Channeling Thomas Sowell - Granite Grok

Channeling Thomas Sowell

Discipline and accountability

Some years ago Thomas Sowell wrote an article about the utility of discipline and accountability. Come, let’s try to channel a bit of Thomas Sowell. Giving black students in the 1960’s inflated grades when they were admitted with low academic qualifications avoided lots of time wasting hassles for the instructor. Those hassles would come from the students and the administration alike over low or failing grades. From the perspective of the instructor that time can be spent more productively elsewhere. It does, however, do the student more harm than good in the long run, because they won’t know what they were supposed to know.

We haven’t changed much

Such cynical calculations are seldom expressed openly though they happened then and they continue today. They don’t happen only in academia; similar calculations are not openly expressed today in politics. But many successful political careers have been built on giving favors that look good on the surface but do long run damage. One such favor was the welfare state which was vastly expanded in the 1960’s. It also destroyed the black family. Before this expansion of the welfare state, 22% of black children were raised with only one parent. By 1985, 67% of black children were raised with either one parent or no parent.

More recently a favor the Obama administration offered blacks was exemption from school behavior rules. This has led to a rate of disciplining of black male students that is greater than the rate of disciplining of other students. Is it impossible that black males misbehave in school more often than Asian females? Or Jewish students? Or others? Is the only possible reason for the disparities in disciplining rates that the teachers and principals are discriminating against black males? Even when many of these teachers and principals in black neighborhoods are themselves black?

Never fear politicians are on the case. You see this favor strengthens the political vision that blacks are besieged by racist enemies. It also provides enemies from whom the Democrats are their only protection. Hallelujah, give me an Amen. They give black youngsters exemptions from behavioral standards, just as the instructor gave them an exemption from academic standards. In both cases, the consequence is “to hell with them.” Kids from homes where they are not given behavioral standards, who are then not held to behavioral standards in schools, are on a path that can lead them as adults straight into prison, or to fatal confrontations with the police. This is ultimately not a racial thing. It is a breakdown in discipline and accountability.

It seems true elsewhere too

The same welfare state policies, the same non-judgmental exemption from behavioral standards, in Britain led to remarkably similar results among lower-class whites. The riots of lower class whites in British cities were very similar to black riots in American cities right down to setting fire to police cars.

Failure to recognize the right answer when told

One of the few bright spots for black children in American ghettos has been charter schools. They have educated these children to levels equal to, and in some cases better than, those in affluent suburbs. You might think that this would be welcomed by those who are so ready to do “favors” for blacks. But you would be wrong. Democrats, who have been in charge of most cities for decades, are on record opposing the spread of charter schools. So is the NAACP.

That is a de facto declaration of moral bankruptcy in both cases. Just as in the case of the instructor who did favors, in all three cases, it is a question of promoting one’s own special interests, while offering favors. The Democrats’ special interest is in serving the teachers’ unions. The teacher’s unions oppose charter schools and support Democrats financially. The NAACP’s special interest is in serving the same donors and in keeping ghetto schools controlled by racial activists, as part of their turf.


Sometimes politics gets wrapped up in the party and we forget that government, good government is of the people, for the people and by the people. We should be expecting results that make society better in the long term, not just getting an “A” today. Right now our government sucks. It is not solving the nations problems. It is serving the ends of the political parties to the detriment of the people. Is that really what we want?