Walter Williams is one of my favorite economists and commentators. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article about “an executive order that established a White House initiative on educational excellence for black Americans that will be housed in the Department of Education. It proposes “to identify evidence-based best practices” to improve black achievement in school and college.” Mr Williams has some pretty strong and compelling observations on the issue:

Whether a student is black, white, orange or polka-dot and whether he’s poor or rich, there are some minimum requirements that must be met in order to do well in school. Someone must make the student do his homework, see to it that he gets a good night’s rest, fix a breakfast, make sure he gets to school on time and make sure he respects and obeys his teachers. Here’s my question: Which one of those requirements can be accomplished by a presidential executive order, a congressional mandate or the edict of a mayor? If those minimal requirements aren’t met, whatever else is done is for naught.

Spending more money on education cannot replace poor parenting. If it could, black academic achievement wouldn’t be a problem. Washington, D.C., for example, spends $18,667 per student per year, more than any state, but comes in dead last in terms of student achievement. Paul Laurence Dunbar High School was established in 1870 in Washington, D.C., as the nation’s first black public high school. From 1870 to 1955, most of its graduates went off to college, earning degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Williams, Wesleyan and others. As early as 1899, Dunbar students scored higher on citywide tests than students at any of the district’s white schools. Its attendance and tardiness records were generally better than those of white schools. During this era of high achievement, there was no school violence. It wasn’t racially integrated. It didn’t have a big budget. It didn’t even have a lunchroom or all those other things that today’s education establishment says are necessary for black academic achievement.