I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Repeating Something Often and Loudly Does Not Make It True

During WWII, propaganda was a weapon used to devastating effect. 

Joseph Goebbels wrote that “When one lies, one should lie big and stick with it.”  The Nazis attempted to use propaganda to rationalize their genocide against Russian Civilians and German Jews.   Ultimately, and thankfully, what they tried to do failed and the Nazis were defeated by America, Great Britain, and Russia. 

Unfortunately, this defeat did not come early enough to save 13 Million Russians and 6 Million Jews from death at the hand of the Nazis.

Today, many different groups in the United States utilize this same tactic—telling big lies often and loudly to drive public perception and ultimately to sway public opinion.  In politics, in the media, among various ideological factions, and even among different religions—people stretch, distort or manipulate the truth and/or tell outright lies.
Telling a lie often and telling it loudly does not make a lie the truth, though. 

Because everyone is entitled to his own opinions--- but not his own facts!

One Lie that I hear a lot is especially egregious.  It is a whopper.  It goes a little something like this:
“Professional educators, counselors, principals, school board members, and other personnel involved in public schools nationwide are targeting, purposely, black students for harsher discipline than non-black students due strictly to the race of these students!”

This statement is typically accompanied by some sort of a statistical presentation describing the make-up of black students that receive out of school punishment compared to the percentage of white students that are suspended, contrasted with a school community’s overall racial makeup.  A pattern nationwide has been observed and documented whereby a disproportionate number of black students, as compared to these same students’ percentage of a school’s total population, end up receiving greater numbers of out of school suspensions when compared to other-race and white students.

But the lie comes with how this information is (mis)characterized. 

People make faulty conclusions about what this phenomenon means.  Special interest groups and social justice organizations point to this and say “See, the schools are targeting black students, and

 that is why black students are being removed from schools in greater proportions than non-black students!”

But that logic and more importantly--that conclusion-- is simplistic, biased, in incorrect.  In fact, what I have seen in our district and what I have found when a thorough analysis of the discipline statistics is undertaken, is that black students actually receive many more chances (referrals) before they are suspended than do any other race category in our district.  So saying it is professionals out to get minorities is ridiculous.

William of Ockham had it right, and his logic fits this situation like a glove.  Ockham devised the lex Parsimoniae (Law of Parsimony) or what is more commonly known as Occam’s razor:  “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be used.”  (or, in today’s vernacular –the simplest explanation to a problem is usually correct)

With respect to what appears to be an over-representation of black students appearing in out-of-school suspensions, the answer to this according to Occam is the simplest, most basic one:

More black students are being removed from schools, in patterns witnessed nationwide, because more black students than their peers are engaging in behavior that leads to this consequence.

To believe otherwise, to believe the propaganda that spews out of some corners of America and from some ideologues in America today, that this over-representation of blacks in public school suspension statistics is due to systematic targeting of blacks by professional educators all across America, is ridiculous.  This is preposterous, outrageous, and it is an insult to the millions of American Public school teachers, administrators, and policy makers (of all races) that are working themselves to death to help students and to teach students.

It irritates me that this big lie is not challenged more aggressively, forcefully, and frequently than it is. 

Apathy by those who know the truth about this phenomenon yet remain silent about this big lie is allowing hard-working, dedicated professionals to bear a stigma that they do not deserve; this is the travesty of this issue.  This is the problem with being politely passive and not countering the big lie with a louder, logical truth.

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