An Insightful Commentary On The Arrest Of Professor Gates

I happened to come across this article when doing some research for my own work, and as I feel it said better than I had a lot of what I felt about the case, I may as well post it here for discussion. It’s a bit long, but I think it is very well written and insightful. The original may be found here.

“Skip” Gates – A Curious Martyr in the Struggle Against Racism
July 26, 2009, By Paul Street

The black-bourgeois Harvard professor and Cambridge, Massachusetts resident Henry Louis “Skip” Gates (who is certainly far into the six figure salary stratosphere at the nation’s top university) is a curious martyr in the struggle against racism. He recently claimed that his now nationally sensationalized experience of being arrested in his own home – after being seen forcing his way (along with his cabdriver) into his residence upon returning from China (an action that elicited a neighbor’s call to the police) and then launching into a tirade against the Cambridge police sent to investigate – has reminded him of the oppression that poor blacks face in the U.S. He is thinking, he says, of doing “a PBS special” about his confrontation with a “rogue racist police officer” in affluent, leafy Cambridge and how that experience connects him to the truly oppressed people down in Roxbury, Dorchester, Bedford Stuyvesant, South Central Los Angeles, Benton Harbor (Michigan), and the West Side of Chicago.

He’s in the national spotlight thanks in no small part to President Barack Obama’s politically ill-advised statement – made at the heavily distracting end of a prime-time press conference in which he was attempting to sell his watered-down, corporate-friendly “health care reform” – that Gates’ arrest was a “stupid” action on the part of the Cambridge police. The president referred to Gates as a personal friend and admitted to not being particularly knowledgeable about the specifics involved in the Gates-Cambridge incident.

Blacks Have “No Excuse” for Not “Running MIT”

Another “PBS special” from Henry Louis Gates? White supremacists can be forgiven if they are not shaking in their boots. Five and a half years ago, the bourgeois professor fouled Black History Month by narrating an ambitious, four-part, and British-directed Public Broadcasting System television series titled “America Beyond the Color Line.” Purportedly dedicated to providing a provocative new take on race, class, and black experience in the U.S., Gates’ documentary spent an inordinate amount of time beating up on impoverished blacks for not having any, well, class. Accepting the dominant privilege-friendly and Euro-bourgeois notion that success, empowerment, and freedom are essentially available to all who exhibit proper individual initiative and “personal responsibility,” Gates argued that poor African-Americans are largely to blame for the fact that blacks stand at the bottom of the nation’s steep US socioeconomic pyramids. In “American Beyond the Color Line,” Gates did not understand class in the radical way that the term has been used by leading black intellectuals and activists like W.E.B. DuBois, CLR James, Martin Luther King and Manning Marable: as an oppression structure that is intimately and inseparably (dare I say dialectically) bound up with race (today we must of course add gender) in the construction and preservation of American inequality. [1] He used “class” rather in the bourgeois and accommodationist Booker T. Washington [2] sense, arguing that lower-class blacks needed to work harder and smarter to acquire the middle- and upper-class skills, education, habits and values possessed in greater degree by black elites. One of those elites Gates held up as a role model in “America Beyond the Color” was the leading imperialist figurehead Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, featured as an example of what blacks could accomplish when they work hard, study, save, and behave decently.

“Unless there is a moral revolution and a revolution in attitude among our people,” Gates told Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Johnson as “America Beyond the Color Line” hit the airwaves, “unless [poor blacks] decide to stay in school, learn the ABCs, not to get pregnant when you’re 16, not to run drugs, not to sell drugs…we’re doomed to have a relatively small black middle class and huge underclass and never the twain shall meet. The only way we can succeed in society,” Gates said, “is mastering the ABCs, staying in school, working hard, deferred gratification. What’s happened to these values?… My father always said, and it’s true, if we studied calculus like we studied basketball, we’d be running MIT. It’s true and there’s no excuse.” [3]

This was the key theme in a previous PBS special narrated by Gates. In that documentary, titled “Two Nations,” Gates proclaimed that black poverty was pretty much about poor decisions: “deciding to get pregnant or not to have protected sex. Deciding to do drugs. Deciding not to study. Deciding, deciding, deciding…” [4]

“A Wake-Up Call…More Especially to Black America”

Gates told the Chicago Tribune that “America Beyond” was “meant to be a wake-up call to America, but more especially to black America, saying ‘are we crazy? What are we doing here? We can’t just keep saying,'” Gates argues, “‘the white man made me do it.'”

The Tribune’s Johnson reporter found that “America Beyond’s” “most striking” aspect was “the degree to which it pushes the idea of personal responsibility as the best solution to the black community’s problems,” which, the reporter says, “is perhaps not something you expect to hear from a man who identifies himself as politically ‘center-left.'” While knowing full well that larger, interrelated forces of capitalism and racism play a role in the creation of deep and disproportionate black poverty, (he is not stupid), Gates decided (perhaps I should say “decided, decided, decided”) in “America Beyond” and in “Two Nation” to skip past structural-racism and get to the meat of the matter: the personal responsibility of poor blacks.

It’ was a comforting message, no doubt, for much of white America, most of which has embraced the convenient notion that racism (structural or otherwise) no longer poses serious problems for blacks and that the real barriers to black success and equality are located in the African-American community itself. “As white America sees it,” noted Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown in their excellent study By The Color of Their Skin: the Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race (New York: Plume, 2000), “every effort has been to welcome blacks into the American mainstream and now they’re on their own.” Predominant white attitudes at the turn of the millennium are well summarized by the comments of a white respondent to a survey conducted by Essence magazine. “No place that I’m aware of,” wrote the respondent, “makes [black] people ride on the back of the bus or use a different restroom in this day and age. We got the message; we made the corrections – get on with it.”

The election of Gates’ friend, Harvard graduate Barack Obama, to the White House, has of course pretty much closed the door on the chance that many American whites will understand that the “corrections” (an interesting word choice in a time when black prisoners account for nearly half of “freedom”-loving America’s globally unmatched incarceration rate!) are only minimally underway if at all.

“Is it the System, the Man, Racism…Capitalism?”

Presented through the quintessentially Caucasian venue of the PBS documentary, much of “America Beyond” seemed like racially treasonous snitching. In one scene from Chicago’s predominantly black South Side, Gates looked incredulous as a young woman offered him no rational reason for having a large number of children out of wedlock during her late teens and 20s. Another South Side scene in the special had Gates talking to a group of young black women who were enrolled in a program designed to help them escape ghetto life. Gates asked one young lady who or what she blamed for the desperate situation of so many of the city’s African-Americans. “Is it the system, the man, racism,” Gates asked her, “is it capitalism?” Failing to cite Marx, DuBois or Malcom X or the latest left-sociological research on the racially disparate impact of capitalist de-industrialization [5], the woman earned Gates’ approval by emphasizing the poor choices made by ghetto residents she knew!

During one telling sequence in “America Beyond,” Gates sat across from a black inmate at a notorious and giant racist holding pen – Chicago’s Cook County Jail. After telling the inmate how much he himself loved attending school as a youth, Gates looked disturbed as his interview subject recalled alienation from the inadequate public school to which he was assigned by virtue of his boyhood address in a dangerous, poverty-ridden Chicago neighborhood. As the dialogue between the Harvard professor and the jail inmate concluded, both agreed on the basic wisdom of an uncontroversial conclusion: America’s nearly one million black prison and jail inmates would be better off if they had hit the books and not joined gangs during their youth.

The point was shared in “America Beyond” by U.S. Secretary of State Powell, who told Gates that young blacks needed to…make better choices in life. (Gates did not ask Powell to elaborate on the moral character of the Secretary’s choice to support the bloody, illegal, unjust, and thoroughly unnecessary invasion of Iraq by collaborating in the manufacture of spectacular high-state deceptions regarding the threat posed by the feeble regime of Saddam Hussein. There was no discussion of a younger Powell’s role in the Pentagon’s early attempts to cover-up the 1968 My Lai massacres. )

Critical Omissions in the Call for Better Choices

There was nothing in “America Beyond the Color Line” about the need to make a “wake-up call” to the more structurally empowered and predominantly white business and government decision-makers who negatively affect black experience by “deciding, deciding, deciding” to, for example:

* deny blacks equal access to the nation’s highest opportunity communities through a panoply of well-documented discriminatory real-estate, home-lending, and zoning practices and policies.

* target blacks for historically and globally unmatched mass incarceration and felony marking, thereby richly exacerbating the already deep socioeconomic and political disadvantage of lower-class African-Americans.

* maintain strict lines of racial segregation between predominantly black and under-funded inner city schools and predominantly white, affluent, and well-funded suburban school districts.

* divert hundreds of billions of dollars from social programs needed to assist the victims of domestic U.S. structural racism to pay for economically dysfunctional tax cuts that benefit the disproportionately white opulent few and to pay for an objectively racist foreign policy that pays its primary dividends to wealthy whites.

* disinvest in communities of color, helping create the barren material underpinning for neighborhoods where adult males with felony records and prison histories are more numerous than livable wage jobs.

* sponsor and protect various overseas drug lords who happen to serve America’s imperial objectives while conducting a massive domestic anti-narcotics campaign that is significantly less effective and much more expensive than treatment when it comes to mitigating the ravages of substance abuse and generates the critical raw material (black bodies) for the nation’s remarkable, globally unmatched and white-run prison industrial complex.

* permeate severely disadvantaged black neighborhoods with predatory financial institutions that exploit ghetto residents’ limited economic choices.

* go easy with affluent white corporate and high-state criminals who devastate untold lives and communities with fraudulent practices and schemes while consigning hundreds of thousands of poor blacks to hard time in violent mass incarceration facilities for small-time narcotics transgressions that are deemed unworthy of imprisonment in every other nation in the democratic world.

* subvert the meaning and significance of American democracy by constructing a preposterously expensive, big-money and big-media-dominated “winner-take-all” election system that makes it absurdly difficult for racial, ethnic, and ideological minorities to translate their vital needs and perspectives into policy.

* attack “affirmative action” college admissions practices that try to marginally compensate a minority of blacks for centuries of structural racism while maintaining silence over “legacy” admissions practices that reward predominantly white applicants (i.e., Harvard and Yale graduate George W. Bush) for being born into a family that attended the same school in the past.

There was no call in “America Beyond” for a new “personal responsibility” on the part of the very predominantly white agents and beneficiaries of the above, bullet-pointed bad decisions (a small share of the poor and dangerous choices that can be observed in the corridors of Caucasian power and privilege). There was no demand that these perpetrators “wake up” to their need to make better decisions more consistent with the supposed noble American Values of hard work, honesty, saving, deferred gratification, and non-reliance on public assistance – critical omissions!

Booker T. Obama

Obama’s initial, off-the-cuff defense of his Harvard friend Gates’ position on what(ever) recently happened in Cambridge is also somewhat ironic and yet appropriate. “America Beyond” portrayed racial inequality and its causes in much the same Booker T. Washingtonian terms as those used by Barack Obama on the rare occasions when he feels compelled to explicitly address the problem of race. The capitalism- and Wall Street-friendly/-captive and “black but not like Jesse” president has made a career – a rather spectacularly successful one to date – out of militant race-neutralism. Taking his cue from the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967), he has consistently respected majority-white race fears and denial by distancing himself from the supposedly obsolete and dysfunctional notion that racism still poses serious barriers to black advancement and racial equality in the U.S. He has spent a significant amount of time and energy lecturing lower- and working-class blacks – most recently at the 100th anniversary dinner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – on their need to take personal and cultural responsibility for their own position in a supposedly opportunity-filled and “magical place called America.” As Obama “explained” in his instantly famous Race Speech in Philadelphia in March of 2008, black rage at white racial oppression made sense in the post-Word War II America in which his former spiritual mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright (thrown under the bus by the Obama campaign because of the pastor’s nasty habit of telling basic truths about living U.S. racism and imperialism) came of age. Such rage does not make quite so much sense in contemporary America, however, the president-to-be felt – not in a nation where blacks had come (as Obama explained to Civil Rights Movement veterans in Selma, Alabama in March of 2007) “nine-tenths of the way” to equality (a rather curious statement in a country where black unemployment and poverty rates are double those of whites and where black median household net worth comes to seven cents on the white dollar!).[6]

Likes Gates, Obama is far from stupid. He knows full well (as is clear from his recent NACCP address [7]) that structural discrimination and racial bias continue to be major factors in black experience and racial inequality. He has decided (and “decided and decided”), however – for reasons that make political sense in a nation whose white-majority electorate is in deep “post-Civil Rights” denial about how powerfully white supremacy has (in historian David Roediger’s phrase) “survived U.S. history” – to take the Booker T. Washingtonian road and to place primary emphasis on sending a “wake up call” to black America, not to white America. We can expect (I am writing on the morning of Friday, July 24th) him and his handlers to backtrack from his support for Gates [8], which was foolishly and somewhat uncharacteristically issued prior to a thorough review of the facts involved in the specific case. Those facts and, far more importantly for the Obama/Axelrod administration, the public opinion data (reflecting the incident’s likely reinforcement of white racism-denial) simply do not recommend a pro-Gates position. Ironically enough, being seen as allied with Gates works against Obama’s carefully constructed “post-racial” image in this particular case. In the meantime, consistent with the master class’s longstanding use of race to divide and divert, the corporate media and the right have seized on the Gates-Cambridge-Obama story in ways that are helping distract attention from the health care issue. And we can do without yet another PBS Special from “Skip” Gates.

SELECTED NOTES

1. For a recent brilliant and radical take on race and class in the American experience, see David Roediger, How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon (New York: Verso, 2008).

2. Booker T. Washington was a leading black spokesperson before, during, and after the turn of the 20th century. Rejecting the idealistic and confrontational approach of the great black leader Frederick Douglass and the later Civil Rights Movement, Washington preached quiet adaptation to the existing white supremacist and capitalist order. Disavowing racial protest, he called for blacks to “cast down their buckets” where they were and to silently but diligently acquire mildly remunerative skills that would permit them to move up a step or two within the segregationist Jim Crow order.

3. Steve Johnson, “Behind Gates: How the Harvard Scholar is Using His ‘Color-Line’ PBS as a Wake-Up Call,” Chicago Tribune, February 3, 2004, section 5, page 1.

4. Frontline (“P”BS), “The Two Nations of Black America: A Conversation With Henry Louis Gates,” (no date, remarkably enough), read athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/race/interviews/gates4.html

5. For my own efforts on that topic, please see Paul Street, Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), pp. 196-202.

6. Paul Street, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), Chapter 3, titled “How ‘Black’ is Obama? Color, Class, Generation, and the Perverse Racial Politics of the Post-Civil Rights Era” (pp. 73-121); Paul Street, “Race Cowardice From the Top Down,” Black Agenda Report (April 22, 2009) read at http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/race-cowardice-top-down; Glen Ford, “Obama Stumbles on His Own Contradictions: Pop Goes the Race-Neutral Campaign!,” Black Agenda Report (April 30, 2008); Barack Obama, “Remarks to the NAACP Centennial Convention,” Hilton, New York (July 17, 2009), read online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-to-the-NAACP-Centennial-Convention-07/16/2009/ ; Tom Eley, “Obama’s Speech to the NAACP,” World Socialist Web Site (July 18, 2009), read at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/jul2009/pers-j18.shtml

7. See Obama’ “Remarks to the NAACP,” paragraphs 10 to 14.

8. My expectation was born out. See Nancy Benac, “Obama Moves to Dampen Uproar Over Comment on Race,” Associated Press (July 25, 2009), read online athttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090725/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_harvard_scholar

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15 thoughts on “An Insightful Commentary On The Arrest Of Professor Gates

  1. Great article, thanks for posting.

    Although, seeing as most of us posting here fall into the intellectual camp, where does that leave things? Under-education holds back everyone, but “minorities” are definitely the most affected. But the intellectual elite are the intellectual elite. And the dropouts are the dropouts. Both groups will have similar situations, not entirely related to ethnicity.

    Any suggestion of alternative solutions rather than education are notably absent. Education is, after all, the great leveler.

  2. I agree, Ren. BUT I also agree with the author’s example where he cited Gates talking to the inmate about education. Blacks in the US and here are statistically more likely (and overwhelmingly so) to end up in a public school system too tired and too inadequate to offer these children the fundamentals of knowledge, which might lead them to see a path other than one that leads to self-destruction. I’ve said it before, I don’t believe many whites (or other races) are racist towards blacks but I do think that many “structures” in place even now are. Sure, you can GET over and past those… but the fact that you HAVE to get past it means that there is something not level about this playing field.

    (Sorry if that was confusing, haven’t had coffeee yet)

  3. You and I are in agreement there, cousin. The system fails minorities, particularly in the US. While not a minority here, it’s just as bad.

    This is why I think we should look at Canada’s education system (now that the First Nations debacle and the Ontario/Quebec systems are improved). It has the least disparity between minorities and the status-quo. Not perfect, but a good place to start.

    Ideally, the education would have kicked in and the inmate wouldn’t have ended up where he did. Much more effective to give him the chance first, rather than punishing him for not having the chance to begin with.

  4. Renaissance Man,

    Education is the great trumpet of change but the article Jonathan quotes identifies issues with simply pumping money into an education system, other solutions need to go hand in hand with education. Ie. How do you ensure people are not disaffected and ultimately dropout?

    Some of the largest issues we face in Bermuda today is the inability for disadvantaged youth to see nor understand a path out of poverty via traditional routes. Our youth see a largely have vs. have not society. Our island is home to some of the wealthiest individuals in the world and has one of the highest costs of living to match. How can they, starting with nothing envision themselves reaching the top?

    Look at things from their perspective, no knowledge, no education, no role models and little hope. Where do you turn? You look at others who you can relate to as role models for how you achieve greatness. You look around you to those with status, ie, you turn to local associates and end up forming gangs. You look to mass media and see the hip hop stars making millions for having lived the hard live and then making songs about it. If that’s how they made it, perhaps that is the way? The hard live of inter-gang warfare in the states can also seem glamourous and exciting in comparison to a rather poverty stricken life here on the rock washing dishes for a living.

    Compare this to what else they see. They can look at rich whites and see that in many cases they were born rich. They were sent off to private schools, they have trust funds and support networks to get them into the best schools. They’ve got the networks to get them into good jobs and give them an easy route to the top. If you have none of these things, how do you make it? Often you don’t even have a clue where to start, especially if you haven’t even reached the basic level of having your own phone, a bank account or the clothes you would need to interview should you even get a job. Beyond this, you’ve don’t know how to act in the ‘business’ world as it has always been foreign.

    When you look up from the bottom and see these two routes, which do you think most people choose? One seems far easier though ultimately doesn’t provide the returns. The other seems impossibily difficult but if you work hard at it, the returns are endless. Inherently the majority of people take the route that looks easier in the short term, ie they will opt for the first.

    Most blacks who have taken the second route preach it like this article suggests, blaming those who don’t work hard and for not knowing what they don’t know. Blacks who take the first route and succeed boast and make all those looking up envious as it helps fuel their rise.

    Ultimately the solution to the problem isn’t as simple as upgrading education. Hell, we spend a fortune as is on it. (Mind you, I still am adamant that every student should have a laptop and a personal online tutor). We need to figure out how to get more people to take the second route without pressuring and guilting them into it as if it is completely their fault for not succeeding. We need to figure out what barriers there are. What role models do we have that have taken the second route that can prove positive and not condecending? What lessons have these individuals not learned that we should be teaching? What can we do to expand the network of opportunities for these individuals. Most of all, what can we do to make the second route seem like an easier and more guaranteed route of success than the first?

    In my view those are the first steps to solving our disparity problem, though likely not the last.

  5. It’s more than just education and the right type of learning environment. The use of the word ‘might’, is correct.

    Taking a horse to water is one thing, giving the horse the motivation to drink needs a whole lot of family support too.

    The longer term benefits of an education (in every sense) have to be shown to be ‘of value’ otherwise it becomes easier to not stay the course.

  6. The “here and now” is very powerful.

    I have a neighbour ( two doors up) whose son used to be into drugs. Yep – he saw the light of the longer term view eventually, but his “here and now” took some beating financially and with it the benefits that the $ gave him.

    Now I don’t know how much these guys make, but I was kind of bowled over when my neighbour talked of around $400 a day.

    He might be talking pish for all I know, but the idea of $ for No Work is very appealing.

  7. I’m rather unsurprised by $400 a day and would even go to guess that he was still a rather low level dealer.

    This is the consiquence of our crack down on the drug supply efforts.

    When you crack down on supply while there is still high demand you simply push up prices. Higher prices means higher profits.

    Here’s the question. When you’re making that or more a day, how long before you feel like you need to protect your interests from other dealers, gangs, police etc? How long before you’re equipping yourself with weaponry? How long before you’re protecting your turf to secure your income?

    The trick is that there still is work involved because you will always face competition in a lucrative business, legal or not.

    Anyway, rather than simply cracking down on supply (which doesn’t work) perhaps it is time we look at how to crack down on profits to begin addressing some of societies problems that reach far further than the use of drugs?

  8. Lol – thanks Denis. That sort of opened my eyes.

    I guess what I am saying is that $400 x 6days x 50 weeks (must have vacation!) = $120K.

    What’s the starting salary for a 22 yr old in IB with a BA?…$70K…$80K. I have no idea.

    All I am saying is that the “here and now” is powerful.

  9. If you think the youth’s obsession with the “here and now” is surprising you should consider politicans.

    Politicians will readily sacrafice the long term in order to chase “here and now” solutions that are more flash than substance.

    Hence why we focus on ‘cracking down’ on drugs rather than solving the true problems of drug profitability and abuse.

  10. Denis,

    I don’t believe education to be a panacea, but it certainly does help. Mentoring is often not considered education, but it is the oldest form of it. I am advocating more of that route, and not needlessly pumping money into our already failing system.

    I think businesses should work more closely with our schools, as mentors and guides like, for example, in Alberta. That province has tremendous wealth from the petrochemical industry. Initially, there had been great difficulty with finding local employees with the education levels for skilled work in the oil fields and related industries. The costs associated with importing labour were high, and it bred some local resentment (all familiar to our own situation). So the businesses went to the education ministry and began providing mentoring and instruction in order to improve their employment pool. Everyone ended up benefitting, not least all of Canada, which has adopted much of what had been developed into technical and scientific education in Alberta.

    Now, if we could institute more business mentoring locally, in all ways, that would help. As for the inspirational route, that’s over my head. I’m just a techie, after all. But I’ve successfully mentored several young people who’ve managed to get ahead and realize opportunities that they had never though possible, simply by listening and helping where I could. If others would do the same, the improvement would be noticeable.

  11. Alsys, you say: “Blacks in the US and here are statistically more likely (and overwhelmingly so) to end up in a public school system too tired and too inadequate to offer these children the fundamentals of knowledge, which might lead them to see a path other than one that leads to self-destruction.”

    I disagree with the idea that Bermuda’s public school system is “too tired”. I also disagree with your broad depiction of the Bermuda Public Education as similar to, or comparable to the bottom end of the US public system. Here’s why – and everything I describe relates to Bermuda’s public education system.

    All our schools are well-maintained and in good to excellent physical shape. Many are air-conditioned.
    There is a huge supply – I believe an excess – of teachers and staff in that there are about 1,280 teachers + staff + administrators to look after the 6,000 students who populate the public sector system (from pre-school through to S4). All teachers must hold at least abchelor’s degree if they are to win a teaching appointment. Teacher pay starts at around $60,000 per year (assuming a BA) and there is an automatic increase if a teacher acquires a Masters degree. The total $$$$ committed to public education means that average per student funding is $15,000 – PER STUDENT.

    None of the above describes an inner city school system serving disadvantaged inner city blacks.

    Instead, the description would be more appropriate for or comparable to a well-to-do (predominantly white) US suburb like Darien Connecticut; or it might describe the pay and expenses per student for an up-market US prep school used mostly by (white) upper middle class US parents.

    Please don’t just grab a cliche or a US fact and then use it to describe a Bermudian situation. Please, first look closely at the Bermudian situation and ensure that you see what is actually there. Then think about it. Then compare…

    Take a drive around and look at ALL of the schools on this island. Look at the Government budget which gives the public system $130,000,000 per year for its operating expenses. Then realize that Bermuda’s public system – at 6,000 students – is the size of a teeny-weeny school district in some out-of-the-way rural district in backwater USA. Realize that in some US suburbs, one high school and two junior highs in just ONE district could easily have 6,000 students total.

    Stay real. Stay off cliche. See the Bermuda reality as reality.

  12. Larry,

    While I’m usually the first to point out that comparing the US to Bermuda is nonsensical, Alsys is right to draw the parallel to our failing school system (and it IS failing) and the bottom tier US schools. For the richest country in the world to rank out of the top 30 on the PISA levels is ridiculous. Look at what the top three, Finland, Korea, and Canada do in education with less resources to see the way forward.

    The schools fail for different reasons. Our schools aren’t failing for lack of funding, they’re failing because the ministry is staffed with idiots. The curriculum is poor, the teachers are worse.

    Twenty years ago we had the highest literacy rate in the Americas, and no matter the public school you attended, you were well educated. Warwick Academy and Berkeley could stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best of the private system. But that all changed because the ministry (and not just the politician, but the civil servants heading it up) decided to make a change for the worse. And we’re all suffering because of that.

    The private schools here do so much better because of their methods, not just because they can pick their students. When government school students transfer, they have serious catch-up to do to get to the grade standard. But, once they catch up, they are the same as those that are already there. And the private school fees are LESS per student than in the public system.

    It’s not the children, and certainly not the money. It’s the boneheads in MoE. Get rid of them, start with some real teachers and a decent curriculum, and we could fix things. Until that time, it’s all excess verbiage.

  13. RenMan,

    You’re exactly right on where the problem lies. But there seems to be a national compact that says that matter how many times that it is pointed out or identified – and over the years I have spelled it out and pointed it out many times – a critical mass of Bermudians will reject that idea and, instead, will turn to peripheral reasons (actually cliches – again) that put the blame on “the break down of the family unit”….”parents”….and those perennial favourite twins of “race” and “legacy of slavery”.

    Bermuda’s educational system is harmed most by a credo of national dishonesty. Deal with that, and the rest can begin falling into place.

  14. In every country in the world almost I suspect, politicans dabble with education.

    The UK is no exception and look at some of the problems there. We have teachers who face ‘initiative after initiative’ – hardly getting used to one arrangement before the next ‘winning solution’ comes along.

    I accept the State has to have a role, but why can’t we leave education to – the educators.

    As to comparing public to private costs, clearly the private schools don’t have the Min of Ed costs to support.

    Politically it would be a nightmare, but if we put the children first for a change, maybe we should cut our costs, have a smaller ‘admin-style’ Min of Ed, and ask the private system to define the curriculum and the methods.

    That also frees up a Minister which the Premier needs right now for other portfolios.

  15. Starling,here is another Insightful Commentary On The Arrest Of Professor Gates from your political mentors at pravda

    In truth, underneath the thin veneer, Obama is just like Gates, Wright, EB, etc.

    Reverse racism…or simply stated, racism, as practiced by the Obama himself.

    “I may be a little biased here, and I don’t know all the facts, but the Cambridge Police clearly acted stupidly.”

    The Politics of Reverse Racism in America

    http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/108517-0/

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