Threatening Teachers' Ability to Control Their Classrooms

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights gets it wrong on school discipline.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Washington Times published an op-ed of mine today that addresses the shortcomings of the latest report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It begins this way:

Shoddy work is not uncommon for government commissions. But with its awkwardly-titled new report — "Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities" — the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights goes beyond shoddy. Its unsupported claims threaten teachers' ability to keep control of their classrooms.

No one disputes that African-American, Native American and Pacific Islander students get disciplined at school at higher rates than white students. Similarly, white students are disciplined at higher rates than Asian-American students, and boys are disciplined more often than girls. Not surprisingly, students with behavioral disabilities get in more trouble than those without.

Sometimes the differences are substantial. Suspension rates, for example, have been about three times higher for African-Americans than for whites in recent years.

The commission purports to find, however, that "students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers." According to the commission, they are simply punished more. Readers are left to imagine our schools are not just occasionally unfair, but rather astonishingly unfair on matters of discipline.

The report provides no evidence to support its sweeping assertion and, sadly, there is abundant evidence to the contrary. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics surveys high school students biennially. Since 1993, it has asked students whether they have been in a fight on school property over the past 12 months. The results have been consistent. In 2015, 12.6 percent of African-American students reported being in such a fight, while only 5.6 percent of white students did.

A different study of school misbehavior shows that among 10th-grade boys, 7.9 percent of African-Americans, 7.4 of Native Americans and 3.0 percent of whites admit to having possessed a gun at school. A third study found similar racial disproportionalities in self-reported gang membership.

There is a wealth of data and analysis out there. Some of it suggests that discrimination by teachers may play a small role in disciplinary rates. Some of it suggests that discrimination may play no role at all. But I know of nothing that supports the commission's claim that there are no racial differences in actual misbehavior.

I wish racial disparities of this kind did not exist. And there is very little I wouldn't give to make them disappear — the sooner the better. But the evidence shows they do exist, and pretending otherwise doesn't benefit anyone (with the unfortunate exception of identity politics activists). It certainly does not benefit minority children.

To the contrary, because minority students disproportionately go to school with other minority students, when teachers fail to keep order out of fear that they will be accused of racism, it is these minority students — stuck in disorderly classrooms — who suffer most.

What accounts for the differing misbehavior rates? The best anybody can say is, "We don't know entirely." But differing poverty rates, differing fatherless household rates, differing parental education, differing achievement in school, and histories of policy failures and injustices likely each play a part. Whatever the genesis of these disparities, they need to be dealt with realistically. We don't live in a make-believe world.

For the rest of the op-ed, click here.  Or here for my full-length Dissenting Statement from the Commission Report.

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  1. The root of this problem is neither discrimination by teachers, nor faults among children, whatever their race. The root is the cowardice and neglect of politicians, who have for years heaped upon school systems the task of ameliorating stubborn social problems which have their roots elsewhere.

    Educators have contributed their little bit, by passivity in the face of political pressure. Educators ought to loudly and publicly proclaim that it is their mission to teach students who arrive prepared for orderly conduct in the classroom, and to leave to the politicians the task of delivering ameliorations to help the others. Teachers owe that as a duty to all the students who come properly prepared.

    Society owes to the disorderly students the supports the teachers cannot deliver, without abandoning their duty to other students. Only politicians can do that. They must be held accountable to make it happen.

    1. Huh, funny. You seem to have left the parents out of your analysis.

      1. Left out parents is the premise I respond to. Pretending that absentee or delinquent parents can be made the solution, when they are in fact the problem, is kind of backward. And now, after years of policy which does pretend, we know it can’t work. To continue to pretend is to shirk a duty to children who are not to blame, and need support.

    2. That is an eloquent brief for charter schools and vouchers. Admission to all conditioned on behavior that is conducive to learning will rescue the willing kids. Because the rest of the public schools have to take all comers, and keep them, they will probably deteriorate even further, but presumably the lost kids won’t be more lost than before.

      1. Not good enough, donojack. The needs of the lost kids must be made a moral obligation of society. Their rights to education are no less than those of the disabled, who after being shunned for decades, finally won some approximation of equal status.

        Only politicians can fix this. To demand that educators do it is the height of cynicism.

        1. Well the only way to “fix” it is to take the kids away from the parents.
          That is a bridge too far in this society. You can talk about moral obligations all you want but there is no short or even medium term solution that is politically feasible.
          One question though: Do you support charter schools and vouchers? If not I suggest you are as out of touch with reality as the libertarians you (rightly) condemn.

          1. I do not presently support charter schools and vouchers. But I would after two (admittedly unlikely) changes.

            First, no vouchers for religiously-affiliated schools. I think there is an important separation of church and state issue.

            Second, all charter schools have to take kids on a randomized basis, drawing from the entire school population, and be held accountable for results based on educating disabled and troublesome students alike with the public schools. If you don’t do that, I suggest you doom the public schools altogether, by concentrating trouble and expense, while diminishing the budgets available to cope.

            You seem ready accept the loss of the public schools. I am not. I got what I regard as a pretty good education in the public schools. I am mindful that many pubic schools systems remain much better in quality than anti-public-school ideologues would have people believe.

            1. I’m not accepting the loss of the public schools in toto. I agree that many of the schools are very good. All five of my grandchildren go to public schools and their parents are quite happy with them, and in fact they could send them to private schools if they so chose.

              I am not happy with the prospect of the further deterioration of the schools in question. I taught in inner city public schools for six years and it was beyond frustrating then to see how intractable the problems were. That was many years ago but I don’t think things are better now, maybe they are even worse.

              I don’t have a problem with charter schools taking all comers, but the whole purpose of them is to make attendance conditioned on proper learning behavior and attitude. If you don’t do that then they become just like the regular public schools.

              As to excluding parochial schools from vouchers I don’t agree with you. If vouchers allow parents to send their kids to a good Catholic school, for instance, instead of staying in a bad public school then I am all for it.

              1. The issue should not be whether a school is religious. The issue is whether a school teaches nonsense.

                A school that teaches that the moon is made of green cheese or that evolution is damnable fake news from hell should not be accredited or enabled to receive public money.

                A school that teaches one plus one equals seven, storks deliver babies, or Biblical creationism is similarly situated.

                Discrimination also creates a problem. A school that refuses to hire a Catholic (or Penn graduate) should be no different from a school that hires only Catholics (or Penn graduates) in this regard.

            2. Saying you can’t spend your voucher at a religious school is as dumb as saying you can’t spend your Pell Grant or Stafford Loan at a religious college, or you can’t spend your food stamps at a Kosher deli. There’s absolutely no reason to discriminate against religious organizations.

              And by the way, every K-12 voucher program I’m aware of has to take all applicants (or randomized admittance if they don’t have enough space).

              1. Should a school that teaches that our moon is made of green cheese, storks deliver babies, and cellular telephones are operated by tiny men housed inside the device be entitled to benefit from Pell grants?

                1. Quit trying to apply for Accreditation already. Your tiny voices in your head must be screaming to get out.

            3. First, no vouchers for religiously-affiliated schools. I think there is an important separation of church and state issue.

              You may think that, but in fact there isn’t. So long as any kind of school is entitled to collect the cash from vouchers, without any state preference for religious schools, there’s no “establishment” question. The state is not favoring a religion, it’s just treating religious schools and parents who want to send their children to them in exactly the same way as any other kind of schools.

              See also roads. The state does not “establish” a religion by allowing worshippers visiting their church or synagogue to use the public roads to get there. Your prejudice is illogical, Captain.

              Second, all charter schools have to take kids on a randomized basis,

              Babies and bathwater time. What if educating clever children together, or well behaved children together, or boys together works better than educating everyone in the same school ?

              Sure, some children may be easier and cheaper to educate than others, but if that bugs you, you can adjust the size of the voucher so that schools that are good at educating young hooligans get a big bang for the vouchers they collect. (Whether investing more per capita in young hooligans than in well behaved kids is wise and fair is obviously a political question on which opinions will differ.)

              But your insistence that vouchers must leap over your own particular political hobby horses simply demonstrates that you don’t want to keep politicians out of schools. You – qua politician – will grant schools freedom to educate children, so long as they do it in the way you want.

              Unfortunately, you are in the great majority on this question. The idea that the state – except for funding – should just eff off from the whole question of schools is the dream of a small minority of weirdos. Who’ll be telling us that we can leave the whole food supply chain from farm to kitchen table, to the free choice of private producers and consumers. with just a few food stamps for the poor. Crazy folk.

              1. btw you can tweak Mr Lathrop’s demand for randomized admission into something more or less sensible, that allows schools – if they choose – to specialize in different sorts of pupils, who have different needs and different associated costs.

                You have a transfer market. So School A gets allocated 300 pupils at random and School B gets allocated 500 at random (we don’t need to assume all schools are the same size.) The standard fixed per pupil voucher is $10,000, so School A gets $3 million, and school B gets $5million from the government, which signs the checks and goes back to sleep.

                School A finds it’s been allocated 20 pupils that it would rather not have – say they’re dyslexic. School B doesn’t mind dyslexic pupils because they have a good support program for dyslexic or apparently dyslexic kids. But it costs. So School A and School B simply agree to swap those 20 dyslexic kids for 20 that got allocated to School B, and School A agrees to pay School B some mutually acceptable cash sum.

              2. The state is not favoring a religion, it’s just treating religious schools and parents who want to send their children to them in exactly the same way as any other kind of schools.

                Well, sure. If the religious school is not indoctrinating students with its religion. If it is indoctrinating them, then not so much. By the terms of the comparison, that is not the same as what is happening at the other schools.

                What if educating clever children together, or well behaved children together, or boys together works better than educating everyone in the same school ?

                Better by what standard? Better by the standard of what works best for clever children? I completely agree that segregating the best learners is the best strategy to serve them. But it dis-serves the others, who are denied educational opportunities which attend learning in the company of the best students, and denied also the opportunity of associating with the very peers who are most likely to prove successful and influential in society.

                Perhaps worse, the other students destined for less impressive institutions are denied by their segregation the political protection for their education which our society treats as the natural due of elite students. Nor can we ignore that, “better,” in this context, cannot be properly disentangled from “affluent.”

                The general segregating tendency of your argument was for many decades given free rein in the management of education for disabled children, with catastrophic results. At least as a matter of law, that has been corrected. Where school systems are not fighting tooth and nail to defy the law, the change has produced spectacular gains among those disabled children who can makes use of education—who turn out to be the vast majority.

                1. Well, sure. If the religious school is not indoctrinating students with its religion. If it is indoctrinating them, then not so much.

                  This makes no sense. If a school decides that it is super-important to focus on mathematics, so that it decides to spend half its money and half its time teaching mathematics – even if that lets the languages, geography, history and PE slide, then the school is favoring mathematics. Another school may favor music; another football, another Bible Studies. Each school may favor its preferred thing.

                  But if the government gves the same voucher value to pupils whatever school they go to, the government is not favorng any of these things. It has no more made an “establishment” of mathematics or football than it has made an establishment of religion. Once again – see roads.

                  1. Should a school that teaches that the Harry Potter series is nonfiction, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is factual, or that John Blutarsky was a United States Senator be accredited, entitled to receive public funds, etc.?

                    You might wish to listen for Admiral Ackbar about now . . .

                2. Better by what standard? Better by the standard of what works best for clever children?

                  We get to the point. Before we redesign everything, we need to draw some indifference curves.

                  Let’s assume that education system P delivers, for $$10 million of taxes, 500 children educated to standard C and 500 educated to standard H. You may assume an alphabetical scale, with A as highest, and the difference between each succeeding letter being an equivalent drop in standard. Now rank the current system and the following alternative systems (also costing $10 million) :

                  System Q : 750 Cs and 250 Hs
                  System R : 1000 Hs
                  System S : 50 As, 450 Cs and 500 Hs
                  System T : 250 As, 250 Cs, 250 Es and 250 Js

                3. But it dis-serves the others, who are denied educational opportunities which attend learning in the company of the best students, and denied also the opportunity of associating with the very peers who are most likely to prove successful and influential in society.

                  This is a routine evidence-free assertion. There’s no evidence at all that putting C students in with A students improves outcomes for C students. As Gail Heriot has explained many times before in the college context, the overwhelming evidence is that it worsens outcomes for both A students and C students. The lessons get pitched at the B level. The As are slowed down from the pace they could achieve, and the Cs get lessons that are too hard and too quick for them – they learn nothing, get demoralised and flunk. Whereas if they were in lessons proceeding at C pace, they’d do fine.

        2. Why are the needs of the “lost kids” given priority over the 10 average kids or the 5 exceptional kids whose education suffer while we are busy coddling, mainstreaming, disciplining, and remediation the lost kids?
          You sound like the “we have a moral obligation to open our borders to every poor 3rd worlder” crowd.

          1. Not everything is a zero sum game, Smooth.

            1. True
              But this case is. Ask any K-12 teacher.

              1. Only if you exclude the middle.

                Some kids need more attention, some less. It’s not a spend all the time with disruptive kids versus all of it fostering future geniuses.

                And, of course, this assumes the…kinda iffy causal relationship the OP is assuming.

                1. Actually a few disruptive kids do take all the teacher’s attention and time, especially if there is no way to remove them. Administrators get flak for too many suspensions, both from parents and elsewhere. Another unfortunate effect of this is that good teachers move on, leaving the losers who can’t find anything better.

                  1. You sure seem confident about something that is almost certainly fact-specific and situational.
                    Saying we’re losing teachers because we’re not letting them suspend enough kids doesn’t even sound anecdotal; it sounds like a narrative.

                    And unless you’re gonna join the race-realists downthread, there’s a vicious cycle of teacher punishing a certain cohort and then observing they act out and so creating an expectation in both student and teacher’s minds about what sorts of people act out.

                    Certainly, I’m not against it getting some scrutiny.

                    1. You have never been a teacher have you? Teachers don’t typically single out a “specific cohort” for punishment. That’s one of your lefty fantasies. Teachers want order so that they can teach. It’s that simple, and yes good ones do leave because of impossible conditions.

                    2. Have you even heard of unconscious bias? That’s a lefty fantasy with an awful lot of legit science behind it. And I say that as someone generally kinda skeptical of psychological studies’ probity.

                      And don’t insist that only teachers can speak about this subject on this, a legal blog where nonlaywers talk on subjects all the time.

                    3. Sarcastr0,

                      I don’t insist that only teachers can speak on this subject. As far as I know SL has no teaching experience but at least he has given some serious thought to the subject, and doesn’t just weigh in with some puerile hit and run comments.

                    4. In other words, you agree with one side and not the other, and the side you disagree with is being puerile and speaking without the authority of experience.

                      Maybe don’t be so obvious about your bias if you want to engage.

                    5. @Sarcastr0,

                      “Have you even heard of unconscious bias?”

                      I’m prepared to believe in unconscious bias. What’s a solution?

                    6. unless you’re gonna join the race-realists downthread, there’s a vicious cycle of teacher punishing a certain cohort and then observing they act out and so creating an expectation in both student and teacher’s minds about what sorts of people act out.

                      But the sex-realists would tend to agree with your vicious circle of educational doom theory.

                    7. NToJ – step one is to be mindful of it as a potential factor in your disciplinary decisions decisions.

                      I would tend to agree that a blanket ban on punishing black kids or even some quota is a bad idea, but it’s not at all clear to me that’s what’s going on here.

                    8. “Have you even heard of unconscious bias? That’s a lefty fantasy with an awful lot of legit science behind it.”

                      No there isn’t.

                      “And I say that as someone generally kinda skeptical of psychological studies’ probity.”

                      It’s odd how often you are skeptical of things, except for this one particular instance of that thing that happens to confirm your priors.

              2. But “this case” is a normative discussion about what to do with lost kids. It might be that more money needs to be spent educating them outside public schools. They’re still kids, and we have a moral responsibility to them because (at least at very young ages) they lack sufficient agency for their lostness.

                1. But even if your normative standard is a sort of Rawlsian maximisation of the welfare of the poorest / weakest / bottomest folk, it doesn’t follow that favoring the education of lost kids over the education of smart kids is the best strategy for achieving your standard.

                  It would be if the benefits of the success of the competent and successful was closely harvested and locked away by the successful, and held for their benefit alone. But it isn’t. The top surgeon is well paid for his skill, but the value in welfare to his patients is vastly greater than his paycheck. The entrepreneur who creates a $1 billion fortune has skimmed that fortune off the $25 billion of additional welfare that he has created for customers, employees, suppliers and the IRS. And so on.

                  Obviously we can all agree, whatever normative scale we are using,
                  that there is no social benefit in generating more lawyers. But other kinds of competent and successful folk are contributing buckets to the general welfare (even if they are personally as mean as Scrooge.) However annoying some successful people may be, it is not the case that the poor and weak would be better off if there were fewer successful people.

                  1. Rawlsian “maximisation of the welfare”? Rawls is about equalization of the welfare based on how you would want to be treated if you caught the poor end of the stick. At least one of us has been misinformed about Rawls. (Maybe it’s me?) Apply welfare maximization to allocating resources to the severely disabled. What’s the ROI? Wouldn’t society be better off if we gave those resources to surgeons? So why don’t we? And if we tax the surgeon less, how is the severely disabled person better off? They are never going to be able to participate in the economy in a way that will allow them to enjoy the fruits of any libertarian dream, absent direct involvement from other human beings to help them. (I.e., resource allocation.)

                    Even so, you haven’t persuaded me that we’re at the optimal allocation of resources. I don’t think you could prove that. And the moral argument is more complicated. Strict utilitarianism justifies taking organs from innocent people and giving them to other innocent but needier people.

                    1. 1. Rawls’s notion was that a social structure which departured from social and economic equality was justifiable only if the inequality improved the position of the poorest. ie if everyone’s on 100 and you can tweak the structure to give half of them 200 and the other half 150, then that’s OK. But half getting 200 and the other half getting 95 would not be OK. This is – as I said – maximising the welfare of the worst off.

                      What you are referring to is Rawls’s attempt to explain why – in his view – in a blind tasting, everyone would pick this “maximin” social structure.

                      In fact we know that Rawls was quite wrong, since we have a real world experiment that refutes him. Lottery tickets. Which shows that lots of humans who have no way of telling how the lottery will turn out are perfectly happy to choose a future in which they are not equal – they have a small chance of being a lot richer and a large chance of being a bit poorer. And they’re happy to pick that ahead of Rawls’s equality of monotony.

                      However, we mustn’t be too hard on him – he was a philosopher not an actual human. Spock might have made the same error.

                      2. Disabled folk might benefit from a tax cut for surgeons if it produced more or better or harder working surgeons.

                      3. And no I am not suggesting that the current social order is incapable of improvement. I’m merely pointing out that the obvious move is not necessarily the smart move. The obvious move has less obvious consequences. This is – I know – totally infuriating to those folk who can’t fathom how the invisible hand does its thing.

                    2. @Lee,

                      1. Maybe you should be less confident that Rawls can be rebutted by the existence of lottery tickets and people who purchase them.

                      2. Why would a severely disabled person benefit from the existence of more or better or harder working surgeons if they have no money to pay those people? Confront the example. There are human beings who require other humans to pay for them to enjoy something approximating a quality life.

                      3. We both agree that one person’s “obvious move” doesn’t seem so obvious to the other. I’m sorry you’re so infuriated by the fact that I don’t agree with your “obvious move” solution. I can live with the fact that you don’t agree with mine. In any case, we’re talking about compulsory public education, which is not something the invisible hand spontaneously produces. The idea that the invisible hand can produce that spontaneously is not something that anyone can fathom.

                    3. Maybe you should be less confident that Rawls can be rebutted by the existence of lottery tickets and people who purchase them.

                      Why ? It’s a top notch refutation. Remember that Rawls’s position was that everyone would pick his maximin social structure, and that those who claimed they wouldn’t were polluted by the fact that they were not in a blind tasting as his model requires, they were folk who already knew how fate had dealt out their cards.

                      But the lottery example shows that some people (see I only need “some” to refute Rawls, not “all”) – some people on the bottom rungs of the ladder, are quite happy to enter a lottery that does not have maximin as its objective.

                    4. Why would a severely disabled person benefit from the existence of more or better or harder working surgeons if they have no money to pay those people?

                      Because surgeons may put in hours in charity hospitals or otherwise do pro bono work. Amd more and better surgeons, even if rapaciously Scroogean by temperament, may devise new techniques that reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of treatment, so that charity – or government spending on the health of the severely disabled – gets a much bigger bang for its buck.

                      Confront the example. There are human beings who require other humans to pay for them to enjoy something approximating a quality life.

                      You’re changing horses here to a much more generalised case. Which is to my advantage. In truth the severely disabled are more likely to benefit from the effects of lower taxes on all kinds of highly competent and productive people, and so from living in a richer society, as opposed to richer surgeons alone. It is the rich societies funded both as to tax and charity (in both money and deeds) by the huge wealth, and technological progress, created by the successful that offer the best life to all kinds of unfortunates, including the severely disabled. Health gains over the past couple of centuries are much more closely correlated with growing income than with medical care.

                      It’s true of course that there are some people who can’t survive on their own production, but how best to help them moves us on to Qu.3…..

                    5. We both agree that one person’s “obvious move” doesn’t seem so obvious to the other.

                      That wasn’t my point. My point was that what seems the “obvious move” to anyone and everyone is not necessarily a “good move”, because the “obvious move” will probably have non obvious secondary effects, which may overwhelm the obvious primary effects.

                      In any case, we’re talking about compulsory public education, which is not something the invisible hand spontaneously produces. The idea that the invisible hand can produce that spontaneously is not something that anyone can fathom.

                      Well I was talking about education generally, but conceding public funding. Obviously the invisible hand can – and did – spontaneously produce plenty of education (and still does in some places) but not – just as obviously – compulsory public education.

                      In any event I think you’ve missed the point of the invisible hand – which is that private motivations, entirely unplanned by any planner, can generate spontaneous co-operation and order. Not to mention innovation It is an algorithmic process.

                      And the algorithm does not depend on starting with an utterly government free, von Mises approved, blank slate. You can start from anywhere and if you then let go, the algorithm will start clicking away. The only way it won’t work is if you keep putting your real hand in to stop it.

                      So a public subsidy, whether welfare checks or school vouchers or whatever, is entirely consistent with the algorithmic invisible hand doing its thing – so long as you leave it alone once you’ve handed out your subsidy.

                      You won’t finish up in exactly the same place as if you had given no subsidy, but you will have avoided the lunacies of central planning (except choosing the size of the subsidy.)

                2. To have any positive results it would require separating kids from their parents and home environment at a very early age. How do you think that would play out politically?

                  If Republicans advocated it it would be denounced as racist, maybe genocidal; if Democrats proposed it it would be called commies separating families.

                  Some sort of boarding school program would actually work and would probably be cheaper in the long run than what is being done now. Unfortunately it just won’t fly politically.

                  1. “To have any positive results it would require separating kids from their parents and home environment at a very early age.”

                    No it doesn’t. You could pour additional resources into so-called alternative learning centers that already teach kids with social and disciplinary challenges. No need to take them from their parents.

        3. “their rights to education”.
          Their right to an education isn’t at question, or at risk. It’s their own unwillingness to accept the benefits of that right (and conform to the necessary expectations to receive that right), that is getting in the way. “They’re just kids” absolutely does go a long way toward fighting powerfully against those tendencies, but there is absolutely a point at which the kids who do want to learn and do want to do the work become ill-served by the accommodations made for those who don’t.

    3. Society owes to the disorderly students the supports the teachers cannot deliver, without abandoning their duty to other students. Only politicians can do that. They must be held accountable to make it happen.

      In another forum in another context recently, Prof. Bernstein wrote this: “I was just thinking how annoying it is when someone raises a relatively trivial practical problem, and someone else raises entirely impractical solutions that rely on massive social/economic/political transformation. E.g., ‘There aren’t enough parking spaces at the local high school for teachers.’ Answer: ‘Let’s make Arlington much more bike friendly, encourage all the teachers to ride bikes, and build affordable housing so more of them can afford to live in biking distance from the schools.'”

      Problem: Not enough discipline in schools.
      Solution: Politicians should just fix bad parenting and poverty.

      1. Nieporent, you seem to have just said that undisciplined students who disrupt teaching and school safety are, ” . . . a relatively trivial practical problem.” Do you know of anyone else who thinks that? Do you even think that? If so, tell us the simple solution.

        1. Get rid of the disruptive kids.

          1. By shooting them?

            In what social context can you be “rid” of them? That does not happen even if you throw them in prison.

            1. That does not happen even if you throw them in prison.

              It doesn’t? How are they disrupting a classroom if they’re sitting in a 6 x 9 cell miles away?

              1. By sucking down public funds which ought to be going to the classroom instead.

                1. You don’t need to put them in jail.

                  1. Imagine twenty classes with twenty kids in each. One kid in each class likes to spend his day screaming at the top of his lungs. Consequently four hundred kids can get no lesson.

                  2. Transfer the screamer from each class to a class made up wholly of screamers, leaving nineteen screamer free classes. Now 380 kids get an undisrupted lesson. Twenty don’t because they’re in the screamer class – but they’re no worse off than before, and in any event they get to scream which is what they prefer to a lesson anyway.

                  The point – obviously – is that there are diminishing marginal returns on disruption. One disruptive kid is enough to disrupt a class. Two kids may create more disruption than one, but not twice as much. Consequently concentrating the disrupters and keeping them out of otherwise undisrepted classes will reduce the total effect of disruption on learning during lessons.

                  As a practical matter, most of the disrupters will be boys who can’t stand being cooped up for hours on end, and being forced to listen to cXXp about poetry. So they happily go outside for a game of touch football. When they are thoroughly exhausted they can be brought inside again and they may even sit quietly for a few minutes while someone drones on at them about poetry.

  2. The root is the cowardice and neglect of politicians, who have for years heaped upon school systems the task of ameliorating stubborn social problems which have their roots elsewhere.

    I was with you until “elsewhere.” The roots of the social problems in question also lie with politicians. Too much interference with free markets and free association. Poverty is caused by government. Bad government schools are caused by government. The only bit of government that is useful to poor inner city kids is the cop bit.

    Elect Ludwig Erhard or Sir John Cowperthwaite as Mayor and all your social problems will melt away like the morning dew. Get rid of government schools and replace them with vouchers and ditto.

    But DC’s experience with Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee shows us the root of the root – the reason why politicians go with cowardice and neglect rather than boldly tackling problems head on. The voters punish bold and don’t punish cowardice and neglect. It’s evolution at work. The survival of the most cowardly.

    1. Government disrupts accountability and responsibility. Redistribution, affirmative action, and pretending that government had nothing to do with slavery and Jim Crow but was everybody’s savior with forced integration, all remove the links between responsibility and accountability.

      And government is a sledge hammer. Sledge hammers are useful tools only in a very few cases. No one in their right mind would try fixing a bicycle or coming to grips with PTSD using a sledgehammer, yet that is the only tool government has. Any problem it attacks can’t help but be made worse.

    2. You are wrong in so many ways. Politicians just aren’t omnipotent enough to cause all the ills you ascribe to them. Poverty is caused by people, but the last 20 years poverty has decreased by more than it had previously in all recorded history by UN measures, which by the way say that there is virtually no poverty in the US by world standards.

      But if you are going to blame someone, blame the parents. Substandard parents are at fault for at least 90% of substandard students, and schools can’t do more than try to make it slightly better. And any government program that tries to substitute government for any but the worse of those substandard parents will just make things worse.

      1. Kazinski, you prescribe continuation of the status quo, which “blame the parents” summarizes. Apparently, you do that because libertarian ideology has nothing to offer, and therefore must either deny there is a problem to solve, or deny that it could be solvable.

        1. He (?) does not deny the problem.
          The kids aren’t conjured out of the air at age 5.
          When parents (i.e. voting adults) want good schools more than they want drugs, or corrupt government jobs for themselves and their allies–they get it.

          1. When parents (i.e. voting adults) want good schools more than they want drugs, or corrupt government jobs for themselves and their allies–they get it.

            Why not throw in an Obamaphone and a wellfare queen.

            Parents with the will and wherewithal get good schools. In other words, prosperity breeds prosperity; one need not look to hoary old racist claptrap about black voters to explain that.

            1. I am the son of a retired HS teacher and I spent years representing DCS in Indiana. Crappy parenting has no color.

              1. ‘Wanting drugs and corrupt government jobs for you and your allies’ sure has a racial narrative to it.

                1. To a growing number of Americans, every criticism has a racial narrative to it.
                  Saves time having to actually argue facts and policy outcomes.

                  1. OK, dude. I’m fine with getting some signals from your dismissing a mysterious cohort as being on the government pay and on drugs.

                    I don’t know which is worse – if you’re so soaked in the narrative you didn’t notice where you’d gone, or if you did it on purpose and are now playing coy. Either way, I really thought you were a lot better.

                    1. Talk a out pots and kettles.
                      I was thinking of the facts that
                      1. Our state’s DCS system came close to breaking down a few years ago because of the opioid epidemic (mostly whites);, and
                      2. I was thinking about my service as deputy prosecutor in a county corrupted by UAW (white) shenanigans.

                      You ask what’s changed.
                      Look in the damn mirror.
                      If you’re hearing dog whistles, your the dog.
                      It’s YOUR new pathetic hand wringing persona that sees despicable behavior in every comment that’s changed.

    3. Interesting. I read Stephen’s “elsewhere” to mean “other than the school systems”, not “other than the politicians”.

      1. Rossami, you read it the way I intended.

  3. woahh this article very important for me, thanks. nice information.

  4. Well teachers have been happy to teach really little kids no one can can spank you, no one can touch you in any way, all discipline is evil and unnecessary. Then the teachers have to file restraining orders in junior high school because the kids are so out of control knowing there will be no discipline. Even the cops in school get fired from grabbing an out of control kid by the arm to subdue them.

    1. Thanks Chicken Little!

      I often forget that we’re a failing society and not the greatest nation on the planet.

      1. The first step of Making America Great Again is making America not great.

  5. Once upon a time in this country, education lasted about five or six years, with some taking on another two or three, and some of those taking on another four, and some of those taking on another four.
    People who weren’t getting anything out of school simply stopped going, and that solved a lot of problems. Then we decided that EVERYBODY should stay in school for eight years. A bit after that, we decided that everybody should stay in school for twelve.
    What you see today is the fact that we try to give everybody in America a college-prep education, whether they have aptitude or interest for college or not. That’s the source of most of the schools. Well, that and a distinct lack of funding, because some of the adult taxpayers don’t value education, either, and resent paying for it.

    1. “because some of the adult taxpayers don’t value education, either, and resent paying for it”

      Those are the forgettable Americans. They will be replaced. By better people.

      1. The sooner you get replaced here, asswipe, the better things will be.

        1. I suggest you report me to the Volokh Conspiracy Board of Censors.

    2. He is right.
      The truth, as Orwell so often emphasized, is usually a matter of common sense and abandoning comforting delusions.

    3. “Once upon a time in this country, education lasted about five or six years, with some taking on another two or three, and some of those taking on another four, and some of those taking on another four.”

      And we can still classify people that way, with the difference that some of the people who lack interest in a useful education choose to be not-educated in school, and some of the people getting educated aren’t being educated in school.

      Even if “we” decide that everyone should get a full education in school doesn’t mean “we” will be obeyed.

  6. “In 2015, 12.6 percent of African-American students reported being in such a fight, while only 5.6 percent of white students did… 7.9 percent of African-Americans, 7.4 of Native Americans and 3.0 percent of whites admit to having possessed a gun at school. A third study found similar racial disproportionalities in self-reported gang membership.”

    Srsly?

    1. Would a gun-totin’ gang member lie on a self-reported questionnaire?

      1. That’s why it’s social “science”.

        1. Self reporting is, of course, a common methodology in social science, and the statistics claiming that sexual assault rates on our college campuses resemble war-torn countries are compiled in a similar manner.

          1. As are defensive gun uses.

            1. Yup. And, shockingly, many statistics about penis size are based on self-reporting.

  7. When Gail Heriot acts as a champion of black children, does she do so as a Republican? Or, instead, as an “independent?”

    If the claim is that she is a champion of black children as an “independent,” is that independence of partisan convenience or genuine independence?

    Too early to start the pool on how quickly she registers as a Republican after it no longer serves a shabby partisan purpose to claim not to be a Republican?

    1. “When Gail Heriot acts as a champion of black children, does she do so as a Republican? Or, instead, as an “independent?”

      I don’t know. You guys are the ones making the rules about when we are obliged to honor one’s self-identification. You tell us. Are you sure that questing Prof Heriot’s identification as an independent doesn’t make you a bigot? Have you checked?

      1. When clingers are caterwauling about enlargement of the Supreme Court of the United States, I will be thinking about Gail Heriot, and Merrick Garland, and Todd Gaziano, and the recent enlargement (by Republicans) of the Arizona Supreme Court . . . and savoring a nice holiday beer, while enjoying the sense of justice evoked by the wails of the voices for backwardness and bigotry.

        One-vote House majority + one-vote Senate majority + lack of veto = progress.

        Carry on, clingers. So far as your betters permit.

        1. The problem with the system you advocate, even from the left-wing point of view, is that it puts even left-wingers at risk. The self-anointed “betters” will be able to judge who’s a right-winger whose rights depend on governmental permission. The history of left-wing governments shows how easy it is for people who had previously regarded themselves as good left-wingers to be suddenly reclassified as rightists.

          That’s all very well for people like yourself, who simply shape their opinions to conform to what the government decrees, thus avoiding the risk of becoming a dissenter. And if you dissent accident, you simply have to subject yourself to a self-criticism session where you assure the Party leaders that you erred out of ignorance – an excuse which for obvious reasons will be quite believable. But for leftists with integrity, if their brand of leftism runs afoul of a sudden change in Party line, and who don’t want to pretend their views are other than they are – such people will be promptly classified as rightists and second-class citizens.

          1. Yup. Rich lawyers like Kirkland are gonna be the first motherfuckers AOC puts up against the wall.

    2. It’s your team, Team Blue, that’s running education in this country, fuckwit. When are you going to take responsibility for the craptastic state of education? Oh, I forgot, you leftist retards never take responsibility for anything, which is why education has gone down the craphole in this country.

      Do us all a favor and go die in a fire.

      1. Prof. Volokh thanks you for keeping it classy, in line with his asserted standards for comments.

        I thank you for demonstrating the value of the assertions.

      2. It’s the vitriol that really shows the correctness of your position.

        Which side is responsible for cutting education budgets, I wonder?

        1. What makes you think education budgets have been cut?

  8. Who scrubbed the Heriot-Gaziano Affair (seedily gaming the system to stack a civil rights commission with right-wingers) from Wikipedia?

    Was it someone “independent,” or “often libertarian,” or “libertarianish?”

  9. Simply looking a raw statistics will always get it wrong. The Reason Asians are disciplined less is that their social groups value conformity and respect fo authority. Some portions of the African American community have different approach to authority. The reason or justification doesn’t matter.

    Anyone who has actually observed groups of people interacting will notice that some groups, often including racially homogeneous groups, display different behavior and different ways of interacting. Some are more demonstrative, others are more restrained.

    Supposing that the differences don’t exist is fantasy.

    1. Simply looking a raw stereotypes will always get it wrong.

      FTFY.

  10. “What accounts for the differing misbehavior rates? The best anybody can say is, “We don’t know entirely.” But differing poverty rates, differing fatherless household rates, differing parental education, differing achievement in school, and histories of policy failures and injustices likely each play a part.”

    You left out intelligence. Kids who find themselves failing to understand instruction and failing to achieve success will naturally rebel against taking such punishment. With classroom curriculum set at one-size-fits-all, those students who don’t fit will make their own decisions and act accordingly.

  11. Want a sensible explanation? Read The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray.

    1. FFS.

      I want a survey of how many on this site are into the blacks are dumber thesis.

      Even a year ago this wasn’t race realism central. What’s going on?

      1. What’s going on?

        Hard swing toward more overt bigotry in certain (Republican, conservative, libertarianish, often libertarian, right-wing) circles.

        After Trump leaves, there will be an attempt to ‘put that unfortunate period behind us.’ Republicans will emulate the south, where it is nearly impossible to find someone who will admit to having ever been a vicious bigot or violent racist, even during the 1950s and ’60s, even in Mississippi and Alabama, where those blacks must have been beating themselves at Selma (and those Freedom Riders committed suicide, then buried themselves) if you go by the current alibis. In not so many years, no one will admit to having voted for or supported Trump. That may be why some conservatives are fastidiously avoiding a paper trail.

        1. During that era, “solid South” majorities voted for Democrats such as Wilson and FDR, and of course the Democratic arch-segregationist Theodore Bilbo helped pass the New Deal:

          “In the Senate Bilbo consistently gave strong support to virtually all New Deal social and economic programs, such as relief for the unemployed, social security, public housing, and fair labor standards, while at the same time championing the cause of the nation’s small farmers in every way he could. His crude and often repulsive style may have antagonized the more sophisticated liberal academics and bureaucrats of the time, but his first-term voting record would have been the envy of any urban New Dealer.”

          https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/080712432X/reasonfoundation-20/

      2. I have a better survey question.
        For those of you who get so worked up about what you believe Herrnstein and Murray to be saying, which comes closest to your position:
        1. There is no scientific data to support the notion that people of sub-Saharan African descent (whether you call this “race”, or, “culture”, seems insignificant) are less intelligent as a group, than Northern Europeans and East Asians;
        2. There is data, but it’s biased in some way. That is to say: there is a way to write a test that measures that trait which we commonly label “verbal and mathematical intelligence” wherein those of sub-Saharan descent would score higher than other racial/cultural groups; or
        3. There is, in fact, a measurable difference, but it’s mean or useless to advert to it in forming public policy.

        1. I reject the notion of the metric they use as good. I also concur with the consensus that their methodology is flawed. That they don’t just defend themselves against the charges but rather on tour promoting the book and cry censorship is telling.

          I see by implication that you’ve answered my question. My position hasn’t moved. But you? You weren’t like this in 2014.

          1. I reject the notion of the metric they use as good

            Unlike the APA which accepts it as just fine. And as been pointed out many times, if you find it impossible to accept the statistical validity and reliability of IQ testing, you’re pretty much forced to reject all social science statistics on any subject, since there’s nothing in the social sciences that’s even close to the statistical reliability of IQ tests. The rest of the social sciences, when they turn to numbers, use exactly the same statistical techniques as IQ tests, but just get less robust results.

            <But there are reasonable arguments that IQ comparisions between say {Americans} and {San} are not so good. As Flynn has suggested as an explanation of the Flynn effect, IQ tests measure (pretty reliably) the ability to manipulate abstractions. A San hunter is not brought up in a culture in which the manipulation of abstractions is much of a thing. But he’s brilliant at interpreting animal tracks, which are real world phenomena. In an animal track IQ test, the average American would perform poorly compared to a San hunter. (And the average Harvard professor would perform poorly against the average Arkansas deplorable.)

            So it is probably a mistake to interpret low IQ scores in people who are not exposed to the modern West, with its ubiquitous use of symbols and abstraction, as a signifier of relative stupidity.

            IQ tests are only measuring that element of intelligence that is captured by the manipulation of abstractions. In modern developed societies, of course, that’s pretty much all there is. So measuring IQ within the US or even across all the whole developed world will give you reasonably valid comparisons. But plainly the human brain can do, and does, other things besides manipulating abstractions, and IQ tests don’t measure those things.

            In a sense this is a refutation of the idea that you can’t train to improve your score in an IQ test. It turns out that this is true if you are looking at a timescale of a few months.

            But if you pluck a San child from its mother at birth (I do not recommend this as it is rather cruel) and deposit it with an adoptive family in Florida, and bring it up there for its whole childhood, exposing it to cartoons and smartphones and the whole panoply of symbols that infest our modern world, it will when confronted with an IQ test at age 16, do way better than the average San child who stayed in Africa.

  12. You might not like what Murray’s book says. That doesn’t mean he is wrong.

    1. Just because you like what he says doesn’t mean he’s right.

      That book has been debunked six ways from Sunday by now. Even looking at the wikipedia article shows why the research was shoddy.

      1. Have you read the bell curve? I haven’t read it and have no opinion on its validity. But I suspect that a topic like that would be very difficult to assess objectively. Many of the “debunkings” I’ve seen are quite obviously motivated and not very convincing.

        1. Yeah, I read it. I say this not sarcastically – my parents were all in on contrarian reading and it was in our bathroom; I was a captive audience.

          I’ve also read the articles criticizing it. I’m not statistician, and have no talent in the area. But there’s a pretty clear consensus that y’all are tellingly ignoring.

  13. Not true. And surely you don’t believe anything that appears in Wikipedia.

    1. I think wikipedia and it’s citations is a good start. You don’t seem to be backing your faith in this book up with much other than insistence.

      You’ll have to work out with yourself why you are so attached to this thesis of black mental inferiority that you cite this one thing that agrees with you and ignore all subsequent research.

  14. Yup would have no idea why certain kids of certain persuasions are disciplined more often….absolutely no clue….must have NOTHING to do about their culture….absolutely nothing…to even suggest that perhaps a certain culture is broken is just plain wrong….nothing to see here….move along.

  15. It is not uncommon that a long report will contain a statement that goes overboard and says to much. And a standard advocate’s tactic is to focus intensely on those portions, attack them relentlessly, attempt to associate the entire report and indeed the other side’s entire position with them, and thereby to discredit everything the other side says.

    I am not so convinced here. There may well be a problem with black children punished more than white children for comparable offenses, or for similar behavior being treated as normal childhood behavior when done by white children but as evidence of delinquency when done by black. That the report may have gone overboard in a few respects doesn’t convince me that everything is fine and no problem exists.

    1. If someone is writing a seemingly-reasonable report on US-Israeli relations, and in the middle of the report they suddenly say “of course the Rothschilds control the weather,” then that should lead one to doubt the report as a whole. If their standards are low enough to let in something like that, maybe the report isn’t reliable.

      Similarly if they’re going on about school discipline and suddenly blurt out something like “of course there’s no racial difference in discipline rates.”

      1. in offense rates

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