Michael Kundu in perspective

The heat surrounding School Board member Michael Kundu has critics losing sight of the underlying issue. It is as though demands for his resignation generated a great fog diverting attention from the issue he raised to the stuff he quoted. When General McChrystal was fired, the issue of war in Afghanistan stayed as clear as it was before — however clear that was. Let’s hope the underachievement that stirred Kundu doesn’t get lost in the popular outrage calling for his dismissal.

It is unfortunate that Michael Kundu’s service to Marysville’s schools will likely end this way. For the main part, he served well. He worked to pass levies, build schools and deal with the policy end of what it takes to run a modern school district. Though critics call for his head, district historians should remember his many contributions.

Aside from a few odd moments, Kundu did an outstanding job when tending the flow of MSD business. It was only when he took on the role of activist that he stumbled. An example was his role in the removal of a Confederate flag that was presented only as a historical prop to highlight the Civil War. It was a misguided attempt to sanitize history.

In another incident, Kundu was correct in calling for the removal of a document called the Skeptics’ Handbook. He properly took it to be a backlash from disgruntled pseudo-scientists who claimed that Global Warming is nothing more than wild ravings of environmentalists. After following his years of work for the district it appears that, on balance, Marysville profited from Kundu’s dedication to education.

But Kundu made a mistake. He shared flawed research claiming that different races with different skull-sizes don’t learn equally well. Results of the study cannot be accepted because it is impossible to eliminate all other variables from the wrong-headed theory of skull-size as a major determiner of achievement. For instance, all tribal children are taught to respect the values and wisdom of their elders. So they can’t help being conflicted when immersed in a public education system that promotes different values. This and other cultural problems affect schooling around the globe.

Kundu’s source, written by John Philippe Rushton, hearkens back to the end of the 19th Century when phrenologists measured children’s skulls with calipers to determine what abilities and personalities they might have. They reasoned like this: Since Africans have compact round craniums and relatively few Africans had held positions in the sciences, people with African-type skulls lack scientific ability. Hogwash.

By this time his resignation is either a reality or being seriously considered. He has lost the trust of the people. He triggered a mini-crisis that, if wisdom rules, will have the Board following the adage, never waste a crisis. Kundu improperly raised a proper issue, addressing the fact of low academic achievement for certain social groups. Unfortunately, their overblown sense of political correctness may have thin-skinned critics feeling that ousting Kundu will solve something. Wrong. The time is ripe to acknowledge differing achievement levels for different races and open the door to understanding the issue. Maybe we can do something effective about it if the Board keeps it on their agenda.

The issue turned on two words, CAN and DO. Kundu’s source claimed that different races CAN NOT achieve as well as others in schools. If you replace CAN-NOT with DO-NOT, you describe the slam-dunk reality that every educator knows. It needs to be addressed. Different races and cultures do not achieve equally but not because of skull size or shape.

But why the difference? That question ought to be bothering school board members from coast to coast. It was probably the question that Kundu was wrestling with when he fell victim to that piece of shoddy research published by Western Ontario University. Yet the issue behind it is real. It cannot be laid to rest when Mr. Kundu leaves the Board.

Achievement in learning and earning is conditioned by too many factors to connect low grades with brain-size. When one group learns differently than others the reason is often found in cultural roots. Take Israelis and Palestinians for example. No one explained it better than Leon Uris in his book, Exodus, in which a Jew and a Palestinian Arab discuss reasons that Israelis suddenly held the advantage. Arabs were a traditional nomadic people that were content with “enough,” while Israelis were aggressive immigrants that wanted and took much, including control. Achievement levels in Palestinian and Israeli schools still reflect that difference in spite of identical skulls.

Though achievement of different races varies in America’s public schools, those differences say little about brain power. The near-equal brain-power of races is suggested by this year’s World Cup competition. The split-second flexing of strategy to play at that level takes brains. Africans outplayed, out-strategized, out-hustled and outscored America’s best. But according to Kundu’s source, Black African players from tiny Ghana shouldn’t knock off teams with better skull measurements. Asians, Africans, Europeans, Latin Americans, Islanders—all are equally pitted against each other in the World Cup.

This holds true for music, business, military or other activities. Standout performers prove that success is open equally to every race. Why not in education, too? Now that is a question that deserves the school board’s full attention. Thank you, Mr. Kundu, for bringing it up again.

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