NYTimes: School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality.

This story illustrates Shelby Steele’s argument in a particularly poignant way. Children are being exploited by crooks, media, indifferent parents, and elite colleges that seek legitimacy by treating them like objects.


13 thoughts on “NYTimes: School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality.”

  1. As a not US citizen, I am unsure whether those African-American families are (very) poor.

    In the photo “Ms. Lewis with her children at home,” the home looks nice and would cost a fortune in Israel. I see a car too. (The interior of) some other homes / flats also look spacious. For instance, look at the photo of “Mr. Mitchell’s sister, Sanaa, made cupcakes with their mother.”

    This is not how I imagined slums to look like.

    Why not send kids to a certified school? Why are they considered to be disadvantaged apart from being black?


    1. Ms Lewis’s house is like the place I lived when I first moved here. It’s not a slum bit it’s the working poor neighborhood. These are not declasse folks. These are struggling folks. The school presented them as declasse to Harvard because that is what Harvard wants.

      Note also the tuition. $600 a month is a lot of money. These people had to sacrifice a lot to pay it.


      1. // Note also the tuition. $600 a month is a lot of money. These people had to sacrifice a lot to pay it.

        That’s what made me wonder why those parents couldn’t pay a similar sum for sending their kids to a good school, even if it were relatively far away, and for paying a private tutor/s too if necessary.

        // The school presented them as declasse to Harvard because that is what Harvard wants.

        Intriguing question: how many declasse Harvard and etc. students are truly declasse? It is not hard to exaggerate and massage one’s life story into a required sob narrative, if this is one’s chance to be accepted. From my pov, one would have to be a fool not to do it.

        Another reason why no university entrance exams, no governmental Unified State Exam (like in Russia and Israel) and yes sob narratives are a toxic combination which simply has to be exploited due to its very nature. This case is simply a bit unusual in how far the stories have been massaged, but they have to be massaged in usual cases too.


    2. I’m a US lifelong resident who has also spent some time in Israel. Clarissa’s right — that is a working poor neighborhood. Those people are likely receiving Section 8 vouchers to be able to live there. These families stretch and often go into debt to afford to send their kids to a decent school. Most of them are one health or other crisis away from homelessness or at least an even more tenuous living situation.

      I’ve lived in far worse places than this in the US (trailer park in rural North Florida), so you’re right this isn’t a slum but for many people who live in these neighborhoods one bad month can send them there.

      Also, in the US, you must have a car if you want a job. Even in places with bus service (not that many) it’s often not reliable enough for working class jobs and doesn’t have frequent enough service. I’ve seen people lose jobs because they depended on public transportation. No car in much of the US, no job. And it’s also hard to get anywhere else.

      As a side note, the car in the photo is a Volkswagen Passat, probably around a 2013 model. This car would sell for around $10,000 right now — not a lot for a car that doesn’t break down all the time. They are probably in a 60-month loan or similar, so payments would be $150 a month or something like that (not much), and far better than the no car/no job situation.


      1. On the subject of a car. N had this decrepit Honda from his grad school days that was falling apart. It had no conditioning, no heat,and it would stop in the middle of the road and die. I suggested taking it to the scrap yard but he put it on Craigslist and had a crowd of potential buyers. I had no idea who’d want this horrible old thing but then the buyer showed up and he was obviously a working class fellow. He was so happy he had tears in his eyes. He said what Mike says: no car means no job and he only had a couple hundred dollars and no credit so he couldn’t buy. He was extremely happy to get this sad old beater of a car.


  2. “crooks, media, indifferent parents, and elite colleges that seek legitimacy by treating them like objects”
    I’d maybe cut the parents a break, one problem is that non-college-educated parents have no idea how post secondary education works and are in no position to give their children sensible advice and probably too trusting of the various diversity shysters circling around them the way sharks circle around a sick whale….


    1. They’ve got no idea, that’s why they send them.

      This school is about 8 miles from my university. Their students aren’t really competitive, not the way people who have gone to an actually good high school (like the local public magnet high school) are. However, it may be that Ivy schools are easier to study at. People coming from them struggled at the public university I went to, were not used to hard deadlines or the lack of emotional support. We also don’t care for students the way more opulent schools can.


        1. Oh, that kneeling, the beatings, all of that is in all sorts of schools. It’s pretty much the norm here. People don’t approve of not doing it. It’s one of the things that makes university teaching hard, dealing with people already this traumatized about school and by it.


        2. “Let’s not indantilize these parents”

          I was actually commenting more on the very stupid idea that affirmative action should be used to push students to super elite institutions that they have no chance of thriving in. The idea that it makes sense for a first generation college student to attend somewhere like Harvard is just…. dumb, the kind of thing that people that only know of post secondary education from the media are likely to believe.

          Florence King was a first generation college student and there’s an interesting part in her memoir (Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady) where she recounts how she ended up in a college that didn’t even offer the major she was most interested in (French) because neither she nor anyone around her knew enough to ask…
          Almost everything the media says about post secondary education is highly deceptive or just flat out wrong and calculated to keep those out of the system from being able to thrive in it.


    2. If children are made to kneel at school, are beaten or verbally abused by teachers, you don’t need to be highly educated to realize that it’s not right. You can’t farm out parenting to somebody else.


      1. No, but here the highly educated also believe in it. One of the reasons to send kids to private school is so that they can be abused. You can have it done in public schools, too, but it’s not as easy.


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