September 04, 2013

Community Organizing, Explained

The phrase "community organizing", often heard during the 2008 presidential election, is meant to evoke fuzzy visions of empowerment delivered by Benevolent Elites whose motives are not open to question. That these elites would never voluntarily live or work in the communities they profess to care so deeply for (much less send their children to school with the offspring of the weak and downtrodden) miraculously escapes the fierce scrutiny of the Fourth Estate.

The glaring conflict between the professed and practiced values of the Benevolent Elite ought to be a warning that they do not actually want what they claim to want. You won't find them living in the integrated communities they claim to support. And they certainly don't view their children as sacrificial lambs to be offered on the altar of the common good:

... Mary Ann, let me break the news to you. My children are not in a public position. The mayor is. ... No, no, no, you have to appreciate this. My children are not an instrument of me being mayor. My children are my children. And that may be news for you, and that may be new for you, Mary Ann, but I want you to understand -- no, no, no, you have to understand this. I'm making this decision as a father."

Our President and Attorney General oppose vouchers and charter schools for poor black families but send their children to tony private schools (the Obama girls attend Sidwell Friends and Holder's daughter attended Georgetown Day School, where the Attorney General serves on the Board of Trustees). But what's good for the elites isn't necessarily good for the rest of America, is it?

Individuals and groups of all sorts have always differed from one another in many ways, throughout centuries of history and in countries around the world. Left to themselves, people tend to sort themselves out into communities of like-minded neighbors.

This has been so obvious that only the intelligentsia could misconstrue it -- and only ideologues could devote themselves to crusading against people's efforts to live and associate with other people who share their values and habits.

Quite aside from the question of whose values and habits may be better is the question of the effects of people living cheek by jowl with other people who put very different values on noise, politeness, education and other things that make for good or bad relations between neighbors. People with children to protect are especially concerned about who lives next door or down the street.

But such mundane matters often get brushed aside by ideological crusaders out to change the world to fit their own vision. When the world fails to conform to their vision, then it seems obvious to the ideologues that it is the world that is wrong, not that their vision is uninformed or unrealistic.

...To those with the crusading mentality, failure only means that they should try, try again -- at other people's expense, including not only the taxpayers but also those who lives have been disrupted, or even made miserable and dangerous, by previous bright ideas of third parties who pay no price for being wrong.

And that's the real point of community organizing, isn't it? The would-be organizers are never the ones who pay the price for advancing policies they would never voluntarily submit to. Fortunately for them, being a member of the Benevolent Elite means never having to follow the rules you set for the less affluent. So go ahead and send your children to expensive private schools that are anything but inclusive.

Don't worry if your policy proposals disparately impact the very folks you claim to be concerned about:

State Education Superintendent John White took issue with the suit’s primary argument and its characterization of the program. Almost all the students using vouchers are black, he said. Given that framework, “it’s a little ridiculous” to argue that students’ departure to voucher schools makes their home school systems less white, he said. He also thought it ironic that rules set up to combat racism were being called on to keep black students in failing schools.

...The left likes to talk a lot about disparate impact. In ruling against the NYPD’s stop and frisk program, Judge Shira Scheindlin even found a new term for it–“indirect racial profiling.” So imagine what Democrats would make of a policy that disproportionately harmed black students trying to get a decent education if the partisan roles were reversed.

And above all, don't worry about the validity of your arguments or how your policies would actually work in the real world:

Another hole in Benedikt's logic is the presence of another option on the spectrum of urban public-school avoidance: magnet schools and charters. Plenty of well-off urban parents who do send their kids to public school choose selective magnets, or at least charters that require some parental involvement to apply. If you send your kids to public schools that are disproportionately wealthy and white compared to the city as a whole, are you an evil person? By following Benedikt's thinking on private schools, the answer should be yes. But since, like “suburbs,” the words “magnet” and “charter” appear nowhere in her piece, she is implying sending your kid to an elite public magnet school is a morally pure choice while sending her to private school is evil.

The same goes for gifted programs and tracking. Are parents who send their kids to the local public school's gifted program evil as well? If not, how is their decision to make sure their child is challenged academically any different than that of a private-school parent?

You're a member of the Benevolent Elite, and you're just trying to help the Less Fortunate! Rules - even your rules - are for the little people.

You know: "Them".

Posted by Cassandra at 06:59 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack