Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been making its way into public schools for decades. Now it has reached a tipping point, aided perhaps by the realities of Covid and the remote school board meetings and online classes. Now parents, formerly unable to attend meetings of arguably the dumbest collection of people in elected office and formerly unaware of the dumbed-down curriculum of their children, are starting to wake up and push back.
There is hope that schools can turn around from the indoctrination of young people and reintroduce objective truths and American values. A recent school board election in Southlake, Texas provided encouragement that there are still many families who love this country. Still, the resistance to CRT is only the latest chapter in a longer story of the failures, shortcomings, and limitations of public schooling. Rather than celebrate Southlake’s repudiation of CRT (which, for the record, certainly merits celebration), it is worth taking a step back and realizing that no amount of institutional changes can overcome a student’s home life. The family – not the school system – is the only path forward in maintaining the greatest society and country in the world.
Carroll Independent School District, home of the Southlake student community, offers an insight to just that. For all intents and purposes, if this small, wealthy Dallas suburb can’t offer hope and change to all young people, what other community could? According to census data, the mean household income is over $215,000 per year. Over 43% of households earned more than $200,000 while just 1.5% of families lived below the poverty line. From this tax base, the resources available to families, students, and schools is surely not the reason for any student shortcomings. And yet, according to the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR), between just 80-90% of students annually meet or exceed grade level standards on any given math or reading standardized assessment. This is a vast improvement over the state average of about 45% proficiency, but hardly a monumental achievement. From an economic perspective, the amount of spending that produces a predictable success rate in just the 80% range is appalling. Proponents of never-ending spending willfully ignore the reality that there are marginal returns on throwing money at schools. If Southlake, with its median home price of $880,000, cannot produce outcomes that we are told are possible with more money, then what would they suggest the final bill should be?
Loudoun County, Virginia provides another example of boondoggling at its finest. Known as the “wealthiest school district in America” in some circles – I would call it “home of the most ignorant, white savior libtards in America” – there is more money per capita than anywhere else and results that could be called mediocre at best. Again, the district outperforms the state. As with Southlake, however, there is a ceiling on performance and outcomes. Whereas this county boasts of essentially limitless resources, it musters performance slightly lower than its Texan peers; reading and math scores hover around 85%.
Only those feigning it show any surprise toward student achievement results. Money has never been, nor will it ever be, the solution to public education.
Still, in the search for meaning by educators – who rose neither to the level of doctor, pilot, lawyer, nor entrepreneur – teachers and administrators alike thirst for a greater purpose than they know exists in their profession. It is not uncommon for educators to say their work is as critical as brain surgeons, the argument being that impressionable minds and lives are at stake (this is especially common in black communities). Obviously, this is not true. As demonstrated during the extended shutdowns and later push to reopen, it became obvious that schools serve as much a function as basic childcare as they do institutions of empowerment. Moms and Dads need to work, and schools provide a place to corral everyone else while that happens.
None of this should not be taken as a slight against educators in the least. Most teachers work extremely hard and their commitment to kids is incredible. At the same time, the profession as a whole looked particularly foolish and cowardly during Covid. The same people that claim we have a moral obligation to inculcate young people (i.e. essential work) pretended not to be essential workers and stayed home for an entire year, causing unknown and irreparable harm to the very same young people they purport to help. Meanwhile, other essential members of society like gas station clerks and grocery store shelvers put up with masks, crowds, and exposure for far less money and benefits.
I come from a family of teachers, and was a teacher myself, but it took all of one day in the classroom myself to recognize an inherent reality to the profession: Kids show up with the skill set to succeed or not. Society loves feel-good movies like Freedom Writers, Stand and Deliver, and Dangerous Minds, but no matter the success romanticized and portrayed, the reality is that each film focuses on a single teacher in an otherwise failing school in an otherwise failing district in an otherwise failing system. The movies would not stand out if such uplift were the norm; it is precisely because their stories are a diamond in the rough that we extoll their greatness. Two things can be true at once: 1) Great teachers exist, and 2) The public school system is still awful.
At the end of the day, a school is only as good as the students that enroll in it. Trade out suburban kids with urban kids, and a seemingly miraculous transformation will occur within the district itself. If Southlake or Loudoun County kids were sent to inner-city Dallas or Washington, D.C., and those same Dallas or D.C. kids were bused out to the burbs, neither system would not produce the same results. Once-great schools would plummet in status and once-failing schools would be the exemplars of the profession. Ultimately, student and school success have nothing to do with the schools themselves and everything to do with the families from where the students originate.