The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

What Does It Take to Declare a School ‘Unsafe’?

What Does It Take to Declare a School ‘Unsafe’?

Something has gone terribly wrong in the public school system of Montgomery County, Maryland.

Only one of the two Rockville High School students charged with rape last week knew the freshman girl whom he’s accused of brutally attacking inside a bathroom stall, authorities said.

The 17- and 18-year-old students arrested Thursday did not share classes with the girl and had no prior contact with Montgomery County police, Capt. James Humphries and Montgomery County Public School officials said during a Tuesday evening press conference.

During the briefing at the district’s Rockville headquarters, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith sought to address the shock, criticism and concern coming from the governor’s office, White House and the community in the wake of the alleged attack.

The two accused students—Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17,—had arrived from Central America within the past year, and their arrest has set off a firestorm of debate about immigration and county education policy. In an address to the media, Smith pleaded passionately against using sweeping generalizations and denounced the surge of racism that he’s seen since the arrests.

County citizens have since learned that an illegal immigrant can be 18 years old, enroll in the public schools, undergo no background check, and because they have no verifiable high-school credits, automatically be enrolled as a freshman, putting them in the same classes as 14 and 15-year-olds. Under the law, the school cannot ask about the student’s immigration status; the school system chooses not to perform background checks on incoming students.

In this light, the shock is not that this happened, the shock is that this hasn’t happened until now.

Here’s the assessment from the district superintendent, Jack Smith: “This horrible incident shouldn’t change anyone’s mind that those schools are safe for our students and we work very hard and our families and our community works very hard to keep all children safe in Montgomery County,”

Just stop. After you’ve had a brutal rape in your school during the school day, you can’t say that your schools are safe anymore. You don’t get to brag about what a terrific job everyone is doing at keeping them safe.

Montgomery County officials are quick to emphasize that they aren’t a “true” sanctuary city:

The county and City of Rockville for many years have had a policy in place that directs their police officers not to ask about an individual’s immigration status during interactions. However, the county and city both share information about individuals who are arrested with federal agencies such as the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in case those agencies have pending issues with the individuals. This policy, according to county officials, is different from true sanctuary jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration agencies.

I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s routine about wanting special credit for meeting standard obligations. “We share information about individuals arrested with the FBI and immigration”? That’s what you’re supposed to do! What do you want, a cookie?

No, He Doesn’t Have a Great Nose for These Things.

Back on March 6, Mike Allen quoted an unnamed White House official who said President Trump is “absolutely convinced” he’ll be vindicated on his accusation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

“The president just has a great nose for these things,” the official said. “It’s the bureaucratic leaks — the deep state — that bother him most. Even if it turns out not to be true that they surveilled Trump Tower, he will have a very good point to make about the level of sabotage coming from Obama holdovers.”

In light of both Senate Intelligence Committee chairs, the House Intelligence Committee chair, the director of National Intelligence, the Justice Department, FBI director James Comey, and everyone else with access to our surveillance systems declaring there’s no evidence to support Trump’s accusation… can anyone around the president — Ivanka? Jared? Mr. Vice President? — gently nudge the president to recognize that he actually doesn’t have a great nose for these things? Could the people around him at least stop telling him that he has a “great nose for these things”?

Everybody’s completely convinced they have great instincts. If we all had instincts as good as we think, we would never lose in the stock market, never trust the wrong person, never make the wrong turn while driving, and never make other miscalculations.

America’s Problem with Chelsea-nomics

Can you stand a bit more griping about Chelsea Clinton? I realize I probably sound like a broken record, but you may recall I’m one of the guys most prone to going on tirades against softball media coverage that insists the former first daughter is some sort of extraordinary leader for our times.

It just keeps coming. Variety will be awarding her as a Lifetime Impact Honoree. TeenVogue sorts through her Twitter replies and denounces her “haters.” She’s just joined the board of directors for Expedia.

Twitter user Alan Smithee went through Chelsea’s work history and reminded us that all of her past employers had good reason to want a senator or secretary of state as a friend, and went on to be Clinton Foundation donors. Extraordinary opportunities and titles kept getting laid at her feet in adult life; in one interview, the correspondent choked a bit in disbelief that New York University had made her an assistant provost without her completing her dissertation.

She humble-bragged in 2014 that she didn’t particularly enjoy her work for consulting and financial firms like McKinsey and Company and Avenue Capital Group,  “I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.” You know who doesn’t care about money? Really rich people. She thinks she’s demonstrating virtue and a lack of greed in that statement, blithely oblivious to the fact that so many people seem to “care” so much about money because they have to, because they don’t have the privileges and advantages that Chelsea Clinton has.

It’s not surprising that Chelsea periodically finds herself insisting to interviewers that her past employers that were incredibly, fiercely meritocratic.” Eh, maybe. It’s hard for us on the outside to evaluate her work in those private firms, and it’s not like she’s ever going to get fired from the Clinton Foundation.

The one bit of her work that we in the public could scrutinize was her NBC gig, where she, with no experience, set up a bidding war among networks for an on-air correspondent job, and ended up getting $600,000 per year from NBC for work that any honest critic would label “journalistically bankrupt.” The whole thing was a ludicrously transparent embarrassment, but most of the media world was expected to avert its eyes. These are the sorts of back-scratching deals among the rich, famous and powerful that we’re supposed to accept as just part of doing business.

Nepotism isn’t the biggest problem in America, but it lives in the same gated community as our real problems: a sense of declining opportunities and social mobility, the feeling that America’s good life is increasingly closed off to newcomers by an ever-tightening web of educational, social, financial, and political barriers, and the perception that the country is governed and lectured to by an extremely comfortable, extremely insulated elite class whose concerns (Microaggressions! Transgender bathroom rights!) are light-years away from the concerns of the majority of people (finding a good job, living in a safe community, ensuring your kids will have opportunities for a better life, and dealing with a relative’s opioid addiction).

A few years ago, Ross Douthat pointed out how those who attended Ivy League schools usually marry other people who attended the Ivy Leagues, go to work for people who attended the Ivy Leagues, live amongst others who attended the Ivy Leagues, and send their own kids to the Ivy Leagues.

That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!

Why, it would be like telling elite collegians that they should all move to similar cities and neighborhoods, surround themselves with their kinds of people and gradually price everybody else out of the places where social capital is built, influence exerted and great careers made. No need — that’s what we’re already doing! (What Richard Florida called “the mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions, and a corresponding exodus of the traditional lower and middle classes from these same places” is one of the striking social facts of the modern meritocratic era.) We don’t need well-meaning parents lecturing us about the advantages of elite self-segregation, and giving the game away to everybody else. …

The comments responding to that column from New York Times readers were pretty revealing. From a reader in Portland:

Can you think of any other reason besides elitist snobbism, that a PhD in philosophy might not marry or be close friends with, an auto mechanic. Could it be that they wouldn’t have anything to talk about? Or even a lowly English major trying to share his/her love of literature with an uneducated bank teller. How about a mathematics professor sharing his life with a beautician?

(I’ve met some pretty philosophical auto mechanics and some pretty literary bank tellers in my time.) Then a reader in San Francisco:

So Ross is advocating at young people graduating for ivies should go find a good for nothing low life who has no interest in raising kids, having a job, or staying Out of jail, so that we can produce dysfunctional kids who are all mediocre in order to create greater “social equality”?

That’s a pretty vivid portrait of what this San Franciscan thinks of people who didn’t go to Ivy League schools. Either you’re one of us, or you’re dirt.

America has a quasi-aristocracy that is completely convinced that it rose to the top of a meritocracy; perhaps no more clearly illustrated than in Chelsea Clinton’s belief that her workplaces were “incredibly, fiercely meritocratic.” (We should spare her a moment of genuine sympathy: It must be incredibly difficult to go through life with the suspicion that everyone who is nice to you is really just angling for a favor from your parents.) She deserved every chance to go off and live a happy life somewhere far from the glare and nosy questions of the press. But she’s chosen to live in the public eye and accept these accolades and opportunities, reminding us of her de facto royal status.

ADDENDA: You can hear me, but not see me, on the podcast of yesterday’s “State of America” on CNN International.


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