Conservatives are always talking about the need to keep high expectations for inner-city youth. "High expectations" is a talisman that gets waved so that poor school districts don't get funds for desperately needed infrastructural improvements, to ignore the gaping funding disparities (made all the worse that -- by any measure -- poor students require more public funding to have an equal educational opportunity compared to wealthy students), to excuse the huge gaps in academic and extra-curricular offerings compared to what's available in suburban districts, and to side-step the horrifying obstacles that stand between these students and the American dream.
There is something to be said for high expectations, in tandem with creating an "enabling environment" so that the reasonable student has a reasonable chance at success. It's when "high expectations" gets deployed as a replacement for reform -- so that failure becomes the fault of the student no matter what odds they were up against -- that it begins to get twisted.
But the worst part about the "high expectations" mantra is that it's hard to believe there is any there behind it. When Bill O'Reilly is astounded by an episode of suburban schoolkids misbehaving, and remarks "this isn't ... the inner city; you would think that these kids would have some kind of a values system," he is betraying what he really thinks: Bad behavior is expected in the inner-city, because those kids lack "values" (value?).
If conservatives are going to offer naught but high expectations for the inner-city, the least they could do is actually hold those expectations. But they don't. Because it's just rhetoric designed to stymie the urgent reforms every educational expert agrees are necessary for inner city kids to succeed.