Strakon Lights Up, No. 41

Closin' that gap ain't got no end


Liberal libertarians oriented toward Reason magazine, Liberty magazine, the Cato Institute, or the Party typically can't understand paleolibertarians' interest in racial differences. They take it as strange and unhealthy — and pointless, too. We're all individuals, right? So we're all unique,  not indistinguishable lumps within a racial collective. At the same time, the state is the enemy of all of us, white, black, yellow, or green, right? So in that respect, we're all the same!  Either way, it seems, libertarians have no business talking about race, and we all ought to hurry up and join the Transglobal Interracial Children's Crusade we see singing and versifying and cavorting in all those TV commercials promoting the New E-Economy.

The trouble is that Our Enemy, the State, persists in imposing coercive-egalitarian policies, policies which — if, perchance, persistent racial differences do  exist — will not only fail but will also rack up thousands or millions of innocent victims in the failing. After fifty years it's clear that those policies are no transitory sideshow. Coercive egalitarianism is to our Permanent Regime what the collectivization of agriculture was to Stalin's. Perhaps race-conscious libertarians may be forgiven for pointing that out.


According to the New York Times, New York State is now sowing the seeds of a new harvest of sorrow. The State Board of Regents "last week decided to grade schools based partly on how well their black and Hispanic students score, not just how students score over all." ("Race-Tied Rating of Schools Poses Problem for Suburbia," by Kate Zernike) It's an attempt to reward state schools that succeed, somehow, in narrowing "the stubborn gap that leaves black and Hispanic students — even those with well-educated and more affluent parents — trailing their white [and Oriental] peers."

You know that stubborn gap. It has existed forever. It has persisted despite all the Head Start programs, all the forced busing, all the self-esteem propaganda, all the hot breakfasts at school, all the "mandates" by judicial tyrants, all the affirmative-action sinecures handed out to bourgeoisifying parents, and all the billions in special subsidies that the state educationists have extracted from taxpayers over the past decades. It persists in lavishly funded suburban schools run not by tobacco-chewing Ku Klux trolls but by weepy, hand-wringing, white-hating, left-wing administrators — schools where a minority of non-Oriental colored students study right alongside a majority of white and Oriental students, and suffer the same defects of state education as their white and Oriental colleagues.

The Times's Zernike says it's just that sort of school that might be scorched worst by the Regents' new policy. "Almost every suburb has at least a small population of black and Hispanic students," she writes, "but [state schools there] have been able to hide low scores in an average lifted by the good performance of affluent white and Asian students. Under the new rules, which for the first time will grade every school in the state as meeting, exceeding, or falling below standards, the state could declare a school with high average test scores 'below standards' if minority students at the school, even a handful, scored low."

According to Zernike, suburban school superintendents are afraid the new policy will aggravate white flight to private schools and — worse, much worse! — end up "making diversity look like a bad goal."

In light of those likely results, I'm tempted to observe that every cloud has a silver lining or two. But my facetiousness fades when I reflect on the white and Oriental students who are going to be victimized by the new policy. In a universe of scarcity, when you devote additional time, attention, and money to a selected class of students, ceteris paribus, you take it away from the other students.

Some libertarians, I'm afraid, may shrug and say that such injustices are just what parents deserve for keeping their children in state schools. No one holds in higher esteem than I those parents who have kept their kids out of the state hell holes, but let's remember one reason those folks are so estimable. They've agreed to stand there and take one in the kneecap, so to speak, for the "privilege" of private-schooling or home-schooling. "Education," of some state-approved sort, is compulsory, and non-state-school parents are still taxed to support the state schools. If we can't take a hard look at what's happening in the state schools because, after all, a demoralized majority of parents let it happen, we'd better stop analyzing oppressive state policy altogether because, after all, we sheeple let oppression happen, and it's only because of our daily acquiescence that it continues to happen.


If you've seen some of those "connectivity" commercials I satirized earlier, you may have noticed that one class of people are pretty thin on the ground — representatives of the race whose geniuses harnessed electricity, invented the telephone, invented television, and invented the computer. Similarly, it seems that whites (and Orientals) tend strangely to vanish when the time comes, as you knew it would, to triumphantly proclaim the success of race-grading. It turns out that Texas state schools have been race-grading for nine years, and — voila! — "Texans ranked first among all black fourth graders in the nation on the federally administered National Assessment of Educational Progress and Hispanic Texans sixth. California's black fourth graders, by contrast, ranked 36th, and New York's Hispanic fourth graders ranked 30th." Splendid, just splendid. But, er, what is the state of that notorious gap with respect to white (and Oriental) students? Isn't that what we were, you know, talking about ...?

All inconvenient questions aside, Texas does seem to have some positive results there. How were they achieved? Well, according to Zernike, "parents and students held pep rallies encouraging students to study hard and do well. Schools plastered the walls with sloganeering posters and reminders of tips that might come in handy on a math exam." Wow! Winning with pep rallies and posters and tips doesn't sound difficult or tax-intensive at all! Or even inequitable! It does, alas, sound incredible.

More substantively, "in schools that received poor grades, teachers began focusing more intensely on writing and math." But what does that mean? Surely if teachers had been favoring white (and Oriental) students over non-Oriental colored students in the teaching of writing and math, that would have been reported, if not shrieked, by the New York Times. As it stands, it sounds as though the teachers just tried harder, period — and non-Oriental colored students responded better ... than whom? Their white colleagues? But they don't seem to show up in the reported results. Fourth-graders of the same race in California? But those results don't address the racial gap.

Critics say the Texas teachers were just desperately, and superficially, "teaching to the test." In any event, color me incredulous.


Murky, dishonest ground-shifting is a characteristic of the coercive egalitarians' "victories." They put me in mind of the British crowing about what a glorious victory the catastrophe of Dunkirk was.

Marching from one non-victorious victory to the next, and leaving schools and whole communities in rubble behind them, the coercive egalitarians never rest. Accordingly, you will not be surprised to learn that race-grading may well be coming to your town. According to Zernike, Massachusetts and California have fallen into line, "and the United States Senate is debating a bill this week that would require all states to do the same." (Now that would be another famous victory of federalism for the remnant of constitutionalists among us to celebrate!)

It's too bad if it upsets our race-unconscious brethren, but until the coercive egalitarians do rest, I don't think racially conscious paleolibertarians will, either. I know I won't.

May 10, 2000


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