Number speak for Harlem, the Bronx

First Posted: 8/23/2013

Hustlers and hysterics come in all shapes and sizes. Democrats, Republicans and independents, believers, nonbelievers and agnostics, and whoever else needs representation to make sure the gang is all there.

What counts, and what can’t be faked, is what we’re investing in our strongest natural resource, our young population. That will carry us through world competition, market loss or dominance. Or it will not.

Since all of this is easily proven and quite obvious, we might think that we would have bipartisan agreement on the importance of education. Not quite.

The big sin that I see on both sides of the aisle is the mutual refusal to seriously look at what is inarguably being achieved in our most fruitful charter schools and our public schools. The record, which is indifferent to all distinctions other than ability, has no expression of prejudice against anything; it is entirely objective. That is the great virtue of technology and statistics.

Instead, we remain immobile. Some would say stuck in the mud. Neither New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor President Barack Obama has spoken up about these successes. Perhaps, despite their halfhearted battles, they remain intimidated by the teachers unions.

It’s not enough to support choice, but we need to discuss what really works. Neither so-called progressives nor hard-core conservatives have actually addressed what has worked in this town — what has been done and is available to be expanded. It could have national consequences.

When Obama and Bloomberg are so far from proposing what works, they are in a photo finish with anyone who argues against whatever might threaten their Bible Belted base, far from familiar geography.

They may not get it — or not be willing to say it if they do — because they have been cowed by the zeal of teachers unions that fight for power as quickly as they can whenever faced with a challenge to their effectiveness.

Performance records usually never impress unions. Their preference is emotion and sociological jargon. Money is what is needed always and in all situations, to hear them tell it, seeing money as the eternal magic bullet. If the children come from poor or crime-ridden circumstances, you should not fault the teacher for not teaching them well. Teachers might work hard, but they are not God.


Here in New York, both the Success Academies run by Eva Moskowitz and the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, or HEAF, a nonprofit supplemental education and youth-development organization, have shown what teaching can do.

Let us look at the most recent numbers, since numbers cannot be confused with rhetoric or defensive jargon.

Here are those of the Success Academy, where 77 percent of the students are poor: 82 percent of scholars there passed math, putting it in the top 1 percent of all schools in the state. In English language arts, 58 percent passed, in the top 7 percent. In science, 100 percent passed.

And for HEAF: 100 percent of its 2013 class graduated high school, and 100 percent of its 2012 graduating class returned to college for the sophomore year. Thirty-five percent of the students went on to graduate studies in law, medicine and other disciplines. That is three times the national average.

Inspiring students is central to getting them to consistently engage. Inventive inspiration comes from the relationship of the teacher to the student. Those committed to inspiring can move through all barriers, or all that we too often thought were invincible.

There it is — the hard truth. These aren’t numbers from the Upper East Side or some suburban community. These are from Harlem and the Bronx, and are available to be disputed, if one can.

Read those numbers and weep, victims of the unions, if they have misled you for money and power, muddying the waters. When the public learns that this kind of success is actually possible, maybe our political leaders will be next. No holding breath allowed.

Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at