Underneath the sudden controversy between Governor Dannel Malloy and teachers over school discipline is the failure of government policy to diminish family poverty. No good will come of the discipline controversy because this underlying problem cannot be officially discussed.
The controversy broke out the other day when the governor vetoed legislation passed easily by the General Assembly directing school systems to standardize procedures for maintaining classroom safety and removing students.
In his veto message the governor charged that because most school administrators and teachers are white, if they are allowed any discretion in disciplinary situations they will go harder on the misbehavior of students from minority groups, leading to more expulsions that will feed the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
The legislation’s backers thought it had safeguards against that.
Who is right? It hardly matters.
For if the governor is right - that if white teachers and administrators are in charge of student discipline and have discretion it will always be racially unfair and will only manufacture criminals - violent, disruptive, and troubled minority students can never be removed.
But even if supporters of the legislation are right - that the legislation can be administered fairly - students will remain violent, disruptive, and troubled and well may end up in prison anyway after driving away those students whose parents take education seriously. Indeed, Connecticut’s primary demographic trend, the movement from city to suburb, long has been such flight from the underclass.
The real problem is, of course, at home, with the family or what passes for it these days, and while family disintegration is increasing everywhere, it long has been worst among blacks and Hispanics.
Connecticut’s prison population is overwhelmingly black and Hispanic not because the criminal-justice system is racist from top to bottom, from police to prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and probation officers, though there is always some racism everywhere. No, Connecticut’s prison population is overwhelmingly black and Hispanic mainly because - for historical, sociological, and public policy reasons - crime itself is racially disproportionate, along with poverty and child abuse and neglect.
Hartford, whose population is overwhelmingly black, Hispanic, and poor, has installed a “shot spotter” system because gun crime is so prevalent there. Hartford’s suburbs, whose populations are overwhelmingly not black, Hispanic, and poor, have little gun crime and don’t need “shot spotter” systems. Whites may be racist but the “shot spotter” system isn’t. It notes only the sounds of crime.
School performance is mainly a product of a community’s demographics and culture. This has been obvious lately in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to lower standards at the city’s elite public high schools, whose admissions have been determined entirely by an entrance examination. Most admissions go to Asian kids, for few whites, blacks, and Hispanics pass the test. These schools suffer little student misbehavior.
There is no racism about this, and most of the Asian kids do not come from wealthy families. What the Asian kids have that other kids don’t is parents who push them to study and succeed.
If Connecticut really wanted to improve school safety and the safety of all society, it would study the cultural differences of its population and adjust policy to strengthen the family rather than destroy it as much welfare policy does. But political correctness won’t allow it.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.