Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Gap

Connecticut educators have tried everything to disguise, hide from sight, and avoid dealing with the so-called gap in education. That is, the perennial reminder that inner city schools are exercises in futility. There are a myriad of reasons for this and CT isn't the only state dealing with the issue.

Of course, NCLB is the thinly disguised canard intended to hide this disgrace. Don't bother looking behind that wall of deceit, nobody there but an army of propagandists, theocrats, and neo-lunatics running America as though it were an insane asylum to be toyed with.

PBS is running a series within the Newshour program tracking an inner city school "turnaround specialist". Last time I watched, he was having a very bad time of it. Very bad.

I should remind you that in the last presidential vote nowhere was the vote bluer than the urban centers of this country. For most of my life, I've cared deeply about social justice, human rights, and the civil rights movement.

It has not escaped my attention that education has become a blunt instrument of racism against black men in particular. The Gap I mention in the title of this post was brought to my attention of a co-worker. He sent me a link "For your blog". The artcle, Doubts spread about effectiveness of drug-free school zone laws, March 23, 2006, Associated Press, talks about the obvious consequences of drug-free zoning laws that ratcheted up the punishments for drug offenders caught within school radiuses.

At recent meetings, activists with Connecticut's A Better Way Foundation - which supports the bill - have displayed maps of major cities showing huge sections designated as drug-free zones. A map of New Haven indicated that Yale University's golf course was the only large part of the city not encompassed in one of the overlapping zones.

Most states have drug-free-zone laws; they often entail mandatory prison terms that preclude such options as probation or treatment.

Lolita Buckner Inniss, a Cleveland State University law professor, is a vocal critic of the laws. Her research found that drug dealers in inner cities and compact rural towns were disproportionately likely to incur the extra penalties, in contrast to dealers in suburbs where zones covered relatively small portions of the communities. That urban-suburban split has the effect of making minorities more likely to bear the brunt of tougher sentencing rules, she said.

"I've been dissatisfied by how the public mutely accepts these laws," she said.

Though intended to deter drug sales to youths, the laws have been applied mostly to adult-to-adult transactions, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a private research group advocating alternatives to prison.

It cited a study by William Brownsberger, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general who reviewed 443 drug cases in three cities. He found that 80 percent of the cases occurred in drug-free school zones, but only 1 percent involved sales to minors.

"The laws have an undeniable appeal - nobody wants drugs near schools," Brownsberger said in a telephone interview. "But the evidence suggests they're not effective in moving drug dealing away from schools. If every place is a stay-away zone, no place is a stay-away zone."

The adults in question are almost always black men. Yes, this is unfair and expensive and unworthy of America, yada yada yada...

But there's more to this. Another article, 'Marriage Is for White People' by Joy Jones, Sunday, March 26, 2006; this time from the Washington Post tells us about the new social units called families.

"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."

And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.

And yet we have educators and politicians who think school accountability can be acheived by administering high-stakes factoid testing to be sure every student is homogenous within a grade level.

The gaps in the administration of justice, an understanding of the social fabric of this country, the disconnect between religious dogma and religious practice, and so on are minor gaps in America.

The biggest gap exists between the ears of our tone-deaf politicians, educators, and citizenry who have forgotten how to think critically, act responsibly, and vote independently. What we are doing to the black men of this country is the most mortal sin in a deep and wide cesspool of recent all-time historical lows.

Oh, I've already been told that this has nothing to do with region 19, it's somebody else's problem.

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