Geoffrey Canada Tells Stephen Colbert Racism Has Nothing to Do with the Achievement Gap

The Waiting for Superman star says teachers unions are to blame for everything wrong in public education.


Why isn’t public education fixed yet? According to the Harlem Children’s Zone founder and Waiting for Superman star Geoffrey Canada, if teachers unions didn’t exist, all would be well in our nation’s schools. Such talk is par for the course for Canada, but on Tuesday night’s episode of The Colbert Report, he added something new to his education reform spiel. Canada claimed that racism has nothing to do with the achievement gap.

When Colbert asked Canada to explain what the achievement gap is, Canada replied, “As soon as we can test kids, we find between a 25- to 35-point difference between white kids and black kids in math and in reading.”

Colbert interrupted to say that that sounded racist. However, according to Canada, a black man who grew up in the Bronx but went to Harvard and now rubs shoulders with Wall Street tycoons, it’s not.

“I think that this is not a matter of racism. This is a matter of some of our kids getting a poor education and we’ve got to hold the adults responsible,” he said.

Maybe Canada has amnesia about how inherently racist institutionalized policies—like redlining—created the modern urban ghetto, and the segregated schools in those ghettos.

In contrast to Canada's beliefs comes a recent New York Times piece about West Farms Elementary School where, “prostitutes roam the streets around the school, waiting for cars entering and leaving the Cross Bronx Expressway. They bend over car windows and climb inside, in plain view of students walking to and from the school.”

The article goes into the details of how the prostitutes have sex, “inside a tent on top of a boulder directly below the school’s playground,” and, “custodians often have to sweep condoms and hypodermic needles from the school grounds before students arrive in the morning."

Teachers and parents have complained for years, but the police say there’s little they can do about the situation outside the low-performing school.

Since Canada believes racism has nothing to do with the achievement gap, would the prostitutes at West Farms Elementary be tolerated if the school was located, for example, in a middle class white neighborhood instead of in the highly racially segregated and poor Bronx? Or are those prostitutes, and the psychological impact seeing them has on students, the fault of the local New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers?

Certainly, whether or not prostitutes handle their business outside the school, teachers at West Farms should hold the students to the highest academic expectations. But it's naive to pretend that seeing prostitutes, drug dealers, gang activity, and other forms of crime common to poor, heavily segregated neighborhoods doesn't have an impact on children of color, or what goes on in their schools.

As expected, Colbert lightened the tone with some great one-liners, joking about how if Waiting for Superman had been named Waiting for Batman, kids at failing schools could throw the bat signal in the air. He also teased Canada on how HCZ’s focus on educating kids from the time they’re born isn’t early enough to make a difference because, “So many of our nation's fetuses only read at the first trimester level."

You can watch the whole interview here:

The Colbert Report\n Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Geoffrey Canada\n\n
Colbert Report Full Episodes\n Political Humor & Satire Blog</a>\n March to Keep Fear Alive\n

Photo (cc) via The Aspen Institute

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet