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Douglas Andrews / December 4, 2020

Bracing for Biden’s Educational Failure

There’s a stark difference between what the Trump administration has delivered and what Joe Biden promises to do.

If you saw our tribute from Mark Alexander earlier this week, you already know that the great Walter Williams has passed away.

Professor Williams, whom Alexander called “a fine gentlemen, an Army veteran, an American Patriot, and scholar of the first order,” was, of course, also a teacher. And given the damage that a Biden administration would do to the educational advances that conservatives have made during the Trump years, we thought it worth contrasting these two educational worldviews.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Madeleine Ngo reports, “Joe Biden has vowed to bring sweeping changes to education and to reverse some of the civil rights-related moves made under President Trump. The current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, sought to bolster school-choice programs, proposed cuts to public-school funding and called for swift school reopenings during the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has said he wants to expand resources for public schools and has pledged to appoint a teacher to head the Education Department.”

Regarding those rotten public schools and the civil rights-based, freedom-driven concept of school choice, Department of Education spokesperson Angela Morabito said, “There is no one less powerful and more marginalized than the student trapped in a failing, government-assigned school with no way out.”

Former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan, though, says those policies are going to “fundamentally change.”

Biden himself has pledged to reinstitute the Obama administration’s rules on “transgender” students and bathroom choice as well as its awful “guilty until proven innocent” Title IX sexual-assault directive. And he’s likely to do the same with racist Obama-era guidelines that encouraged the use of race in college admissions and that directed schools to count by race when punishing students for misbehavior.

Biden also said, tellingly, during a presidential victory speech earlier this month, “For American educators, this is a great day for you all. You’re going to have one of your own in the White House, and Jill’s going to make a great first lady.” Notice how he addressed American educators and not American parents. Which cohort do you think has a greater stake in the education of our nation’s children?

In addition, Biden has called for “more stringent guardrails for charter schools,” which is euphemism soup for slashed funding and more onerous regulations.

Professor Williams had always been more than a bit dubious of leftist do-gooders like Duncan and Biden, especially as it pertained to inner-city blacks. “I think that the Democrats have been very successful in portraying themselves as the caring people,” he said, “when, if you look at the effects of the Democratic Party on black people, I think it’s horrible, it’s horrendous. For example, if you ask the question, ‘In what cities do blacks live under the worst conditions — in terms of crime, rotten education, poor services?’ — these are the very cities that have been run for decades by Democrats.”

Why do we have a sense that the Good Professor had a lot more street cred here than Arne Duncan and his ilk?

Professor Williams’s second-to-last column, which we posted Wednesday, is titled, sadly but fittingly, “Black Education Tragedy Is New.” In it, he discussed the often-ignored truth that black educational underachievement hasn’t always been as disastrous as it is in today’s inner cities.

“Should we blame this education tragedy on racial discrimination or claim that it is a legacy of slavery?” he asked. “Dr. Thomas Sowell’s research in ‘Education: Assumptions Versus History’ documents academic excellence at Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School and others. This academic excellence occurred during the late 1800s to mid-1900s, an era when blacks were much poorer than today and faced gross racial discrimination.”

He didn’t believe that this awful disparity is preordained. “You can bet the rent money,” he said, “that white liberals and high-income blacks would not begin to accept the kind of education for their children that most blacks receive.” Williams pointed to a rise in violence and a drop in respect as root causes: “First- and second-graders telling teachers to ‘Shut the f— up’ and calling teachers ‘b—h,’” as he put it.

“Years ago,” he concludes, “much of the behavior of young people that we see today would have never been tolerated. … Today, unfortunately, we have replaced practices that worked with practices that sound good and caring. And we are witnessing the results.”

Biden’s “solution”? More of the same, but with gusto — because the teachers unions will have “one of their own” in the White House. And if black parents don’t like it, well, as Joe might say, “You ain’t black.”

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