KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and eugenics

The Knowledge is Power Program is a network of intensive . . . schools for inner-city kids started up in 1994 by two idealistic young teachers, David Levin and Michael Feinberg , in Houston . There are now 52 of these schools nationwide…. It is the same patronizing do-gooderism that bound together both scientific and religious progressives, as well as conservatives and liberals, a hundred years ago in embracing EUGENICS as the way to engineer a society dominated by healthy, prosperous, and moral white Christan elites. (John Derbyshire in the New English Review: http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/2009/02/kipp-reprise-from-2006-why-is-everyone.html)

In the words of Howard Berlak (as sent to EDDRA):

I’ve spent many years in schools. This one [KIPP] felt like a humane, low security prison or something resembling a locked-down drug rehab program for adolescents run on reward and punishments by well-meaning people. Maybe a case can be made for such places, but I cannot imagine anyone (including the Times reporter) sending their kids there unless they have no other acceptable options. What is most disturbing is the apparent universal belief by KIPP staff and partisans that standardized tests scores are the singular and most important measure of a truly good education. The Times reporter appears to buy into this.

Allow me to take issue with John Derbyshire for a moment: negative eugenics has been much maligned thanks to liberal reactionary thinking, putting all eugenics – both positive and negative — under the category of “Hitleresque” thinking and moving social engineering all the way to the extreme of ethnic cleansing and racism. Granted, eugenics has been used improperly before, but we should not be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” on this one.

The beneficial practice of negative eugenics can be found in preventing individuals who are two closely related (incest) from breeding, which we do with great regularity in all states. Another would be screening prospective parents for potential blood-type reactions (RH factors). Another would be genetically screening individuals who carry or are symptomatic of genetic/inherited deformities, illnesses or abnormalities that threaten the life, health and physical and mental capacity of any prospective children. Why would someone want to pass on a terminal genetic illness to their offspring if it could be avoided? There is a difference between parenting and procreating. Only a real narcissist would insist on passing on his genetic illness or abnormality to his offspring just because…. People who want to parent can always adopt. The last prospective positive use of negative eugenics could be manifest in using gene therapy to prevent such illnesses (when it becomes available).

The beneficial practice of positive eugenics in humans – so long as it is not mandatory – is using gene-mapping and genetic information to predict the appearance of any children (gender, eye color, hair color, etc.). Hitler used this to create his Aryan superhuman, but the reason it is objectionable is because it was mandatory and used for political purposes and ethnic cleansing.

We have been practicing positive eugenics in animal husbandry for centuries now and to mixed results. Breeding programs using positive eugneics have produced food livestock that is bigger, better, healthier and more resistant to disease. Examples of how the use of positive eugenics in entertainment (racing, purebred shows and competitions) animal husbandry combined with human greed and the desire to win produces a Barbaro, with legs too delicate to withstand the physical stress of a thoroughbred race. Or there is the example of how breeding purebred showdogs and show cats with “smushed in” faces, like bulldogs and Persian cats, resulting in the need for Caesarian section births (heads too large) and chronic upper respiratory and breathing issues because of the “accordian” trachea. But they win in the show ring every time….

However, eugenics — positive or negative — has nothing to do with the KIPP program.

Howard Berlak’s opinion of discipline that uses both positive and negative reinforcement and peer pressure is somewhat skewed. His statement describing the “end game” for KIPP as being “standardized tests scores are the singular and most important measure of a truly good education…” is somewhat inaccurate in its assumption that test scores are the only measurement of academic success, but, in reality, they are the easiest means of comparing the success of the KIPP program with other teaching methods. Second, the idea that discipline and correction are somehow “bad” for kids is ridiculous: “[KIPP is] a locked-down drug rehab program for adolescents run on reward and punishments by well-meaning people.” Carrots and sticks are a staple of behavior modification, practiced from parents to diplomats. The alternative is rewarding bad behavior by ignoring it, at the very least, or by disincentives to practice good behavior, at worst, and this notion is ridiculous. Our society’s obsession that school must always be fun and entertaining and that only positive reinforcement can or should be used is a delusional fantasy that is harming our children. It results in the “dumbing down” of America. Why? Because it creates a mentality of “entitlement” and teaches them to expect success without work, winning without risk or effort, reward inequal to the minimal investment they make, and, perhaps the most damaging lesson, that life and learning must always be fair and easy; that everyone must always win, regardless of their effort. The truth is that life is not easy; it is hard. And only those who are strong enough, determined enough and disciplined enough will win or succeed consistently.

When Bertak’s vision of the KIPP school is juxtaposed with the typical inner city school — where police are permanently stationed in every building, the doors locked to outside vicitors, lockers checked for drugs and weapons regularly, and students are routinely frisked for weapons or drugs — the picture Bertak paints of the KIPP school is almost laughable. What is imprisoning are children is not discipline — rules, boundaries and limitations, or rewarding good behavior and correcting bad behavior; it is the chaos bred by a lack of discipline and the resulting bad behavior that is a real trap — a true social prison.

The idea that teaching children to “think success” and teaching these lessons using postive and negative reinforcement as needed in order to empower the child to behave in a successful manner is not so sinister as some of the ultraliberals would like you to think. To do otherwise is to program poor children to the acceptance of generational poverty and dependence on public assistance, to kill ambition and place limits on a child’s thinking of what is possible and realistic for his life and ambitions. It is reinforcing the soociological lie that responsibility, accountability, ambition, achievement and the desire for excellence are only requirements for the majority/mainstream, not for the minority, and there can be no greater disservice to our children than that.

Hard-core socialists like to promote their ideology as being the opposite of racism and prejudice, but their condemning KIPP as a method of teaching that is racist is beyond ridiculous and is counterproductive to lifting minority and indigent students up. Real racism is encouraging a minority child to believe that he is either incapable of doing better because of his race and circumstances (“the soft bigotry of low expectations”) or is encrouaging this child to adopt a misplaced sense of entitlement that teaches, because he was not born in perfect circumstances, society somehow “owes” him a free ride, or at least an easy ride. This is how we came to see the “dumbing down” of America, because it was assumed that minority children could not compete with white children, therefore, we lowered our academic standards in order not to exclude minority students from competing — and this, if anything, is real racism.

The lower academic standards effectively punished bright students who could “win” without a rigged competition. It also spurned the abandonment of public schools by middle class and upper middle class families who desired to see schools strive for high standards of performance and evaluation. This further damaged the public school by removing many positive peer role models from the population.

For as long as I can remember (and I was born in 1953), the bright and gifted children in the standard classroom was the most neglected of all students, since academic standards were geared to the “norm,” also called “median” or “mediocre.” Slow learners and mentally challenged, after mainstreaming, consumed what little time and energy a teacher had left. The bright and gifted were pretty much “on their own,” which is why I believe that programs like KIPP can be useful if run properly.

Punishing someone for their poverty or their race or ethnic origin is not the goal of KIPP. Correcting their bad behavior and poor mindset via peer pressure is. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t become it.

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

And most of the inner city schools that cater to the rap/hip-hop culture program their students to be angry, antisocial and downright criminal in their mindset. The only way to combat this is with a positive influence that is reinforced with discipline that has “teeth.” Making excuses for poor children with poor ways and bad behavior does not free them from their poverty, it condemns them to it.

This liberal article promotes the idea that it is OK for us to continue programming our poor children to continue a lifestyle choice of generational poverty, crime and failed thinking that traps them in their circumstance of poverty for a lifetime. In fact, it is even worse; it promotes the idea that it is WRONG to teach kids how to think and live successfully through peer pressure. That is a far harsher penalty than using peer pressure to reward and correct kids for their bad/antisocial/unsuccessful mindset, attitude and behavior.

We need to quit making excuses and start making progress. The first step in that process is to evaluate tools based on results, not ideology. And, to this end, a quote in an e-mail I received this morning on another equally controversial subject applies:

Deviate a fraction of a moral millimeter from the prevailing orthodoxy and you are either not listened to or you are jeered at and abused, your reading of history trashed, your humanity itself called into question. I don’t say that self-pityingly. As always with dictatorships of the mind, the worst harmed are not the ones not listened to, but the ones not listening.

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About Laura Schneider

Retired IT consultant (disabled), musician and animal lover. I support the constitutional concept of Right of Privacy and no discrimination against any person based on race, religion, ideology, gender, sexual preference or disability. I am very concerned about the erosion of our constitutional rights and protections under GWB (and even this administration). I strongly oppose torture, rendition or illegal search and/or seizure (without a warrant) and warrantless wiretapping. I believe that education is our best hope of a bright future for our children. Knowledge is power, and that's the kind of authority (Biblically speaking) that our children must have in order to be successful in a 21st century world.
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One Response to KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and eugenics

  1. Mike says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

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