Readin', Writin', and Lunatics

by J.D. Tuccille

From time to time, a mischievous little voice whispers in my ear, urging me to ease-up, to take it easy on the fools who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time making the world a more ... well ... annoying place to live: Hey, the voice says, these people can't be all that bad. At least they mean well.

Unfortunately, the inner voice is full of shit.

So it was recently with the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now Cambridge, along with its sister city of Berkeley, California, has long been justly reviled as a municipal insane asylum where the inmates make the rules -- lots and lots of rules. After all, Cambridge is the city with its own one-woman "Peace Commission" chartered to prevent nuclear war (the commissioner fulfills her charge by getting herself arrested frequently for civil disobedience). But Cambridge had its Stalinist nose bloodied recently when the voters of Massachusetts remembered that ownership of private property is a right and banned rent control in a referendum. So how bad could Cambridge be?

Then Cambridge went and did it again. Not content with divisive racial quotas for the city's public schools, the school board of the People's Republic has proposed a scheme for diversity by economic class so that high-achieving middle and upper class kids can be mixed in some magic proportion with low-achieving poor kids. That's right, while the city is shuffling black, white, asian, and hispanic kids from school to school, it's gonna cross-reference 'em according to how much cash their mommies and daddies pull in. If they do it right, there might be a couple of bucks left over for a chalkboard and a copy of Heather's Mommy Has a Foot Fetish. Won't that be nice.

What, pray tell, are these folks thinking?

Now it's nice and all that Cambridge "educators" want kids to be exposed to people from different walks of life -- hell, experience is the spice of life. But Cambridge is running up against a problem that became inevitable when it embraced "diversity" as both a goal and a tool of policy: What kind of diversity? First, Cantabridgians went for racial diversity -- then they realized that race isn't the be-all of human identity that it was supposed to be. Now it's economic class; kids are supposed to do better on tests because every classroom in the city has the same proportion of blue-bloods and guttersnipes. Right. When this doesn't work, what comes next? Religion? Political affiliation? Eye color? Hell, if diversity is the goal, we can sub-divide until we're shipping in gay Mennonites from Pennsylvania.

If that's not concern enough, there's another flaw to the diversity crusade. (What? you ask, The People's Republic didn't think this through?) Ya see, the school board wants to further complicate the student shuffle because schools with a concentration of higher-income kids are performing better than schools with students from poorer families. The wealthy kids are apparently supposed to act as a good influence on the poor kids -- or at least the spread the results around the school system. Uh huh. Well ... why won't the influence go the other way? I mean, who did most of the ass-kicking in your school -- the dumb kids or the smart kids? I don't think the Shakespeare readers are going to rule the day here.

But there's something missing from this whole equation -- one enormous element. What? Why, the goddamned kids, that's what. All of this diversity crap is about artificial groups invented by some government employee so he'd have something to print next to the little ovals on the census form: whites, blacks, hispanics, rich, poor. Normal kids don't think of themselves that way until the bureaucrats gets hold of 'em. Every single one of these kids has value as an individual rather than as a chess piece in a weird game of group warfare. Not that I want to spend time with the brats, but how about actually teaching them instead of hoping that some ideal combination of census categories will result in high SAT scores?

But that's a bit much to hope for; public schools are government institutions, and government means politics. Cambridge government means lots of politics. But sooner or later this stuff spreads across the country: First covering the coasts, then sweeping inland like some horrible viral infection. Pretty soon, some school board in Iowa decides to try this great new idea from back east, and all the kids end up on cross-county buses.

There's still time, though. I recommend private school.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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