"Racist" teacher reinstated
November 1, 2002 8:27 AM   Subscribe

"Racist" teacher reinstated A follow up to this earlier mefi discussion. A copy of the e-mail enclosed. I'm curious as to if after reading the actual e-mail in question, anyone changes their opinion from the previous thread.
posted by Ynoxas (88 comments total)

 
My opinion is still the same -- the guy made a reasonable, quantitative observation about certain students' behaviour, and subsequently got unjustly pilloried for it. Glad to see the school had the balls to hire him back.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 8:42 AM on November 1, 2002


Pasadena civil rights attorney Bert Voorhees said he thought Phelps should be fired for his comments.

"There are few things short of molesting a child that should be taken as seriously as making racist comments in a school setting,' he said. "High school is such a difficult time anyway and when a high school teacher tells a group of students that they're not valuable and that they don't belong, it's really devastating and unbelievable to me.'


What Polo said, and may I add that this lawyer really sounds like a screeching idiot? [should I change that to "fuckwit" for Mefi 9002 compliance?]
posted by notsnot at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2002


If he had said that, say, girls are more catty and gossipy, this never would have blown up into a controversy. But I still don't see what the point of his observations are. Even if he's right, how does the school act on that kind of information? Ban students of the "wrong" ethnicity? If he had evidence that minority students were being treated more leniently because of the fear of reprisals, that would be one thing, but he doesn't, so it seems unnecessary to stir things up to this degree and risk losing his point that teachers are overworked and unfairly blamed.
posted by transona5 at 8:50 AM on November 1, 2002


I agree with transona5, the observation is valid and trughful. Anyone who disbelieves this is probably not a product of the American school system, or lives in a white community.

But even though the observation and statement are 100% accurate, they are absolutely meaningless because I doubt that any "targeted" response would pass the lagal muster.

Witold
posted by Witold at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2002


I live nearby in South Pasadena, and this front page news I've been reading since it broke.

The teacher tries to make this point, but does it in a bad way:

You cannot teach all students the same way, we need to teach our poor-performing students differently or they will not learn.

For years the mantra of race relations has been to be "colorblind" to race, class, and gender and treat everyone the "same way". Society has not been successful in this approach.

IMHO, dealing with a diversity of people means you should use a diversity of approaches. You cannot treat everyone the same way.

The school districts are playing a very politically correct game these days and are well into the "colorblind" camp. It appears that this is the problem that Phelps was trying to point out. Since he dared mention specifics of which groups are having problems, he is getting crucified.
posted by Argyle at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2002


So a lot of people over-reacted to a well-reasoned and truthful letter. Community members completely missing this guy's point and focusing on something taken out of context? What a surprise.

It's continually amazing to me that we have any teachers left at all in this country.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 9:09 AM on November 1, 2002


The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. --Herbert Spencer (1891)

If these kids' parents gave, or were in a position to give, a damn about them, they would have attended parent's night at school. This helps send a positive message to these kids that there is solidarity between parental authority & the teachers, underscoring disapproval and non-acceptance of disruptive behavior. The absence of this participation undermines the educational and socialization of adolescents, promoting scoff-law behavior of the type Phelps references.

If city/county government & the local school boards enforced behavior policy, indiscriminate of racial or ethic background, & weren't full of political hacks afraid to offend special interest constituencies ready to run to ambulance chasers like Voorhees at the drop of a perceived slight hat, they would regain ascendancy over this sort of problem, which is plaguing the school systems everywhere.

If well-intentioned social reformist sentiment like passed the American's with Disabilities Act didn't allow it to be perverted into mandating that disruptive "special-ed" kids can't be removed from the classroom no matter repeated behavior that detracts from the learning of the majority, people wouldn't grow up thinking the world owes them something just because of the uniqueness of their existence.

If the public rose up and demanded a return to rational standards that supported our teachers & adminsistrators in the performance of their work & let them know that their workplace wasn't being used as a dumping ground for problem kids whose parents won't engage in their upbringing but then won't allow the "system" to take the responsibility they themselves have abrogated, we wouldn't be losing the best & brightest of the proferssion to burnout.

Guys like Phelps should be empowered, not stifled. If his observations create public consternation, so much the better - that's a step towards acknowedgement of the need for change, as long as we are intelligent enough to refuse to allow this to degenerate into self-indulgent whining about "ethnic" issues, that seek to avoid the real core of the problem.

This crap on the part of the students shouldn't be tolerated - period.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:15 AM on November 1, 2002


Here's the questionable bit in full:
Since Muir is about 48% African -American, most of these poorly-behaving students tend to be of that ethnicity. Obviously, there are very well-behaved African-American students. I noticed that I saw their parents tonight. But overwhelmingly, the students whose behavior makes the hallways deafening, who yell out for the teacher and demand immediate attention in class, who cannot seem to stop chatting and are fascinated by each other and relationships but not with academics, in short whose behavior saps the strength and energy of us that are on the front lines, are African-American.

Eventually, someone in power will have the courage to say this publicly. The test scores certainly bear this out, as African-Americans are our lowest scoring group by far.
I'm not going to yell racist and say he should be fired on the spot, but including the preceding passage was very poor judgement. I don't see the point of the statements. His statements where talked about a correlation between parents that don't care and poor performing students was useful and something the school could do somethign about. But then he went on to say most of those poor performing are african american, and in a message to other teachers, and I have to ask what's the point of adding that tidbit? To tell them to watch african american students more? That if there's an outbreak in class it's probably an african american student's fault? If you find two students causing a problem, the african american student probably started it?

Even if he included a table of actual incidents and statistics to back up his point, I don't see what the point of stating that one group of students (by ethnicity) is prone to causing more problems than others, other than to put other teachers on alert for students within that group and regard the entire group as troublemakers. It's never a good idea to treat problem incidents by group, instead of individual.
posted by mathowie at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2002


"Even if he's right, how does the school act on that kind of information? Ban students of the "wrong" ethnicity?"

It's a good point; what the school plans to do in response to this observation is very important. I think that Phelps mentions that black teachers seem to ellicit better behavior from black students. So there's one positive thing to do: get more black teachers.

"IMHO, dealing with a diversity of people means you should use a diversity of approaches. You cannot treat everyone the same way."

I agree wholeheartedly. And I think that people are afraid to admit to the fact that different ethnic groups, because they have different cultural experiential histories, will respond differently to a classroom situation.

I think Phelps' point is that we need to address this fact, but he himself states that no one has the balls to say it. His treatment over the issue is a case in point.

I stand by my previous comments, that this guy is not necessarily racist from the information we're given, and that he raises a legitimate point: each ethnic group has their own ideal learning environment, and we need to try to cater to all ethnic groups as much as is possible.

Right now our classrooms are set up and run in a way that favors white, middle class kids, because those are the kids that have been going to school the longest in this country, and they are the model that we base our student body on.

That needs to change, and we can't change it until we admit that it's a real problem.
posted by zekinskia at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2002


He was trying to point out a *group* of individuals; unfortunately, it came out a bit wrong.

Say I'm re-shelving my books. I note that some books are tall, and some are short. Ok, tall and short individual shelves are probably a good idea. However, if I further note that it's primarily the heavy, dense textbooks that are short, I can take the additional stop of bolstering the short shelves to accommodate the heavier books.

All I mean to say is, identifying the group in which the problem lies at least narrows down the list of possible solution. If he'd merely said "there's a problem", the response is "no shit". That he actually names a significant feature of the problem helps (except for the misdirecting furor) to find the solution, or at least identifies the culture to look for root causes.
posted by notsnot at 9:30 AM on November 1, 2002


Well, right after that portion of the e-mail, he points out that the school has very few African-American teachers, and that those teachers generally get their kids to behave.

To me, it seemed like he was saying that they needed to find better ways to deal with the African American population if they want their school to be "successful".
posted by Jart at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2002


But then he went on to say most of those poor performing are african american, and in a message to other teachers, and I have to ask what's the point of adding that tidbit?

The point is to simply make a oft-noticed but rarely-stated observation. But I think what you're really asking is how could one put that observation to good use.

Perhaps the school board could approach black community groups and say "look, there seems to be a disproportionate number of black parents who aren't taking an active interest in their kids' education, and it's resulting in disruptive behaviour which in turn is screwing everyone at the school out of a good education." (teachers who have to spend all their time playing referee tend not to have much energy left for teaching)

As a recently married guy, I've come to realize that open and honest communication can be painful (nobody wants to hear that they're in the wrong), but it can also lead to self-awareness and self-improvement (once you admit you've fucked up, you can start doing something to fix it). My hope is that this teacher's observations might lead to a willingness on the part of the black community to take a good, hard look at its attitudes towards education. Because the only way black Americans are ever going to dig themselves out of the hole they got so unceremonious tossed into is through education-fuelled upward mobility.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 9:47 AM on November 1, 2002


I'm saying that the points where race was mentioned are useless compared to his other points.

The point about low performing students not having parents care enough to show up on parents night (when I was a kid, this was considered mandatory for parents) is a good one, and something the school can actively do something about. Encouraging parental involvement would be the next step to helping that problem, as I agree with the teacher that it solidifies the solidarity between parents and teachers, and without that, teachers are not afforded as much respect, making learning difficult.

When he makes a point of saying most problem students are african american, how can the school use that information? What can they actively do to solve the problem of disruptive students (by race)?
posted by mathowie at 9:53 AM on November 1, 2002


If his point was the encourage the hiring of more african american teachers, I could see that, though his points before that aren't linked tightly enough with it.
posted by mathowie at 10:00 AM on November 1, 2002


Mathowie: how is by better understanding the, and please don't read too much into this word, "culture" that is at work.

For one reason or another, the young black culture reinforces brusqueness, rudeness, loudness, and one-upsmanship.

The black teachers are more successful because they are able to say "John, sit down, shut up, and listen to the lesson" and rip the headphones off his head. Whereas a white teacher would be run out on a rail for talking to a black student that way and the school board would most likely be sued. We'd also get to watch Al Sharpton on tv saying "Oh, tell the little nigra boy to sit down and shut up huh? Well, should he call you MASTER too, cracker?". Jesus.

A white teacher would have to say "John, please, we don't act that way in class. Please take off your headphones and pay attention". The student likely is not going to respond to that. The teacher looses another notch of authority, and the class spirals downward into chaos.

The black teachers have more freedom to act in honestly the appropriate manner. Because what happens? If a white teacher shows even the faintest hint of treating a black student poorly, it becomes a national phenomenon.

Or they get suspended.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:14 AM on November 1, 2002


But I still don't see what the point of his observations are.

The point is... until you identify the problem, you have no hope of finding the solution. It sounds to me like the guy was trying to get everyone on the same page and open up discussion to address his school's problems in the hopes of generating a collective brainstorm on how to make things better for everyone. But if he hadn't identified the real problem, if he'd cowered in a PC corner and asked everyone to brainstorm without first pointing out the problem they're all up against, he'd be wasting everyone's time. Kudos to Phelps. He's got balls, and the public school system needs more of him, not less.

And what notsnot said.
And on preview, what Ynoxas said.
posted by David Dark at 10:17 AM on November 1, 2002


Take one molehill, create a racial mountain
posted by clearspring at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2002


Again, I think the info could be used by the school to help inspire and encourage black parents to become more involved in the education process.

But personally, I don't think the onus is on this teacher (who is ultimately just a foot soldier in the education battle) to provide both observations about a problem and solutions to that problem. He works in the trenches, saw a problem in the trenches, and told his superiors and peers what he saw.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to single out a problem without having a solution already at hand. The whole point of identifying a problem like this is to get educators (ie. the people he sent the email to) talking about ways to solve the problem.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2002


I think his major point was the influence of SES on interest and ability in schools. If he's in an area where race can be highly correlated with SES (or lack thereof), then I don't see a problem with his remarks. It's not surprising for low-SES people to do craptastically at school, as a lot of their energy is diverted towards survival. This guy would have nothing to say if the black students at his school were more well off. Since his school is in the "have-not" section of town, his students' grades suffer.
posted by websavvy at 10:39 AM on November 1, 2002


Also, you might miss out on a lot of what the guy has to say if you didn't know that SES stands for socio-economic status, which sort of translates into wealth and power.
posted by websavvy at 10:41 AM on November 1, 2002


I am completely relieved at the rational perspectives I am seeing here. Thank God people are thinking.

But then he went on to say most of those poor performing are african american, and in a message to other teachers, and I have to ask what's the point of adding that tidbit? To tell them to watch african american students more? That if there's an outbreak in class it's probably an african american student's fault? If you find two students causing a problem, the african american student probably started it?

Matt, Phelps wasn't suggesting a solution (nor was it necessary that he do so in addition) he was simply identifying the overwhelming source of a problem. Here is a quote from the teacher, Phelps, from an LA radio interview:

"Different cultures have different behaviors, but if we're going to be holding all kids responsible [for meeting the same standard], then we need to be talking about their cultural behavior."

Phelps was fearlessly identifying a destructive cultural behavior, which was neither wrong, nor pointless, nor racist for him to do. Afterall, how can a solution even be proposed if the cause of a problem can't even be discussed, because of some insane taboo? Could we ever cure cancer if it was controversial to talk about cells?

But Phelps goals go beyond identifying problems with the students, there are some real problems with the system as well, that his original letter was actually meant to address. California has a bonus system for teachers that dishes out money according to how well test-scores improve. This system is built on the faulty assumption that teachers are more responsible for test-scores than cultural upbringing. Why would this cause Phelps to specifically mention black students? Well, Muir highschool, where Phelps teaches, has a shifting racial composition each year. Currently it is 40% hispanic, 10% white and asian, and %50 black, and looking at the data from the incoming classes, Phelps determined the percent of black students would rise, which strongly indicates scores on the Muir SATs would fall in the next year, effecting teacher wages. If you were a teacher I think you would find this of interest.

The problem with inner-city highschools then becomes two-fold. They are overwhelmingly populated with kids from dysfunctional cultures, and therefore have poor test scores, and therefore get less money for the teachers, and therefore get the dumbest teachers, as better teachers migrate to better paying schools with white and asian test scores. Dumb kids + dumb teachers = the shittiest schools in America.

So, if anything, Phelps comments were necessary to get people to start paying attention to the very real differences that exist between the cultures of different races. Even if there is nothing that can be done to change how black kids behave, the policies can at least change. Thanks to heroes like Phelps, maybe bonuses will begin to take racial score improvement into account when they are awarded, and perhaps start drawing good teachers back into the inner-cities where there are black kids who could benefit.
posted by dgaicun at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2002


Matt, Phelps wasn't suggesting a solution (nor was it necessary that he do so in addition) he was simply identifying the overwhelming source of a problem.

[snip]

Afterall, how can a solution even be proposed if the cause of a problem can't even be discussed, because of some insane taboo?


But the problem isn't students being african american, which is how that note can be interpretted.

Students from lower economic classes and those that parents don't invest time in their childrens' education often highly correlate with poor school performance. I agree with that statement, and would stand behind anyone that says it. That's the problem worth discussing, not that problem-causing students are most often african american. It sounds like race is being unneccsarily confused with SES and complicating discourse is all I'm trying to say.
posted by mathowie at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2002


This reminds me of a curious incident we had locally about a year back, when police were accused of using racial profiling. They jumped to the other end of the spectrum and refused to pass ANY racial information over the radio -- even when it was known (ie: they might be in pursuit of a person who just robbed a convenience store, they'd describe virtually everything they could, but none would go near skin color). This noble experiement lasted about a week.
posted by RavinDave at 11:33 AM on November 1, 2002


I don't think the problem is that black culture encourages disrespectful behavior, I think the problem is that lower class culture encourages disrespectful behavior. Look at the people on a daytime talk show who make you cringe. Regardless of race, they're almost always poor. Not being socialized around the norms of upper class people of any race means that opportunity will be denied these people because of the simple fact that they, in the eyes of the upper class, don't know how to act.

The problem with stating that this is a problem of mostly African American students isn't that the statement is false. I know the reflexive reaction of those of us who are aware of racist attitudes is to pretend the statement is incorrect. It's not wrong, it's simply irrelevant.

The danger of this statement being allowed to go unchallenged isn't that we have some Klan member teaching kids; I think this guy's probably a well-intentioned teacher with his heart in the wrong place. The problem is that he's seeking a false cause. Focusing on the race of parents who don't get involved in their children's education, who don't teach their children appropriate social norms, who don't care enough, gives those irresponsible parents a chance to dismiss a valid point as the rantings of a racist, though they're not.

I see an increasing tendency for people to claim they're being politically incorrect, when they're actually being lazy with their rhetoric or merely rude. The tragedy isn't that they offend someone with their rudeness. The tragedy is that they betray the positive goals they're trying to achieve.

So, how do we raise a generation of kids who don't talk at the movies? Because that's the step to raising a generation of kids who can raise themselves out of the lower class.
posted by anildash at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2002


I think his major point was the influence of SES on interest and ability in schools....It's not surprising for low-SES people to do craptastically at school, as a lot of their energy is diverted towards survival.

See, this is something I've always found confusing. Wouldn't you think that someone who comes from a poor background would be more interested in getting an education, if only to make some more bread down the road? Maybe what the school system really needs is an influx of those "Justification For Higher Learning" posters that feature a mansion and a garage full of stylin' wheels....

As for "survival", gimme a break. These students live in a poor neighborhood in America, not northern Sri Lanka. Spending an hour or two a night on homework is something they can handle with ease.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2002


'But the problem isn't students being african american, which is how that note can be interpretted. '

'It sounds like race is being unneccsarily confused with SES and complicating discourse is all I'm trying to say.'

Different cultures have different behaviors. Poor Asian kids are better behaved than poor white ones. Poor black kids behave worst of all.

White kids in the lowest socioeconomic income bracket, on average, outscore black kids in the highest one, on the test in question.

Do you think poor Japanese kids in Japan, or even poor Jewish kids here, act like the blacks in Phelps letter, Matt? If not, then please concede that maybe black culture is an issue outside of economics.
posted by dgaicun at 12:02 PM on November 1, 2002


White kids in the lowest socioeconomic income bracket, on average, outscore black kids in the highest one, on the test in question.[dgaicun]

That's an interesting stat. Where did you get it?
posted by originalname37 at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2002


See this article by Steve Sailer for an unapologetic stance that the problem is in fact that the students are African-American.
posted by quercus at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2002


The following statistic quoted from the article is an interesting one: Muir is comprised of 47 percent African Americans and 42 percent Latinos. Given that, you could probably say most of the students at Muir are African American that are involved in ____ (fill in the blank), and be correct.
posted by harja at 12:19 PM on November 1, 2002


Thanks for the link, quercus!
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2002


hey Harja,

I tried 'highest test scoring' in your blank and it didn't work. In absolute (not relative!) numbers, I would guess that comes from the minority 10%.
posted by dgaicun at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2002


you could probably say most of the students at Muir are African American that are involved in ____ (fill in the blank), and be correct.

Acing their physics tests?
posted by websavvy at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2002


dgaicun, guess you have me there. but, actually, the minority is 1%.
posted by harja at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2002


whoops, guess my math sucks too...
posted by harja at 12:36 PM on November 1, 2002


Actually, to both websavvy and dgaicun, since Phelps states that many of his black students do get parental support, are well behaved, and are good students, there is a good possibility that more of the black students rank among those with the highest test scores and ace their physics tests than the others. Not saying this is the case (not enough info to go on), but it's possible.

My point was only that, simultaneously, it's also logical that Afro Americans, as the school's majority ethnic group, would be responsible for most of the negative things as well.

All that aside, I don't have a problem with the concept that school systems might need to look at cultural differences in their students and consider how to treat problems based on specific type of student. We readily do this for other types of differences, like say, intellectual capacity or language barriers, don't we?
posted by harja at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2002


Whenever you single out people based on their race in order to disparage them, you are inflicting harm upon them -- even if the generalization has some truth to it. Words, especially words by authority figures, do in fact hurt people, despite the saying to the contrary. This teacher's African-american students and their parents surely heard about this teacher's attitudes toward them and surely it could not have been encouraging to them as students or as people. It is yet another signal to them that they are judged by the majority not by their actions but by the color of their skin. The fact that he mentioned that not all black students have behavior problems blunted the blow somewhat, but the comment, without more in the way proposed solutions, was still inappropriate IMO.

There might be cases where it might be necessary or helpful to single out a particular race or other group for special treatment. Affirmative action jumps to mind as an example. But there has to be an recognition that the actual process of singling out sends a harmful message and must be done carefully, with great sensitivity, and only when absolutely necessary in order to help the group in question. As Matt says, pointing out problems without offering solutions is not helpful, and is in fact very harmful to the kids in question. Saying that it might provoke the "black community" to "take a good hard look at its attitudes toward education" as polo suggests, is like saying that "the white community" ought to do this or that. Races are not "communities", they are skin colors.

It goes without saying that race is a touchy subject in this country. It is touchy because of centuries of unspeakable oppression levied against people based on the color of their skin and their assumed genetic inferiority. Policies like "separate but equal" schools, wholesale disenfranchisement of black voters, and Jim Crow laws were largely justified by making generalizations about black people not unlike those made by Mr. Phelps. Some of these generalizations probably had (and still have) some grain of truth to them thanks to widespread poverty, oppression and marginalization by whites. Because of this history, its hard to blame African-Americans and people concerned about racial equality for looking with great suspicion on statements made in this day and age that disparage blacks wholesale based on their race.
posted by boltman at 12:59 PM on November 1, 2002


I'm with you Boltman. I still wonder what impact it had on the kids when the Oakland school board passed a resolution in 1996 to treat Ebonics as a second language, and declared Ebonics to be the "primary language" of many of its students. I always thought that was absoluteley grotesque reverse racism.
posted by quercus at 1:15 PM on November 1, 2002


This teacher's African-american students and their parents surely heard about this teacher's attitudes toward them and surely it could not have been encouraging to them as students or as people.

Why does a criticism have to be "encouraging"? After all, there's a reason why the phrase "harsh reality" was coined.
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 1:49 PM on November 1, 2002


Polo Mr. Polo, you wrote:
As for "survival", gimme a break. These students live in a poor neighborhood in America, not northern Sri Lanka. Spending an hour or two a night on homework is something they can handle with ease.

While I agree with you yes, that America's poor neighborhoods generally have better conditions than poor neighborhoods elsewhere in the world, I think you are overlooking the serious problems/challenges that often exist for children (even in America) who grow up poor. These problems/challenges *do* make it very difficult for these kids (especially when compared to the advantages that more wealthy kids have):

1. lack of mentoring and guidance from parents who themselves are not well-educated. (if your parents didn't go to college or even graduate high school themselves, it is difficult for them to offer encouragement or advice or understand the importance of getting involved in the kid's education.)
2. lack of money for appropriate school materials, healthy lunches, adequate nutrition. (if you're not eating properly it affects concentration ability, and if you donm't have the proper supplies that also hinders performance.)
3. probably having to work after school and nights to pay for clothing or to help support the family. (this makes kids tired in school, takes away time from homkework, and can make kids stressed.)
4. the presence of violence in the family or in the community. Poor families more often have one parent missing, and/or the other parent working long hours. There's also more likely to be alcholism or drug abuse. Futhermore, poor neighborhoods more often have gangs and violence. I dare you to try to study physics and be a good student when you're being bullied by a gang of kids on your block and you have no daddy around to protect you. Or if your sister is raped, or if your dad is abusing you. Some people can handle all of that and still excel at school, but they are rare cases.
posted by popvulture at 1:55 PM on November 1, 2002


Why does a criticism have to be "encouraging"?

Polo: There is nothing wrong with criticizing an individual student, black or white, for being disruptive. However, rather than writing it in an email to fellow teachers, imagine that this teacher had said to his students, "I'm sick and tired of all you blacks being so disruptive, why can't you learn to be more like my white students?" It's critcism, possibly even somewhat valid to a point (i.e. some of his black students would learn more if they behaved more like some of his white students), but I hope you would agree that it would be entirely unacceptable.

Well, this is exactly the message that black students are going to take from this letter. Granted, he didn't expect his students read it, but he posted it to a listserv for goodness sakes. What did he expect?
posted by boltman at 2:18 PM on November 1, 2002


Boltman, I like what you've written a great deal, and I agree that these concepts are very sensitive and capable of causing great harm. However, I don't think that those two attributes validate the continual hush-hushing of these issues.

"It is yet another signal to them that they are judged by the majority not by their actions but by the color of their skin."

This is something that all people must deal with. Human beings are (unfortunately) incapable of peering into the soul of a stranger and knowing who they are. We pass judgements based on race, age, gender, speech patterns, clothing, hairstyles, weight, and on and on and on.

IMHO trying to deny the fact that these judgments happen is just as counterproductive as trying to judge a person's true character based on these socially-ingrained stereotypes. The only way to break free of them is to acknowledge them, discuss them, and work to change them.

Whether you like it or not, the boundaries of "communities" in our country, and everywhere in the world, are often drawn by race; the two are not the same, but they just so happen to correlate very, very well. If we give Phelps the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has a good heart, I think it's safe to say that his goal is to get these different communities to understand one another better, and hopefully to merge into a single, greater community, in order to facilitate learning in public schools, among other things.
posted by zekinskia at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2002


If only people could learn to love each other...
posted by Postroad at 2:49 PM on November 1, 2002


IMHO trying to deny the fact that these judgments happen is just as counterproductive as trying to judge a person's true character based on these socially-ingrained stereotypes. The only way to break free of them is to acknowledge them, discuss them, and work to change them.

I assume that you are, with this paragraph, talking about us talking about the teacher's racial judgements, not the actual judegement itself?
posted by cell divide at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2002


Right now our classrooms are set up and run in a way that favors white, middle class kids, because those are the kids that have been going to school the longest in this country, and they are the model that we base our student body on.

Yes! Lower the standards! Because those damn blacks can't learn anyways, right?

Coddling hurts everyone.

The whole "needing more black teachers" thing smells so much like "keep 'em with their own kind". There is teacher, there is student - regardless of the race, one must realize that it's not a equal relationship. Teachers are in charge, but in America they rarely get the benefit of the doubt. When you tell a kid he isn't excelling because he and his teacher don't happen to have the same pigmentation, you are giving him a giant escape clause.
posted by owillis at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2002


If you'll excuse my super-nerdiness here, in Venn diagram style, there are three overlapping circles: race, class, and culture. At Muir, it seems that a large portion of the people in one set (racially African-American), for whatever reasons, also happen to be members of the same class (lower) and culture (disrespectful of authority). Though the problem in the school mainly has to do with the culture of disrespect to authority (probably also something to do with the lower-class issues previously discussed here), it's much easier for someone who isn't paying attention to the distinctions to pick out the group based on race, which is not and should not be a factor.

Does that make any sense outside of my own convoluted head?
posted by faustessa at 4:01 PM on November 1, 2002


...

Once again a race-related Metafilter thread gets filled with half-assed conclusions and stupid stereotypes. Too many to go over just this moment.

Can those of you asserting that it's a genetic thing and not class-related find any links anywhere to back up your argument? I spent my ENTIRE childhood living in ALL BLACK neighborhoods, going to schools of varying racial mixes. I think I can safely say that the great majority of you posters on this thread have NO CLUE what the hell you're talking about-- yet this thread, in various forms, just won't stop respawning.

I'm really too annoyed to go into detailed refutation right now (You can tell I'm pissed because of my EXCESSIVE CAPS), but here's a link for starters. My own parents, both from typical lower-class backgrounds, made a point to read to all of their children-- I myself learned to read before kindergarten thanks solely to their efforts-- and I have found that their emphasis on education is far from atypical in the black community. But what use are links and my actual life experiences growing up in a lower class black home when we have a thread full of self-styled anthropologists who've conducted numerous studies of black "culture" through occasional forays into the mall?

I do appreciate the fact that some people (Anil, Matt, anyone else I may have missed) aren't immediately jumping to the "it's in their genes" conclusion and actually seem to be employing logic, but for the most part this thread is pure wankery. Someone jokingly referred to Metafilter as a "Whitezone" a few threads back; as time goes on, and threads like this accumulate, the joke seems a hell of a lot less funny.

Feh.
posted by tyro urge at 6:00 PM on November 2, 2002


Tyro: Give 'em hell. I tried to counteract the crap in the earlier thread, but took one look at this one and gave it up as hopeless. I guess one should keep fighting the good fight, though. So, one more time: skin color is not culture. And as for:

See this article by Steve Sailer for an unapologetic stance that the problem is in fact that the students are African-American.

Contrary to right-wing paranoid fantasy, it has never taken courage in this country to assert that the problem is black people, and who bothers to apologize?
posted by languagehat at 7:29 PM on November 2, 2002


My own parents, both from typical lower-class backgrounds, made a point to read to all of their children-- I myself learned to read before kindergarten thanks solely to their efforts-- and I have found that their emphasis on education is far from atypical in the black community.

Well, there's your key. A friend of mine is a teacher, who used to with autistic children but got burnt out--I won't even get into how arduous that is. So, she's switched to teaching first graders from illiterate family backgrounds, where the only printed matter in the house is on cereal boxes and such, to read. It is involved, intensive and complex. But from teaching high functioning to profoundly autistic children, very young children, to simply be able to sit still and do simple tasks like putting dowels into holes in boards, well she knows how to get her kids pay attention and behave. Then she teaches them to make lists--it's a bit of a way to get to the point of reading Good Night Moon. But she's patient and thorough and God, do those children love her.

Not all parents have the energy or wisdom, nor are in any position to do as tyro urge's folks did. If the funds and personnel are available, if the community is energized and the parents brought in--it can be done. In that Steve Sailor article, there's a link to Damage Control. Read it. Look at the network that has to be constructed, how many adult and older student mentors are needed, how involved teachers and mentors become in their student lives. Then think about the hypocrisy of an Education President who frontloads the system with tests and nothing more. It's very easy to pontificate from afar--but look at what needs to be done.

As for owillis's remark about dumbing down--hell, no. But these children are not going to bootstrap themselves out of a background of poverty and illiteracy without a lot of help, structure and support, of which the PCAD program at Berkeley High School is a model. Now think about the teachers, mentors and funds needed. And all the armchair anthropologists in the world and their opinions can't whitewash how much needs to be done into invisibility. Berkeley High School is a high end school, well staffed and well funded. Mandatory testing without support is simply shutting the door on those who need the most intervention. We need to invest in education and tests aren't anything but a sop and fig leaf covering an utter indifference and contempt for this fact.

So, how do we raise a generation of kids who don't talk at the movies?

You may laugh at this but here's my answer: charm school.
Notome punitive "harsh reality" boot camp brutalization but simply, quietly and effectively teaching polite behavior. It can be done. It should be mandatory for all.
posted by y2karl at 7:30 PM on November 2, 2002


oops, missed that--it should read Not some punitive...
posted by y2karl at 7:31 PM on November 2, 2002


Steve Sailor cites that article I linked to back up his pontifications. Now there's a guy who needs to read his own links. But he had some generalizations to inflate, I guess.
posted by y2karl at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2002


Can those of you asserting that it's a genetic thing and not class-related find any links anywhere to back up your argument?

Can you point to a single comment on this thread in which anyone has asserted that it's a genetic thing?
posted by shoos at 7:44 PM on November 2, 2002


Tyro: why don't you actually read what's being said instead of heading out on some kind of tangent. Have you yet read the teacher's actual e-mail?

I'm tired of your less-than-veiled attempts at disparaging me. Don't tell me I don't know anything about poor culture, black or otherwise. You know nothing about me. Would it surprise you to know I lived in the projects? Except, the only difference was, I was paying attention in class and earned good grades and got scholarships to college whereas my neighbors were acting like animals and daring the 100% white faculty to do anything to them. My mother was working two jobs (factories, hardly glamorous or highly trained) and beating my ass if I brought home anything lower than a B. The neighbors sat on welfare and didn't care if their kids even went.

This is stuff I know FIRST HAND and I'll be damned if I sit by and let you preach at me.

Read what I said above, I'd like to see you comment on this:

The black teachers are more successful because they are able to say "John, sit down, shut up, and listen to the lesson" and rip the headphones off his head. Whereas a white teacher would be run out on a rail for talking to a black student that way and the school board would most likely be sued. We'd also get to watch Al Sharpton on tv saying "Oh, tell the little nigra boy to sit down and shut up huh? Well, should he call you MASTER too, cracker?". Jesus.

Exactly what you did in the other thread. Instead of addressing my points you go off trying to brand me a racist when you know nothing about me.

Once blacks as a whole quit trying to pin the ENTIRE thing on rich white crackers, and start taking responsibility for their actions and their deplorable behavior, and allowing and even encouraging this behavior in their children, THAT is when progress will be made.

Dammit Tyro I'm sick of it. Yes, you get eyed when you go into the stereo store. I'm very sorry for that. That doesn't excuse entire generations of young blacks growing up to be hoodlums and their parents taking zero responsibility for their actions.

It is upon their own shoulders. Blacks commit proportionately more crime, it is empirically demonstrable. Black children misbehave proportionately more in school, it is empirically demonstrable.

Instead of sticking your head in the sand and trying to pretend it doesn't exist, how about coming up with courses of action to help.

It is not a genetic thing. It is a culture thing. And you know it. You should be ashamed for trying to derail the discussion that way.

I stand by this statement:

For one reason or another, the young black culture reinforces brusqueness, rudeness, loudness, and one-upsmanship.

I don't know why. I don't care why. But it is so. I want an answer as to how to address it, not a shirking denial that it even exists.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2002


"Once blacks as a whole . . ."
"entire generations of young blacks . . ."


Ynoxas, I'm not going to try and label you as anything, but I think you ought to think hard about how generalizations that include phrases like those above come off.
posted by boltman at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2002


Ynoxas, you seem to be taking this a bit more personally than I feel is justified. I'm not out to antagonize you in every thread, it's just that I've been jumping into threads that I feel are somewhat misinformed and conjectural about subjects I'm familiar with. Guess who I keep finding in the thick of things spouting wild generalizations?

I'm not attacking you personally, but I really, really don't follow your reasoning or agree with your conclusions.

The logical flaw in this Phelps' argument (and in your beeper scenario) is already well known to any serious scientist or statistician: you find what you're looking for. That's why we have peer review, placebos, control groups, and double-blind experiments-- it's an established fact that the biases and expectations of the observer creep into the study.

Here's a choice quote from Phelps' letter (why yes, I did read it):

The behavior of our 9th grade, low-SES students in no way correlates with the behavior of serious students. These are the kids whose parents I did not see tonight at Back to School night.

As an interesting observation, the parents of my BEST, and only my best, 9th graders showed up. The parents of the three students who got B's. No, the kids whose parents didn't show up are the kids who aren't in the disproportionately high SES band/choir. Their parents were not at school tonight. Teachers can tell you there is a 1 to 1 correspondence between the good students and the parents who show up.

Since Muir is about 48% African -American, most of these poorly-behaving students tend to be of that ethnicity. Obviously, there are very well-behaved African-American students. I noticed that I saw their parents tonight. But overwhelmingly, the students whose behavior makes the hallways deafening, who yell out for the teacher and demand immediate attention in class, who cannot seem to stop chatting and are fascinated by each other and relationships but not with academics, in short whose behavior saps the strength and energy of us that are on the front lines, are African-American.
[emphasis mine]

Okay, I see three ways Phelps could've interpreted his observations:

1) school behavior is correlated with socioeconomic status (choice possible, but not supported very well)
2) school behavior is correlated with parental involvement (the most likely choice in my opinion)
3) school behavior is correlated with race (choice requires sizable leaps in logic, such as tacitly discarding the good black students as racial anomalies and disregarding the bad students of other races [he did say "overwhelmingly," not "entirely"])

...and he chooses #3.

The ironic thing is that I would agree with him if only he had evaluated his data sensibly. While I doubt that charm school would work, I suspect that y2karl is on the right track. Going through his link led me to another site that claims that "contrary to expectations, test scores were not statistically related to school poverty, neighborhood poverty, racial concentration, or even ranking of schools." So if class and socioeconomic factors are out, then parental involvement is the most likely common factor, right?

It would also explain other incidents. Harris and Kliebold of Columbine infamy had pretty negligent parents too, right? Or should we blame their actions on some nebulous white "culture" instead?

(Okay, shoos, I grant you that no one in the thread explicitly named race as a factor, but until someone gives me the definition of "culture" [like I asked] I'm sticking with my theory that it's a euphemism for "race"; in my experience, the only thing "shared" about us is skin color [and that right poorly].)

Instead, Phelps decides to forgo the pesky rational thought and careful evaluation stuff and skips straight to his untenable conclusion. Just like you did, Ynoxas. I've got my head in the sand? Really? To paraphrase Chris Rock, nobody hates disreputable black people more than other black people.

Disproportionate criminal statistics? All too true, sadly.

Disproportionate behavior in school? Not in my experience, but I wouldn't discount it if you were to break out some links.

In this situation because of our "culture"?

You lost me.

I'm insulting you!?! Whatever. I will stop my so-called "attempts to disparage" you the instant you put some logic behind your conclusions.

There. Another overlong tirade that no one will want to read. Anything I missed?
posted by tyro urge at 12:47 AM on November 4, 2002


For one reason or another, the young black culture reinforces brusqueness, rudeness, loudness, and one-upsmanship.

I don't know why. I don't care why. But it is so. I want an answer as to how to address it, not a shirking denial that it even exists.


Hmm, do you think the solution to the problem will involve curing kids of their rudeness, or of their blackness? And if it's the former, then why is the latter relevant?
posted by anildash at 5:01 AM on November 4, 2002


Tyro,

It is more than a little offensive, and disturbingly typical, that you can accuse an entire thread, give or take a few, of saying 'its all in the genes', when in fact no one stated anything close. Do you really need someone to take you by the hand, and lead you to a definition of 'culture', before you can acknowledge this, what should be uncontroversial, concept? Was it ever in dispute? Is it that allusive? Here. The product of about four seconds of Googling.

the only thing "shared" about us is skin color

This is patently false, and I know you know this. While American blacks are probably more 'American' in culture, than anything else, the existence of a shared sense of black experience, identity, and values in this country is so axiomatic that your willful ignorance is hardly worth comment.

The achievement gap in this country between black and white, can not be effectively explained by racism, or by poverty, when the grand majority of blacks are no where near poverty. I'm not sure if you are on very solid ground to claim otherwise.

Hmm, do you think the solution to the problem will involve curing kids of their rudeness, or of their blackness? And if it's the former, then why is the latter relevant?

Is this a lame reference to genocide, Anil? This moves in perilously close to Godwin's law.

At their base, cultures are a shared strategy fo living. They are not unknown to change when portions of the strategy are no longer agreed upon as effective. To use American culture as an example, The Women's Revolution of the 1920's and the Civil Rights Movements and Sexual Revolution of the 1960's mark dramatic shifts in cultural values. If more blacks view assimilation into white values as a positive thing, instead of a threat to their black identity, than their behavior and achievement will more closely match that of whites as well.

(Not that this is perfection by any standard. For instance the white illegitimacy rate today is 30%, the same rate as for blacks in the 1960's (a rate considered too shocking and racist to acknowledge publicly at the time). Today blacks have a 70% rate of illegitimacy; there is no excuse to be any higher than the mainstream (or 'white') rate of 30%, but it would be nice if everybody drifted back towards the statistically insignificant white rate of the 1960's. I shouldn't need some grand solution ready before I can state this.)
posted by dgaicun at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2002


A little more. . .

It would also explain other incidents. Harris and Kliebold of Columbine infamy had pretty negligent parents too, right? Or should we blame their actions on some nebulous white "culture" instead?

In fact Harris and Kliebold had very normal and functional families. If unique their actions could have plausibly been written off as culturally anomalous. Instead their actions fit a distinct pattern of school shootings that waved across America. This pattern did not exist in the UK, in Iceland, in Korea etc., so it would be very fair to say that this was a product of 'American' culture, or since so many killers were young white males, 'white American' culture.

1) school behavior is correlated with socioeconomic status (choice possible, but not supported very well)
2) school behavior is correlated with parental involvement (the most likely choice in my opinion)
3) school behavior is correlated with race (choice requires sizable leaps in logic, such as tacitly discarding the good black students as racial anomalies and disregarding the bad students of other races [he did say "overwhelmingly," not "entirely"])

...and he chooses #3.


He chose three because, like income, even black kids with higher parental involvement fall disproportionately into the categories of higher disruptive behavior and lower achievement. This is basically acknowledged in the Tim Wise article that you linked to, where he shows that black parental involvement is nearly equal to that of whites, yet, repeating my statistic above, blacks in the highest socioeconomic income bracket, are outscored in SATs by whites in the lowest one. Once again Phelps chose to focus on race, because it correlates with the deleterious behaviors more closely than any other factor. This is obvious to anyone who doesn't have some chip on their shoulder.

Once again Phelps did nothing wrong. I consider his reinstatement a victory for truth and progress.
posted by dgaicun at 8:47 AM on November 4, 2002


Once blacks as a whole quit trying to pin the ENTIRE thing on rich white crackers

You are a brilliant satirist.

Wait.

You mean you're serious?
posted by owillis at 9:32 AM on November 4, 2002


Yes, owillis, boltman, etc.,

It takes a lot of courage to nit-pick Ynoxas's words for phraseology you find objectionable than to ever respond to the spirit of his arguments. You are courageous anti-racist warriors standing up for all things good and true against burgeoning fascist ideologies. Your ideas are so conspicuously accurate to yourselves that all competing views can be dismissed immediately. (sarcastic and unsubstansive, right boltman?). Like any perfectly moral vicar of Christ you win all debates through fiat.

You are the condescending, patronizing, coddling mother-figures that black America needs like a hole in the head.
posted by dgaicun at 11:48 AM on November 4, 2002


repeating my statistic above, blacks in the highest socioeconomic income bracket, are outscored in SATs by whites in the lowest one.[dgaicun]

Unless there's another one that I'm missing, above you said that your "statistic" was about "the test in question" (I assume in Phelps' note). Though I may be wrong, this is not the SAT but something Phelps expects "this year's freshmen" to take next year, contributing negatively to something called an API (Academic Performance Index). Also, this reminds me that I'm still waiting for an answer to this question. Just a friendly reminder:

If you make a statement of fact, show supporting evidence (hopefully as hyperlinks to other web resources).[under "Good Contributions"]

---------------------------------------------------------------

That's what I had before preview informed me that I was talking to an expert on what "black America needs". So tell me, does "black America" need more disparaging teachers like Phelps? Or is it more sweeping generalizations like the ones Boltman cruelly "nit-picked" from Ynoxas?
posted by originalname37 at 12:21 PM on November 4, 2002


Though I may be wrong, this is not the SAT but something Phelps expects "this year's freshmen" to take next year

You are wrong. The test in question was SAT-9.

Also, this reminds me that I'm still waiting for an answer to this question

Yes. This phenomenon has been well-known since the 1960s. I have no immediate link, but never ignored your request. I have E-mailed several people asking where I can get good statistical data of this nature online. One of the people was Zmag contributor (and self-styled 'anti-racist' activist) Tim Wise, who Tyro linked too earlier. I Emailed him because he too cites the statistic in the linked article, but without immediate reference, and thought maybe he would know of any online resources. (If you're skeptical of the statistic I assure you, ultra-Leftist Tim Wise wouldn't lie about such a potentially harmful piece of information)

So tell me, does "black America" need more disparaging teachers like Phelps? Or is it more sweeping generalizations like the ones Boltman cruelly "nit-picked" from Ynoxas?


Black America needs to be held to the same standards as the majority culture and not apologized for. Why? Because they can face the challenge. Phelps understood this. I'm not sure why any comment that might produce shame in someone is invalid. A criticism must be the same as an insult or an epithet, in your view, b/c they all result in someone feeling bad, right? Who needs truth when we can all feel good about ourselves, right? As for Ynoxas's 'sweeping generalizations', I'm sure if you asked him you would discover that, he in fact knows(!!) that black America isn't some homogenous criminal gang (What a surprise! I can't believe it!). There is a context to his arguments that no one seems able to consider, because they can't get past some loosely worded phrases. But it's much more fun to nitpick, and feel like a winner, than to face any actual challenges that have been set before you.

Remember folks- Just keep telling yourselves:

A) There's no cohesive black identity in America.

&


B) Statistical observations are really just intellectual laziness, and can't provide us with any useful information.


It seems to be the only two points that anyone can offer, and both fail profoundly as realistic statements.
posted by dgaicun at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2002


A criticism must be the same as an insult or an epithet, in your view, b/c they all result in someone feeling bad, right?

Not really. I just think that Phelps' complaining about how he knows that the API is going to go down next year because of his current freshmen is clearly disparaging, even without attributing it to the African-Americans in the class.

As for Ynoxas's 'sweeping generalizations', I'm sure if you asked him you would discover that, he in fact knows(!!) that black America isn't some homogenous criminal gang (What a surprise! I can't believe it!).

I have no doubt whatsoever about this. The point that Boltman made (very well, I think) and that I agree with is that if you write these things in the form of generalizations, they have the potential to undermine the point that you are trying to make.
posted by originalname37 at 1:31 PM on November 4, 2002


If more blacks view assimilation into white values as a positive thing, instead of a threat to their black identity, than their behavior and achievement will more closely match that of whites as well.

Considering how intrinsically racism, homophobia, sexism, and irresponsible commercial development are linked into white values, I'd hope that black folks are aiming a little higher than that as a goal.
posted by anildash at 1:33 PM on November 4, 2002


Also, thanks dgaicun for the info about the SAT-9 (from your context the same as the SAT?). Does everybody take that in their sophomore year these days?
posted by originalname37 at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2002


Considering how intrinsically racism, homophobia, sexism, and irresponsible commercial development are linked into white values, I'd hope that black folks are aiming a little higher than that as a goal.

Anil, please do me the service of pointing to a culture that is less homophobic, racist, and sexist than white Western civilization. If you say the black West you are far more full of it than any one I've met on a chatboard yet. In fact I challenge you to name this mythical culture where 'racism, homophobia, and sexism' are less prevalent, more consciously reflected upon, actively challenged and successfully extirpated than in the Occidental white world. Japan? Saudi Arabia? Somewhere in Africa? God, what BS! This is the kind of unthinking Leftist garbage that makes me cringe.
posted by dgaicun at 2:15 PM on November 4, 2002


Considering how intrinsically racism, homophobia, sexism, and irresponsible commercial development are linked into white values, I'd hope that black folks are aiming a little higher than that as a goal.

I just wanted to quote that for posterity.
posted by shoos at 2:38 PM on November 4, 2002


API is going to go down next year because of his current freshmen

Does everybody take that in their sophomore year these days?

No ON37, Phelps was talking about the incoming Freshman class's anticipated test scores on the SAT-9 in the coming year, not his current students. It was a race-based prediction.
posted by dgaicun at 2:44 PM on November 4, 2002


No ON37, Phelps was talking about the incoming Freshman class's anticipated test scores on the SAT-9 in the coming year, not his current students. It was a race-based prediction[dgaicun].

I'm not so sure about that:

From Phelps' letter: This is because next year, we will have two "bad" cohorts, the classes of 2004 and 2006, currently our 9th and 11th graders, taking the test. Our current 11th graders did terribly last year, and have all along their history. Their poor behavior and lack of academic focus was very noticeable last year as 10th graders. This year, I can tell you that the 9th graders are bouncing off the walls.
...
I can tell you right now that the presence of these two bad cohorts cannot mathematically be overcome by our good cohort, our current 10th graders. The laws of math do not permit one grade's good scores to outweigh the bad scores of two grades.


It sounds to me like he's talking about an API that combines test scores from sophomores, juniors and seniors. He's worried about next year when he predicts that the scores from the current freshmen (class of 2006) + the scores from current juniors (class of 2004) will overwhelm the scores from the one good class says he has: the current sophomores (class of 2003).
posted by originalname37 at 4:51 PM on November 4, 2002


dgaicun, I hope you stick around. Thank you for making so much sense.

Considering how intrinsically racism, homophobia, sexism, and irresponsible commercial development are linked into white values, I'd hope that black folks are aiming a little higher than that as a goal.

Ouch. I am glad to see you change the subject. It probably means you are all out of anything with real value to add to debate.

It has been jammed down my generation's throat that whites oppress blacks and always will. I hear it more than I see it. Yet I am supposed to feel eternally guilty for something I never had anything to do with just because I am white.

White Americans today have to live in fear of being called racist. This teacher almost lost his job for stating a simple fact in the wrong way. True racism is dying why can't anyone admit it, accept the battles won and get over it?

The emphasis on diversity conflicts too much with the emphasis on equality.
posted by Recockulous at 7:19 PM on November 4, 2002


So this is what it's like to beat your head against a wall.

Thanks for the links, dgaicun. The first thing that jumped out at me with your definition of the word culture was the bold line at the top of the screen (all emphasis to follow is mine, of course): There are a number of ways that culture has been defined. One possible definition is the following.

Hmm. Pretty tentative. Let's see if we can find something more substantial:

Dictionary.com: I think definition 1d is the best fit for your idea of culture, so let's go with that for the moment-- The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

Or you could take the Merriam-Webster route. We could try #2-- the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.

Whichever, your choice. Your mission, dgaicun (should you choose to accept it), is to prove logically that loudness, disinterest in education, and disrespect for teachers fits the definition of black culture.

Now I'm not demanding that you show that these traits are restricted to blacks, but at least show me your proof that they originated there, spreading out into other groups later. That Phelps was right in identifying African Americans as the source of all our teaching woes.

I am especially looking forward to the part of your study where you get a shotgun and a time machine and travel back into the past to kill Mark Twain in order to reconcile this argument with reality. I mean, how DARE he write a novel filled with white boys who behave badly in school? Why, he didn't even have the decency to insert a black scapegoat to serve as a cultural fount for these negative actions! The audacity!

Okay, I'm obviously slipping into sarcasm, so I'll just be blunt: you seem to have accepted my premise #3 without even bothering to address the mental omissions I mentioned in the parentheses. Your reasoning seems very convoluted, just as I figured it would have to be to accept the "black culture causes bad behavior" argument.

And while we're deconstructing "culture," dgaicun, I suppose I might as well tell you that it was your comment that led me to my "transparent euphemism" conclusion:

Different cultures have different behaviors. Poor Asian kids are better behaved than poor white ones. Poor black kids behave worst of all.

Somebody better get in contact with the census bureau, because I don't recall ever seeing "white," black," and "Asian" as descriptors of culture in their forms-- I always see 'em in the "race/ethnicity" category. Or am I getting some sort of defective sheets?

Then you end the post with a general statement about blacks, poor Jews, and poor Japanese. They're all poor, so economic differences don't seem to be what you're aiming at. The only variable descriptive term deals directly with race/ethnicity, but you swear that this racial identification has nothing to do with race: why, you're separating the three groups by race to demonstrate something entirely different! Something to do with culture. A culture that you have failed to define. (And anytime you're willing to share with us the traits of black "culture"-- some non-physical characteristics that you can prove all black people in the US share-- fire away.) Yeah, that's it! Yeah...

Moving on: You also seem to have taken issue with my Columbine theory about Harris and Klebold (forgive my earlier misspelling). You linked to a Salon article in an attempt to refute my hypothesis.

Er... did you read that article?

My #2 works on the assumption that it is a lack of parental involvement that lends to student delinquency. To paraphrase a cliche, "all bad students need to triumph is for good parents to do nothing." How, exactly, does your link contradict this? If anything, it bolsters my argument. Here's a quote:

"It really does begin with the family," Battan said. "But I'm here to tell you, I sat down and I've spent a lot of time with the Klebolds, and they're nice people. It's not like they're these monsters that raised a monster. I mean, they truly are clueless about any warning signs that this was going to happen."

Other investigators offered similar assessments. The prevailing sentiment around the investigation is that most of the people pointing fingers at the parents would have been just as easily taken in by their own kids.


Nice people. Nice, clueless people.

So I went through your link looking for similar articles. This one caught my eye:

[Harris] excuses [his parents] for possible mistakes they weren't aware of, and thanks them for teaching him self-awareness and self-reliance...The videos clearly bear out that the killers kept their parents in the dark, but raise unsettling questions about whether the Harrises, at least, should have seen clues... At one point [Harris] addresses them directly: "There's nothing you guys could've done to prevent this."...But he and Klebold also film a tour through a poorly-hidden arsenal right inside his bedroom. Pipe bombs and ammunition sit in a white plastic box on the floor under some magazines. Another box holds homemade grenades. A 50-foot coil of green fuse hangs on the wall.

Perhaps most damning are two incidents Harris and Klebold describe on the videos. They show off a tackle box with equipment for making the bombs, and explain that Harris' parents once found it, but only removed the pipe bombs, not the equipment.

They also describe a chilling moment when a clerk from Green Mountain Guns called and reached Harris' father, Wayne. "Your clips are in," the clerk said. Wayne Harris told the clerk he hadn't ordered gun clips but never asked who the clerk was trying to reach. Harris says that if his father or the clerk had just asked one question, "We would've been fucked."

Harris also describes his mother spotting the butt of a gun sticking out of his gym bag, but says she assumed it was just his BB gun.


So in my previous post I posited that lack of parental involvement leads to unruly student behavior. I provided direct quotes from Phelps to support this. You linked to an article about Klebold and Harris that describes the severe lack of parental involvement leading up to the boys' "extracurricular activities." This contradicts my argument because...?

I realize that these long posts are a bother to read, but I find it necessary to refute your arguments point by point, and will continue to do so until I can figure out what (if any) rationale is behind your assertions. (Not touching your Tim Wise statistic until you furnish proof.) Feel free to continue arguing, though. Keep those links coming!
posted by tyro urge at 7:38 PM on November 4, 2002


Tyro,

Where, oh where, to begin? Tyro, you have truly put me into an awkward position with your obscurantism (let the flame begin). The issue began in this thread with the complaint that Phelps identified 'blackness' as the source of the problem over all other factors, such as SES. Of course, the reason Phelps did this is because 'blackness' easily correlated with the negative behaviors in question better than any other factor. That is how Phelps is able to make predictions about tests that haven't even been taken yet (One I would bet the barn on), in a way that Tyro Urge never ever could. Tyro is too busy trying to desperately deny associations, than to ever recognize them, or their worth as logical constructs, as practical information. Tyro could never make predictions as accurate as Phelps, because Tyro is too busy trying to manufacture the world in his mind, than to observe it. In effect all you're left doing is denying that a thing called 'culture' even exists among people or that it plays any role in human affairs. Or maybe you truly just don't understand what culture is.

Tyro, did you ever stop to wonder why Germans have a different language than Italians? Why people in the Netherlands and Switzerland make more money than people in Ireland or Portugal (and why their respective descendants continue to do so even in wildly differing external circumstances?) Why all these diverse Nationalities share far more factors among eachother than any one does with, say, an East Asian country (which in turn share more traits with eachother than any one does with an African or European nation)?
Furthermore, why is it that minority populations within those countries, be it the Basques in Spain, the Ainu of Japan, or the Sami of Sweden, are as distinct from the majority population, and among eachother, as the larger nationalities are from eachother? How is it that minorities that face equal persecution, such as the Jews and the Gypsies in the xenophobic Germany of days past, are able to succeed and fail at such wildly different rates?

Do you see where I'm going with this? Do you understand culture- a shared sense of identity, behavior, tradition, and values? I don't think you do, because you keep making comments that suggest otherwise.

It would also explain other incidents. Harris and Kliebold of Columbine infamy had pretty negligent parents too, right? Or should we blame their actions on some nebulous white "culture" instead?

You linked to an article about Klebold and Harris that describes the severe lack of parental involvement leading up to the boys' "extracurricular activities." This contradicts my argument because...?


The Salon piece discussed mythical theories about Columbine. One was that the Columbine parents were uniquely abusive, bad, or otherwise as extraordinary as the crimes committed by their children. Most analysis of the Columbine parents show them to be fairly clueless (which is not the same as 'neglectful'), yet functional and loving family units. With 30% illegitimacy, and high divorce rates, I assure you, there are highly dysfunctional and broken homes all over white America, none of which seem to result in unprovoked massacres. That you can associate such highly typical parental cluelessness with this highly atypical act of blood-thirsty crowd murder, shows that you are far more eager to oversimplify than any one else here. In reality, no one's sure what combination of cultural forces contributed to the school-shooting phenomenon (parental cluelessness is, no doubt, a part, but by no means, the whole of the problem) , but the fact that it was a pattern of behavior distinct within our society (as opposed to a randomly distributed and constant behavior throughout the world) shows that it was a product of American culture. To put it another way:

If unique their actions could have plausibly been written off as culturally anomalous. Instead their actions fit a distinct pattern of school shootings that waved across America. This pattern did not exist in the UK, in Iceland, in Korea etc., so it would be very fair to say that this was a product of 'American' culture, or since so many killers were young white males, 'white American' culture.

Culture is a manifestation. Unique by-products of values and complex combinations of values can emerge out of a culture.

Whichever, your choice. Your mission, dgaicun (should you choose to accept it), is to prove logically that loudness, disinterest in education, and disrespect for teachers fits the definition of black culture.

These traits exist in all cultures to a certain degree. But if you travel to Japan, I assure you that you will observe that even the burakamin, the Koreans, the Ainu, and the other officially oppressed minorities there, do not act like the students in Phelps letter. Even the Japanese in the lowest SES bracket and with the most neglectful of parents won't act that way, Tyro (please bet me a large sum of money on this one). Why is that Tyro? How is that blacks here will act a certain way under certain circumstances, that people in other places would never act under similar circumstances? Culture? Could it be that Japanese society wouldn't tolerate loud-ass, violent Koreans (or any one else) in their hall-ways? Could it be that Americans who don't tolerate loud-ass, violent blacks in their hall-ways are shouted down by self-righteous extremists?

I am especially looking forward to the part of your study where you get a shotgun and a time machine and travel back into the past to kill Mark Twain in order to reconcile this argument with reality. I mean, how DARE he write a novel filled with white boys who behave badly in school? Why, he didn't even have the decency to insert a black scapegoat to serve as a cultural fount for these negative actions! The audacity!

This claim of 'scape-goat' is lame as all hell. I am completely aware that the mainstream white values of this culture fall well below the Japanese model stated above. I understand that whites too, can be loud and disruptive, and display all the ill-behaviors described in Phelps screed. There is no excuse for this. There is even less of an excuse that blacks should be noticeably and substantially worse than the already problematic mainstream. I'm sorry you'll apologize for blacks, because I have never apologized for whites. I just ask that everyone meet the status-quo, and we'll all work together from there. I'm sorry Tyro, it is perfectly fine with me if blacks want to share a special identity with eachother in this country, with their own unique styles of art, dress, communication, food, etc. (in fact, such diversity, I see as one of America's great strengths), but what I will not accept is any negative black behaviors that statistically exceed the values of the majority culture. On that point assimilation is mandatory. Diversity of values is not OK. Diversity of illegitimacy is not OK. Diversity of crime is not OK. Diversity of grades is not OK. Diversity of disruptiveness is not OK. I'm sorry cultural relativists will tell you it is OK, because behavior will continue if not challenged. That's why I applaud Phelps, who is not intimidated by the racial apologists who let this behavior continue.

Somebody better get in contact with the census bureau, because I don't recall ever seeing "white," black," and "Asian" as descriptors of culture in their forms-- I always see 'em in the "race/ethnicity" category. Or am I getting some sort of defective sheets?

Tyro, is there any pattern too obvious for you to contradict? Really. Are all people on this planet related equally to everyone else, both genetically and culturally? Are Germans more related culturally to the Spanish or to the Chinese? Are the Japanese more related culturally to Koreans, or to Bantus? Do you think these cultural values are all shed the moment an ethnicity gets off the boat on Ellis Island, or are they preserved through the generations? Despite your superficial braying, Asians who come to America also bring with them traditional Asian values, which are then transmitted to their children. Same for the French. Kenyans too. etc. etc.

Then you end the post with a general statement about blacks, poor Jews, and poor Japanese. They're all poor, so economic differences don't seem to be what you're aiming at. The only variable descriptive term deals directly with race/ethnicity, but you swear that this racial identification has nothing to do with race: why, you're separating the three groups by race to demonstrate something entirely different! Something to do with culture. A culture that you have failed to define. (And anytime you're willing to share with us the traits of black "culture"-- some non-physical characteristics that you can prove all black people in the US share-- fire away.) Yeah, that's it! Yeah...

I defined culture sufficiently. It is an easily digested and non-controversial concept, Tyro. Go read an anthropology book, I'm not going to take you by the hand. Culture and race/ethnicity are not correlated randomly. They are extremely correlated. Tyro, is there any pattern too obvious for you to contradict? I have only stated that I have no evidence to believe differing cultural behaviors are caused by innate biological differences, I have never said race doesn't strongly correlate with culture.* Not every last black person needs to share every last black cultural trait for there to be a 'black culture' in the US, Tyro. You are thinking in clunky, unrealistic Platonic essences, when reality works in terms of statistical probabilities. I'm saying 'Many black people share many values.'; not 'All black people share all values.' By your definition no culture could exist. (but I guess you'll deny what ever it takes to save your favorite ethnicity from any discomfort)

You are a churlish bore, Tyro. Why not invest a little thought into any forthcoming objections, and make my life a bit easier?

*For a good treatsie on why (probably) biologically identical races have such different cultures and varying rates of success, read Jared Diamond's 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' . He makes a compelling case that it is all based in historical starts of geographical contingency.
posted by dgaicun at 3:05 AM on November 5, 2002


ON37, you were right, Phelps was talking about the current Freshman class, not the incoming one.

The SAT-9, doesn't mean 'the SAT for 9th graders'. It is the 'Stanford Aptitude Test' edition 9. This normed test is given each spring to almost all California students from grades 2 through 11. I was confused by seniors taking the test, and freshman scores ostensibly not being included in the API. But you are correct, this seems to be the case at Muir High-School. I apologize.
posted by dgaicun at 5:11 AM on November 5, 2002


Been out of town and missed all the fun. *rolls eyes*

If Tyro is still reading I am disappointed that you keep avoiding the central issues and keep trying to do a semantical magician's act around the word "culture".

How about if we called it young black tendencies? Or young black habits? Or young black mores? Or young black scruples? Or young black manners?

Whatever word you use, there is a common shared set of behaviors that have come to be popular with young blacks. There have been so many discussions on where it has come from, such as hip-hop influence, that you're honestly the first person I've ever heard try to deny that such a thing even exists.

As I've said more times than I like to think about on this board, if you talk about a group of any kind at all, at some level, at some resolution, you must assign traits to that group to discuss them. There are some humans that naturally do not have 2 legs. But to use that to try to deny that humans are bipedal is preposterous.

Unless you are the only black person in your town, surely you have seen the fashion, music, lingo, mannerisms, and behaviors that are common to black youths that are not common to other groups of youths. To deny this is lunacy and I simply won't discuss it anymore.

I cannot consider your opinion on this matter if you refuse to even admit that the grouping is valid. There is nothing more to discuss.

But I will bet you $500 that the next time a teacher in Topeka hears someone in the back of class tell them to "suck dez nutz" it's not going to be the korean exchange student.

For the third time, if you are capable of understanding what I am saying, please address this one paragraph:

The black teachers are more successful because they are able to say "John, sit down, shut up, and listen to the lesson" and rip the headphones off his head. Whereas a white teacher would be run out on a rail for talking to a black student that way and the school board would most likely be sued. We'd also get to watch Al Sharpton on tv saying "Oh, tell the little nigra boy to sit down and shut up huh? Well, should he call you MASTER too, cracker?". Jesus.

That is the most important thing I've written in this thread, and yet it's not been mentioned once.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:35 PM on November 5, 2002


[this is absurd]

Whoa. Whoa. Let's review, shall we?

Scott Phelps (via dgaicun): "Different cultures have different behaviors, but if we're going to be holding all kids responsible [for meeting the same standard], then we need to be talking about their cultural behavior."

dgaicun himself, same post: Phelps comments were necessary to get people to start paying attention to the very real differences that exist between the cultures of different races.

and later: please concede that maybe black culture is an issue outside of economics.

Enter yours truly: ...we have a thread full of self-styled anthropologists who've conducted numerous studies of black "culture"...

Here's Ynoxas' take: Once blacks as a whole quit trying to pin the ENTIRE thing on rich white crackers, and start taking responsibility for their actions and their deplorable behavior, and allowing and even encouraging this behavior in their children... It is a culture thing.

From my next comment: until someone gives me the definition of "culture"... I'm sticking with my theory that it's a euphemism for "race"; in my experience, the only thing "shared" about us is skin color .

from dgaicun's link: Culture-- The learned patterns of thought and behavior characteristic of a population or society.

"the existence of a shared sense of black experience, identity, and values in this country is so axiomatic that your willful ignorance is hardly worth comment," he then adds.

(As an aside: he included a John McWhorter link [blech] in this post to prove that class and poverty were nonissues. Did he not realize that I was already leaning away from that idea? What's the point of typing if nobody reads it?)

dgaicun again: You are the condescending, patronizing, coddling mother-figures that black America needs like a hole in the head.

(Have patience, please; I really am going somewhere with this!)

dgaicun likes this subject: I'm sure if you asked him [Ynoxas] you would discover that, he in fact knows(!!) that black America isn't some homogenous criminal gang (What a surprise! I can't believe it!). There is a context to his arguments that no one seems able to consider, because they can't get past some loosely worded phrases... Remember folks- Just keep telling yourselves:

A) There's no cohesive black identity in America.


This one is a bit off subject-- This is the kind of unthinking Leftist garbage that makes me cringe-- but I just wanted to take note of what seems to be the thread's first and only political jab. You know, for posterity.

Home stretch now: the reason Phelps did this is because 'blackness' easily correlated with the negative behaviors in question better than any other factor.... all you're left doing is denying that a thing called 'culture' even exists among people or that it plays any role in human affairs. Or maybe you truly just don't understand what culture is.

And finally, Ynoxas' most recent: If Tyro is still reading I am disappointed that you keep avoiding the central issues and keep trying to do a semantical magician's act around the word "culture".

How about if we called it young black tendencies? Or young black habits? Or young black mores? Or young black scruples? Or young black manners?

Whatever word you use, there is a common shared set of behaviors that have come to be popular with young blacks. There have been so many discussions on where it has come from, such as hip-hop influence, that you're honestly the first person I've ever heard try to deny that such a thing even exists... Unless you are the only black person in your town, surely you have seen the fashion, music, lingo, mannerisms, and behaviors that are common to black youths that are not common to other groups of youths. To deny this is lunacy and I simply won't discuss it anymore.


Okay. Pencils down. Did you see the shift?

Scott Phelps' tirade was against black culture as a whole. Ynoxas' and dgaicun's support of Phelps as "telling it like it is" similarly pointed fingers at black culture as a whole. Said broad generalizations continued even in the face of other members challenging them and/or asking for a description. Finally, within the last few hours, a change in tactics: "I'm saying 'Many black people share many values.'; not 'All black people share all values.'" And "black youths"? Where'd "youths" come from all of a sudden? Phelps made no such qualifications. Neither did either one of you until these last two posts. Oh, no. No way I'm letting you two squirm off the hook like that. Phelps made NO DISTINCTIONS; you two made NO DISTINCTIONS; there is no way in hell I'm letting you retreat into Revisionland now. You will do as you originally said and provide us with examples of traits that typify ALL American blacks. C'mon, you claimed it was so self-evident before; what's the hold up with the links?

Once we've established that, I'd be happy to cover your other issues. Most blacks condone crime and illegitimacy, dgaicun? Really? That's not what I've seen. Prove it. Also, I'd like to know why you're going so far afield of what Scott Phelps identified as the problems. Or is there some connection between crime and "chatting" and out-of-wedlock births and "yelling in the halls" that I'm missing?

Heh, and I love the way that your posts have quietly moved away from mentioning the good black students that Phelps acknowledged. How do you fit them into your "cultural problems" worldview? I only ask because it seems as though you've disregarded them entirely-- exactly as I predicted in my analysis of the #3 mindset. Tell me again: which one of us is "too busy trying to manufacture the world in his mind, than to observe it" [sic]?

Ynoxas, you've been alluding to this mystical paper that proves that black people score lower on tests regardless of class and other considerations. It's put-up-or-shut-up time. Where is it? Show us. Pretty please? Making links is easy-- see, like this. Ooh! Look! The link is about hip-hop culture! I'm acknowledging that cultures can exist! And hey, check out this cool quote:

In a March Newsweek issue that focused on rap music generation gap between black adults and youth, rap was, once again, blamed for all the ills of black America, but the white controlled industry was no where to be found nor the white youth buying public. White youths, according to the RIAA, buy 60% percent of rap, yet no generation gap article was written regarding white parents and their children's musical taste. There seems to some sort of fire wall constructed around two white aspects of rap, namely the corporation's marketing of it and the white youths buying it.

Wow. 60%! Learning every day, huh? Surely that kind of stuff never gains a following within other ethnic groups or overseas. Now about that bet...

Oh, and your "Al Sharpton" comment? I ignored it because it was baiting and poorly contrived. (Why the fixation with headphones? I don't remember Phelps mentioning that.) We get to pick and choose a single semi-public figure to represent the thoughts and sentiments of an entire race culture? Fine. For you, I choose Terry Moffit. Yeah, so Terry walks in and shouts at the nearest teacher. "How dare you ask our poor Christian children to read that heathen Moslem Mohammed's Koran-book in our schools? I condemn you to hell, sir!"

...Oh, wait. I can't use that as my wacky hypothetical situation-- it really happened.

I feel like I'm basically wasting my words back here, but it bears repeating: Scott Phelps himself said that there was a 1:1 ratio between good students and students whose parents showed up for Parent Night. What's your interpretation of that little tidbit? Like I said before, negligent parenting seems much more likely to be a key factor than race-- like delinquency, it crosses all racial boundaries. Phelps said it-- what's your rationale for ignoring it or acting like I'm the one who made it up?

Ugh. I must be the most long-winded poster since one Mr. Cardoso first made the MeFi scene. =) But I am going to keep picking away at your so-called "logic" for as long as it takes. Don't like it? Stop spouting nonsense.

See you tomorrow, I suppose.
posted by tyro urge at 2:33 AM on November 6, 2002


Forgive the noise:signal skew, but Tyro, that was masterful.
posted by Dreama at 3:23 AM on November 6, 2002


Yeah, I too am in awe. Your words are not wasted.
posted by languagehat at 5:22 AM on November 6, 2002


Funny how in my first post, I was concerned about how the word "culture" would be used. Prophetic, no?

I'll try to be very careful and make it easy for you Tyro.

Where did "youths" come from? My very first post in this thread. Feel free to read back. My very first assertion is about "young black culture". I hope you recognize the word "young" signifies "youth". It is also in my second post.

The entire discussion in this thread has been about school kids, i.e. "youths". Only in your imagination (paranoia?) has it been an indictment against "all blacks". The only reference to "all blacks" was a throw-back to the previous thread where we showed that blacks commit crime at a disproportionate rate. You finally conceded this point: Disproportionate criminal statistics? All too true, sadly.

I have not mentioned test scores yet. That was your other sparring partner. Why don't you get your facts straight before you publicly call me out and tell me to put up or shut up, okay?

Also, I refuse to argue again about how there can exist a "culture" and not EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THAT GROUP SHARE IT. Saying that you refuse to believe in a "culture" unless every single member of a population subscribes to it is juvenile.

You cannot get over this discussion of "culture". I missed this somehow last night after my 250 mile drive home:

Disproportionate behavior in school? Not in my experience, but I wouldn't discount it if you were to break out some links.

In this situation because of our "culture"?

You lost me.


Check this out. Now at least I'm starting to get an understanding of what is going on. Note this excerpt:

Students may engage in certain challenging behaviors common to the African American male adolescent community, not because they want to disrupt the classroom but because they want to demonstrate their rebellion against what they consider a teacher's "power tripping"; lessons they consider irrelevant, racist, or too simplistic; their perception that teachers believe them incapable of achievement; or their inability to keep up with white classmates because of learning or developmental differences

So, this explanation makes some sense to me. It at the very least admits what you refuse to. It is trying to excuse their classroom disruptions as a "style of classroom participation". Leaving out any validity of this, it at least shows that an advocate even recognizes the "young black culture" I was referring to above.

Does this help Tyro?

The single statement that "the only thing we share is skin color" is so obscenely ignorant that I cannot in good faith waste my time in discussing it.

As I said in my last post, we have nothing to discuss about the grouping, because you deny the grouping in itself is valid.

So, again, instead of discussing my point, you go off with another pseudo-racist implication, wanting to know why I'm "obsessed" with headphones. Heh. Very clever. Oh, wait, no it's not, it's stupid. I'm obsessed with why you will not address why black teachers have better success with black students. Oh, wait I see why you won't address it.

The black kids behave better for the black teachers for ONE OF TWO REASONS.

1. Black teachers can be more forceful and direct with black students without fear of reprisal.

or

2. Black teachers understand "young black culture" better and know better how to handle it.

Either way, guess what? You've tried to dance and dance and avoid the topic, and either way, you're still wrong.

As for your rap music statistics, one must look no further than the artists themselves to find out the explanation for that one. Ice-T laughed at the idea that his fan base was white. He said more white kids bought the albums at the store, but many more black kids made copies from their friends. He even supported it. He said he'd rather make money off the "white kids in the suburbs" than the black urban kids. Just because Ice-T plays successfully in prodominately white venues like Lollapalloza does not in any way imply that blacks do not listen to it.

It's not my fault you don't understand differences in populations. So white kids buy 60% of rap? Ok, then that implies that black kids buy 40%. Blacks are 13% of this nation's population, so black kids buy rap at more than 3x the rate of white kids. Wow. That is so surprising, huh? I'm sorry that someone suggested to you that young black kids are more prone to buying rap music. Again, another flagrant ignorant stereotype not germane to the discussion that you must squash on your crusade.

The fact you would deny things such as that make me seriously question your motives.

Like I said before, there is so much discussion about rap music influencing young black culture that I simply, honestly, had not heard someone try to deny that it even existed. Maybe it happens every day where you live. I honestly have no idea.

I honestly don't care anymore, either. I don't care what you think, because you still, after all these posts, after all these words, refuse to address anything about the real discussion and keep trying to find more and more things to complain about the method or aesthetics of the posts.

What is still humorous (but getting less and less so) about this thread is that noone really is trying to refute what the teacher said, but more how he said it. Noone really is standing up and trying to say that black kids don't misbehave proportionately more in school, they are more interested in saying the teacher should have never mentioned it.

Like I said in the previous thread. To deny these things is lunacy and I wash my hands of the entire situation. I'm very disappointed in myself for getting involved in it again with someone who clings to an immature notion of exception destroying the rule.

Fine Tyro, you win. Black youths are the best behaved group in urban schools. They are the highest scoring, they are the most productive, they are the most likely to graduate, the least likely to have illegitimate children. Great. Fine. No problem. Nothing to discuss. Everything is super. Go back about your business. Nothing to see here.

Don't you see that you do more disservice by trying to defend indefensible actions? You must first have the maturity to admit there is a problem before you can have any hope of solving it.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:50 AM on November 6, 2002


Jeez, you folks have been busy.

Aren't we missing the point here? The problem with Phelps observations are not that they are untrue as far as they go (which is not nearly as far as dgaciun's and Ynoxas's observations) but that they potentially harmed his students. Phelps is not a social scientist, he is a public school teacher. His right to publicly speak his mind about race in the classroom stops at the point at which it becomes harmful to his students. He certainly has no business making public observations about how he expects his black students to perform more poorly than his white students or how disiplinary problems correlate with race. Seriously, what kind of message does that send?

It doesn't mean he should be fired, but it was a serious error in judgment and should be recognized as such.
posted by boltman at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2002


Also, Ynoxas's link above is quite interesting, I recommend it strongly to both sides. If Phelps had posted a link to this paper, or one like it, in his email and suggested that the other teachers read it, I think it's likely that there would have been no controversy. It goes back to the need to discuss racial issues with care and sensitivity (i.e. the opposite of what is happening in this thread). The linked paper does so and would have gone a long way toward suggesting that Phelps desired to as well.
posted by boltman at 12:36 PM on November 6, 2002


Scott Phelps' tirade was against black culture as a whole. Ynoxas' and dgaicun's support of Phelps as "telling it like it is" similarly pointed fingers at black culture as a whole. Said broad generalizations continued even in the face of other members challenging them and/or asking for a description. Finally, within the last few hours, a change in tactics: "I'm saying 'Many black people share many values.'; not 'All black people share all values.'" And "black youths"? Where'd "youths" come from all of a sudden? Phelps made no such qualifications. Neither did either one of you until these last two posts. Oh, no. No way I'm letting you two squirm off the hook like that. Phelps made NO DISTINCTIONS; you two made NO DISTINCTIONS; there is no way in hell I'm letting you retreat into Revisionland now. You will do as you originally said and provide us with examples of traits that typify ALL American blacks. C'mon, you claimed it was so self-evident before; what's the hold up with the links?

Tyro do you pay any attention at all? I've already addressed most of these points. If you continue to ignore my points and habitually misrepresent my positions, I see no need to continue responding. There needs to be a constructive back-and-forth for this to be worth my while.

You will do as you originally said and provide us with examples of traits that typify ALL American blacks.

to which Jason already said:

Not every last black person needs to share every last black cultural trait for there to be a 'black culture' in the US, Tyro. You are thinking in clunky, unrealistic Platonic essences, when reality works in terms of statistical probabilities. I'm saying 'Many black people share many values.'; not 'All black people share all values.' By your definition no culture could exist.

In other words you are misrepresenting my position and then are demanding that I defend it.

Tyro, I have never said or implied that there is a behavior that can be attributed to every person in America, who can trace their recent ancestry to Africa. You are projecting your own unpolished ideas, which I have explicitly rejected, onto me. Listen to me, if every member of an identity group needed to share every value then there would be no culture at all. There would be no American culture, no French culture, no Gypsy culture, no Mormon culture, no Goth culture*,etc., because not one of these groups has all the same values shared by all the people in those spheres of community. Culture could not exist by your faulty criteria. You fail to understand that culture is simply the manifestations of a group who share a community, an identity. This also means that people can belong to many cultures simultaneously. Indeed, one could share 'German' identity, with 'black' identity, with 'goth' identity, with 'Catholic' identity. It is in these combinations that help make people unique.

Once we've established that, I'd be happy to cover your other issues. Most blacks condone crime and illegitimacy, dgaicun? Really? That's not what I've seen. Prove it.

First of all, if nearly three-quarters of a whole counts as 'most', then it would follow that 'most' American blacks participate in illegitimacy, if not condone it. But that is just an aside to something I think you are really not understanding: That culture exists in its manifestation
Let's take the school-shooting phenomenon again. The fact that it occurred in a pattern peculiar to our nation, automatically includes it as a product of our culture. Its very manifestation in our 'community', America, automatically makes it a product of our community, more so than it does, say, Japan's, Libya's, or the world as a whole's. This is regardless of whether America 'condoned' it or not, which we obviously didn't. Furthermore, statistically un-random patterns of delinquency and dysfunction within the black community don't need to stem directly from the community's approval of those behaviors, before it can be attributed to that community. It becomes a product of that community by way of its very manifestation.

As for all of your objections that there is no widely shared sense of identity and community amongst black Americans, well, I can only shake my head in sadness for you, Tyro. You are no more than a flat-earther- a sociological Creationist. When given the choice, most blacks convene by race at all levels of society- In prison, in church,in school, in government. This should be obvious. Tell me, other than 'hip-hop culture', will you affirm any others? Jewish culture? Greek culture? Is there such a thing as ethnic identity? If so what will it result in? Unique foods? Unique dialects? Unique beliefs? Unique arts and styles? Shared patterns of interests and behaviors? American blacks have a culture, Tyro. A rich one that they are, and should be, proud of. But if we are to have any power to credit black America, as a unique community, for its great contributions to this country, be it great cultural additions, likes Jazz or the blues, or great men, like Martin Luther King Jr., then we should have equal right to hold it accountable for its failures.

Heh, and I love the way that your posts have quietly moved away from mentioning the good black students that Phelps acknowledged. How do you fit them into your "cultural problems" worldview? I only ask because it seems as though you've disregarded them entirely-- exactly as I predicted in my analysis of the #3 mindset. Tell me again: which one of us is "too busy trying to manufacture the world in his mind, than to observe it" [sic]?

'Quietly move away from good black students' my ass, I never mentioned them to begin with. This is your beef, not mine. I am not sure why this is even relevant to the topic. It is unnecessary for me, and it was unnecessary for Phelps, to acknowledge good black behavior in any way, any more so than it is necessary for your mother to list off every amazing and good thing you've ever done before yelling at you for breaking a window with a baseball. Which, again, shows why your number #3 point remains dull and ludicrous:

3) school behavior is correlated with race (choice requires sizable leaps in logic, such as tacitly discarding the good black students as racial anomalies and disregarding the bad students of other races

To demonstrate the absurdity of this, let's try to apply your #3 logic to other situations (Let's use 'Our Favorite Analogy'). The school shooting phenomenon correlated with American nationality. Does this mean that American kids who didn't shoot-up their High-School cafeterias were 'national anomalies', or that we should disregard similarly violent youth behavior elsewhere in the world?

The answer is, logically, 'No.'; and this answer should stand whether school-shootings are (hypothetically) peculiar to America in an absolute sense (American school-shootings-500, rest of world school shootings-0) or in a relative sense. (American school-shootings-500, rest of world school shootings-2000 [China 20, UK 40, Norway 38, etc.]) In other words America as a whole, much like American blacks in particular, must respond to the negative trends within its boundaries as a nation (def. 3 btw).

I feel like I'm basically wasting my words back here, but it bears repeating: Scott Phelps himself said that there was a 1:1 ratio between good students and students whose parents showed up for Parent Night. What's your interpretation of that little tidbit? Like I said before, negligent parenting seems much more likely to be a key factor than race-- like delinquency, it crosses all racial boundaries. Phelps said it-- what's your rationale for ignoring it or acting like I'm the one who made it up?

First let me say this, I never discounted your theory that negligent parenting might play a role in black delinquency (just that it could be applied anecdotally to Columbine). High illegitimacy, I think, almost makes this seem inevitably true. Of course. I'm not seeing this as doing you any favors. It doesn't matter that crime, illegitimacy, delinquency, negligent parenting all exist in German culture, in Jewish culture, and in black culture. The question is 'why is negligent parenting so much more common in black families than it is in Jewish ones'? In a sense you, have been arguing, exactly as I have, that black cultural behavior is responsible. So where do you disagree with me, exactly? In that I have no right to criticize these hypothetical black families that are disproportionately neglectful?

Secondly I'm not acting like you made it up, but I admit, I did ignore your 'negligent parenting' idea, and for what I considered to be a good reason- there's a good chance it might not be true! Despite the fact that it might support my conclusions, black families might not be any more neglectful of their children than white families are. Consider the following:

Take, for instance, the oft-repeated claim by conservatives that lower black achievement in schools reflects the lower value placed on education by the black community, compared to whites or Asians. . .Black families come in for special condemnation under such an analysis, criticized for not reinforcing the educational work done in the classroom, and thereby undercutting whatever success teachers might otherwise have in educating their children. . .There is also no evidence that black parents take less interest in their children’s education, or fail to reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom once their children are home. Once again, NCES statistics indicate that black children are more likely than whites to often spend time with their parents on homework. . . .
Black students are twice as likely as white students to get help from their parents on homework every day of the school week (twenty percent compared to ten percent), and while roughly half of black students get help from parents on homework at least three times each week, approximately two-thirds of whites get such help two times or less, with whites a third more likely than blacks to work with parents rarely if ever on their homework. . .
Likewise, evidence indicates there is no substantial difference between white and black students in terms of whether their parents attend parent-teacher conferences or school meetings. Black parents and their children are also equally likely as their white counterparts to visit a library, art gallery, zoo, aquarium, museum or historic site, as well as a community or religious event—further countering the notion that black parents take less interest in providing educational opportunities for their kids.


Pretty powerful stuff. But where did I get this information that so thoroughly challenges Tyro's theory about the black family ? Why, one Tyro Urge provided the link, right here in this very thread!
I seriously don't get it Tyro. Why would you argue that:

2) school behavior is correlated with parental involvement (the most likely choice in my opinion)

. . .when it would follow from the solid evidence in the piece that you directed me to that this would be impossible?
If black and white parents both spend equal amounts of time with their children, then negligent parenting couldn't possibly be to blame for disproportionate black failure in school? I am taking the statistical information from your links, more seriously than you are. You are rejecting your own sources of information, as valid sources of information:

Not touching your Tim Wise statistic until you furnish proof.

I would think that the Tim Wise article counted as a proof of sorts, otherwise why would you have linked to it in the first place? One might think that you would trust your own linked sources more than I would. (If not, why would you link to them, or expect others to trust them anymore so than you!) Actually giving a damn, I asked Tim and he told me he got all his facts from this website: The National Center for Education Statistics . Maybe, if I can find time, I'll look through it, for some more concrete back-up for the Wise article. Until then, maybe you can find some more articles to defend your positions, from authors that you arbitrarily trust, depending on who's citing them.

*There could also be no hip-hop culture (which there clearly is, and which you have affirmed exists) by your surreal, rigid definition of 'values that are shared by EVERYBODY within the community and NOBODY outside of it'. If you try and argue this point with something like 'hip-hop culture exists and includes anyone who likes hip-hop music.', well this doesn't work, because not everyone agrees about what 'hip-hop'is. The word 'hip-hop', is superficial (like black skin), and gains significance only in the meaning that is invested into it. Many times that meaning is different, even contradictory. Every community has (and most things have)amiguous boundries, Tyro, that doesn't mean they don't exist.
posted by dgaicun at 5:01 PM on November 6, 2002


'Aren't we missing the point here? The problem with Phelps observations are not that they are untrue as far as they go (which is not nearly as far as dgaciun's and Ynoxas's observations) but that they potentially harmed his students.'

Not sure, how I go 'any farther' or even exactly what that means. I'm not sure why 'hurting someones feelings' makes something a wrong decision. Boltman 'hurt my feelings' when he told me to 'buy a clue' and 'read a history book', but he felt he was acting in good faith. Of course Boltman probably makes an exception for black people who he holds a double-standard for, because he is a progressive and wonderful person who 'looks out for the little guy'. Sometimes groups are criticized, boltman, even when some members may be innocent, because in an ambiguous world there is no practical alternative.

'He certainly has no business making public observations about how he expects his black students to perform more poorly than his white students or how disciplinary problems correlate with race. Seriously, what kind of message does that send?'

Umm, why does he have no business? He has every right to make and announce those observations. Teachers are the ones who must deal with these students whose behaviors are disrupting the learning and safety of others.
I say teachers have the first right to make such observations. Teachers are also the ones who are being held accountable for these behaviors and are the ones being punished for them by thoroughly indecent California policies. There would be no other way for Phelps to communicate to his fellow teachers why California policies fail, and hurt them as a group (see my first post) without mentioning race. It is central to the problem.

His right to publicly speak his mind about race in the classroom stops at the point at which it becomes harmful to his students.

I know you hate this analogy boltman, but it is not harmful to me, or to other men, that we are guarded against more carefully than women, because we commit crime at ten times the rate of women. Even good non-criminal men must deal with the extra scrutiny that comes with our gender. Unlike race, I'm not so sure that this gender divide could be closed, but if it could, men and women would one day face equal scrutiny. Similarly, American blacks share a community that engages in many deleterious behaviors at rates many times the majority population, and therefore must endure additional scrutiny, even despite those who are innocent. Much like in war, it is what is called 'collateral damage', and sometimes it is good because all other alternatives are worse. Those who disregard such 'collateral damage', on a matter of principle are being impractically Utopian and idealistic. If we didn't fight WWII based on some feel-good whiny principle that if we went to war some innocent Germans and Japanese people would, no doubt, be hurt in the process of our victory, we would be the United States of Duetschland right now, and the only where you would find Jews would be in the index of a history book under 'J'. Mature students understand this. In fact some black students have praised Phelps:

Aundre Mathews, an African- American student who graduated last year and had Phelps for science, said he was dismayed at the accusations made against Phelps.

"He is one of the few teachers I believe who went to school every day for something other than a paycheck,' he said. "What he is saying is the truth, it's just that nobody wants to hear it.'


Only when minority populations are as functional as, and less of a burden on, the majority population will they deserve no additional scrutiny or condemnation. At that point I would be angry if it didn't stop. Until that point, the majority population should take an active role in regulating the values of our insular American community, and the sub-communities within it. Those who apologize for the minority communities are like a mother who doesn't want to yell at her son for breaking something, because it might make the kid 'feel bad'. Phelps is like the father who yells at the son, because he loves him and realizes that only in feeling bad will the son overcome his immaturity. I truly believe that the alternative to the 'tough love' method, the mode of operation that many here seemingly endorse- to ignore black dysfunction, will ultimately result in more harm for more people. A majority of those who will suffer from the silence you endorse, no doubt, will be black.

.
posted by dgaicun at 8:39 PM on November 6, 2002


Boltman 'hurt my feelings' when he told me to 'buy a clue' and 'read a history book', but he felt he was acting in good faith.
...
I know you hate this analogy boltman, but it is not harmful to me, or to other men, that we are guarded against more carefully than women, because we commit crime at ten times the rate of women.

Dgaicun, a mentorship relationship (like teacher-student) comes with special responsibilities because of the extreme power differential and the fact that the mentored are supposed to be learning and receiving long-term guidance from the mentor. The only way that these analogies are relevant is if you think that police-you (and boltman-you?) have a similar relationship.

Also, as far as your "tough love" ideas are concerned, I see the "tough", but not the "love". We're not even talking about a reprimand he gave to the kids themselves in order to change their behavior. We're talking about a note complaining about Phelps' prediction of a drop in API (and the resulting adverse effect on teachers' salaries) because, in Phelps judgement, his students are so bad.
posted by originalname37 at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2002


ON37,

yeah, and then there's this:

You must first have the maturity to admit there is a problem before you can have any hope of solving it.

[via Ynoxas]

Some of us value truth and practicality (getting things done), over feelings and sensitivity.
Also Phelps had every right to communicate with other teachers issues which have profound impacts on their lives and livelihoods.

I'm sorry that there is a lot of tension complicating issues regarding race, but blacks and whites both deserve better in America, and these problems need to be as openly and freely discussed as possible if we are to reach a higher standard of society. I support anyone who dares to open the dialogue, be it for whatever reason. If children become offended, then they are the ones who must be taught maturity, not the open and honest adults. In other words it is the offended who are in the wrong, not the offenders.
posted by dgaicun at 12:21 PM on November 7, 2002



You must first have the maturity to admit there is a problem before you can have any hope of solving it.


Some of us value truth and practicality (getting things done), over feelings and sensitivity.

dgaicun, hopefully I can say this without stirring up a re-hash of everything that's gone on over the course of the past two weeks on these two threads, 150 (and counting) comments and over 31,000 (and counting) words.

I never said Phelps couldn't talk about what he thought that he saw, but being insensitive to students is counterproductive (the opposite of "getting things done"). He didn't have to post it on the internet (I think more specifics on exactly where were in the first article which I can no longer seem to get). He also didn't have to paint the current 9th & 11th graders as unsolvable problems:

I am announcing right now, Muir's API will not meet its target, and will probably even go down.

This is because next year, we will have two "bad" cohorts, the classes of 2004 and 2006, currently our 9th and 11th graders, taking the test.


Like I told you before: Phelps' complaining about how he knows that the API is going to go down next year because of his current freshmen is clearly disparaging, even without attributing it to the African-Americans in the class.

And that's about all that I have to say about that.
posted by originalname37 at 1:38 PM on November 7, 2002


dgaicun, you have a knack for baiting and namecalling, but you need to work on your analogies a bit. First it was "black profiling is like male profiling." If black people dominated government and industry in this country to the extent males do maybe that analogy would be less offensive. Now it is "refusing to make pointless generalizations about people based on their skin color is like letting Hitler conquer the world." Please.

(Also, it's interesting that you mention WWII, given that the most egregious and universally-condemned example of American-style racial profiling occurred during that little conflict in the form of the Japanese internment camps.)

You want white people to be able to "openly and freely" make disparaging generalizations about African-Americans as a whole because this is somehow "practical." Until white people can tell black people how lazy, criminal and disrespectful they are due to their inferior culture, we will never have equality, right? Unless we (whites) allow police to use dark skin as probable cause, or juries to use the defendant's African features to decide that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, we must live in constant fear that our wives and daughters will be raped and murdered. Surely there couldn't be any social benefit to treating black people as individuals rather than as presumptive criminals/deadbeats/welfare mothers/[insert stereotype here]. That's just hopeless, impractical idealism. Sort of like, oh, I don't know, desegregated schools?

The funny thing is that you disparage me as an idealist (which I freely admit to), yet you are certainly a pot to my kettle. You seem to think that the same sorts of crude generalizations by whites that led to centuries of oppression against African-Americans will somehow solve their problems now if only they could listen without their feelings being hurt. "Why can't they just forget about that whole slavery and years of unspeakable oppression by whites thing--we're here to help with our tough love!" you seem to say. Similarly, it can only be called idealism to think that policies like racial profiling will actually lead to more social harmony. If you believe that, I'd encourage you to come to my fair city and ask any of my fellow citizens of color what they think of the NYPD. (I also have a bridge for sale you might be interested in).

Also, do you honestly think that these racial issues are not being discussed now? Ynoxas linked to a paper that I flagged above that discussed them quite incisively while also managing to be respectful. Certainly, many African-American leaders talk about them publicly and candidly. Read Restoring Hope if you don't believe me. However, there is a huge difference between a respected African-American figure talking about problems in black communities and white people spewing dubious theories about the evils of "black culture." Why, you ask? Because some people of color may have difficulty believing that a white person that makes out-of-the-blue disparaging generalizations about black students or is seemingly afraid that they will rape and murder his family actually has the best interests of African-Americans at heart. Perhaps they might think that "practical" is actually a code word for "beneficial to whites." Perhaps they might think that these open and free discussions by white people who by their own admission don't care about the feelings of blacks might turn into calls for segregated schools or other forms of discrimination (really, who could blame them after reading this thread?). It's easy for white people to sound racist because there are plenty that actually were and, unfortunately, still are.

As I have said before, this does not mean that race is a taboo subject among teachers or whites or anybody else. It simply means that sensitivity is required. You could argue that it is required because insensitivity fails to respect people of color (I would most certainly argue this). I suppose you could argue that it is required because it's not very "practical" to unnecessarily piss off your discussion partners (you were including people of color in these open and free discussions dgaicun, weren't you?) by saying stuff that you know will offend them or make them angry. Either way, your open and free discussions are going to do far more harm then good if they include the same level of outright hostility towards black people that is evinced in this thread.
posted by boltman at 10:21 PM on November 7, 2002


originalname37, you counted the words? Heh, you maniac!

Okay, I'll try and keep this one brief. (Penultimate preview: Ha! For all the good that did!) Ynoxas first [condensed to save space]:

I'm obsessed with why you will not address why black teachers have better success with black students. Oh, wait I see why you won't address it. The black kids behave better for the black teachers for ONE OF TWO REASONS. 1. Black teachers can be more forceful and direct with black students without fear of reprisal. or 2. Black teachers understand "young black culture" better and know better how to handle it.

I'll address those issues with a question. Quoting from Phelps' article:

I have seen two science teachers in my department who get the lower SES students to behave very well. They are both African-American and have no trouble "going off" on the kids. One of them is considering retiring as he is tired of it. By the way, this is also one of the major reasons for the high turnover in the PUSD, poor behavior. [emphasis mine]

Now the question: if yelling and being "forceful" is part of "black culture" and a better way to "handle it," why is he mulling early retirement? I mean, surely he expected this kind of daily conflict. All part and parcel of being black, right? He should be inured to it. And it worked so very well, didn't it? Just a few shouted words and the kids realized who they were dealing with. No more problems! Sweet "success," eh?

I have to admit: Scott Phelps' conclusions were pure crap, but he did a wonderful job of providing enough in the way of observational information that a more objective person could come in behind him and form more plausible theories.

I think I mentioned in the other Phelps thread that I spent a summer trying to teach misbehaving middle schoolers. By the end, I was the only "teacher" left in my classroom, and I was yelling at them every day.

It was last-ditch desperation, you see. I liked those kids-- I really did-- and I hoped that taking drastic measures might get them in line enough for them to learn something. No such luck, of course. I can certainly empathize with a professional in that position-- and I can also understand why he would want to get the hell out as fast as he could.

As for your most recent link, I disagree with the behaviors it tries to assign to black "culture."

Students may engage in certain challenging behaviors common to the African American male adolescent community, not because they want to disrupt the classroom but because they want to demonstrate their rebellion against what they consider a teacher's "power tripping"

Uh? Class disruption and rebellion is an "African American male adolescent" thing now? Remember that link I made to Tom Sawyer a few posts back? Packed full of class disruption and rebellion-- and not a black student in sight. How did we end up being blamed for behaviors that predate African American public education? Nice.

You brought up the thing about music, remember?

music, lingo, mannerisms, and behaviors that are common to black youths that are not common to other groups of youths

Oh, and support your Ice-T statement, please. Every black person I know thinks Ice-T sucks. (As a rapper, anyway. He was okay in New Jack City. Surviving the Game-- well, that had unintentional comedy on its side.) Always did, always will. But maybe I just know the wrong people.

And please don't put words in my mouth. Pinning the "everything is hunky-dory" argument on me? Thanks a lot, Mr. False Dichotomy. Show me where I said that black kids should be coddled when they act up in school. While you're at it, please do me a favor and point out exactly when I branded you as a racist-- here or in any thread. I've been very careful not to resort to ad hominem attacks, and resent the implication. I've challenged your logic and your credibility (justifiably, if you ask me), but hell, for all I know, you're a friggin' superhero in real life. I must say, for a guy whose opening argument basically boiled down to "Black people have a deficient culture that esteems stupidity and they won't get better until they model themselves after us good white folk," you sure are thin-skinned.

Oh, and thanks also for quoting me on that crime thing. "All too true, sadly"? Now that I think about it, I don't have any hard data on the subject; I've accepted it just because that's what I hear so frequently! This is no place for conjecture. I hereby officially retract that statement: crime stats, like student misbehavior rates, are now in my "I'll consider the facts when they are presented to me" category. Proof, proof, it's all about proof. Glad you reminded me.

And hell no I don't consider this a win of some sort. I've been arguing for equal treatment for the greater part of the last week. Judge children on their behavior, not their race. The very fact that I had to do so shows how very far from "victory" I am.

Where to begin, dgaicun? Let's attend to your Phelps follow-up link. (Thanks for posting that, by the way. I'd been wondering how that was going.)

"There are absolutely no grounds whatsoever for (the school district) to take the action they've taken,' said Amy, who said it was Phelps' First Amendment right to write the letter.

Heh. Go to work tomorrow and curse out your boss. Fling every insult you have ever given thought to right out into his face. Insult the company's product, its mission statement, your incompetent coworkers. Leave no bridge unburned. Then, just before the inevitable hammer falls, try to hide behind the First Amendment. Free speech means more than just avoiding arrest for your words, right? It also guarantees your job! Yeah. These are the "mature" students, are they? Nice selective quoting there.

Lets hear from an immature student:

Necka Taylor, an African-American 17-year-old senior at Muir, said Phelps' comments are racist and he shouldn't be let back in the school.

"If the test scores are low, then the test scores are low as a school,' she said. "We're a team at this school, there's no black or white.'

Senior Whitney Kindle agreed, saying students will feel uncomfortable if Phelps is allowed to continue teaching at the school.

"He's trying to make like all African-American students are unruly and I've never even had that teacher,' she said. "He doesn't know me so how can he stereotype?'


Dimwitted freaks. What do they know?

Your Germany analogy? Laughable. (First amused thought from your earlier "cultural comparisons": "Looks like somebody was taking notes in the recent European prejudices thread. The second thought, of course, was Homer Simpson's advice on getting out of jury duty: "Just say that you're prejudiced against all races." And hey, I see you're in the False Dichotomy club too!) A closer analogy to Phelps' actions would've been for the US to remorselessly carpet bomb every square inch of Germany to ash in WWII, kill every citizen. After stating that there were indeed good black students, Phelps goes ahead and castigates them all as refugees from a culture of failure anyway. Way to poison the well, Phelpsie. If I was his student, I would want to transfer to another class at the very least.

Lets move on. Assume for a moment that I completely accept your "culture" arguments...

(Though I don't-- "Three quarters participate in illegitimacy," no links, no support-- again. Oh, and "culture exists in its manifestation"? My, how very different this new opinion is from the aforementioned dictionary definitions: The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.... #2-- the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.

Predominating? Let's say 51% of African Americans-- 6% total of the population-- are into out of wedlock births. The black population should be skyrocketing-- it is not. The African American teen birthrate, which never approached "predominant" status in the first place, has been steadily dropping for years-- thanks, some would say, to the very "cultural" institutions you want so badly to identify as the problem.

Let's say 51% of blacks are into crime-- shouldn't prisons have about thirteen times their current black population, expanding the current prison population about seven times over [2.1 million of all Americans currently jailed.]? Even taking into account the elevated incarceration rates for blacks, it doesn't add up. Or are black people just exceptionally good criminals, such as to rival cartoon supervillains?

Remember: predominating. Or am I being a churlish bore again?)

...Fine. Point out some "Negroes don't need education" rider that the CBC tried to attach to a recent bill. When's the "go ahead and have those babies; we don't care if you're married or not" sermon? When was the last time you heard a black person shout "This food is so good, I'm gonna drop out of school"? If we're gonna agree that these are your cultural influences, then you still have to highlight the negative parts-- you know, the ones you said we have to fix? Citations, please.

Secondly I'm not acting like you made it up, but I admit, I did ignore your 'negligent parenting' idea, and for what I considered to be a good reason- there's a good chance it might not be true! Despite the fact that it might support my conclusions, black families might not be any more neglectful of their children than white families are... [quote I used]... Pretty powerful stuff. But where did I get this information that so thoroughly challenges Tyro's theory about the black family ? Why, one Tyro Urge provided the link, right here in this very thread!
I seriously don't get it Tyro. Why would you argue that:

2) school behavior is correlated with parental involvement (the most likely choice in my opinion)

. . .when it would follow from the solid evidence in the piece that you directed me to that this would be impossible?
If black and white parents both spend equal amounts of time with their children, then negligent parenting couldn't possibly be to blame for disproportionate black failure in school? I am taking the statistical information from your links, more seriously than you are. You are rejecting your own sources of information, as valid sources of information:


Brain... hurts...

(I'm not a statistician, but I'm going to try to explain this anyway. If anyone can correct me, feel free...)

The citation you-- we are using is... national, is it? Much larger than some Pasadena high school, anyway. Statistical measurements are not as easily scalable as you seem to be implying. The fact that a study shows that huge group X averages Y amount of time studying does not mean that fractional splinter group from X also spends Y time studying. Typically, the smaller the sample group, the greater the chance for deviation.

Say you have a penny. You flip it. There's a 50% chance of heads, right? It's tails. Percent heads= 0%. Small sample nowhere near the average. You flip again. Tails again. Percent heads= 0%. It turns up heads the third time, so now you're at 67%/33%. It's not until you flip it over and over again that the proportion typically settles in around 50%. Small samples can deviate widely from the collective average, okay?

In the grand scheme of things, Phelps' sample is vanishingly small. In his case, the proportion of children whose parents are interested in their work enough to show up for parent conferences doesn't match the national averages. So? Disproves nothing. To accept your "it's because of their race" theory, on the other hand, you would have to throw out the link's averages in favor of this one class. Until you get beyond some statistical minimum sample, this is not acceptable.

Make any sense? I can't tell-- it's pretty early in the morning.

Look, I've wasted more than enough time refuting your poorly considered arguments. As luck would have it, there's a thread currently on the front page that's parallel in form to this one. Do me a favor: Go there. It's seems to concern European stereotypes about Americans. Substitute "black" for "American" in each of the anti-generalization arguments, explain why you don't agree with them, and port 'em back here, would you? I don't see why I should have to bear the brunt of the typing burden.

Off to bed I go.
posted by tyro urge at 2:24 AM on November 8, 2002


Tyro: Your purposeful misreading is boorish. I'm through with this thread. I'm just going to make three direct points.

1. I have seen two science teachers in my department who get the lower SES students to behave very well. They are both African-American and have no trouble "going off" on the kids. One of them is considering retiring as he is tired of it. By the way, this is also one of the major reasons for the high turnover in the PUSD, poor behavior.

I have no idea why you keep skipping over the first part of that quote. I also no longer care. But I find it amazing that the meat of it is that the black teachers are able to get behavioral results, and you still, true to form, completely ignore it. How you infer that because the guy is tired of fighting the bad kids, that it somehow means the kids aren't actually bad is mind bending.

Your poor reasoning skills are literally astounding.

I for one am glad you're no longer teaching.

2. Oh, and thanks also for quoting me on that crime thing. "All too true, sadly"? Now that I think about it, I don't have any hard data on the subject; I've accepted it just because that's what I hear so frequently!

Oh. I guess the other thread was a figment of my imagination. If you want to backpedal on that, fine. I honestly don't care Tyro. Whatever makes you sleep better at night. Blacks commit disproportionately more crime than whites in virtually every category in that list. Just like males do. Yes you can deny it. If you do, I will deny that males commit most crimes, and we can both agree that asian women are in fact the real offenders.

3. As far as your statistics go, Phelps is discussing a very small population: the black students at his school. He is not discussing every black of every age in every region of the world. He is discussing the blacks at his school. Get it? Do you get it Tyro? DO YOU GET IT?????

He is discussing his many years experience as a teacher at that school. I would consider that having multi-year experience at a predominately black school would qualify him to have an opinion on said school. You have one year experience at a predominately white school. Your experiences in no way mirror each other.

Is that really too hard for you to grasp? No, I don't think so. I really don't. I have a hard time believing that you can be so well spoken and repeatedly come to the ass-backwards conclusion.

You are arguing that both inductive and deductive reasoning are both wrong. We can discuss neither the aggregate nor the small population directly because you take issue with both of them.

The NBA is dominated by blacks. NASCAR is dominated by whites. Neither is a racist statement. The next MVP for the NBA is likely to be black. The next Winston Cup champion is likely to be white. Neither is a racist statement.

I think you are a good person Tyro, who has entrenched himself so deeply in this issue that you are now "defending your race" or some other idiocy rather than addressing the actual situation.

Like I said, even advocates for the black plight in schools recognize there is a set of behaviors common to young blacks, especially males, that complicate their educational progress. That small article was the first explanation I'd seen about *WHY* they do it, and even though I'm not sure I agree with it, it makes sense. I already see the situation somewhat differently, that it may be a form, though rude, of "class participation" instead of disruption.

But, you refuse to admit that a different style even exists. Black, white, red, green, we're all the same. There are no differences. Our cultures are identical you would have us believe. We are truly one homogenous group with no differences in actions, language, or values. Like I said, that is so obscenely ignorant that it has to be a purposeful deception on your part.

I don't know what you're trying to do Tyro, except say "ALL BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT THE SAME!!!!!" which noone has done yet, but somehow you just insist on repeating that same refrain 15 different ways.

Oh, so you and some friends think Ice-T sucks? Oh, well, I guess that proves that no blacks like him, right Mr. Statistician?

The discussion from Ice-T was on an episode of MTV Raps several years ago. I saw it on television, I'm not sure how to "link" it. But I'm probably lying so it's best you ignore it.

But, the stats were for whites buying 60% of RAP, not just Ice-T. So, do you believe there are ANY rappers that blacks listen to more than whites? Or is rap actually a white genre? I'm actually laughing as I type this. Tyro I'm not completely sure you're not delusional. Have you had any head injuries lately?

Anyway, take care Tyro. This discussion is beginning to feel like playing chess by mail. Perhaps one day our paths will cross and we could actually discuss it and we could hash out our positions in an hour instead of a week.

Like I said, you win Tyro. Black kids are the best behaved group in public schools. Glad we agree.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2002


(shrug)

"What we have here... is ... failure to communicate."

Black children!= bad children. That's my sole point. There is no justification for assuming otherwise-- as Phelps did.

Short of drawing a Venn diagram, there's not much ground left to cover here. I'm quite willing to let my previous posts stand or fall on their own merits at this point. To those who read them, anyway. (A tour of Datanation wouldn't hurt, Ynoxas. Didn't we cover the whole False Dilemma thing before?)
posted by tyro urge at 7:55 PM on November 8, 2002


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