Sunday, November 8, 2015

Old Dunbar High – Fact versus Popular Fictions

Muhammad Rasheed -  "When the U. S. Supreme Court declared in 1954 that separate schools were inherently inferior, within walking distance of that same Court was an all-black public school whose performance had equaled or surpassed that of white schools in the District of Columbia for more than 80 years.” ~Thomas Sowell, Black Education: Achievements, Myths, and Tragedies

Jeremy Travis - Source. Point? Not challenging you or being facetious, just curious.

Al Bush - Replicate. If one can another can.

Muhammad Rasheed - Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is a public secondary school located in Washington, D.C., United States. Founded as an educational mission at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Dunbar was America's first public high school for black students. It was known for its excellent academics, enough so that some black parents moved to Washington specifically so their children could attend it. It also boasted a remarkably high number of graduates who went on to higher education, and a generally successful student body.

An unusual number of teachers and principals held Ph.D. degrees, including Carter G. Woodson, father of Black history Month and the second African American to earn a Phd. from Harvard (after W. E. B. Du Bois). This was the result of the entrenched white supremacy that pervaded the nation's professions and served to exclude the majority of African-American women and men from faculty positions at predominantly white institutions of higher learning. As a consequence, however, Dunbar High School was considered the nation's best high school for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. It helped make Washington, DC, an educational and cultural capital.

Muhammad Rasheed - Following desegregation and demolition of the original facility, the school's prestige dropped notably. Through the years, Dunbar High School continued to perform below the standards and was among a list of failing schools identified for turnaround or closure.

Muhammad Rasheed - The point of the status post was that the African American community as a whole made more and greater progress in the pre-Civil Rights Era than afterwards. The policies created under the post Civil Rights Act "civil rights vision" have been reactionary and detrimental to our growth.

Muhammad Rasheed - The once great Dunbar High was yet another casualty of short-sighted and wrong thinking during the integration age.

Al Bush - Annette Johnson today's history lesson. MR--Annette is a local activist, writer and all around delight. She's always posting positive AA history for the good of all. Hat tip to you sir.

Jeremy Travis - Muhammad, if not the Civil Rights movement, what then should have been the course of action taken by disenfranchised Blacks of the time?

Al Bush - The counter being I suppose that the aggregate improvements were greater than the losses. I believe that was true for many years but do not know about it still. No data to cite.

Courtney Perry - Civil rights definitely helped... but the whole under performing schoool thing... thats a huge monster now

Annette Johnson - Al Bush, Thank You!

Al Bush - Thanks to M. Rasheed.

Annette Johnson – “Unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.”  --Justice Thurgood Marshall, Milliken v. Bradley (1974)

Annette Johnson - This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that required desegregation of public schools in the United States (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954). Also: On this anniversary of the Brown decision, we recognize that school integration is still a contentious and unfinished piece of the educational social justice agenda. Recent U.S. Department of Education data (2014) remind us that disparities in the distribution of educational opportunities by race are still a vivid reality. Opportunities to learn should begin with early learning and continue throughout K-12 years in rigorous, culturally responsive learning environments for all students (Gay, 2010). Reminding ourselves of the history of desegregation, including what we have learned from the desegregation movement to this point, is worthwhile and necessary work if we are to critically examine integration as a strategy to increase access, representation, participation and full membership in high-quality and equitable learning environments, close outcomes gaps, and achieve social cohesion. Such analysis can also help us develop considerations for integration in the present.

Annette Johnson - Just my Thoughts!

Muhammad Rasheed - Jeremy Travis wrote: "Muhammad, if not the Civil Rights movement, what then should have been the course of action taken by disenfranchised Blacks of the time?"

There was a big difference between the movement/struggle that led to the Civil Rights Act being passed w/jim crow being lifted, compared to the policies written after the fact based on a faulty "civil rights vision." The latter caused our progress to stagnate and even atrophy.

Richard Sherman - The Civil Rights Act is not responsible for that, though, Muhammad, what is responsible for the atrophy, stagnation and continued oppression is the Johnson Administrations' implementation of The Great Society, which was specifically engineered and instituted as a way, in LBJ's (that miserable S.O.B.) own words, to: "Keep them N-----s voting Democrat for the next 200 years."

All the good done by the Civil Rights act was immediately reversed by Johnson's and then Nixon's efforts to control an entire segment of the nation's citizenry.

Though it would be nearly impossible to reverse the damage done by LBJ's Great Society, we CAN move past it and into the future by eliminating the idea that our pigment makes us different. Once we get by that, and stop as segment cultures to see each other as separate and therefore separated, true and truly willing integration and healing will happen as a natural course of life.

Muhammad Rasheed - Richard Sherman wrote: "The Civil Rights Act is not responsible for that, though, Muhammad..."

That's not what I said. I said there is a difference between the civil rights movement's achievement with getting the Civil Rights Act passed and removing jim crow policies compared to the fallacy laden "civil rights vision" that came LATER, which caused the current stagnation.

Moses Mullins - Gill Scott-Heron in "The New Deal" says it eloquently. 

'cause I believe these smiles
in three piece suits
with gracious, liberal demeanor
took our movement off of the streets
and took us to the cleaners
In other words, we let up the pressure
And that was all part of their plan

Full lyrics:
"The New Deal"
I have believed in my convictions
And have been convicted for my beliefs
Conned by the constitution
And harassed by the police.
I've been billed for the bill of rights
And been treated like I was wrong.
I have become a special amendment
For what included me all along.
Like "All men are created equal."
(No amendment needed here)
I've contributed in every field including cotton
From Sunset Strip to Washington Square.
Back during the non-violent era.
I was the only non-violent one.
As a matter of fact there was no non-violence
'cause too many rednecks had guns.
There seems to have been this pattern
That a lot of folks failed to pick up on.
But all black leaders who dared stand up
Wuz in jail, in the courtroom or gone.
Picked up indiscriminately
By the shocktroops of discrimination
To end up in jails or tied up in trails
While dirty tricks soured the nation.
I've been hoodwinked by professional hoods.
My ego has happened to me.
It'll be alright, just keep things cool!"
"And take the people off the street.
We'll settle all this at the conference table.
You just leave everything to me."
Which gets me back to my convictions
And being convicted for my belief
'cause I believe these smiles
in three piece suits
with gracious, liberal demeanor
took our movement off of the streets
and took us to the cleaners
In other words, we let up the pressure
And that was all part of their plan
And every day we allow to slip through our fingers
Is playing right into their hands

What is swept under the rug is that the Civil Rights movement did not ask for integration. They asked for desegregation. We were patted on the head and told that what we really wanted was integration.

We got it, and now our youth get a lower quality of education than they got from those poor underpaid, overworked black teachers with inferior resources who loved their students and was determined to see them on the right track..

Bakkah Rasheed-Shabazz - What was the name of that school. I remember reading about it at UofM.

Kristopher Michael Mosby - Yup, good ol' Dunbar. Although back then, Dunbar wasn't free from discrimination, either. It was simply discrimination of a different kind. You may or may have not been admitted Rasheed, the one thing in your favor, you're the right "color". My mother went to a similar public school in Baltimore.

Muhammad Rasheed - In 1899, there were four academic public high schools in Washington, D. C. – one black and three white.  In standardized tests given that year, students in the black high school averaged higher test scores than students in two of the three white high schools.  Today, More than a century later, it would be considered Utopian even to set that as a goal, much less to expect it to actually happen.  Yet what happened back in 1899 was no isolated fluke.  That same repeatedly equaled or exceeded national norms on standardized tests in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.  Back in the 1890s, it was called the M Street School and in 1916 it was renamed Dunbar High School.

When this information on Dunbar High School was first published in the 1970s, those few educators who responded at all dismissed the relevance of these findings by saying that these were “middle class” children and therefore their experience was not “relevant” to the education of low-income minority children.  Those who said this had no factual data on the incomes or occupations of the parents of these children – and the data that existed said just the opposite.  The problem, however, was not that these dismissive educators did not have evidence.  The more fundamental problem was that they saw no NEED for evidence.  According to their doctrines, children who did well on standardized tests were middle class.  These children did well on such tests, so therefore they must be middle class.

It so happens that there was evidence on the occupations of the parents of the children at this school as far back as the early 1890s.  As of academic year 1892-93, of the known occupations of these parents, there were 51 laborers, 25 messengers, 12 janitors, and ONE doctor.  That hardly seems middle class.  Over the years, a significant black middle class did develop in Washington and most of them may well have sent their children to the M Street School or to Dunbar High School, as it was later called.  But that is wholly different from saying that most of the children at that school came from middle class homes.

More detailed data on parental occupations are available for a later period, from the later 1930s through the mid 1950s.  These data reveal that there were far more children whose mothers were maids than there were whose fathers were doctors.  Mary Gibson Hundley, who taught at Dunbar for many years, wrote:

 “A large segment of the homes of the students had one or more government employees for support.  Before the 1940s these employees were messengers and clerks, with few exceptions.”

It is possible, of course, to redefine “middle class” in relative terms for the black community as it existed at that time, but such verbal dexterity serves only to salvage words at the expense of reality.  The parents of Dunbar students may or may not have been a random sample of the black parents of their time, either occupationally or in terms for their aspirations for their children, but neither were most of them people with professional careers or levels of income that would be considered middle class by the standards of American society as a whole.  Intellectual or academic achievements for blacks, as for everyone else, no doubt have preconditions but the crucial question is whether these are economic preconditions, as so widely asserted – and so widely assumed to be insuperable barriers to good education for minority children from low-income families.

A related stereotype is that the children who went to Dunbar High School were the light-skinned descendants of the black elite that derived from miscegenation during the era of slavery.  Here again, the facts have been readily available – and widely ignored.  Photographs on old yearbooks from the era of Dunbar’s academic success show no such preponderance of light-skinned blacks.  Here again, there is a fundamental difference between saying that certain types of people were more likely to send their children to Dunbar, or that such children were over-represented, and saying that most of the children who went to Dunbar came from such families.

Whether in economic or other terms, the families from which the students of Dunbar High School came cannot be nearly so atypical as suggested by those who say that they were mostly “Washington’s growing black bourgeoisie.”  For many years, there was only one academic high school for blacks in the District of Columbia and, as late as 1948, one-third of all black youngsters attending high school in Washington attended Dunbar High School.  “If we took only the children of doctors and lawyers,” a former Dunbar principal asked, “how could we have had 1400 black students at one time?”  This was not a “selective” school in the sense in which we normally use that term – it was not necessary to take tests to get in, for example – even though there was undoubtedly self-selection in the sense that students who were serious went to Dunbar and those who were not had other places where they could while away their time, without having to meet high academic standards.

A spot check of attendance records and tardiness records showed that the M Street School at the turn of the century and Dunbar High School at mid-century had less absenteeism and less tardiness than the white high schools in the District of Columbia at those times.  In the nineteenth century, tardiness had at first been a problem, but it was a problem that was apparently not tolerated.  The school had a tradition of being serious, going back to its founders and early principals, who reflected the influence of the New England culture which contrasted so much with that of the culture of most blacks.

~Thomas Sowell, excerpt from Black Education: Achievements, Myths, and Tragedies

Moses Mullins - That's what I like about you Muhammad, you come out swinging with the facts, not emotional rhetoric.

Muhammad Rasheed - So working in DC gives you a special card to enable you to dismiss the facts in favor of old fictions, Kris? Gotcha. Can't say I'm surprised that you'd take that attitude.

Muhammad Rasheed - Were/are there light-skinned black elitist upper class? Sure. Were they the only ones attending Dunbar High during its academic golden age? Although a popular fiction propagated by the William Ryan 'Blaming the Victim' followers, the facts of raw data reveal this was absolutely NOT the case when it came to any Dunbar High policy.

Muhammad Rasheed - It turns out, Mosby, that what you merely think you know based on working in DC and enthusiastically swallowing unproductive old stereotypes isn't quite as substantial as what the raw facts of history itself reveal. That's a wall that will stop that mindset cold every time.

Kristopher Michael Mosby - No, but work here, a lifetime in the area, and having family/friends who lived and actually attended Dunbar does give me a better "Card" to call bullshit on some slighted individual's "facts".

Muhammad Rasheed - Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "No, but work here, a lifetime in the area, and having family/friends who lived..."

You can have every relative in the known universe living there with you, but if every one of you decide to believe in stereotypical nonsense completely divorced from the data that the school itself has collected over the last century, it is still as worthless as shoes on a snake.

Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "...and actually attended Dunbar..."

During the relevant period in question?

Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "...does give me a better "Card" to call bullshit on..."

Ignoring facts in favor of generationally echoed fiction will never give you a card of legitimacy in any way, shape, or form.

Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "...some slighted individual's..."

Strawman? Who's slighted?

Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: " "facts"."

I know, you've demonstrated a complete disdain for facts. I already said I'm not surprised.

Kristopher Michael Mosby - Never stated light skin Blacks were the ONLY ones to attend, just PREDOMINATELY, there's a difference.  There was one dark skin girl in my mother's class, Porscha Smith, she just happened to be the smartest kid in her age group in the entire state. Some kids just couldn't be denied. Not the norm, though.

Muhammad Rasheed - Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "Never stated light skin Blacks were the ONLY ones to attend, just PREDOMINATELY, there's a difference."

Obviously you didn't read the lengthy Sowell quote I posted above on the topic.

Kristopher Michael Mosby wrote: "There was one dark skin girl in my mother's class, Porscha Smith, she just happened to be the smartest kid in her age group in the entire state. Some kids just couldn't be denied. Not the norm, though."

The modern version of whatever Dunbar turned into in the post-integration era is not the point of this topic. I'm only talking about back when it was the best school in its hey-day. The point of the status.

Muhammad Rasheed - You're babbling, Mosby. The data comes directly from Dunbar's own records, THAT is why anything you type is full of crap right now. Facts are only 'fluid' in your universe.

Muhammad Rasheed –

Kristopher Michael Mosby - MRasheed wrote: "The modern version of whatever Dunbar turned into in the post-integration era is not the point of this topic. I'm only talking about back when it was the best school in its hey-day. The point of the status."

Okay, fair enough. Which White schools did it surpass in the area?

Muhammad Rasheed - Here's the report with the relevant info/data:

Report of the Board of Trustees of Public Schools of the District of Columbia to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia: 1898-1899 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), pp. 7-11.

Mike Csotd Peterson - So, if I can find a plantation where slaves were well treated, that means the system was good and should not have been overturned.

Muhammad Rasheed - By no means. Everything up to the Civil Rights Act being passed and jim crow laws being removed was great. But at a point shortly afterwards... for some odd reason... the momentum was sabotaged by a shift going from a) fighting for desegregation as a principle that went along with the understanding that the people needed to also work on specific internal development items in order for us to close the socio-economic gap and reach the successes other disenfranchised American groups had attained, to b) destructively substituting it for an "integration as a magical cure all" that would make all of our problems go away. When that shift happened, the "civil rights vision" suddenly became one of quotas, and pushing groups of people around into other areas, and making sure a certain amount of XYZ group was visually represented in ABC institution, and other similarly symbolic but ultimately useless-in-the-big-picture policies. And that's ALL. Even today, that's all that is being fought for, as if that was the magic potion we needed.

Meanwhile, that isn't what we needed. The high educational standards and no nonsense seriousness to achieve success in life represented by the pre-integration era of Dunbar High was what was needed, and programs designed to spread that attitude throughout the African-American community, and build it into the culture. That's what they needed more than anything. Desegregation was just a little box to check off of the many other smaller objectives towards the ultimate goal.

Mutuo Consensu - just as a footnote Muhammad, I am curious if your research shows after 1954, how soon and how many of those "prominent black educators" teaching at Dunbar High School left to teach elsewhere? (I'm not saying any one thing was the cause for the decline leading up to today's status... just curious about any possible contributing factors)

Muhammad Rasheed - Originally Dunbar wasn't a 'neighborhood school.' Every black family from around Washington D.C. that wanted to, sent their kids to it, and people would even move to D.C. from other areas of the country to do the same. Children from around the whole city that were SERIOUS about their future, did whatever they had to do to make their way through those doors promptly at... I'm gonna say 4:25am lol... every school morning. This insured that the school was full of quality minds who wanted to learn, and appreciated the discipline and structured environment that was conducive to doing so.

After the integration laws were passed everything changed. A line was drawn around Dunbar and around other high schools in American cities turning them into neighborhood schools. Now by law, only the people living in that area could attend that school, and by virtue of the truancy laws, they had to. But here's the thing... there was an old saying: "The folk who live closest to Dunbar didn't go to Dunbar" and it was true. Dunbar was in the poorest neighborhood in the city, and although some folk there were serious and did well at Dunbar, statistically, not enough were serious to keep Dunbar's success rates up where they needed to be. The newly-mandated student body couldn't keep up with the work load from the Era of Excellence, while political pressure caused the administration to pass people even if they hadn't done the work, and a disgusted prominent black faculty did indeed leave to teach elsewhere.

Muhammad Rasheed - The policies created that were supposed to help, destroyed Dunbar High.

Mutuo Consensu - While MORE of students were afforded education, the implementation of 1954's version of "no child left behind" simultaneously created an official under-class of (dis)functionally mis-educated children and a new era of black bourgeoisie paid higher wages, but still less than their white counterparts.

Muhammad Rasheed - You remember the movie Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman? Near the beginning, Joe Clark isolated all of those incorrigible, perpetually disruptive students who didn't want to learn anything and expelled them. Imagine if his bosses in the administration betrayed him and forced those kids to stay and undermined his authority at every turn because of the immense pressure from the political sphere. That's what happened to Dunbar High. They refused to let the prominent black educators of legend do what they knew to do to make sure the serious students succeeded, while handing the school over to the ones who didn't care and didn't want anything.

 Mutuo Consensu - i think that "No Child Left Behind", in the most sincere sense of the term would have to be a broad and sweeping grass roots social reform with "real teeth" first, and then an educational system.

Muhammad Rasheed - "They say, 'One bad apple spoils the bunch.' Well, what about three hundred? Rotten to the CORE! Now, you're right, Mrs. Barrett, this is a war. It's a war to save 2,700 other students, most of whom don't have the basic skills to pass the state exam. Now you want to help us, fine. Sit down with the kids, make them study at night. Go get the fathers off welfare..."

"How DARE you talk to these people about welfare???"

"Give our children some pride! Let them get their priorities straight. When Dr. Napier came to me, offering this job, I saw the lightning flash! I heard the thunder ROLL! I felt breakers, crashing, swamping my soul!"

"We are NOT in church, Mr. Clark!"

"I FELL DOWN ON MY KNEES! And I cried, 'My God! Why has thou forsaken me?!" And the Lord said, 'Joe? You're no damn good!' Now, I mean this. More than you realize. 'You're no earthly good at all, unless you take this opportunity and do WHATEVER you have to...' And He didn't say, 'Joe be polite.' 'Do whatever you have to to transform, and transmogrify this school into a special place. Where the hearts and souls and minds of the young can RISE! Where they can grow tall and blossom out from under the shadows of the past. Where the minds of the young are SET FREE!' And I gave my word to God. And that's why I threw those bastards out! And that's all I'm going to say."

Muhammad Rasheed - Mutuo, I think a program to help the poor-minded as you describe would have had to be a completely separate thing, under a completely separate system, designed specifically to get them up to speed. There was clearly zero value in abandoning the serious students who sincerely wanted to better themselves in favor of taking those same resources that they were using and handing them over to the people who didn't want anything out of life.

Moses Mullins - Quite true Muhammad, we have to make some harsh choices. But the bottom line is that we have to help the students that sincerely want to better themselves while keeping the door open for the rest of the students to decide to make a change.
What we can't do is drown the good students because of the hard ankles that choose to become slaves on the private prisons plantations.

Muhammad Rasheed - Yes. Those among them who finally become tired of eating off of that plate will push it away and start making different choices. In the meantime, they can get the hell out of my school.

Bakkah Rasheed-Shabazz - Thank you, son. I plan on using the picture and history lesson in my workshops this Labor Day weekend in Inkster, MI.

Warren Murphy - great discussion, muhammad.

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