Walter Williams. Leonard Pitts Jr. Why Don’t We Do What Works?

by Tammy Drennan


African American children are in big trouble, and it seems hardly anyone cares – really cares.


This week in his column, Walter E. Williams chronicles the tragic shortcomings of Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, as portrayed in an HBO special. Tragic hardly describes the situation. After a long, depressing list of dysfunction, Dr. Williams points out that the high school once boasted of graduates like Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway and concludes:


“At Frederick Douglass’ founding, it didn’t have the resources available today. If blacks can achieve at a time when there was far greater poverty, gross discrimination and fewer opportunities, what says blacks cannot achieve today? Whether we want to own up to it or not, the welfare state has done what Jim Crow, gross discrimination and poverty could not have done. It has contributed to the breakdown of the black family structure and has helped establish a set of values alien to traditional values of high moral standards, hard work and achievement.”


Also this week, a columnist on the other end of the political spectrum, Leonard Pitts, Jr., wrapped up his education series, “What Works,” with this lament:


“We already know what works. What we lack is the will to do it. Instead, we have a hit-and-miss patchwork of programs achieving stellar results out on the fringes of the larger, failing, system. Why are they the exception and not the rule? If we know what works, why don’t we simply do it?”


The answer to the big question: Why don’t we do what works is simple. Because we’re waiting for the state to do it. That’s what the welfare state has wrought. And make no mistake, the public school system is as big a part of the welfare state as any food or rent or money hand-out program. As a matter of fact, it may be worse.


Hand-outs that pay for rent and food and other sundry things take away the will to work, to improve, to progress economically. Hand-outs that take your children’s upbringing off your hands completely destroy the only bedrock that can give us a healthy society – adults functioning as empowered and competent parents. To be sure, the first sort of hand-out impacts the health of families, but the second is the arrow through the heart, the weapon that assures total annihilation.


We’ve existed in the welfare/entitlement phase of American life for so long that only a handful of people have the will to break away. Those are the people out on Mr. Pitts’ “fringes of the larger, failing, system “


And don’t think this only affects disadvantaged minorities. It’s been seeping into middle and upper America for a long time. It may be at its worst in inner cities, but it’s gaining ground everywhere.


Let me repeat what the problem is: We’re waiting for the government to do something. A small percentage of people are not waiting, and they are the ones achieving stellar results. They don’t care what the government is doing or offering or wanting. They walk away and do what’s right.


So, the real question is, how do we get more people to do this? It is, after all, what works. This is the hard part, but as I’ve said many times before, it’s certainly no harder than trying to reform government schools, whatever reform could possibly mean in a government school.


How do we get people to turn their backs on the state and its money and do what’s right by their children? How do we get parents and educators and church leaders and communities and businesses to reject what doesn’t work – state education, and do what does work – education free of state interference?


How do we get people to care enough to act?


If we think some mass movement will do the job, we kid and defeat ourselves. It will happen one person at a time – one parent, one leader, one philanthropist, one child.


The key is to become active, to increase the rate at which one person at a time is happening, to get people excited about possibilities and freedom and whole families and the future. It will not happen unless we act, act, act. It will not happen if all we do is talk about it among ourselves. We must walk the talk.


Here’s what I’m going to do this week:


I’m sending this collection of quotations, Faith-based Considerations, to five churches, three Christian organizations and two sets of new Christian parents:


I’m sending this article, The Guts to Keep Our Freedom, to otherwise freedom-loving supporters of vouchers and other state schemes:


What can you do this week? Can you send out a link to someone? Print some articles and send them? Call together a group to discuss some article? Is there one thing you might do? This is where the solution starts – with us.








4 Responses to Walter Williams. Leonard Pitts Jr. Why Don’t We Do What Works?

  1. wintertime says:

    Please do a Google search on the the words: Free Catholic school tuition Wichita Kansas.

    Every Catholic child in Wichita, Kansas, has access to a **FREE** private Catholic school. How does the diocese do it? Simple! They ask all the members to tithe. They consider their own children their **most** important mission field and they use that tithing money to do it.

    Harvard has a $35 **BILLION** dollar endowment! There are colleges and universities all over the U.S. with endowments in the **BILLIONS** and multi-multi-million dollars.

    So?…Why doesn’t private K-12 education have this level of private support?

    Answer: You are absolutely correct! We are waiting for the government to do something about K-12 education.

    I have a suggestion:

    We as citizens should start private **conservative** voucher foundations. The foundations could certify the teachers, test the students, and approve the curriculum.

    The private voucher foundations could help provide funds to explore options to our current system of warehousing children in prison-like, factory-like, brick and mortar schools?

    The private voucher foundations could award grants to teachers willing to experiment with dame schools, homeschool cooperatives, tutoring centers, one room school houses, and virtual schools.

    India now has a burgeoning on-line tutoring industry. Perhaps children could have their personal K-12 teacher from India, via web-cam, and the American teacher could proctor a group of students.

    A mistake that Sam Walton made was spreading the funds of his private voucher foundation too thinly around the nation. I suggest that the private voucher foundations first focus on one small city, and within a few neighborhoods, so that we could see what the full impact would be if private vouchers were available to all the children in the district.

    Finally, private voucher foundations should also sponsor team sport leagues.

    Team sports are the basis for the support many communities have for their government schools. Government schools have a monopoly on team sports in many communities. If a youngster has any hope of developing his talent and moving on to college and big league sports he **must** attend his government school. Private voucher foundations should also sponsor team sport leagues.

    We are a wealthy nation. Not only could every child in this nation have access to a private **conservative** education. We could probably do this for every child in the world! We can do it if we give up the idea of expensive brick and mortar schools and with private endowments.

  2. Frances says:

    I blogged about this article as well. You are so right when you say that government school is part of the welfare state. It is distressing to me how many parents (good parents) think that they are incapable of teaching their own children.

    Thanks for reminding us that we all need to take action. In our small group at church, several of the parents are excited about sending their 5-year-old to government school because they will be such a helper to the teacher and be able to say things in class that would get the teacher fired. I am baffled by this.

  3. tdbwd says:


    Thanks much for your comments. I’m not surprised at the attitude of some of the parents in your small group. I’ve known people who have been so excited about a “mission” possibility that they were willing to sacrifice their children for it. Also, I think some people don’t want to be the leader in a situation, but they do want to help and be an influence. These are people who need good, active homeschool groups or Christian/private schools, and they need to understand that if they wish to do good on behalf of public schooled children, they can do it in their neighborhoods or with private organizations that reach out to children and families. For some reason, home often does not seem like an adequate mission field for parents — maybe there’s not enough glory or excitement in it. It’s one more area that we need to address.

    Tammy Drennan

  4. terrymac says:

    Amen! Instead of waiting, let’s do something about the state of education. My wife and I began homeschooling our two children, shortly after our first-grade son came home and asked “what is 5-7?” – which his “gifted” instructor would not answer — the class was “too young” to learn about negative numbers. It took five minutes to explain the concept.

    My daughter now homeschools her four children. The oldest is 6, and enjoys playing with negative numbers, fractions, decimals, binary arithmetic, and other concepts far beyond the “approved” curriculum for his age. He and his four-year old sister read fluently, well past their age level. My grandchildren are really not geniuses, even if they seem so by comparison to those who suffer through the snail-paced curriculum of most schools. Nor do they and my daughter labor over the books for six hours per day; there is no need to waste so much time to learn so little. Adults often learn to read with a few dozen hours of instruction; children can learn even more rapidly. The basic fundamentals of arithmetic can be mastered by most students in just a few hours.

    Our expectations for schools and students are far lower than need be.

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