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The devastating societal consequences of family dissolution cannot be overstated. Father-absent households—black and white alike—are 700% more likely to experience poverty than two-parent families. A Heritage Foundation analysis notes that youngsters raised by single parents, as compared to those who grow up in intact married homes, are far more likely to be physically abused; to smoke, drink, and abuse drugs; to behave aggressively and violently; to engage in criminal activity; to perform poorly in school or drop out; to be treated for emotional and behavioral disorders; to serve jail time before age 30; and to experience poverty as adults. With regard to girls in particular, those raised by single mothers are more than twice as likely to give birth out-of-wedlock, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Yet another area where big government has sown seeds of enormous destruction is in the public education system, which for decades has yielded a meager return on a very large, ever-escalating financial investment. Over the past half-century, the annual per-pupil costs of educating children in public elementary and secondary schools have risen (in constant present-day dollars) from $2,808 in 1962, to nearly $11,000 today. Yet the performance of America’s public-school students has not improved in the least. Between 1973 and 2008, the math and reading scores of 17-year-old high-schoolers taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress were unchanged. SAT reading scores for the high-school class of 2011 were the lowest on record. According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an evaluation of high-school students in 34 countries which belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. today ranks 25th in math literacy, 17th in scientific literacy, and 14th in reading proficiency. African-Americans have been particularly shortchanged by the public-education system’s inadequacies. If black students in the U.S. were counted as a self-contained “national” group, their average PISA reading scores would rank them 31st among the 34 OECD nations. Black high-school graduates nationwide perform, on average, at a level that is four academic years below that of their white counterparts.
Moreover, large numbers of African American public-school students fail to obtain a high-school diploma—very significant, in light of the fact that dropouts go on to earn substantially less money during their working lives than students who graduate. Dropout rates are especially high in urban areas with large black populations, including such academic basket cases as Washington, DC (57%), Trenton (59%), Camden (61.4%), Baltimore (65.4%), Cleveland (65.9%), and Detroit (75.1%).
The failure of public schools to properly educate American students—blacks in particular—can be attributed largely to the priorities of the teachers unions. Far more devoted to promoting left-wing political agendas than to improving the quality of public education, these unions rank among the most powerful political forces in the United States. The National Education Association (NEA), for instance, employs more political organizers than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined. Of the $59 million in combined political donations which the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers have made during the past 20 years, more than $56 million has gone to Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, the teachers unions have endeavored to prevent even the most ineffective instructors from losing their jobs, lest their mandatory union dues—which in turn are funneled into political activism—be lost. For instance, during a recent ten-year period in Newark, New Jersey—where the high-school graduation rate was just 30.6%—only one out of every 3,000 public-school teachers in the city was terminated in any given year.
In summation, big government has shown itself, time and again, to be the problem for black Americans rather than the solution. Yet the Left’s deep and abiding faith in big government remains unshaken. The NAACP is part and parcel of that Left. As such, the organization is utterly intolerant of opposing points of view—i.e., political heresies. Its hostility to opponents of big government is particularly evident in its profound contempt for black conservatives, who, as the self-identified black conservative Shelby Steele explains, “dissen[t] from the victimization explanation of black fate … when it is made the main theme of group identity and the raison d’être of a group politics.” Indeed, the NAACP’s longtime chairman Julian Bond once referred to Ward Connerly, a black California Board of Regents member who led the fight to end affirmative action in California’s public sector, as a “fraud” and a “con man.” Moreover, Bond has described black conservatives in general as “ventriloquists’ dummies” who “speak in their puppet-master’s voice.” Former NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks sang a similar tune years ago, when he denounced black conservatives as “a new breed of Uncle Tom” and “some of the biggest liars the world ever saw.”
As a white man addressing the NAACP on Wednesday, Mitt Romney—though he was booed several times during the course of his speech, and though chairman Ben Jealous derided Romney’s agenda as “antithetical” to NAACP values—still received a more amicable reception than a black conservative would have gotten. At the end of his talk, in fact, Romney was cheered after having praised his listeners for “all that you bring to the work of today’s civil rights cause,” and for lauding the “spirit [that] has carried the NAACP to many victories.” For the Left, run-of-the-mill heretics who challenge a congregation’s pious devotion to big government are ultimately less objectionable than race-traitors.
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