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OPINION | DANA KELLEY: Wrong education thinking

by Dana Kelley | December 11, 2020 at 3:05 a.m.

It's a shame that it took the celebrity of Megyn Kelly to shine a revelatory light on Nahliah Webber's obscenely racist blog. Most readers have probably never heard of Webber, who is an education "advocate" running Orleans Public Education Network down in NOLA. But once you read some of her words you'll have trouble forgetting her--and what she said.

Kelly made the news by pulling her children out of a New York City private school over Webber's blog post, after it was circulated in a diversity group. Webber published it in response to the George Floyd killing by police on the Education Post website, under the site's "Better Conversation" blog.

But Webber's words were more accurately a "Worse Monologue." Her main lament centered around the lack of a national movement toward "changing the places that socialize Americans for white violence and Black death."

Those places are schools, she asserted.

"I am tired of folks acting like there's no direct connection between the schools where white children sit and the street corners where they choke out Black life," she wrote.

Indeed, Webber charges--this is one of several phrases that pushed Kelly over the edge--"there's a killer cop sitting in every school where white children learn." That would mean more than 131,000 public and private K-12 schools are currently incubating racist killer cops.

The cop who killed Floyd, she said, "spent a lifetime preparing for that moment with his parents and family, teachers, coaches, neighborhoods and churches."

It's important to remember that this is a professional education "expert" speaking. Webber isn't just an ordinary mother, overwrought emotionally. She has two college degrees and holds a professional position of responsibility and influence in the New Orleans community.

But facts found no place in her escalating racist rhetoric.

"As Black bodies drop like flies around us from physical, medical, economic, and material deprivation and violence at white hands, how can we in any of our minds conclude that whites are alright?" she wrote, ignoring the fact that white fatal violence toward Black victims is essentially a statistical anomaly. Overwhelmingly, violent deaths among Blacks come at Black hands.

In continuing oblivion to factual evidence, she lambasted educational accountability standards and disparaged data used to demonstrate the need for improvement among minority populations, grouping the lot into a mash of "myths about Black deficiency."

"Whenever we talk about what's wrong" with educational and social systems, she said, "all we ever hear is that Black children, Black families, Black communities, Black-NESS are 'behind' and stuck in gaps."

She's tired, Webber wrote, of "white people taking their violent culture, standards and metrics into Black spaces and telling Black children they don't measure up."

Black children "are denied an education and disrespected because of their culture," she said. As if there's anything cultural about subject-verb agreement or multiplication tables.

There's not enough government reporting, she charges, on "how white mothers are raising culturally deprived children who think Black death is okay."

Wagging a literary "let me tell you something" finger (she actually used the phrase), Webber pointed to what she sees as the real problem: "white children being raised from infancy to violate Black bodies with no remorse or accountability."

It's hard to know how to respond rationally to someone who thinks all white children are breast-fed from birth the idea that they have free rights of violence toward Blacks. Or how to accept that any school administration would promote and validate such a contention.

"School reformers need to lobby, plot and plan on how to disrupt school systems that produce, protect and reward white violence," she wrote. That's what large city schools need: more disruption.

"If you really want to make a difference in Black lives," she asks, and then answers, in italics: "go reform white kids."

To truly appreciate the blog, you'd need to read all 1,360 words. But you get the gist.

On the wrong- and wronger-thinking scale involving education reform (Education Post's mission is to drive discussions about student-focused improvements), Webber skews wrongest by the longest shot.

Indeed, absent the celebrity of a Megyn Kelly complaint, it's fair to worry how much of this kind of corrosive, counter-productive poison is constantly but quietly being poured into schools and education think tanks without fanfare or notice.

In Webber's entire rant, there's not one word about the critical importance of learning to read, write or do math--a glaring omission when 70 percent of New Orleans second-graders can't read at grade level.

That's a magnitudinal challenge that portends misfortune galore ahead for them. Against such a tide of foundational incapability, advanced reform theory is useless.

In such instances (and they exist in many metro systems), modern education doesn't need reform. It needs back-to-basics rebirth.

Webber would do better to disrupt the social-ethnic apologists and tell it like it really is: Regardless of race, mastering education fundamentals is the key to dignity and success.

Reading is the root of learning. If Webber's organization would devote itself to a singular achievement goal--helping schools produce excellent readers--that one thing would change kids' lives immeasurably, Black and white.


Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.


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