The first revision of the Madison Daily Leader website since Jon Hunter sent his first e-mail by pterodactyl has me reviewing the Madison papers recent burst of editorials. I find our man Hunter stewing over a report that finds black kids getting suspended, expelled, or arrested at school more frequently than white kids. Hunter fears the report will lead to weird reverse-affirmative-action punishments for good white and Asian kids:
We believe the study does a disservice to students who are trying to get an education, regardless of their race. Misbehaving students disrupt classes. Disciplining fewer of them -- regardless of their ethnicity -- harms the classroom experience. Disciplining more white or Asian students who aren't in as much trouble hurts those students.
Frankly, we shouldn't look at skin color at all when making student discipline decisions. Administrators should -- and we believe do -- establish discipline standards based on behavior. It should be all about how students act toward teachers, other students, staff and themselves, and decisions they make [Jon Hunter, "Study Focused on Race Only Promotes Racism," Madison Daily Leader, 2013.12.27].
The report that raises Hunter's white-privilege alarm bells comes from the Civil Rights Data Collection project released in March 2012. Almost two years later, I have not heard of any schools targeting white or Asian students with any sort of racial expulsion quota.
Hunter says such reverse racism is what U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was favorably implied when he said "The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise. It is our collective duty to change that."
Duncan is not calling for arbitrary punishment of the privileged class. The CRDC data show more examples of inequity than expulsion rates:
- Only 29% of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55% of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment.
- Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in teaching in low-minority schools in the same district [U.S. Dept. of Education, press release, 2012.03.06].
If Hunter's implication that black students commit expulsion-worthy offenses at higher rates than white students, then the teachers working with those more challenging black students ought to be getting danger pay, not lower salaries. And all students should have access to challenging curriculum, regardless of discipline rates.
No one is trying to take away white kids' access to education. But the March 2012 report that twists Hunter's knickers shows the need to extend equal access to education to all students.