This great article reminded me of another good guy--Pat Moynihan, who may have enjoyed his drinks, but he seems to have been one of the few DC folks who had BOTH a brain and a heart. His work (and some others) showed that

(1) Black American families were making far better progress toward financial equity with white families BEFORE the "War on Poverty" than since.

(2) Pat saw that, as Marx and others mentioned, full/traditional families are much harder to keep under the control of government.

(3) Some of the "War on Poverty" regulations (perhaps intentionally) would DISCOURAGE MARRIAGE.

The same political party of WoP and KKK many years ago also wasn't crazy about Black American families. Needing to BUY and SELL whole families would be SO inconvenient.

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This is someone who has an imaginary friend who lives in the sky. Why should we take him seriously?

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Do you really think it’s changed or are we just repeating the Frankfurt school and the New Left of the 1930s and 60s. Basically far left socialism or Marxism is back in vogue

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Thank you Charles Glenn for the insight you bring with this writing. I am still sorting out an experience I had when as the president of the board of a very small private school in Seattle, my head of school and I were blind sided by the toxicity of the social justice culture that permeated, and still does, this school. It ended, in one fell swoop of a week last March, with the board giving the parents what they purported to want, control of the school.

Except for one new parent on the board, all board members quit by the end of the term, the first being a 26 year old alum of the school who quit the same day we handed over the reigns, so to speak, to the parents. Those of us that quit were in agreement from the start to quit, but we staged our departures intentionally over the spring semester, in an ill fitting attempt to try and send a message to the staff that inevitably fell onto deaf ears, that the board did not agree. What victor isn’t flushed with adrenaline in such a moment, to render ears numb.

If I had been savvy to the treacheries of corporate behavior and had been up to speed on ‘social justice’ matters at a bone deep level, I don’t believe this power grab would have happened. An adept and savvier than me staff member brought about this unwinding by staging a meeting between staff and parents while the board was meeting elsewhere during the same time period, so that a board member was not present to speak the board’s perspective in their meeting. A fatal flaw moment.

Not wanting to hurt the career of our excellent head of school, I can see in hindsight that I only knew how to play this game to her career interests, as she was leaving for a new dream job in CA. I have experience of a long term, private school primarily, head of school whose career was ruined completely by a wealthy parent, and very similar gears were turning in this school. When a top level Amazon Executive whose children no longer attended this school, and in fact left the school earlier than graduation by several years, still showed up to this staff/parent meeting in support of the staff and teachers, the tempo for me changed 100%. It was not fun to wake up in the middle of the night thinking ‘law suit’, which I did when living through the end stages of this power grab week.

I am thrilled to no longer be in this toxic school environment, I feel like I have my life back again after a very long six years trying to bring about a much needed culture shift. Evidence was long in from disenchanted parents, in a school with constantly revolving doors because of disenchanted parents, that most students were not being served well at this school, and we avoided two lawsuits during my two terms because of these failings and inequities, not for sexual inappropriateness. I am grateful for the combined total of my experiences there because it has led to my own growth, which includes finding John McWhorter’s writings, which then led me to find the Glenn Show forum.

Since finding the Glenn Show I have wondered if I am a closet Republican. Many of the views expressed seem like common sense to me, but other folks call them conservative views. Now, I am wondering if I am a Calvinist, I usually identify as atheist, because my experience at this small school has led to my understanding that people want to experience themselves as powerful, ‘sinful’, and maybe that’s what I am doing here by taking your time writing this, but often they bring about detrimental actions because of their ignorance to the full story. When parents are paying out of pocket for that privilege in the private sector, the school game is not the same and we are in service to the parents first, because they pay the bills and need to justify to themselves why. Ideals can mask a lot of denial that perhaps, the parent made a bad decision in finding and falling for this particular school to begin with.

I am now reading Thomas Sowell’s book about charter schools, hoping to find an avenue where I may support broader education, but I won’t ever be able to go back to the private sector, unless there is a huge endowment in place. The 26 year old alum who left the board first has become a very good friend and he has plans to open a school along the principles of this small school, minus the social justice warp it took on in later years, with tech money he’s currently earning, but to do it right, as we were trying to do with our board decisions to upgrade the student outcomes of this small school. Both Amy (head of school) and I are in, when she leaves her current H.O.S. position in CA several years down the road, but he better have that endowment in place first, or take it to the charter level, so the student’s overall interests will be met in a balanced manner, and not tied to parental pocket books as strongly.

Thanks for the read and Happy and Healthy 2022!

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You are not alone in that frustration. I served more than a decade on the Board of the Council for American Private Education, largely because of my book The Ambiguous Embrace, about how easily independent schools - even many with an ostensibly faith-based identity -- can be seduced by the culture into abandoning their core mission. Stay strong and help parents to see what is going on. Charlie

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Recent events bring this all back to me. I remember going to a meeting that Charlie might have been at. Hell, he might have chaired it. It was held at either the Boston Latin or Boston English, two high schools that were across from each other on Avenue Louis Pasteur, next to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

I think it was an informational session held by the "Masters" that Judge Garrity has appointed to implement the desegregation decision. I think it was held in 1974 or 1975 and a group of us went to the meeting to find out what was going on. The meeting was pretty uneventful, until about 60 or so people from ROAR, the major anti-bussing organization, based in South Boston, Charlestown, and East Boston, showed up.

I remember several events from that meeting.

First, the people from ROAR were angry, and scared (not to mention, scary). At one point, in response to a question about ensuring safety under bussing, they all responded by pulling out Afro-combs with metal teeth and scraping them across the backs of the metal auditorium seats, which was really creepy and gave the lie (or so they believed, and I certainly accepted) to the notion that authorities could ensure safety in schools that had been forcibly integrated.

I also remember that during the meeting -- which involved open mikes for community input -- that a woman who was clearly identified with pro-busing activism came to speak, and the response to not only what she said, but her very presence.

I didn't know her, but I knew who she was. She was a public figure. She was very nice, spoke very well and thoughtfully. She was in her forties, very attractive, and simply yet elegantly dressed. And her last name started with "Van". Now, Boston is not New York and doesn't have a presence of Dutch names among its inherited wealth, but, after all, we live in America, and we all know that a name that begins that way is associated with snootiness, privilege.

The roar that went up from the women from South Boston and the other anti-bussing strongholds they had come from -- and who made of the majority of that group -- was astonishing. They were of comparable age, if not younger, and didn't look like her at all.

They looked hard, beaten down, heavy, and eroded by life. And the woman who was speaking exuded something that was quite different: glamor, poise, composure, confidence, moral certitude and an articulate voice.

There was something primordial in how the audience responded to her that went well beyond manners. It brought us close to -- if not into -- something terribly ugly. And, then, somehow, it got worse.

After the meeting, a number of us from Mission Hill went over to talk with the people from Southie, trying to build bridges, or so we hoped. Most of us were working class -- most of us shared their resentment and anger about the world we live in -- but I now see that we were very different in ways that modern sociology has a hard time making sense of.

Those of us who had come from the kinds of worlds the people in Southie lived in knew their kinds of worlds very well but had deliberately left those places and moved elsewhere. And, of course, the people they had left behind -- or the people in the neighborhoods they had arrived in, but who had also had been left behind -- were not unaware of the choice they had made, and they themselves felt unable to make.

They knew what those who had been able to leave had done, and were able to give them a name (not unlike how sociologists were wont to do): Unattached White Youth (UAY).

UAY were people who, unlike the kids who stayed in the neighborhood, could live in their own apartments, smoke dope, drink, have sex and be "free", without their parents knowing what they were doing, or being told by nosy, and perhaps malicious, neighbors.

These living arrangementsm made all the difference in the world. We knew it -- we had lived it -- but so did the people from Southie, and being aware of this sociological difference was for all intents and purposes politically irrelevant in that moment. We were living its consequences.

While trying to communicate with them -- hey, we live in those neighborhoods, and it is tough, but, if you try, it is easier than you think to live with your black neighbors, etc. -- We argued from our hearts and also from our experience. We believed it, and it was true: we believe it to this day. The people from Southie, however, had a hard time responding to us.

But, I do remember them telling us: You don't have anything to fear from us, we won't hurt you. Why were they telling us that?

Now, remember, by now we were tightly clustered together, all mingled together. I said: "Why should you? Why should we be worried?" Most of the people nodded, but then one guy, about three bodies away, said: "We should give them a beating!" No one contradicted him.

Nobody echoed that, but then, nobody challenged it either. It was a possibiltity that we hadn't considerd that was just there, that now couldn't be avoided. it became clear to me that in any other circumstance, we could have got a beating or worse.

In recent years, I've seen similar dynamics in MAGA and what Trump has encouraged.

Because of living in Boston where and how I did, I know what deep roots the kind of ugly prejudice that Trump expressed and encouraged has. I also know, how it can be defeated, but I'm not sure this country has got the guts and intelligence to do it. You've got to walk and chew gum at the same time. It seems to me that you've got to fight for a genuinely progressive economic program in a way that builds on the strengths of working class communities that I was exposed to in Mission hill. I know the left hasn't got the chops to lead; God knows who does? It's scary!

Richard Broadman and I did two films during this time that you all -- and the wider audience might find valuable. " Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston", and "Down the Projects: The Crisis of Public Housing" that Documentary Education Research distributes, all are informed by the zeitgeist of that moment.

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Thanks for the further comments, John. My family has stayed in the Washington St part of JP for fifty years now, after I moved from Roxbury Crossing. Now it's being gentrified and the triple-decker I bought for $18k and lived in, and that two of my daughters live in now with their families must be the only non-condo on their block. So realities change, and understandings change, but deeply rooted convictions do not, I find.

My concern in writing the little essay was to make the point, which Loury and McWhorter make much better, that criticism of the current understanding of social justice does not mean abandoning the earlier convictions. Bonhoeffer says something about that in his Ethik.

A little note on the Hennigan and Lee namings after two School Committee member's fathers. It was surely no accident (as they say) that the sons' names were the same: Joseph Lee and James Hennigan. Cute! So more vanity than reverence for the past.

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vanity and reverential piety were quite entwined. I interviewed Joe Lee at his home on Beacon Hill in the 80's about the playground movement his father founded and his own commitment to the Boston Sailing club that he funded. He wore twine as suspenders and pointed out proudly his great great somebody or other's desk, and talked about the family moving from the sea inland (I think he was referencing business interests) "after the war". Which war was that ? I asked. He (incredulously): Why, the revolutionary war, of course!"

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Let me respond to all three of your very generous comments on what I had to say.

Without doing some kind of serious research I'm always uneasy projecting the past into the future. I don't know if the Boston School Department has gotten worse, stayed the same or gotten better. My kids were in the BPS from about 1971 or so until the early eighties when they graduated from high school. I remember only good and caring teachers at the Hennigan and beyond.

My kids had a particular trajectory. They went into the advanced classes from third grade on. This meant the Hennigan School for both, then a year at the Tobin School (shout out for a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Pecavich (sp?), and a year at the Warren School in the South End for the oldest; and for the youngest, after the Hennigan School, it was two years at the King School. I Don't remember any teachers there, except the principal, Kim Marshall.

Both of my children went on to Boston Latin. I assumed at the time that they liked it, but they have later confessed that they didn't enjoy it all that much. Nevertheless, they were well trained and have gone on to be admirable adults and parents, and very responsible citizens who are intellectually alive.

My oldest son lives in Roslindale, a Boston neighborhood, married a woman from Argentina, spoke only Spanish in the home when their children were growing up, and sent all three to the Rafael Hernandez School, a bilingual public school in Jamaica Plain/ Roxbury. Their oldest child, who is now in college, went to Boston Latin, and the other two are currently in Boston Latin Academy, which, apart from complaining about the work load, they seem to like. My sense is that this kind of trajectory is available for talented academically oriented students, and is not an uncommon experience. Not so sure what it is like if you're not in that track. Which, of course, raises the question: should the college track be driving our model of secondary education?

Here is where the Roxbury Community College (RCC) experience comes in. My estimate of the institution goes from 1984-1995. Not sure what has happened since. But when I was there, it was pretty dysfunctional. In any event, the point of my story was that they had to accept anyone with a Boston Public School diploma, and that what they got were people who were dramatically and utterly academically unprepared. In other words, the results of the placement exams at RCC should be seen as an indicator of the failings of the BPS for some of their students. I have no idea what has happened at RCC since I left the board. I hope it has improved, but I wouldn't bet on it.

I was there for the naming of the Hennigan School, and, unlike Charlie, have no problem with that expression of ancestor worship. After all, we should venerate our leaders. Harvard and Yale did it -- that's why they have those weird names -- so did Brown, and on and on it goes. So why shouldn't the Boston Irish have the same privilege?

In any event, we in the community wanted to name the new school "the Heath Street Community School", while the powers that be, as Charlie points out quite correctly, wanted to call it the Hennigan School. Back and forth it went, until we relented and compromised on "The Hennigan Community School".

Why did this happen? Well, in the course of the debate we uncovered an inconvenient truth. We wanted the school named after the street on which the school was being built -- Heath Street -- which ran next to the Bromley Heath housing development where most of the students were expected to come from. We were quite adamant about this. Then.... we discovered that Heath Street was named after a revolutionary era (I believe) military figure who owned land, and was a slaveowner. Yikes!

I remember that someone suggested (was it me? And how idle a discussion was it?) that we might name it the Malcolm X community school. But, most of the black activists around this issue said no. So long as "community is in the name" we don't care what else it is called. And so, my kids ended up attending The Hennigan Community School.

It was a terrifying time to be in certain parts of Boston -- there was a lot of apocalyptic rhetoric abroad -- and I would never underestimate how scary it was to live in parts of the city at that moment -- something that has completely been forgotten --if not repressed -- by Social Justice Warriors now. But, it was the neighborhood that was scary, not the schools! True, the schools got scary during the first year of bussing, as Milt Cole had predicted, but that was soon brought under control by resolute administrators, dedicated teachers, and perhaps the white flight that Mark describes.

In truth, I fled the neighborhood in late 1974, although I only moved to the top of Mission Hill -- less than a quarter of a mile away -- but what a difference that was! After I moved from Schiller Street to Mission Hill, I remember driving back to Schiller Street one day and seeing one of my neighbors on the street -- an African-American guy -- and asking him how things were going. His answer was that everything had gone to hell once we had moved out. (I forgot to mention earlier that we lived in a commune full of a lot of young people who were quick to run out with baseball bats if there was trouble, and who were respected by leaders in the housing project).

I have always felt torn by that decision to leave Schiller Street. Feeling guilty that we left, yet feeling irresponsible that I exposed my children to that danger for so long (Kids in the neighborhood once tried to burn down my home as a prank. This is an area that had witnessed 8 homes burnt to the ground for one reason or another -- including no reason at all.)

I defer to Charlie on his account of State level decision making. Once the ball starts rolling on a policy initiative, shit happens. My memories are partial. I was not a policy person and was not into the process and its meaning. Also, my experience has been blurred by the years.

Nevertheless, these were vivid times, and it was a process that, however divided the races might have been, in the immediate end, it made the situation worse.

Oddly enough, people on the ground, who experienced the troubles more directly, often had to adapt in ways that created new lines of communication, new investments in racial harmony... because they had to, just to create social peace and keep their kids safe. In places like Mission Hill, it was the Little League and the Mission Hill Fair. People didn't talk about things like they do at Unitarian churches and Quaker meetings, but more than anybody might think, they saw other people as "children of god" and tried to make things better in very concrete ways, like throwing baseballs at the fair to hit a target that would dump a local celebrity into a water tank to everybody's amusement, whether black or white.

People also did other things, some of which were quite heroic, Most of this was anonymous, and often forgotten shortly after it happened.

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Jan 21, 2022·edited Jan 21, 2022

Henry Kissinger taught my father in college. I asked him if HK ever said anything compelling, that was 'mind opening' and he said yes, several things. The one that fits this article is that organizations/causes/groups eventually get hi-jacked by the radicals in the group/org.

This is what is happening today.

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Yes, liberty and justice are the two pillars of the US Constitution and cannot be traded off one for the other.

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Socialists of both the right and left have always wanted to expand the influence of the government in the education of children. It's the most likely opportunity for ideological indoctrination to succeed.

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Great piece! It's sad because wokeists (for lack of a better world) are going to actively make things worse, for people of all races. There is nothing aspirational about their beliefs, they simply blame one group (usually whites, Christians, minorities who aren't on board with their worldview), divide people up, and demand we all submit to the almighty State. Such ideas will not lead to flourishing for minorities, or anyone else.

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There is no such thing as "social justice." It's just a pretty sounding phrase for people who don't like the current laws, an excuse to pursue extra-judicial punishment to those you don't like.

When you put another word in front of justice, it generally means injustice.

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That's a great rule of thumb, and I'm not convinced it isn't true 100 percent of the time!

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Jan 20, 2022·edited Jan 20, 2022

I can't help but feel that I am missing section two of that article. It sounded much more like an introduction to his current path to advocacy than it was. While I appreciate the perspective and the way in which it was presented, I was surprised when it ended. Surely advocacy is more than just being disgruntled by the current trends. It sounded almost resolute and final; like a goodbye to the cause. Perhaps his work is done, perhaps he feels overwhelmed by the daunting future of social justice in its purest form. I do not wish to take away from his brilliant and passionate legacy of activism and his clear-headed assessment of what has and hasn't worked. He has, of course, done more than most and certainly more than I have. I just was left feeling like one of the pillars of social justice was penning his goodbye. It kind of breaks my heart. Thank you for all that you have done, I hope this is not the last time we will hear from you. I feel guilty for wanting more and hope that this comes across with the profound respect I have for all that you have done (and continue to do) for real social justice.

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Thanks for your kind words. Of course, at 83 I’m no longer active in implementing educational policies, though I do have an amicus brief in the Carson v Makin case currently before the Supreme Court. From 1975 to 1991 I administered tens of millions in state funds for improving schools in MA cities, and then from 1991 to 2016, while a BU professor, I also served as a consultant on educational equity in a number of cities and states and extensively in Europe. And wrote a dozen books focused on either the education of immigrants and racial minorities or on educational freedom. But did I find magic solutions? Of course not. Men and women of good will must just keep on keeping on, as we used to say in the Freedom Movement.

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Wow, it's rare you read an article in which the author is so utterly aware of the greatness and purity of his own spirit.

It must be a real joy to wake up next to yourself and say, "Wow, my naivete and gullibility helped usher in the fall of America, and now the deluded fools I helped to gain power are going to unleash violence and destruction on us all. Thank Goodness, I bartered away ethics and foresight for Marxism."

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That's not what he said at all. He said they were right about the benefits of integration, but wrong to squeeze the parents out of the decision making. Would you prefer he not learn and grow?

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Southern schoolkids learned about political narratives and racism at the same time. Conventional wisdom: The South was rotten with racism, unlike the enlightened Northeast Corridor.

I'll never forget coming home from my high school, which had been peacefully, boringly integrated for five or six years, and watching news reports of parents in Boston throwing rocks at school buses filled with Black children.

Charles Glenn saw Boston firsthand, and I think he hits a homerun with this piece. Two examples:

"nothing magic about integration"

"focus on measurable outcomes in a limited range of instructional areas"

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The was rotten with racism and still is, I’m not entirely sure where it was ever said that racism was non existent in north.

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Are you saying the South is rotten with racism, whereas the North is less so? From the Gothamist last June:

"UCLA's Civil Rights Project made headlines back in 2014 when it said New York had the most segregated schools in the nation. Now, researchers there have released a new report that finds the distinction remains. New York City's schools, in particular, are extremely segregated, and many Black students attend schools that are less diverse now than they were when the first report came out."

That doesn't exactly fit the narrative...

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Sorry for the delayed response.

"Are you saying the South is rotten with racism, whereas the North is less so"

- I don't know if the North/South divide really holds as much as it used to but yes, I would say racism is a bigger problem in the south than the north. (note i didn't say the north doesn't have racism)

"That doesn't exactly fit the narrative..."

I don't know what narrative that is personally. NY schools are segregated because largely, the neighborhoods are ethnically/racially segregated. Class is a major part of this (race too) and some of these neighborhoods are notoriously NIMBY and notoriously red. We unfortunately determine funding based on property taxes and so with "bipoc" communities (both hispanic and non hispanic) being disproportionately poor, they are unlikely to be able to afford to live areas with better schools. NY's cost of housing is absurd.

I doubt your average Sanders/Warren voter supports the status quo. As is the case in the south probably, conservative/reactionary minded people support the status quo or the increased gutting of public funds for education and liberal/progressive minded people most likely want equal and proportionate funding for education.

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When that report first came out, the same points were presented. "We aren't racist, it's just that our neighborhoods are segregated." In other words, just like everywhere else. "It's a matter not of race, but of economics." Just like everywhere else.

If, say, Biloxi, MS, schools were as segregated as NYC (and therefore racist, we are told, when such a report condemns a Southern city), the media would not be falling over backward to make excuses. Subtle analysis and explanations would be nowhere to be found.

My contention/insinuation -- and it can certainly be challenged -- is that the narrative back then (by the late 70's, I'll say) was exaggerated, and that now, the narrative could probably be flipped.

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I'm not entirely sure what the narrative was back 40+ years ago, although I'm sure there was a lot of anti southern sentiment. I know Hollywood loves to portray southern as mouth breathing rednecks, ignorant, racist and violent (Think Deliverance, Burning MIssissippi, A Time to Kill etc.).

But Imo I really don't think the south just turned over a new leaf a decade after essentially being forced to abandon Jim Crowe and I can't see by almost any metric, the severity of racial attitudes between Northerners and Southerners being flipped.

I can go on about the southern strategy, voter caging etc. but maybe another time.

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social justice is NOT justice.

Sorry. I know that hurts a lot of people's feelings and misconceptions about Social Justice....

But pause for a moment and use your own critical thinking abilities....

Social Justice is a methodology of DENYING individual rights and freedoms, for the Arbitrary "righting of wrongs" committed by an arbitrarily defined group of humans against another arbitrarily defined group of humans.

Social Justice, by its very intentions, deliberately DIVIDES a nation against itself.

Its neither Social....nor Justice.

and its patently UNamerican.


Its now 60 years past the 1960s....when concern over the mis-treatment of "black" people was valid and at such a critical level that Mass Movements made sense.

And the biblical 40 years wandering in the Civil Rights Wilderness is over.

We have indeed crossed over that Mountain that Martin Luther King, Jr refered to .....there's no turning back.

I think most militia groups in the USA today would actually applaud MalcomX for his advocacy of "taking up arms to defend yourself". THAT is how much the USA has evolved since the Civil Rights Era.

The United States is UNIQUE.......essentially we, like the Indins(wry mispronunciation of "Indians" to make it sound like a contraction of "indingenous"), are the ANTI_tribal Tribe............a mish-mash of like minded souls who all look different from one another.

If you learn to play by our rules, no matter where you came from or what you look like.......You are accepted as part of the Tribe.

Ask a physicist....what is "white"? Ans....its not a color....its the COMBINATION of all the mono-chrome frequencies in various phases and amplitudes......example...."white noise"..."white light".


Social Justice requires that we divide humans into separate categories and demands that we reinforce those difference in categories.......ironically Social Justice has a lot in common with "Separate but Equal".


E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many...One. We tolerate "Diversity"......We promote "UNITY" thru rule of Law......and it is ONE Standard of Law ....for ALL


We're not perfect......but we do seem to do a better job of it than the other 95% of the world.

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Wonderful essay that makes me wonder what is Dr. Glenn's suggestion for next steps? If the educational status quo needs to change how do we get to having more options as described in the essay?

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