More Nonsensical Charges of ‘Discrimination’ from Education Law Center

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing the root causes of dysfunctional behavior, the Education Law Center once again cries “racism”.    

From the Notebook:

Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs are supposed to help turn around disorderly public school students, but they are academically inadequate and discriminatory, according to a complaint by the nonprofit Education Law Center.

The ELC alleges that a disproportionate number of African-Americans and students with disabilities are sent to them.

While African-Americans make up only 15 percent of the state’s public school students, they made up 35 percent of the pupils in the special programs in 2010-11.

Here we go again.  More irresponsible race-baiting from progressive education advocacy groups.

The Education Law Center’s belief that discrimination is causing minorities to be sent to alternative education programs is a classic example of a logical fallacy, also known as the belief that correlation proves causation.  It is also an example of a lurking variable.  Simply stated, you cannot conclude that discrimination/racism is taking place at Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth simply because minority students are disproportionally sent there.

The truth is that correlation does not imply causation.  For example, it would be wrong to assume that sleeping with your shoes on causes a headache, even if statistics showed that 100,000 people went to bed with their shoes on and woke up with a headache.  There is most likely another factor that led to the cause, a lurking variable; in this case, that variable would be that the people went to bed drunk.

Likewise, it would be wrong to assume that eating ice cream causes drowning, even though statistics show that as ice cream sales go up, so do the number of drowning deaths.  The lurking variable in this case is hot weather.

Which is why the Education Law Center should not assume discrimination is the primary reason minorities are nearly three times as likely as their White peers to be sent to Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth.  There is a lurking variable, and it is the fact that Black students are three times as poor as their White counterparts.

According to statistics from the National Poverty Center, 38 percent of Black children in the United States live in poverty, whereas only 12 percent of White children are impoverished.  This is extremely significant because research continues to show that poverty leads to poor conduct, low academic achievement, and the chronic breaking of school rules.

The Educational Testing Service’s 2007 policy report “The Family—America’s Smallest School,” highlights how one in three Black children in the U.S. are “food insecure” and how 70 percent of Black babies are born out of wedlock to a single mom.  This is very troubling in light of the fact that children in single-parent families score lower on academic tests, have higher incidences of psychological problems that reflect aggression and poor conduct, have a greater tendency to abuse illegal substances, and are more likely to have sexual relationships at an earlier age.

In a 2009 report titled “Parsing the Achievement Gap II,” the Educational Testing Service tracked national trends between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The report listed 16 factors that have been linked to behavior and student achievement.

Some significant findings were that White students’ parents were more likely to attend a school event or to volunteer at school; minority students were more likely to change schools frequently; the percentage of Black infants born with low birth weight was higher than that for White infants; minority children were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury; minority children were less likely to be read to daily by parents; minority children watched more television; and minority students grew less academically over the summer.

This research—which lays bare some of the root causes of violent and dysfunctional conduct—is not new.  Yet the Education Law Center attributes the high number of minority students being sent to alternative programs to something as banal and cliché as “discrimination”.

This is, quite frankly, pathetic.  It is also counterproductive from a learning standpoint.  Although some racial discrimination may still exist in public schools (there is no significant data to show that it does), reinforcing the idea that students are targets—that they are not the captain of their own ship but simply a victim—contradicts the fundamental message hardworking teachers across America are trying to instill in their students: Personal responsibility!

The Education Law Center’s simplistic conclusion of discrimination is also lazy.  Instead of rolling up their sleeves and attempting to fight the good fight, instead of addressing the multitude of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges facing our minority children so they can receive the supports they and their teachers need, the Education Law Center chooses to go the Al Sharpton grievance route, and race-bait.

Tragic.  And we wonder why nothing changes in our public schools.

This article is an adaption from a March 2012 post titled “Why Minority Students Face ‘Harsher Punishments’.

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