It is difficult to tell exactly what many of the grantees will be doing. Alongside language about building "inter- and intra-ethnic trust" their purpose statements tend to echo the grantor's vague language about healing and the like. Not many appear to have been as explicit in their aims as the applicant that proposed working "to achieve policy change in the grocery industry in low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles."
The foundation sees minorities as constantly victimized by pervasive racism. "Cultural, policy, and institutional forms of racism" are ubiquitous in our society, doing immense damage to innocent youths, its "Fact Sheet" asserts.
Appalling—if true. But what evidence convinced Kellogg that racism is such a clear-and-present danger to the children of America today? Foundation officials point to racial and ethnic disparities: Hispanics and blacks, for example, have much higher poverty rates than whites, and are far less likely to have completed college.
One obvious cause of the sharp disparities is the overwhelming preponderance of black single-parent families, a pattern that would not magically disappear if every scintilla of remaining racism vanished overnight.
The process of connecting black students to the world of academic achievement isn’t easy in the best of educational settings—and such settings are today few and far between. But that only means that in order to “counter and transform” African-American “cultural patterns,” . . . fundamental change in American education will be necessary—change much more radical than that contemplated by the most visionary of today’s public school officials. Recognizing the problem is the first step down that long and difficult road (p. 147).
The Thernstroms and the other white (and black) privileged “no excuses” fans view race as defined by culture, which they claim exerts twice as much influence on academic achievement than family income, accumulated wealth, and skin color. Culture defines race, then, for good or bad, in much the same way that genetic inheritance was believed to defined race by eugenicists at the beginning of the 20th Century. Cultural characteristics, according to the “no excuses” creed, are racial characteristics, and they can be separated out from economic or class characteristics. The Thernstroms preach that two-thirds of the achievement gap between black and white children is attributable, then, to culture, whereas one-third is shaped largely by poverty, parental education, and the environment (p.147).Richard Rothstein’s research, however, clearly demonstrates how social class functions as the primary contributor to achievement differences, with family income, accumulated wealth, skin color, and culture comprising the elements that make up social class. Rothstein concludes in Class and Schools . . . “the debate about whether the low achievement of black students is rooted in culture or economics is largely fruitless because socioeconomic status and culture cannot be separated” (p. 51). According to Rothstein, then, the neat separation of elements that is achieved by the Thernstroms (2003), with the larger chunk of achievement influence reserved for the role of culture, misses the larger point that culture, too, cannot escape the systemic influence of poverty, or lack thereof, in the formation and activity of culture.In the KIPP schools and the charter school knockoffs that continue to be inspired by KIPP, this forced separation between culture and socioeconomic class is required in order to draw attention away from the effects of poverty, which, in turn, exacerbates the kinds of callous cruelty by KIPP personnel acting with little oversight, while under unrelenting pressure to achieve the higher test scores that are the KIPP brand’s signature accomplishment. The “no excuses” ideology, then, not only ignores the documented and substantive effects of poverty on the poor, but it becomes the all-pervasive, blinding excuse for justifying dangerous, damaging, and morally-repugnant acts that, otherwise, would not be entertained in a society grounded by humane values and ethical rules of conduct.
In Dr. Kellogg's remarks to the second Race Betterment Conference in 1915, the emphasis in human procreation had become the efficiency of the animal breeder. Critics of the efforts of eugenicists to arrange marriage unions according to eugenic criteria had argued that such endeavors omitted love from the equation. In a sharp rejoinder, Kellogg reveled in his role as defender of scientific efficiency: "One newspaper said Dr. Kellogg and Dr. Burbank were trying to make the United States into a great stock farm, by breeding for human efficiency. I wish," Kellogg retorted, "we had the power to do that very thing. It would not be such a bad idea," he continued, "it certainly would be a great deal better than to have the United States a great stock farm, breeding mongrels-which is what we are doing now.13 Human uniqueness, once enshrined in the treasured biblical doctrine of the imago Dei, took second place to the greater good of society, as defined by Anglo-Saxon elites such as John Harvey Kellogg. Anyone who did not measure up to his physiological or moral ideal was not fit for the kingdom, or, more precisely, for the forward march of a scientifically efficient and modern civilization.
It [the Kellogg Foundation] could have supported the further expansion of charter school networks that have proven results—KIPP and Uncommon Schools, among them.
If Kellogg wants to do something constructive for disadvantaged children, it should back such innovative efforts to improve their cognitive skills. The foundation cannot see that point, alas, because it has bought into the simplistic notion that all disparities in educational achievement are attributable to continuing racism—and thus is financing antiracist programs devoted to publicizing "past wrongs and group suffering." Nothing good is likely to come from this.