By George Will
The real vocation of some people entrusted with delivering primary and secondary education is to validate this proposition: The three R’s – formerly reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – now are racism, reproduction and recycling. Especially racism. Consider Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. It evidently considers “instruction” synonymous with “propaganda,” which in the patois of progressivism is called “consciousness-raising.”
Wisconsin’s DPI, in collaboration with the Orwellian-named federal program VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America; the “volunteers” are paid), urged white students to wear white wristbands “as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband.” A flyer that was on the DPI website and distributed at a DPI-VISTA training classes urged whites to “put a note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder to think about privilege,” to “make a daily list of the ways privilege played out” and to conduct an “internal dialogue” asking questions such as “How do I make myself comfortable with privilege?” and “What am I doing today to undo my privilege?”
After criticism erupted, the DPI removed the flyer from its website and posted a dishonest statement claiming that the wristbands were a hoax perpetrated by conservatives.
Today the school systems in 20 states employ more non-teachers than teachers. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reports that between 1950 and 2009, while the number of K-12 students increased 96 percent, full-time equivalent school employees increased 386 percent. The number of teachers increased 252 percent, but the number of bureaucrats – including consciousness-raising sensitivity enforcers and other non-teachers – increased 702 percent. The report says states could have saved more than $24 billion annually if non-teaching staff had grown only as fast as student enrollment. And Americans wonder why their generous K-12 financing (higher per pupil than all but three of the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations) has done so little to improve reading, math and science scores.
Higher education, from which much of such diversity and sensitivity nonsense trickles down, cries poverty while spending lavishly on administrative overhead irrelevant to its teaching and research missions. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that in 2011, while the University of California at San Diego was pruning academic offerings, it created a “vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion” to augment a diversity apparatus that included an assistant vice chancellor for diversity; faculty advisers, staff, graduate and undergraduate diversity coordinators and liaisons; a director of development for diversity initiatives; the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues; the Diversity Council; the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion; and much more. Perhaps tens of millions could be diverted from progressive gestures to academic purposes by abolishing on every American campus every administrative position whose title contains the words “diversity,” “equity,” “race,” “ethnicity,” “sustainability,” “green,” “gender,” “inclusion,” “identity,” “interconnectivity,” “globalization,” “climate,” “campus climate,” “cross-cultural” or “multiculturalism.”
Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan, paraphrasing Education Secretary William Bennett, said: “If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you’re liable to be given more money to do it with.” But only until the soaring tuitions and taxes that fund this featherbedding for administrators of political correctness create a critical mass of parental and taxpayer disgust.
GEORGE WILL’S email address is email@example.com.