudimentary “oppressor vs. oppressed” dichotomy. You’re just not good enough, sorry.

          It’s been a growing problem since the WASPs abdicated and the Jews ascended in the post-War time. Trusting an extremely tribal, suspicious, and nepotistic cabal that practices genital blood sacrifice and has no concept of community fellowship. What could possibly have gone wrong?

          Perhaps it’s time for “it” to happen here. I’m prepared to look the other way.

  101. Yup… nothing newsworthy here… it’s good to point these things out though. Maybe if ennough people read these sorts of article it will sink in.

  102. thousandleaves says

    I was quite sympathetic to the author’s travails, though as several commenters mentioned, there are a number of conclusions and interpretations that do not follow as logically as the author would like.

    One troubling point that I don’t believe anyone else has mentioned: the author referred to a book that she considered obscene and racist that was being taught in ‘language arts’ class. While her description does not match exactly, it is quite possible that she was referring to ‘Push,’ by Sapphire.

    If so, her dismissal of the book as being unworthy may be unfortunate. The works of Shakespeare in its time was considered generally fit only for the vulgar, unwashed rabble that thronged to the theater.

    • K. Dershem says

      Some of the comments in this thread are clearly racist, but the original article doesn’t attribute the bad behavior of students to innate genetic differences. The author is arguing that the inner-city communities where she taught suffer from profoundly dysfunctional and deeply entrenched cultural pathologies. Even the best teachers are unable to overcome the challenge of dealing with young people who lack the desire and discipline to learn. It’s racist to claim that people of African descent are incapable of succeeding in school because they’re genetically inferior to other population groups. It’s not racist to recognize that certain subcultures are vicious and self-destructive, contributing to conditions in schools that make learning nearly impossible. Society can’t successfully address the problem of failing schools unless we accurately identify its causes.

      • somewoman says

        “It’s racist to claim that people of African descent are incapable of succeeding in school because they’re genetically inferior to other population groups. ”

        You call it racist, but is it untrue? Well, to claim all people of african descent were incapable of succeeding in school would be demonstrably false, but to hypothesize that on average they will be significantly less capable due to innate differences?

        • K. Dershem says

          It could be true, but it certainly hasn’t been demonstrated — there are too many confounding environmental factors. Some commenters seem to assume racial inferiority and conclude that any effort to address the problem of failing schools in majority-black neighborhoods is likely to be futile. I don’t share this view.

          • E. Olson says

            Genetic based differences in IQ between races certainly has been demonstrated to a much higher probability and predictive power than environmental factors or the “blank slate” theory. Do you believe in man-made climate change or evolution? If so, then you should have no problem believing in genetic IQ differences, which is much more strongly proven by science and has held up for a much longer period of time. The reason those on the Left find it difficult to accept, is because it dooms all present Leftist policy prescriptions for inequality.

        • K. Dershem says

          I disagree. “Race” itself is extremely dubious as a biological category. There are genetic differences among populations of humans who evolved in relative isolation from one another, but these populations don’t fit neatly in standard (19th-century) racial categories. It’s undeniably true that genes have a profound influence on intelligence; the “blank slate” view has been completely debunked from a scientific point of view. However, it doesn’t follow that racial differences in IQ have been demonstrated with the same degree of certainty. Some scholars (like Charles Murray) have examined the evidence and concluded that environmental differences cannot fully account for the standard deviation difference in average IQ between blacks and whites. Many others believe that environmental factors provide a sufficient explanation. You could claim that the views of the latter group have been distorted by their ideology, but I could make the same argument about Murray and Rushton. I think the evidence is inconclusive. Even if it could be demonstrated that blacks are (on average) less intelligent than whites, that fact would have no bearing on how individuals should be treated.

          Regarding climate change and evolution, the vast majority of scientists with relevant expertise affirm the consensus view in their fields. The same is not true of geneticists and racial differences in IQ. You can only argue otherwise by conflating the claim that “intelligence is profoundly influenced by genes” with the claim that “people of African descent are less intelligent because of their genetic inheritance than people of European descent.” The former view is held by virtually all biologists; the latter is not. It’s entirely possible that some scientists hold the latter view but engage in self-censorship because they fear the consequences of openly sharing their views. However, this is an argument from ignorance which is based on speculation.

          • E. Olson says

            K. Dershem – you are erroneously equating consensus with science. Science is forming hypotheses based on observation and then testing to see if they hold in a controlled setting. By that standard climate models (which are hypotheses) have not predicted temperatures over the past 20-30 years, as they have vastly over-predicting warming trends. Similarly, evolutionary theory could only be proven by fossilized remains that demonstrate natural selection of evolutionary change in species, but from what I understand the fossil record by and large has not provided such proof. On the other hand, the racial differences in genetics hypothesis is currently being demonstrated by DNA research, and genetic differences in intelligence have been demonstrated by twin adoption studies, and cross-racial adoption studies. Nobody thinks such IQ differences are 100% genetic, but it is increasingly proven from the evidence that genetic explanations explain the majority of the variance.

  103. Dan Flehmen says

    It is criminal to mix the educable with the uneducable, just as it would be criminal to mix people suffering highly communicable diseases with the healthy. The feel good idiocy of our system simply guarantees that students who are able and eager to learn will be turned into illiterate thugs by their illiterate thuggish peers.

  104. Andio says

    Incredibly illuminating and disheartening article. I’m glad the author survived. I keep thinking that these out of control kids are soon, if not already, going to be breeding, and their kids will most likely end up in the same broken cycle. It’s madness. Fingers of blame get pointed at the teachers, the administrators, the lack of funding, charter schools, the system, etc. But what I see is a huge and growing population of irresponsible individuals birthing and “raising” children when they can’t even take care of themselves. This is the cause of so much poverty, violence and an inability to achieve a better life. First and foremost, I believe, the parents are to blame.

  105. Ryan Flynn says

    I endured two years of this in middle school over 20 years ago. It was a much smaller city and the problems were on a much smaller scale. But the same problems nonetheless. First week, unprovoked out of the blue, a black girl looks at me “what the F you looking at white boy”. Teachers were babysitters. The saddest part is how simple rules on where kids have to go to school can hollow out perfectly good communities and drop house values. So people who give a sh!t quietly move to the closest suburbs to be around other parents who care. But politicians don’t see this as a problem because public education is all a scam to keep teachers in unions so they can then funnel dues to keep politicians in office on order to get better contracts and benefits.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Public education is a scam? Yea, teachers are striking around the country because their jobs are too easy and they’re paid too much.

      But do you know whose really got the big bucks to bribe politicians? Charter schools.

  106. Fed up says

    Very illuminating, but the author falls into the same old pattern of blaming external forces for the students’ outright refusal to learn or even make a token effort at participating in their own educations. It seems to me that the utter apathy on the part of “The System” is a reaction to the students’ unwillingness and/or inability to conform to any type of standard, and not the cause. Taking the position that the her students’ abhorrent behavior and abysmal academic performance are results of some long-standing tradition of low expectations is a total straw man argument and also Ms. Hudson’s obvious retreat from the truth because it makes her feel icky.

    I attended a “majority-minority” high school in a large urban area of north Jersey, This was in the late 80’s – early 90’s, when students were removed from the classroom for talking, given failing grades, real suspensions, and even expelled. Nothing worked. The achievement gap between the white and minority students was astonishing. The problem was not a failure to hold the students accountable. They were. If you like science-y stuff and are not averse to reading studies, here’s one for you. You’ll love the table on page 265:

    Bottom line: blacks rate significantly lower in tested IQ as well as aggressiveness, impulsivity, self-concept, law-abidingness, mental health, permissive attitudes, and sociability. There is a GENETIC cause to all of this.

    Me thinks our esteemed author is experiencing the pangs of guilt that are associated with the ghastly horror of acknowledging race reality. Every middle class and above white person appears to have a fetish for “Building the Better Black.” If they could only create them in their own image, then that would put to rest once and for all any of those nagging little doubts they have about the potential for black success. Then they wouldn’t have to feel so darn racist!

    • somewoman says

      “The achievement gap between the white and minority students was astonishing”

      I think people dismiss genetic explanations because they don’t understand how big the gap is or the fact that 8th grade measures have barely changed since we started measuring achievement annually (2003). People see tons of TV shows and commercials with black rocket scientists or generally blacks having the best problem solving skills. That creates a subliminal expectation around what is possible. And then I think a lot of people are led to believe that the gap mostly goes away if you control for socioeconomic status or having married parents etc.

      But it does not. The racial achievement gap between blacks and whites is enormous. It is nothing like, say, the male advantage over females in math (small on average and offset by the greater female advantage in verbal skills). Whites in poverty do markedly better academically than blacks who are middle class or better. In fact, blacks from families in the highest income decile do as poorly as whites in the lowest income decile.

      • Fed up says

        somewoman, I think you’re right in your observation that people are influenced by the imagery of black success promoted in the media. Any ad spot that depicts an intact family has to feature either a black family or an interracial one with a black father and a white mother. If a doctor, engineer or person in leadership is featured, they are almost always black.

        It seems every scholastic initiative is aimed at steering them toward high level STEM careers or medicine. This goes back to my comment about the white fetish for making them “just like us.” It’s silly to believe that all.or even a majority, of any given demographic is capable of achieving at that level. If someone were to suggest we go to Appalachia and try to turn every dirt-poor white kid into doctors and engineers they’d be laughed out of the room.

        It’s a strange thing; how white folks have no problem admitting certain members of their own race are probably best suited to blue collar careers. Or that East Asians’ academic success and better overall life outcomes are a result of higher average IQ. But when addressing the issue of the sainted blacks and browns, they look at their feet and mumble some crap about institutional racism.

  107. Bistro says

    I live in Shaker Heights across the street from an elementary school with the middle school down the block and the high school across the other street. It is fascinating to watch the bright eager young kids at the elementary school transform into the students that the author describes as they age and start to fall further and further behind their white peers. When I got here 8 years ago from California the high school was still rated at 9 out of 10 on the school grading scale. It is now down to 6 out 10 and will likely fall to 5 out of 10 next year. The reason is obvious and others have pointed it out. The high school is now a minority-majority school as many parents opt to send their kids to private high schools in the area instead of sending them to Shaker Heights High School. Kind of sad really since it was once a truly outstanding school.

  108. Song For the Deaf says

    So, you got a bunch of shitty students from shitty families, who shouldn’t be in school in the first place, who all hate white people. Fuck ‘em. Why feel bad about any of them.

    This article frames the problem as a function of low expectations, the author obviously hasn’t figured out that high expectations won’t do anything. Urban black students suck. Nothing will change until somebody comes out and says it.

  109. I don’t understand this quest for (deep down) root problems in education, is race the problem? the family? the ghetto neigbourhood, charter system ? What I remember from my dutch elementary, etc. schooling: there was a large diversity in capacity in every class, at the end of each year, about 10% of the students had not enough notes to pass, could try once again, and then were dismissed from that school, went to an easier school type, or even one for retarded. There were also national tests, to find out which school type was best for each child. Students that misbehaved repeatedly were dismissed. In the end, most were ready (some not of course) for a job in society, one for professor, for engineering,dentist, teacher, lawyer, cook, half of them for blue collar jobs (very much needed, more so than profs sometimes). I can’t remember that the discussions or sorrows ever went on the reasons for those differences, family? genes? attitude? it didn’t matter in fact, the results only was what counted! Though, of course, sometimes, you or your parents had a talk with a teacher or prefect on how it went, and why not better, but I can’t see/remember, such discussions had much impact. It was more an ornamental thing, not a functional one.

    • In 1992, the federal government created the childhood disability program. It is part of the supplemental security income (SSI) program for the indigent and disabled. Under the program, households with children who have mental or intellectual disabilities get cash payments, Medicaid and other benefits like free breakfast and lunch at school. Many, if not most, of the beneficiaries who qualify for the program have learning disabilities associated with an IQ less than 80 and associated with psychological problems such as an oppositional defiant disorder, depression, anxiety or an anti-social personality disorder.

      Very quickly an industry of psychologists, councilors and social worker emerged to document these kinds of disabilities and a related industry of educators emerged who busied themselves devising individual education plans (IEPs) for the children and a cohort special education teachers emerged to implement these plans. As neither the psychologists nor the educators would ultimately be paid unless the child was found to be disabled, their efforts usually resulted in their opinion the child is disabled. The government has been throwing a lot of money at this program for the last 25 years.

      I had regular dealing with the SSI childhood disability program for 10 years in Massachusetts, Louisiana and Colorado and the behavior described by the author and the teachers who have commented is precisely the kind anti-social behavior that usually qualifies a child for disability payments. It also seemed to be true that the children receiving these benefits, the called them “crazy checks” in Louisiana, were routinely absent for up to 1/3 of the school year and that they frequently moved and changed schools on a near annual basis.

      One can easily view their behavior as something that is required of them in order to keep the payments coming. It is the sad truth that if the child sat down, paid attention in class and did well, often times the payments would stop. In a practical sense, behaving badly in school is the way the child contributes his share to the economic well-being of the household the child happens to be attached to. The marginal cost of doing well in school is very, very high for these children.

      I do wonder if the teachers noticed that this problem became worse after 1992.

      It is not so much a matter of race or poverty as it is perverse incentives.

      • David Schwankle says

        You point out that “many, if not most, of the beneficiaries who qualify for the program have learning disabilities associated with an IQ less than 80 and associated with psychological problems such as an oppositional defiant disorder, depression, anxiety or an anti-social personality disorder.”

        It strikes me that these “psychological problems” may be totally rational responses to being forced by law to sit in a building for 6 hours where you are expected to do schoolwork you cannot understand by people constantly reminding you that your life will be a failure if you drop out and you will remain in the ghetto if you fail to attend a college.

        The bureaucracy you mention is horrifying and suggests to me that Kevin Kervick’s suggestion below regarding “socialization and discipline centers” may be necessary to end the torture of kids who just don’t have the IQ for post-elementary school work.

        • Who knows which came first. What I do know is that if there are only one or two predictable discipline problems in a class, the problem students are almost always boys.

          When I was in an all boys high school, the official first response to disruptive behavior in class was to give the kid something else to do. In my geometry class, the teacher would often have one or two kids doing 10-20 push ups while continuing the period of instruction and the faculty made a point of challenging the the known discipline problems to a couple of games horse at lunch time on the basketball half-court behind the school.

          Even in good schools, I’ve seen weak teachers who could not control the first disruptor lose the entire class and leave before the end of the semester. Teaching a random assortment of adolescents is not easy in the best of circumstances and impossible without the full support of the parents and school administration. Both appear to very thin on the ground these days.

  110. The problem with schools is not teachers. The problem is the students. Is anyone willing to admit that all kids are not endowed with enough intelligence or impulse control to complete high school? With an average IQ of probably about 80, a child cannot do abstract reasoning that is expected of students starting at about 7th grade. Why do we assume they can do high school work? If we are going to insist on putting everyone through high school we must dramatically transform those institutions. They should function clearly as socialization and discipline centers. Every classroom should have several big adults as referees. Social skills and character development should be the primary components of instruction. They would wear uniforms to enforce discipline and solidarity. The worst kids would be quickly sent to detention centers and returned only when cleared by tribunals. It is time for a radical deconstruction of urban education. The problem is the students, not the teachers.

    • Somewoman says

      For some reason quillette moderates my comments when I make statements to similar effect. Why and when does quillette delete comments?

      • K. Dershem says

        Somewoman: I didn’t realize that Quillette engaged in censorship — that’s disappointing to hear. Even though I disagree with most of your arguments (which I think can be fairly described as “racist”), I don’t think they should be suppressed.

    • David Schwankle says

      Hear, hear!

      I would only add that vocational training should be a major component of the socialization centers you propose. Many kids of low intelligence see the truth of what you are pointing out. Constant failure at academic subjects breeds a great deal of resentment, especially when the implied or explicit message is “If you don’t go to college you are destined to remain poor and worthless.”

  111. What I , right now, after all these discussions, remember of my school period: there was a general saying and feeling of the ability to ” learn”, and some kids were better at that (high noes for lessons in geography, history, math, French) than others, it was like that. But these high notes had some, but not overpowering effect on later carrieres and succes.

  112. soulstatic says

    The Federal government does not regulate public schools. The state does. How many other things did you fault Obama for this week?

  113. John Gatto says

    John Taylor Gatto continues to be proven correct. The system was never intended to educate anyone – it was intended to create strata of classes, and separate the Elite from the Proles. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the ‘system’ is working just fine.

    • John Gatto, I went through the government school system. I was raised by an impoverished single mother but one who was willing to sacrifice including by spending 50% of her income on a small apartment in a good school district so that I went to a government/public school at the top of the range.

      Being the poor kid with a chip on his shoulder I was unruly at school, often absent, and didn’t hand in all my work. I ran into the discipline system at school but understood their hands were tied so pushed the boundaries.

      I graduated top 5% (no mean feat as I purposely ignored any assignments that took real effort), went from high-school to a global 200 university and graduated magna cum laude and have since started 2 successful businesses, managed another into a national footprint, and been a productive taxpayer.

      I consider the school that I went to, and teachers I had excellent.
      I remain a free thinker, have always been the worker who does things his way, not by the book, but managed to be un-fireable because the results were there.

      So no, my schooling didn’t make me a cog in the system or an automaton, nor did it keep me in my class. It did exactly what anyone would wish: provided me access to world class education and a world of knowledge, helped me establish some self-discipline (although it took years after my schooling to complete it), and took me from a parent earning $30k a year to a person earning $150k+ in his early 20’s and then up from there.

      Rather than the school system & teachers failing students I dare say it is families that fail themselves. Kids raised to learn, (and with the IQ to enable learning) learn, and will do so even in trying circumstances.

      Marxists consider any system that doesn’t take a whole class of people and lift them to another class a failure. But lifting in class requires effort & a level of intelligence to make use of the effort.
      Generally the people who do not rise lack one or both, and no perfect system will ever substitute for that.

  114. What is desperately needed to balance out all the well-meaning people here, and the author of the article is a cold hard understanding of how IQ limits achievement.

    No, you are not going to bring these kids up to standard even if the discipline aspect is solved. Not even if you change the culture, and willingness to learn, and end the tyranny of low expectations. Sorry.

    These kids are biologically limited. IQ is real and it is hereditary & DNA based.
    If we were marking fairly and upholding decent standards all but those with an IQ of 100 or higher would fail to pass high-school at an appropriate Year 12 level.

    At best you might get 50% of the class graduating at a year 9 level.
    The rest are only every going to be good for a year 7/8 level because that is all their brains are capable of. The lowest 10% are almost always going to end up in prison or dead.

    To make true progress we must deal with reality as it is, not how we wish it to be.

    • Peter Kriens says

      But dealing with reality would still require, out of common decency, to give them the best education they can get. A lower IQ does not mean you cannot learn anything, it just takes a lot more time and effort and there are ceilings. However, with patience they can still be productive citizens.

  115. A Substitute says

    I’m a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. I have also taught in various teaching artist capacities. I don’t claim to have the same level of experience as the writer of the article, but I can say with certainty that some of the things she had to suffer through, on the administrative side, would not be an issue in CPS. In CPS you are absolutely allowed to remove disruptive students from the class. It is encouraged, and I agree, that this should only be a last resort, but in most cases you will not get reprimanded for this happening. Similarly, a method such as having the motivated students sit up front so they can learn–good method!– would definitely be tolerated in CPS. Some administrators might frown at it a little, but any teacher knows it’s the best that can be done in many environments.

    Admittedly, some of the reason teachers have more freedom to control their classroom is due to the strength of the union. I am not in the union and could also go on with all the complaints I have about them. But ultimately they are a double edged sword; we can thank them for allowing teachers to creatively, and even effectively, solve problems on their own. (Also, the anecdote about your principle screaming at you in the hallway; unprofessional behavior by any standard, and not something a CPS principle is likely to get away with. The teacher could easily file a grievance about this. That principle would have been hit with a double whammy if the union in New York was as powerful as the CTU is now).

    And as another note on the method of having the motivated students sit up front and the disruptive ones in the back–I don’t think that would work in every setting, but again, I entirely understand why Ms. Hudson had this idea. I’m actually a big believer in “teaching up.” I think administrators and overly-idealistic teachers don’t realize that teachers need to set certain moral standards about the value of knowledge. We need to show the disruptive students that the motivated students are being rewarded for a very particular reason. We need to be allowed to fail students who deserve it. And we need to be allowed to teach concepts that are above the level of the class average so that it becomes apparent to the ‘average’ student, when they see the brighter students grasping something completely foreign to them, that they are going to be expected to rise above their intellectual station whether they like it or not. Yes, it is authoritarian and I think it is absolutely necessary.

    Thank you Ms. Hudson for an insightful article and I’m sorry for some of the extreme misbehavior you’ve had to deal with. Also sorry for your loss.

    — A Teacher who will Not Be Named

  116. Cluebat says

    And this is why the cities will fall. There will be many innocent people lost during this period of chaos, but I will man the barricades and if need be, blow the bridges to keep the horde on the other end of the swamp separating my community from the marauders. We are all very well armed here. We are also very polite.

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  118. Jean-Pierre Demers says

    Not long ago I read a novel by French author Bruno Lafourcade, titled “L’ivraie”. It’s about a man who applies for a temp teaching job in a school somewhere in the vicinity of Bordeaux. His account of it is strikingly similar to those of Mary Hudson—mutatis mutandis: over there itss second-or third generation kids of North African descent who make up the greater part of classes.

    Every place where it’s big money that really runs the show, the destruction of family, culture and a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself must be utterly destroyed. « Diviser pour régner » in its ultimate phase. Myriads of individuals who cannot get together to put up resistance, because they no longer have anything in common. Keep them ignorant, they won’t be in the way.

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  120. In 1969 I taught in a Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhood elementary school. My first grade class consisted of thirty-six students, three white, thirty-three Black. There were no teacher aides and no teachers for music, art, or physical education. The students were very poor, but, significantly, polite, respectful, and able to focus their attention for long periods of time. I worked very hard and so did the children. The parents and the principal were completely supportive of me. It was a wonderful and challenging job.

    In the most affluent all-white elementary schools today no teacher would be expected to manage a classroom of thirty-six students. It would be an impossible task because the students have not been raised to be polite and respectful nor have they been trained to pay attention.

    The salient factor here is not race or class; any veteran teacher will tell you it is in the way the children have been (or have not been) trained. It is a crisis in the deepest sense of the word and we have known it for a long time. (See the report “A Nation at Risk” 1983.) A democracy cannot long survive when its citizens are poorly trained and educated.

  121. David Schwankle says

    The author concludes,”in America the taboo against questioning the current orthodoxy on race is too strong and the price is too high.” This claim is well-illustrated by her inability to explicitly state that what passes for Black “culture” contributes much to the anti-intellectual chaos she describes.

    Who, if anyone, is admired among contemporary black youth? What does one do in that community to demonstrate status? What sorts of domestic lives and neighborhoods do these kids go home to every evening?

    While the White Progressive bureaucracy that places Black people in a perpetual “victim” status is certainly guilty of perpetuating the current situation, what, if anything, do these kids value? What do they want out of life?

    • Good question, David, what do they want out of life? I,ve lived 10 yrs in African countries, and what I read here about black behaviour does not at all exist and occur there, at the contrary. Kids there are very disciplined, and their parents pay their last little money (by selling their only goat, some chicken, or the last bag of harvested beans) to pay the needed schoolfees and have their kids educated (in rustic village schools, built by the villagers themselves, and always nicely dressed in uniforms). But, the models around (president, ministers, teachers, priests, TV personalities) are also all black of course, and not superior whites, white police, white stars, white yuppies sipping white wine and listening classic music etc etc. Just imagine, you!, belonging to the margin!, all the time! no escape!. Sometimes, I try to imagine, and really get crazy if I try to empathize, it’s just one big tragedy, that’s what it is!

  122. Christopher Chantrill says

    It is tragic that the high hopes of the civil rights era have ended in this: youngsters actively resisting the opportunity to get out of their underclass ghetto.

    Liberals are to blame. Period.

  123. May I suggest a different etiology of school resistance?
    Curriculum designers attended good high schools, got accepted to good colleges, did well on the GRE, attended good post-graduate schools and landed tenure-track positions. These people are good at school. They have spent their entire lives in school. They believe that the highest form of life on Earth is the college professor and that everyone wants to be an academic. The goals to which they would have students aspire are foreign to many normal children and the incentives they offer have no appeal; you cannot eat a transcript. Training an artistic or mechanically-inclined child for an academic career using the transcript as the incentive is like teaching a cat to swim using carrots as the incentive.
    Compulsory, unpaid labor is slavery.

  124. Dead on (well, except regarding her peers-for me there were far too many who exhibited sloth much like the student body that they were allegedly there to teach with at least a modicum of vigor at the large high schools I worked at in two major cities).

    I started out an idealistic young teacher in the public schools in my late 20s and was utterly burned out and done about 10 years later before I turned 40. I pivoted to a career in project management and in almost no time I was making about twice as much for about 1/2 the effort and time invested with a stress level that was mostly next to nil in comparison. In the course of a few years at the start (and while discovering Objectivism that I had somehow missed at one of the top public universities in the country as an undergrad) I went from being an advocate of public education to calling for its complete and utter dismantling and abolition-I am not joking. When there is no competition there is only a rapid race to the bottom as there is ultimately zero accountability.

    All of this was recently reconfirmed to me in a book released last year entitled “Bullshit Jobs”. My work as a high school teacher was not always a BS, but most of it was and so were almost all of the jobs of the bureaucrats and their cronies who run the ship aground-both in the union and outside. Really, it was just a fetid plutocracy-just like our current one party political system.

  125. This is a really sad situation. I have experienced it too as a sub at Richmond High (ghetto, SF bay area). I gave up trying to teach anything and just focused on maintaining order. Kids wandered in and out of the room at will. I remember one kid saying “Listen to that teacher down the hall! He’s actually trying to teach! Ha ha!” What can be done when kids simply don’t care?

  126. Tim Dolphgren says

    I could have explained why teaching these groups of children was a bad idea by pointing to a single chapter of the Bell Curve.

    Could’ve saved yourself a decade of disgust.

    By the way, I don’t think ‘low expectations’ has anything to do with their poor performance, since they hardly do better anywhere else on the globe they are. If you’re going to make the argument that everyone everywhere has low expectations of blacks, perhaps you should concede instead that there’s a valid reason for that.

  127. Ryder spearmann says

    The teachers ARE to blame, and I will explain why.

    They vote Democrat. Always. The ONLY reason that there are laws in place, and rules in place that allow for this situation to exist, are because Democrats put them there. The laws that make “you can’t do that, that’s discrimination.” are there because Democrats put them there.

    The solutioins are OBVUIOS, but impossible to implement because teachers keep democrats in power, and when democrats are in power, the teachers aren’t… and the children are.

    The solution: school is a PRIVILEDGE, granted by the people, under certain conditions: Follow the rules. Kids that don’t are sent home… instantly. If it repeats, they are sent home for a short suspension. If it repeats, they are suspended for a longer duration. If that repeats, they are expelled from that school.

    Children have to learn their place, by BEING PUT IN IT. This has *always* worked, throughout history, all around the world, so there is no excuse not to do it.

  128. richard sparks says

    This is a great piece. But, the title is wrong. The problems described by the author are NOT a secret. Everyone knows it. But, few will talk openly about it.

  129. DePhlogisticated Air says

    I’m on the side of the commenters pointing out that a public school education is a privilege and not a right. The government’s role is not to force kids to behave because they cannot. It is not to force kids to learn because they cannot.

    When teachers complain about the problem, of course they are going to kind-heartedly look for solutions that “save” all students. They wouldn’t be in the teaching profession otherwise.

    School systems work when the parents are notified of their kid’s misbehavior, and they panic a little about the thought of their kid getting expelled. Who will baby sit their kid? What happens if their kid turns into a heroin addict who steals from the family? All sorts of “What happens to me” goes through the head of a parent whose kid is misbehaving. Then, the parents turn the screws on the kid to behave. Without the engagement of the parents, it all falls apart. This is the state of schools in most of the large majority minority districts.

    You have to ask though, are the schools in Mexico any better than in East LA? Are the schools in Haiti better than in NYC? We call these US schools “failing,” but by what standard? For all that we want to “embrace all cultures” we have a remarkable double standard when it comes to trying to force “white culture” on non whites as a means to “save” them. It is like the experiment in Australia where white families were given aboriginal babies to raise in order to “save them.” Did the aboriginies ask for this? Did the aboriginies think they needed to be saved?

    White America keeps trying to force people from other cultures to embrace a strong education and like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football never seems to understand that these cultures have no interest in letting him kick the field goal. To use another analogy: Try to explain intellectual property rights (e.g., that it is illegal and immoral to copy software that you haven’t paid for) to people in India or China. Try telling them it is wrong to copy licensed software or songs without paying the fee. You are going to be treated as if you are a moron. But yet, every year you try to explain to them how wrong they are to pirate software and music, and every year they pat you on the head and say whatever they need to say to shut you up.

    These schools have been failing for 70 years, and the more they fail, the more money they get. Pretending that all cultures value the same things has become a racket for the teachers unions, the administrators, and the politicians. Prepare to gasp and clutch your pearls, but you can’t make a culture that doesn’t value education worry about their future if they don’t have an education. Pull up that fainting couch, but try to understand that you don’t need an education to make a living. Millions of illiterate uneducated people illegally sneak into the US every year, and the democrats claim that they make the country stronger. By that logic, cranking out uneducated people from our failing schools should make the US stronger still.

    Public schools can only educate those that want to be there and treat the school system with respect. When students fail to have the courtesy needed to facilitate the learning of others they should be expelled, with the same level of concern the Democrats show to the hordes of uneducated illegal aliens streaming across the border “They’ll make the country stronger… somehow….”

    Bill Gates has spent billions trying to save public schools in majority minority areas and has nothing to show for it. This is because he (very whitely) assumes that of course the culture in these areas value education, of course they do. They have clearly demonstrated that they do not. A better approach is simply to let the public schools be the public schools and expel those that don’t value an education.

    Let charities then run “schools” that do little more than teach courtesy and life skills. These schools would have rooms to watch movies, rooms to play computer games, rooms to draw and paint. Now that you have students doing things they actually want to do, the threat of expulsion will be taken much more seriously. Kids like computer games. Kids like playing basketball. While this is going on, you are slowly teaching them basic reading and math.

    I don’t see that anyone has pointed out the absurdity of teaching French and Italian to a student base that either doesn’t speak English period, or, speaks in the street slang of ebonics. What genius decided that a struggling school needs a foreign language class? We have a group of people that try to force a culture of people that doesn’t value education into a curriculum that is too challenging, and is designed to force them to be ready for college level courses. Then, the administration pessimistically expects them to fail. Which, they do. Someone must be to blame, right? Right???

    Forget “trade” vs “university” schools, that is still to advanced to address the problem these failing schools. Use instead Public, Charter, and Warehousing schools. Many kids are not going to be forced to “act white” and value education. It simply is not going happen. And yet, here we are, 70 years later wondering “why don’t these kids value education.” The best we can hope for, at least at the beginning, is to keep them warehoused in an environment that discourages the idleness which results in teen pregnancy (er… and sometimes tween pregnancy), drug dealing, and crime.

    Trying to run an “at risk youth” tough love program and a traditional school system will fail, every single time it is tried.

  130. Beate C says

    Bravo!! Like you I taught foreign languages in an inner city school. I too was insulted quite a few times, and eventually left for another mediocre job as a college instructor. I decided to homeschool my own children.

  131. Mary Issa Racist says

    i see mary has deleted my previous comment but please let it be known: if it smells like a racist, drops the n word in front of black kids, calls them “ghetto-ized,” then she’s probably a racist.

    god, i wish white people would stay in their damn bubble in the suburbs and leave inner city black kids alone! we don’t need racist white saviors like Mary HudsoN!

    • Song For the Deaf says

      “god, i wish white people would stay in their damn bubble in the suburbs and leave inner city black kids alone”

      Totally agree with you, sister. You guys are the shittiest classmates any race could ask for. But it’s y’all and white liberals who keep wanting to desegregate for your benefit, not us.

    • Daniel says

      Are you suggesting that her response towards those students was in some way unwarranted, inappropriate, or indicative of ill feelings towards those of another race?

      And in a discussion about education, let’s go through the motions of pretending to be literate, please. You may not respect yourself enough to capitalize the word “I”, but the rest of us are ready to extend you the benefit of the doubt.

    • Charlie says

      Why is it West Africans are able to enter universities such as oxford, Cambridge, Imperial , LSE without any allowances made for their race? O I have known West Africans win Exhibitions to Oxford to read Latin and French. Scholarships to British universities used to be awarded only to the best students.

    • Exactly, and that’s what I explained above , what’s wrong with segregation? Who asked for desegregation? Who’s idea ?, was it a popular choice, or some ideal from white founding fathers? An ideal you follow for some time, you check whether it works, and finally have to abandon it, or adapt in in some thorough way.

  132. Dood, el Farbe says

    “The school had an exceptionally good math teacher… [but]… results that came back in the spring were abysmally low—despite the fact that every single response bubble on the math test had been filled in. ”

    Does anyone know what connects the dots on the 2 statements I’ve quoted here? If he was an exceptional math teacher, why the poor results? The author sort of leaves us hanging.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Dood: I have taught college students of such low calibre that you could literally give them the answers to an exam beforehand and they would still fail. I’m not being mean. I used to be such a student myself.

  133. Patcape says

    Dear Ms. Hudson: This is an important, maddening, troubling, heartbreaking essay that touches on subjects society badly needs to address. It’s too bad people don’t read anymore. I urge you to contact prominent documentary makers sans agenda, maybe over at Vice or even over at the BBC or HBO, that would be willing to make an arrangement with one of these schools to film there for a semester or so. Visuals will bring the subject home and maybe force people to talk about things they’d rather push aside due to their own agenda, discomfort or denial. As an ex-educator, I say, Good luck to you!

  134. It’s insane that the US is one of the only countries in the developed world that mandates kids stay in school through the 12th grade. A few commenters here have mentioned European or Australian school systems where kids are free to either leave school after 9th or 10th grade to pursue employment or a trade, while those that want to continue their studies/prepare for university remain. I’m not sure why the US can’t adopt a similar system.

  135. Arthur McGowan says

    “There was a $20 million restructuring fund in the offing for his replacement.”

    What does this sentence mean???

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  137. ga gamba says

    I’m seeing a lot of comments being deleted here. I’ve seen comments by Nakatomi, Ray, D.B. and others inexplicably disappear in this thread. There was nothing offensive about them.

    Whoever at Quillette is doing so, get this through your noggin: kill the comments and you’ll kill the site. Check yourself before you check others.

  138. Patricia Terry says

    You have to be kidding me…..
    Being very young, however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and their teachers.

    The adults in their life hide the truth…..

    No you are wrong…I am a black parent, I raised two productive young black men and a daughter.
    Black parents do not hide the truth. This teacher did not have realistic ideas of what to expect when entering these schools.

    How unfair this is to me and many, many productive young blacks who were outstanding students.

    No doubt many of these children had issues, but she simply could not or was not equipped to reach them.

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