Charles Murray to the Rescue of Failing Charter Schools

By Tammy Johnson May 06, 2010

There are some people that the mainstream media just can’t get enough of. Case in point is Mr. Bell Curve himself, Charles Murray, whom the New York Times saw fit to give prime time op-ed space yesterday. Murray’s piece references a recent study of the Milwaukee, Wisc.,-based public school choice program. The study found that the test scores of program students showed “achievement growth rates are comparable” to those of similar public school students. But for over a decade now conservatives have promoted the idea of a single test score as the savior of public education. Neighborhood schools have been closed. Teachers have been reassigned and fired. Music and arts programs have been cut. Black and Latino students have been denied graduation because the score on a singular test. But now, test scores be dammed! Here comes Murray to save the day for who support divestment of public education.

“Cogitative ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excelling instruction. If test scores in reading and math are the measure, a good school just doesn’t’ have that much room to prove it is better than a lesser school.”

Just in case you missed it allow me to connect the dots for you. Academic achievement has nothing to do with test scores, the quality of teaching or curriculum. If the children are naturally smart and motivated, then it’s all good in the hood! Murray then goes on to talk about the role of the parent in choosing and developing schools that will best suit their children. But Murray has strong views about the kind of parents who should be able to avail themselves of these choices.

The United States already has policies that inadvertently social-engineer who has babies, and it is encouraging the wrong women. If the United States did as much to encourage high-IQ women to have babies as it now does to encourage low-IQ women, it would rightly be described as engaging in aggressive manipulation of fertility. -pg. 548, The Bell Curve

Further reading of Murray’s and his co-author Herrnstien’s Bell Curve reveals that those parents should not be poor, Black or Latino. But isn’t this the target audience of the voucher movement? And why is it that a singular test score is irrelevant when it comes to measuring a program’s success, but is essential to measuring the intelligence of a whole community of people? I guess that consistency in one’s argument and loyalty to the communities that you claim to serve means little when you are trying to raid the public coffers and secure systems of white privilege. With the exception well funded, predominately white suburban schools and a handful of usually small, specialized schools, the U.S. public education system is in shambles. We can’t be in denial about its problems, but we also can’t be so desperate for relief that we fall for racially inequitable snake oil that leaves the majority of 20 million students of color out in the cold. The Applied Research Center’s public education essay in the Compact for Racial Justice provides some alternatives. But at the very least, we can begin by ignoring the divide and conquer, self-serving proposals of separatists who think that we are too dumb to devise our own solutions.