Test-Sniveling Movement Takes Root in Dallas School Board. Just What We Needed.

Two stories in yesterday's Dallas Morning News were bookends for the debate on school rigor. In one, three Dallas school board members launched a campaign against too much testing, saying it's mean to the kids. In the other, the head of the biggest company by far in Dallas and one of the biggest in the world, Exxon-Mobil, said 200,000 good jobs are going unfilled because American students are too dumb to do them.

Did I just say "too dumb?" Do excuse me. Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon-Mobil, never used that phrase in addressing the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable recently and never would. He said instead that too many schools are "producing a defective product."

So take your pick. Which would you rather have your kid be? Too dumb? Or a defective product? Man, if those are the only choices, I'm thinking I could handle too dumb a little better than the other. At least it's human.

Meanwhile our local only daily continues to ignore the story we brought to you here a couple days ago saying the Dallas school system leads the nation in the percentage of minority 11th and 12th grade students who are able to qualify for advanced college credit through the AP testing program.

See also: Minority Kids at DISD Lead Nation

The success rate for minority kids seeking advanced credit here shot up last year when Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles expanded a program that pushes kids, first to take AP courses, then to take the tests afterward to see if they're smart enough to get the credit.

When I brought you that story, there were some legitimate quibbles from commenters about the statistics. Are more minority kids in Dallas smart than in any other American urban district, or do more minority kids in Dallas take the AP tests? Good question. Please allow me to offer a non-answer:

We have a lot of really smart minority kids in Dallas. It is reasonable to suspect that there are a lot of really smart minority kids in big urban districts all over America. The issue isn't what they're born with. It's teaching them and, yes, pushing them to the point of difficult achievement where Rex Tillerson will give them a job.

Is getting there only about good grades on tests? No. A recent study at the University of South Florida on predictors of success found that kids need to be emotionally healthy in order to succeed. That's part of it.

But the other part -- the academic part, the part schools are responsible for -- is all about taking a lot of tough courses and passing a lot of tests, according to the study. The kid who's OK emotionally and also takes tough courses and also passes tough tests is the kid who will succeed.

The three Dallas board members cited in yesterday's story for being anti-test are Eric Cowan, Dan Micciche and Joyce Foreman. Foreman, who is African-American, was elected to the board on the basis of her opposition to Superintendent Miles. Cowan, who is white, has been a Miles supporter. Micciche, who is white, has been a lukewarm supporter of Miles.

Why the racial tags? Because the anti-testing and anti-core curriculum movement in Texas has been a more white middleclass and suburban phenomenon than an urban minority one. Texas Monthly did a story on test-haters last year, and they came off more Tea Party than Obama-backer. Obama, of course, has been an advocate for the national core curriculum.

Think about that. Barack Obama is president of the United States in good part because he took a whole lot of tough courses as a kid and got great grades on tough tests. Tillerson, the Exxon dude, doesn't say a kid is stupid or a bad person if he doesn't master the core curriculum and have the test scores to prove it. He just says he's a defective product. Ouch.

If black people in the city really want to sign up with middle class white people on this issue, they need to pause first and think about the white middleclass culture of child-worship. When your 3-year-old is throwing food at old people in a restaurant, do you really want to be all white about it and tell the kid he has choices?

And we all need to look around at the immigrants. They want their kids to get those jobs at Exxon baaaad. When they tell a kid he has a choice, it's between a Ph.D and a sharp whup upside the head.

Russell Peters is a Canadian comedian and actor of Indian immigrant descent. If you've never heard his monologue on why white people need to start beating their kids, you should give it a listen here.

No, no, I'm not in favore of beating children. You don't have to beat them. Just make them do their homework. Then make them take the test. Quit sniveling about it. You don't have to model sniveling for them. Kids are born knowing how to snivel. They're master snivelers. They don't need lessons in it from their parents.

I still say the biggest and best news here is that story about the Dallas Independent School District leading every other major urban district in the country in the ratio of the minority student population able to get advanced college credit. That means we have tons of smart minority kids here with huge potential for success.

These are kids who have responded positively to rigorous instruction and hard tests. Many of them don't get a lot of other rewards in life. Why would we take that one away?

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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