Confessions of a closet racist

Dr. Rick Eckstein

We’ve been outed. Me and my colleagues associated with the Center for Peace and Justice Education (CPJE). It turns out that we have despised black children for a very long time and, after years of repression, could no longer contain ourselves, bursting from the closet in order to present our annual Peace Award to Jonathon Kozol, one of the country’s foremost harmers of black children.

In the name of reconciliation, we hold no grudge against our colleague, Professor Bob Maranto of Villanova’s Political Science Dept. who called us out for legitimating Kozol’s ongoing quest to harm black children.

Members of the Villanova community who attended Kozol’s presentation on Oct. 2 witnessed first hand the racist venom that spills from his mouth. I hope you can forgive us for this poor judgment.

I now admit that asking my Introduction to Sociology students to attend this talk may have been the most egregious mistake of my entire professional life, especially since I’ve also asked them to read Kozol’s recent book “The Shame of the Nation.”

As easily impressionable first-year students, it’s probably only a matter of weeks before they start harming black children themselves.

I mean, what could we CPJE people have been thinking by celebrating the intellectual and moral contributions of Jonathon Kozol, a man who has spent much of the past two decades visiting families and schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States? Superficially, anyway, Kozol seems interested in pointing out the unjustifiable inequalities among America’s public schools and challenging our stereotypical caricatures of the children and families relying on these schools for some semblance of universal education.

But now we have learned that this was just a clever rouse, and that Kozol’s real motive is to sell as many books and secure as many speaking engagements as possible, playing on soft-hearted liberal sentimentality to pad his own bankroll.

Little did the CPJE staff realize that Kozol’s descriptions of horrific inner city schools were irrelevant and perhaps even racist.

During his presentation and in his book, Kozol surely could have been describing a high school in Lower Merion or Radnor that was built for 1,800 students but is serving 3,400; where the first of nine lunch shifts begins at 9:42 a.m. and the last begins at 2:19 p.m.; where children regularly sit for 30 minutes in the cafeteria before even lining up for food (“Shame of the Nation,” p.146).

I’m sure local Main Line families would be perfectly content if their children faced a school day like this since, despite Kozol’s assertions, increased school finding has nothing to do with increased school quality.

Certainly Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York who Maranto cites, would agree that money is not the answer and that these 3,400 kids should just show up on time, dress properly, sit up straight at their desks with chairs pulled in, look at people to whom they are talking, and shake hands with visitors to the school. That will surely prepare them for those thousands of high-wage jobs throughout the south Bronx.

We also were unaware that Kozol “hates standardized tests since they don’t make students happy.” We apologize for our erroneous assumption that he opposes high-stakes testing because it reduces teachers and principals to technicians ordered (or bribed) to follow a standardized instruction manual concerned only with raising tests scores.

We will certainly join with all the other Main Line residents to demand that the Lower Merion School District focus exclusively on increasing PSSA and SAT scores and jettison frivolous distractions like music, art, science (not on the tests!), special ed, and any teacher without a certificate from the Princeton Review.

Maranto has helped me understand how Kozol cleverly fooled us about his racist motives for opposing high-stakes testing. At an informal discussion before his Villanova public address, Kozol caught us up with Elio, one of the more endearing children we read about in books such as “Amazing Grace.” Elio was insatiably curious and loved school, but he was a horrific test-taker, always scoring in the lowest percentiles, making it impossible for him to ever attend one of New York City’s premier magnet schools.

One of Kozol’s readers then became Elio’s benefactor and arranged for him to attend a prestigious New England boarding school. Graduating from this prep school helped Elio secure a scholarship to Harvard and he is now doing graduate work in New York, also on scholarship. While Kozol’s story seems critical of relying too much on high-stakes testing, don’t be like the CPJE staff and miss the forest for the trees.

Actually, this benefactor’s assistance “harms” black children like Elio since it implies that they are inferior and need help from “whitey” rather than – on their own – sitting up straight, pulling in the chair, and filling in those bubble sheets. Shaking hands with visitors also helps, especially if they are from Kaplan Test Prep.

However, one thing about Maranto’s argument confuses me. He claims to love Villanova because he can say things his colleagues hate without fear of reprisal. Surely he jests! In a January 15, 2006 “Philadelphia Inquirer” commentary, Maranto follows the lead of academic critic David Horowitz, insisting that “the leftist orthodoxy of the academy … stunts education, [and] conservative college professors should be able to sure … when victimized by biased hiring and tenure decisions.”

I’m wondering why Maranto condemns higher education in general yet exempts Villanova from this indictment.

As somebody labeled by Horowitz as one of the 101 “most dangerous” professors in America, I have tried diligently for the past 17 years to eradicate all those who disagree with me, and to brainwash all those who remain. How did Professor Maranto slip through my fingers?

That confusion aside, though, I commend Maranto for the several hundred dollars he donates each year to the Children’s Scholarship Fund.

I will also march with him down Montgomery Ave. when he publicly renounces the yearly per pupil expenditures in Lower Merion ($20,820; 8% black students) and demands that his district spend $10,000 less per year on each child, including his, to put it on par with Philadelphia’s yearly per pupil expenditures ($10,907; 64% black students).

After all, the extra money just doesn’t matter. And Jonathon Kozol or anyone else who says it does matter is just harming black children.

“Rick Eckstein is a professor of sociology and long-time staff member of the Center for Peace and Justice Education where he is in charge of proliferating the leftist orthodoxy.”