An exchange between the Slovak government and the European Commission which was reported in the Czech and Slovak media has turned our Slovak brothers into heroes of a kind.
As I wrote in several older blog posts, there exist special elementary schools in Czechia and Slovakia that are dedicated to children with weaker mental abilities. In practice, a majority of these "special" classrooms ends up being composed of gypsy kids.
The percentage may be about 60% in Czechia and 88% in Slovakia – the latter figure is higher mainly because the percentage of gypsies in the Slovak population is higher than in Czechia.
Almost everyone in Czechia and Slovakia is convinced that this "segregation" is beneficial for both sides – for the "more ready" kids as well as the "less ready kids", not to mention the teachers. Almost everyone is convinced that the whole system is basically meritocratic.
You may look at the percentage of kids who end up in these schools. It's about 2% of the non-gypsy kids and 25% of the gypsy kids. All these numbers are compatible with the idea that the "special" schools pick children with IQ below 70 and the gypsy and non-gypsy average IQ is 80 and 100, respectively. (Some surveys suggested that the average gypsy IQ is 70 but those differences may be just due to some methodological subtleties.)
Now, both Czechia and Slovakia are being targeted by various international humanrightist NGOs as well as the European Commission, the self-appointed government of the EU. It seems to me that Czechia and Slovakia are being sued etc. at different moments – probably to reduce their will or ability to cooperate.
Recently, in April, the European Commission began legal maneuvers against Slovakia because, as the European Commission believes, the high percentage of gypsy kids must be due to the "discrimination" by the government. Normally, the Czech and Slovak authorities would point out that our policies are meritocratic and believed to be beneficial by our experts. If our officials suggest the obvious fact that the main causes of the asymmetry are biological, they do so carefully. It's enough to make the NGOs and PC apparatchiks go ballistic, anyway.
Well, Slovakia has just used a stronger caliber and a deeper explanatory framework.
The Slovak ministry of interior affairs has sent an official answer to the European Commission etc. which not only defended the desirable and meritocratic character of the policies. It also suggested another, much more specific idea to explain the high percentage of gypsy kids in the low-IQ schools. Inbreeding is much more widespread in these families (the frequency is by far highest among Europe's ethnic groups) and this genetic arrangement leads to developmental disorders, they believe.
It was meant to be a core of the reply and was properly referenced. The ministry referred to a 1987 survey in Bratislava Medicine Letters "The Slovak gypsies (Romany) – a population with the highest coefficient of inbreeding in Europe" that found a really high abundance of incest among the Wallachian Gypsies in the district of Nitra. The Wallachian Gypsies (the adjective refers to the origin in Romania) include most of the "nomads" among the Gypsies on our territories. Historically, the main job occupation among males was a horse trader; the main female occupation was a psychic but sociologists claim that "taking purses" is generally appreciated as a valuable skill; the most valuable thing is gold.
(The 1987 research studied isonymy and/or genealogy of 444 Wallachian Roma citizens from 101 families. It found the coefficient of inbreeding \(F_i=0.084\) and/or \(0.017\), respectively, the highest one in Europe at that time, and only comparable to some other Romani communities and some places of India. The paper also included PC slogans that "the coefficient is surely going to decrease due to the socialist assimiliation efforts". See also this 1989 paper. BTW Jewish sociologist Werner Cohn of Berlin was the first one to report that marriages among cousins would be painful in the Romani communities but the marriages of the second cousins were OK.)
Robert Kaliňák, the interior minister of Slovakia (Smer/Direction social democrat) added some verbal comments. He refused to bow to political correctness. If we don't name the problems, we can't solve them. And he won't hide incest because it's illegal according to the Slovak law – and this law could very well be erased if we couldn't speak about the act at all. (In practice, I am confident that the vast majority of the case of incest goes unpunished, but that's another matter.)
You may imagine that the NGOs exploded in anger. Amnesty International (PDF), the European Roma Rights Centre, and the Slovak branch of the Open Society Foundation (led by George Soros) quickly published rants to denounce the evil and "discriminatory Slovak racists" who use "historical stereotypes" and unacceptable scientific research that isn't even nationwide and current.
These NGOs have "called on the Slovak government to refute the use of the 'incest-argument' to justify segregated education for Romani children in Slovakia". Refute? How can they exactly "refute" it? It was a result of surveys done by social scientists who have studied that question. Only a study that seems more reliable and happens to lead to the opposite result could "refute" the use but there's none at this moment. You can't predetermine what is being confirmed or refuted, at least not among honest people. We also learn that
Such statements should have no place in an official communication.How can they have no place in an official communication? It was a communication about this very issue and the Slovak ministry is convinced that this is the most important issue to keep in mind while discussing this issue. The NGOs and the EC have basically accused the Slovak politicians to be responsible for the high percentage of the gypsy kids in the "not so clever" schools – in other words, the politicians have been accused of seriously lowering the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people. Because the ministry doesn't believe this accusation to be even remotely defensible, it wrote something rather specific and detailed about the actual reasons behind the observation that they believe to be correct. The ministry did so in as official and scholarly language as you can get that has undoubtedly violated no law or regulation valid on the territory of Slovakia.
So what the basis of your complaint could possible be, not so dear NGOs, except for your dishonesty that is encoded in the very "mission" defining your existence and that you pretty much openly admit?
The NGOs talk about the "misdiagnosis" that must be the reason why a gypsy kid is more than 10 times more likely to end up in that school than a non-gypsy kid. Are you joking? The IQ and the "readiness for school" are not precisely measurable but the interactive admission tests etc. are surely accurate and well-defined enough to distinguish kids with IQ near 100 from those near 70 in almost all cases. If there's some inaccuracy or bias, it could change the ratios by 10% or so. But by an order of magnitude?
Does someone really believe that almost all the folks hired to do this job in the education systems of Slovakia and Czechia are so bigoted or incompetent that they send 9 clever gypsy kids (who don't belong there) along with 1 not so clever kid (who does belong there) to the "special" school?
If the percentage of gypsy kids in the special schools is 88%, you won't be able to change it to 10% without completely destroying the meritocratic system. The system simply doesn't start with any quotas. It is based on the evaluation of the kids' skills and it produces the composition it produces. If you send most of the gypsy kids from the special schools to the normal schools, there will be so many "not so ready" kids in the normal schools that the special schools will cease to play the positive role for which they were created.
The gap between the approach to these matters in Slovakia and Czechia on one side; and in the societies where similar NGOs dictate the social discourse is simply huge. In many Western countries, certain self-evidently important things can't even be "mentioned". Sorry but we have gone through regimes that tried to suppress the freedom to speak about important political issues and we don't want to return there. The Slovak minister may be hypothetically wrong but if that's so, he may be shown to be wrong and he certainly has the right to respond with explanations of statistics that are important for his job and that his ministry considers to be correct.
This is a relatively isolated issue but it is not a completely minor one. I can imagine that this topic could by itself be enough for the Slovak or Czech exit from the EU. Not to have functional "special" schools means to include roughly 1 kid (and sometimes many more) who is now in a special school in each normal class. This change would probably have significant implications for the efficiency of teaching in that (i.e. almost every) classroom.
In the discussions under the newspaper articles, the public opinion seems unambiguous. There are lots of jokes and I would probably classify many of them as racist jokes due to the oversimplification they try to convey. For example, how does a 10-year-old gypsy girl save her virginity? She must be stronger than her younger brother and faster than her older brother. And several others get repeated. Some of the people who write these jokes are racists. But I know the education system well enough to see that almost all the people who work there are simply fair and balanced when it comes to these and similar issues. The accusations that these people are responsible for the high percentage of the gypsies in the special schools seem unjustified and offensive to me.