Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Race and Jobs in Ocean Hill

One of many ironies described in Wolters' Race and Education is that, once civil rights' activists had wrested community control of their schools away from whites, they sought to give it to blacks:

Community Control

While some white scholars emphasized class conflict, many blacks embraced a racialist perspective. This was especially apparent in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the New York City district that became the most publicized example of the community control movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. Here, as in many inner cities, the average achievement of the African American and Puerto Rican children lagged behind that of white students More than 70 percent of black students were below grade level in reading, and 85 percent in math. Yet, although nonwhites made up 95 percent of the population in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, most of the teachers were white. To complicate the situation, many of the white teachers in the district moved to mostly white schools as soon as they satisfied a union rule that allowed teachers to transfer after accumulating five years of service. "This stripped black-majority schools of teachers just as they were beginning to mature professionally." [Jerald E. Podair, The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis]

Although many of New York's black leaders initially had favored integrated education, after 1965 a preference for the community-centered approach was evident in many black neighborhoods. This preference coincided with the popularity of "black power" and its emphasis on building institutions in the black community. To the surprise of some, many business corporations also favored community control, believing that it offered social peace. The Ford Foundation threw its influence behind community control, and so did the New York Times. Community control also gained the support of the white New Left and was especially attractive to black intellectuals and activists. "By 1966 . . . a coalition of government, business, and media elites, white leftist intellectuals, radical teachers, and black activists, and educators, had, for diverse reasons, formed around the idea of community control of education in black neighborhoods." [Podair]

Advocates of community control took exception to a merit system that had led, by the mid-1960s, to a situation where only 8 percent of the teachers , 2.5 percent of the supervisors, and 1 percent of the principals in New York City were black, although black youths by then constituted 30 percent of all students. Under a system that had been developed by the central school board and the mostly white teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), prospective teachers were required to graduate from college and pass a teachers' certification examination. To achieve tenure or to become a department head or school administrator, teachers had to take additional graduate courses and pass still more tests.

The UFT conceded that individual tests could be improved by considered teh test system basically fair. Supporters of community control, on the other hand, wanted to eliminate the examination requirements for hiring and promotion. It was all right, advocates of community control said, to require that prospective teachers must be college graduates who had received a teaching certificate. But placements and promotions should depend on performance on the job and service to the community. Mindful of the students' low test scores, community controllers purportedly wanted to "rescue pupils from the stultifying grip of the white civil service bureaucracy." The UFT, however, said that community control would lead to teachers being "hired and fired not on the basis of educational competence, but on the basis of race, political conformity to parochial community prejudices, and favoritism." [Diane Ravitch, "Community Control Revisted," Commentary, 1972]

A brewing controversy came to a head in 1968, one year after the schools of Ocean Hill-Brownsville had become part of a Ford Foundation-funded experiment that created autonomous local boards of education in a few of the poorest school districts. The governing board in Ocean Hill-Brownsville then voted to end the employment of eighteen white teachers and supervisors (and one black who was mistakenly thought to be white). Later the local board also removed more than three hundred additional teachers who walked out in protest against what the board had done. The governing board also appointed several African Americans and one Puerto Rican as principals in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, even though their names were not on the list of those who had taken and passed the required examination. At the time, only four blacks were listed among the almost one thousand candidates on the elementary school principals' eligibility list.

In its rush to provide more jobs for African Americans, the local board did not hold hearings, saying that the white teachers were simply being transferred or reassigned to other schools. Yet the UFT held that involuntary transfers were punitive and therefore required submission of charges and an impartial hearing. When evidence was belatedly presented to Judge Francis E. Rivers, who happened to be a black man, the judge ruled that the white teachers and supervisors were entitled to keep their jobs, finding that they had been singled out for retaliation, not because of incompetence but because they had criticized the idea of community control. Judge Rivers held that due process required that tenured teachers not be deprived of their jobs except for cause and with a hearing.

When the local school board disregarded Judge Rivers' report as merely advisory, the UFT called a strike, and fifty-four thousand of New York’s fifty-seven thousand public school teachers heeded the call. Eventually there were several strikes and complicated negotiations that have been described elsewhere. Denying Major John Lindsay's charge that the strike was racially motivated, union president Albert Shanker insisted that it was about due process protections for teachers. If a white school board reassigned a black teacher arbitrarily, Shanker said, the union would support the teacher. "This is a strike to protect black teachers against white racists in white communities and white teachers against black racists in black communities."

The strike was suspended when Mayor Lindsay offered assurance that the white teachers could return to their positions. Yet in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the local board was adamant. "We do not want the teachers to return to this district," the board declared in one statement. When the returning teachers reported for work, they had to force their way through angry crowds. Once they entered their schools, they were told to attend orientation sessions, and as one group walked into the auditorium at Independent School 55, "approximately fifty community residents, most from the Brooklyn branch of CORE [Congress on Racial Equality], surrounded them, brandishing sticks and bandoliers of bullets, While the men cursed the teachers, threw the bullets at them, and threatened to 'carry you out in pine boxes,' [the top local administrator] quietly observed the scene, offering no assistance to the frightened educators." After students attacked several white teachers at Junior High School 271, the school principal "herded them into a locked classroom for their safety. Police rescued them later in the afternoon."

These scenes impressed some observers as a reversal of Little Rock, with black mobs now surrounding white teachers, but the union insisted it would not be intimidated by what UFT president Shanker called "a primitive type of tribalism." Because a disproportionately large number of the teachers were Jewish, as were the leaders of the UFT, the dispute also smacked of anti-Semitism. The local African American Teachers Association (A-ATA) called for the separation of black and white teachers in cafeterias and lounges, and one leader of the group read aloud a student’s poem dedicated to Shanker. The Poem began, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head / You pale faced Jew boy  I wish you were dead.”

. . .

The controversy in Ocean Hill-Brownsville would not have been so emotional at the time, or so significant in retrospect, if it had been merely a dispute over providing more jobs for blacks or protecting workers’ rights, Its importance derives, at least in part, from the fact that the two sides had different opinions with regard to a basic question. Why did the academic achievement levels of blacks lag behind those of whites? Most teachers attributed the low test scores to disinterested students and parents, while most people in the community blamed disengaged teachers, especially white teachers. “Each side blamed the other for the poor performance of most black students. White teachers blamed black families and communities; black parents blamed the teachers and the schools.”

Many residents of Ocean Hill-Brownsville took exception to the teachers for allegedly “shift[ing] the blame for academic failure away from the school and teacher and toward the pupil’s family and community.” Thus Rhody McCoy, the top administrator in the district during the height of the controversy over community control, said that most white teachers, “for all their protests about supporting civil rights and admiring Martin Luther King, didn’t believe in the ability of a black child to learn just as well as a white one.” Elaine Rooke, the president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Junior High School 271, also accused the white teachers of having “bad attitudes.” “They don’t live in the neighborhood,” Rooke complained, “and they rush out of the school and the neighborhood before three o’clock.” Although Rooke conceded that white teachers rarely used overtly racist language, she said the teachers were “condescending and patronizing toward black children.” The teachers seemed to think that their middle-class way of life was superior to the customs that prevailed in Ocean Hill-Brownsville.

A few thoughts on all of this. First, Shanker and the UFT should be applauded for asserting their right to equal protection of the laws. If the Civil Rights Act (and, it is argued, the 14th Amendment) forbid employment decisions based on race, and especially something so egregious as a racially motivated firing, intimidation, and violence, then the white teachers of Ocean Hill had the same right to those protections as, say, Ruby Bridges (and in fact, they received far less protection against far more discrimination). Equal protection is exactly what the 14th Amendment is really about.

But in a sense, this is a procedural position, and dodges the policy question: what should Ocean Hill have done, and what should the law permit? Steve Sailer referred to this passage of the book in a post pointing to the importance of public sector unions, here and in the Ricci case, in protecting white civil servants from urban political machines intent on discriminating against them in favor of appeasing politically powerful interests groups. And in this, we are agreed.

But I am also aware that a position in favor of objective civil servant hiring standards costs neither of us anything. We know in advance that objective standards will favor members of our race, and we enjoy the benefits of high[er] quality teaching, fire protection, and other public services while suffering none of either the material or psychic costs of having our race effectively shut out from the benefits of public employment.

So let's perform a thought experiment. Let's pretend Ocean Hill was a Christian community in city in which Ashkenazi Jews were the majority. Given that the mean Ashkenazi IQ exceeds that of white gentiles almost as much as the white IQ exceeds the black IQ, it is not difficult to imagine that, were they the majority, that Jews would easily dominate a competitive civil service system -- indeed, they apparently already dominated the actual Ocean Hill school system. It is also easy to imagine that, in a majority Jewish city, the subject of the relative underperformance of Gentile children in school would be much discussed.

So what would we do? Would we submit to the belief that our community was at fault? Would we meekly accept Jewish assertions that we suffered from academically "disinterested students and parents"? (Remember that frank acknowledgement of IQ differences are beyond the Pale.)

Maybe, but I doubt it. For one thing, it would be easy for us to perceive a condescending attitude from Jews about "Goyishe Kop", or to invent it. But more rationally, we might believe several things.

First, the social solidarity of our community would be important to us. We may or may not share many values and history with the surrounding Jews, but those differences that did exist would be especially salient. We would rationally desire that our schools transmit those values and history to our children, and we would further believe that fellow Christians would be especially suited to this task.

Would there be tradeoffs? In the actual Ocean Hill, Wolters documents how the local board eventually succeeded in replacing white teachers with black ones, although they did it by attrition rather than mass dismissals. And academic performance fell. James Coleman, an education researcher in the Johnson Administration, discovered that teacher intelligence did correlate with educational outcomes, and that white teachers got better outcomes from black ones for this very reason, all else being equal. But he suppressed these findings, and the Ocean Hill of 1968 didn't know about them.

But should they have cared? The magnitude of the effect on educational outcomes surely matters. The fact is that nothing else worked, then or since, to raise the level of black achievement to white levels. Returning to our thought experiment, our Christian community may not have especially high expectations for what the schools can accomplish, and may think that Gentile teachers have sufficient ability to accomplish it. Maybe the Jews get better results, but those results have costs. First, the belief, true or not, that our values, mythology, solidarity, and self-esteem were being undermined. Second, the jobs. Public sector employment is a wonderful thing for those who have it, and public sector employees (it is widely held) generate positive externalities for their communities. And we ought not discount the psychic benefits of knowing our group is getting its share of the public till. These are the tradeoffs.

Similarly in the Ricci case. Here again, I applaud Frank Ricci for standing up for his rights under the law, and the Supreme Court indubitably reached the correct decision under the terms of Civil Rights law. But also again, it is easy for me to say this. Steve Sailer rightly points out that incompetent firemen mean more horrible flaming deaths, but what do we say to the black person who asks, "okay . . . how many flaming deaths?" Sure, it sucks if that flaming death is yours, but playing the odds is not inherently irrational.

I know the answer I want. I want competent public services, and I decline to be governed by the kind of people who subvert those services in the name of racial quotas. But I would also like to respect the self-government of blacks who answer differently, so long as they, and not I, reap the consequences of their decisions.

So once again, I propose a grand bargain. Do you want affirmative action? Do you want racial set asides and political patronage? Repeal the Civil Rights Act. I'll give you all the affirmative action you can stand in any jurisdiction over which you achieve political control. I'll even give you Ricci . . . and Seattle and Croeson and Bakke. And in return, I want Griggs, and New Kent, and Brown. And the opportunity to set the hiring standards and education policies in any jurisdiction we control, free of judicial oversight. Call it a "prisoner exchange."

That's my offer.


Anonymous said...

It may be just coincidence, but Ocean Hill-Brownsville is one of New York's relatively lower-income neighborhoods that has not seen much in the way of improvement in recent years. Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant are better places than they were 15 or 20 years ago. Ocean Hill-Brownsville has more or less stagnated.


newt0311 said...


Why would the left take your bargain when they are on the upside?

Φ said...

Newt: a good question. It is not abundantly clear that the Left is on the upside as far as racial preferences go. On the contrary, in cases before the Supreme Court, not only have they generally failed to judicially impose preferences since Wards Cove if not before, but as Seattle and Ricci demonstrate, they are losing even the preferences that they secure administratively.

Obviously, this could change. Indeed, if the Democrat party settles into the executive for a long-term occupancy, it can be expected to change, and I guess that advocates for preferences are expecting it. But as long as the judiciary grants whites the equal protection of the laws, then disparate impact analysis is effectively dead. In the context of large minority-dominated municipalities, that puts the civil rights laws operationally on our side.

But I would still trade that for political and economic freedom for the rest of the country.

Justin said...

Nice analysis. So you are proposing a return to segregated schools? Or just the ability to segregate the faculty?

Φ said...

Justin: also a fair question.

My first choice for public education would be radical privatization.

Were we starting over in 1955, my sense is that white American public school students should not be forced into minority status in their own country. In districts where whites were the clear majority, this should not have been the problem that it turned out to be. But the most heartbreaking story of Race and Education was the district with a little school of 500 whites and a larger school of some 3000 blacks that were forced to merge. Obviously, this destroyed the community.

But then, communities were destroyed by far less. In fact, during the 50s and 60s, many whites abandoned the schools at the first black student who set her foot through the door. This was . . . unfortunate. I would never have supported segregation that rigid, and I would be surprised to meet anyone young enough today to have school-aged kids who would act on prejudices that pristine.

But it ought to be the responsibility of local authorities, not federal judges, to have a sense of where the tipping point is and stay clear of it. If preventing "white flight" means setting a ceiling on black students in white schools, or white students in black schools, then I'm prepared to live with that.

This undoubtedly sounds harsh to a generation taught to regard legal segregation as America's lasting shame. And up until a couple of years ago, I would have agreed. But Race and Education brought the issue into sharp focus: desegregation brought massive social costs to whites, it brought zero educational benefits to all but a handful of upper-class blacks, and whatever their protestations, almost every American family is choosing as much segregation as they can afford. It's time to call a halt to the whole charade.

newt0311 said...


Your analysis is shallow. Over the last decade the left may seem to be on the defensive but on the historical scale (i.e., over the last few decades), the left is incontestably the absolute dominant force.

Consider the world of the early 1900s. HBD was universally recognized. People knew that there were differences between different groups of people and therefore different programs and environments were called for. Many eminent judges actually went so far with this to call for eugenics and they were praised, not publicly humiliated for this. Contrast this with today. I don't mean to imply that eugenics is a good idea. I wish to illustrate the massive shift in the political spectrum.

Furthermore, recent cases like Vulcan Society indicate that the left is not in as bad a shape as you make it out to be.

Φ said...

Newt: On a very long time horizon, you are correct. If whites continue their demographic implosion, then the rest of us will all be fleeing to Canada with the shirts on our backs.

Looking at the medium term, I would say that political correctness is well into its Brezhnev phase in that it holds almost no power over the public mind except what it gains through force and intimidation. It's always darkest right before the dawn, etc. We may be ready for some glasnost.

And the Vulcan Society isn't over yet.

newt0311 said...

Well, then I ask again, why would the left compromise? It is winning over the time scale that matters (even though the results, once they become evident, will horrify even its staunchest advocates).

Political correctness always was, is, and always will be a tool to beat down any inconvenient opponents. It can be used by whoever controls the information organs of a state (i.e., for us the media) and therefore, we see it being used by the left. In Nazi Germany, it was used by the right. The critical point is that even in its Breznev phase, it has lost little of its effectiveness because the left has largely taken over government through the bureaucracy.

Also, once you start fleeing, I hope you can find better refuge than Canada. I would suggest Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Singapore, China, or my personal favorite, Hong Kong.

I hope Vulcan Society isn't over yet but it seems unlikely that it will be appealed. The problem is that the tables were stacked against NYC fireman by the judge when deciding who would be part of the case. On one side, the judge permitted the inclusion of a lobbying group and on the other side, the judge forbid the inclusion of the NYC fireman union. The defendants here are just Mayor Bloomberg and co. and whether they will want to take the political flak for appealing this decision is unclear to me.

For the medium term, I advise moving to an area with high land prices (if you can afford it). As you have mentioned several times, this results in filtering out most miscreants.

Φ said...

To answer your question, it is true that the civil rights laws are unlikely to be repealed, for reasons I outline in the subsequent post.

As far as refuges go, Canada has the distinction of being white and speaking English. Plus they have the space.

newt0311 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
newt0311 said...

Canada may be white but HK and Singapore are well governed. Also, China has plenty of space on the west. It's only the eastern coastal area which is saturated. The English barrier is a problem but I remember visiting HK and not having a problem with communication. There is almost always somebody around who knows English and learning another language is a small price to pay for safety, decent schools, and low taxes. Oh, and a health care system that doesn't make me wait for three months to see a doctor for basic operations...

Φ said...

The "safety and decent schools" of China, HK, and Singapore are mostly a product of them being full of Asians, (which wouldn't be quite as true if they suddenly took in a horde of white American refugees) but also a product of their relative lack of freedom, even compared to Canada. And I'm willing to bet that their public schools also have their own politically correct mythologies, to which I could object with far less freedom than I could in Canada (given their ongoing public revolt against the HRC; we'll have to see how that plays out). Meanwhile, Canada's fiscal house is supposedly in good order, and its government now eats up a smaller percentage of GDP than ours does (which means its taxes will soon be lower than ours, too). Canada also enjoys low crime and "good" schools. (Not many NAMs there, either.)

newt0311 said...


Nope. You may think that the safety and decent schools of these countries are only due to asians but I think that you are discounting these country's willingness to use force. Also, if you don't like the public schools, go to a private school where the applicants are screened. I doubt the chinese government would mind.

"And I'm willing to bet that their public schools also have their own politically correct mythologies, to which I could object with far less freedom than I could in Canada (given their ongoing public revolt against the HRC; we'll have to see how that plays out)."

Are you serious? Mainland China maybe but I assure you that HK has no such problems. Remember, it was under British rule until 1996 and the Chinese have basically left it alone to the point where it has its own government. Note further that there are now people in China who are "professional protesters" and it becomes clear that the Chinese is not as totalitarian as you think. Seems like you have been listening a little too much to the propaganda that is parceled off as news here.

"Meanwhile, Canada's fiscal house is supposedly in good order, "

Supposedly but that applies to all (or most) of the Asian countries that I mentioned.

"and its government now eats up a smaller percentage of GDP than ours does (which means its taxes will soon be lower than ours, too). Canada also enjoys low crime and "good" schools. (Not many NAMs there, either.)"

Smaller percentage of GDP can come from a lot of sources. In this case, it comes from the lack of an army. Regardless, this does not imply low taxes as it could also imply good tax evasion. Furthermore, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and HK (though not mainland China) have the lowest tax burden on the planet. The reason that NAMs aren't there (in Canada) right now is because the US is attractive. Once it fills up, they will move up north.

Also, my comment on the health-care system still applies.

Φ said...


Please do me the courtesy of reading what I actually wrote:

. . . also a product of their relative lack of freedom, even compared to Canada.

which, yes, also includes the use of force.

As far as independent schools in China go, I don't have any direct knowledge of the extent to which they are banned or discouraged, but I will happily infer it from the general repression of independent religious and political activity. If you have specific information about their existence or their latitude, please present it. But "I doubt the Chinese government would mind" doesn't really cut it.

If by "professional protesters" you mean paid agents of the state or the party, then professional protestors are a feature of any totalitarianism. China is an excellent example of this: the Chinese leadership can easily summon forth crowds to complain about foreign governments. But demonstrating against the Chinese government has been very dangerous since Tiananmen square.

Don't misunderstand me: I am not an uncritical advocate of Canada. My only point is that it is (1) accessible, and (2) shares my race, language and culture to a large extent.

But at a population of 34k and no currency, Liechtenstein doesn't even count as a real country. Neither does HK. Singapore is a little better, but that doesn't mean any of them could take large numbers of American refugees even if they wanted to, which they don't. But so what? I don't really aspire to be the new Jew, scurrying from one place to another trying not to get persecuted. I want my own country, and to be governed by my own people.

Canada's immigration system is, on paper, pretty rational. It's true that the locusts will start eyeing Canada after they have devoured the U.S., and we'll have to see how Canada reacts.

Trumwill said...

Even if one is not actively persecuted, and even if the land itself is well-governed, it sucks to be a minority. It's difficult to have a while bunch of social institutions to which you are not tied. When I was living in the Mormon West, despite living primarily among well-mannered and well-behaved whites, the sense of otherness off-set a whole lot of the advantages. And that absolutely pales in comparison to moving to an Asian country.

If I were leaving the US, I'd probably look at Australia before looking at Canada (and Ireland would be in there somewhere), but I would look at all three of those before looking at Asian countries.