White teacher loses job for giving failing grades to blacks;
Or, how liberalism punishes whites for blacks’ inadequacies

At the core of post-1964 America’s mindset about race is the belief, which to liberals is sacred and undeniable, that if blacks do not do well, it is whites’ fault. Thus the No Child Left Behind Act—a name almost as self-parodic as the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog” Act in Atlas Shrugged—operates according to the rule that if too many black (and Hispanic) pupils in a school are not performing up to a certain set standard, the school must be designated as a “failing school” and face various unpleasant sanctions. If the school doesn’t manage to raise pupil performance to a sufficient degree, the only way it can avoid further sanctions, including, ultimately, being shut down, is to lower the standards that are used to gauge pupils’ progress, thus allowing more blacks, and the school itself, to be designated as “succeeding.” This is something that has been done by many schools under NCLB. The notion that the poor performance of many black pupils may have something to do with their own abilities and efforts is not allowed to be considered. Thus NCLB, as a pure expression of the post-1964 liberal mindset about race (see my article “Guilty Whites”), defines blacks’ lower intellectual performance as an attribute of our guilty white society, which has held blacks down or has still not “done enough” for blacks, rather than as an attribute of blacks themselves.

Given how deeply embedded in the liberal mind is the idea that black failure is the fault of (white) society, it is no surprise that it has now been applied to an individual college teacher, who has been denied tenure for giving failing grades to too many black students. The following story is from Inside Higher Ed:

Students Fail—and Professor Loses Job

Who is to blame when students fail? If many students fail—a majority even—does that demonstrate faculty incompetence, or could it point to a problem with standards?

These are the questions at the center of a dispute that cost Steven D. Aird his job teaching biology at Norfolk State University. Today is his last day of work, but on his way out, he has started to tell his story—one that he suggests points to large educational problems at the university and in society. The university isn’t talking publicly about his case, but because Aird has released numerous documents prepared by the university about his performance—including the key negative tenure decisions by administrators—it is clear that he was denied tenure for one reason: failing too many students. The university documents portray Aird as unwilling to compromise to pass more students.

A subtext of the discussion is that Norfolk State is a historically black university with a mission that includes educating many students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The university suggests that Aird—who is white—has failed to embrace the mission of educating those who aren’t well prepared. But Aird—who had backing from his department and has some very loyal students as well—maintains that the university is hurting the very students it says it wants to help. Aird believes most of his students could succeed, but have no incentive to work as hard as they need to when the administration makes clear they can pass regardless.

“Show me how lowering the bar has ever helped anyone,” Aird said in an interview. Continuing the metaphor, he said that officials at Norfolk State have the attitude of “a track coach who tells the team ‘I really want to win this season but I really like you guys, so you can decide whether to come to practice and when.’ ” Such a team wouldn’t win, Aird said, and a university based on such a principle would not be helping its students.

Sharon R. Hoggard, a spokeswoman for Norfolk State, said that she could not comment at all on Aird’s case. But she did say this, generally, on the issues raised by Aird: “Something is wrong when you cannot impart your knowledge onto students. We are a university of opportunity, so we take students who are underprepared, but we have a history of whipping them into shape. That’s our niche.” [cont.]

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Adela G. writes:

“Show me how lowering the bar has ever helped anyone,” Aird said in an interview.

Oh, that’s rich. I’ve got two words for him: Michelle Obama.

As if the grievance-mongering Michelle, who was given degrees from two Ivy League schools and is now paid a six-figure income, would have any of that had she not benefitted from affirmative action. The bar was lowered for her and she may well become the first black First Lady. Meanwhile, she constantly complains about how the bar is “being raised.”

Paul K. writes:

What I find so frightening about President Bush is that he actually seems to believe the premise underlying the NCLB program. As in so many other areas, he confidently makes decisions of critical national importance based on unexamined premises.

During the Democratic campaign, Joe Biden got in trouble for telling a Washington Post reporter that schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., because, “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.”

Biden, of course, came under great criticism for uttering this obvious truth, and of course the neocons were eager to accuse him of racism. However, the revelation that Biden understands the truth, despite having to hew to the PC dogma, struck me as somewhat reassuring. Were he making policy, perhaps he would be less unrealistic than our current president, who has never stopped believing that wishing can make it so.

LA replies:
I had forgotten about Biden’s comment. It reminds me of an inspiringly non-PC observation Patrick Buchanan made in his column around 1990. He was talking about New York City’s social problems, and said they were due to the “quality” of the people living there.

Simon N. writes from England:

As a university teacher myself, I found this interesting. Mulling it over, I think personally I’d be happy to set the pass/fail threshold wherever my employer told me to. If they wanted to devalue their degree, that’s up to them. What I wouldn’t be willing to do is to give extra marks to black students so they passed where whites would have failed, or vice versa; I really prefer blind marking. But it seems to me that it’s not the sole responsibility of the teacher to decide where the pass mark lies; and I don’t think it’s good when one lecturer marks much harder than another. So if the University in this case wanted to make their courses easy to pass, I think they should be able to do so.

A. Zarkov writes:

This is actually an old problem. I know two people who ran into similar problems at the University of Michigan in the early 1970s. One was a mathematician who gave a black girl a “C” grade. The professor was overruled by the department dean who revised the grade and said, “we don’t give “C” grades to black students here.” The other person was an electrical engineer who had trouble with the racial policies at University of Michigan. Both these people ended up leaving the University in disgust. Both had high standards for student performance which they refused to compromise.

Curiously when I was an undergraduate the professors loved to give low grades, even “F.” The college was highly selective, so the students getting low grades were often extremely bright. To give you a flavor of their attitude, here’s a true story. My friend was marked down on an exam because he drew a line freehand and didn’t use a ruler; the exam had nothing to do with drawing as it was a course in electomagnetic theory. No professor ever got trouble from giving low grades. One even failed his entire class so they would have to repeat it and he could give new material. A dorm mate got a failing grade in quantum mechanics in his second term senior year, and couldn’t graduate. Those were the days. Now we live in a brave new world where up is down and a zest for excellence is just … well, acting “white.”

Vivek G. writes (May 19):

This is only the beginning. As I pointed out earlier in another post , this trend not only continues on and on but worsens as well. For example, recently the Indian Supreme Court has ruled in favor of even more reservation (see this and this).

Later population groups will demand proportional representation, meaning that if there are x percent of a group in population, there must be at least x percent in all occupations. So, it will be asked, for example, why there are not 10 percent black faculty members in every university department. And none dare ask why there are not 90 percent whites in every basketball team!

Simon N. wrote: “Mulling it over, I think personally I’d be happy to set the pass/fail threshold wherever my employer told me to. If they wanted to devalue their degree, that’s up to them.”

In my opinion this is a dangerous attitude. As merely an employee (economic terms) this view may be o.k.. However a teacher, in a traditionalist view, is much much more than that. Imagine what we would think of priests if the churches allowed them to give the certificate of piety to criminals merely to attract more memberships. And I believe that maintaining standards is important for every society. Otherwise, it soon leads to accelerated deterioration in all standards.

Mark Jaws writes:

Don’t get your hopes up too high. Until race realists concentrate their power of truth in one political entity, such outbursts of fresh air in this smoggy PC nation will be rare.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 18, 2008 03:59 PM | Send

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