Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The only gap that matters, pt. 4 - A report from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) demonstrates what has been known for some time vis-a-vis African Americans and academic achievement. As has been discussed in excruciating detail elsewhere, the educational system as a whole is in a state of disarray, and this is no more apparent than in schools that serve black students. To be sure, part of the problem is an unplumbable depth of denial on the part of those who aver that more money for education would erase the black-white achievement gap; if such were truly the case, most black students in urban school districts would outperform most whites in rural schools.

But there is an equally unfathomable abyss of condescending entitlement that exists amongst liberal elites as a whole - and the civil rights establishment in particular - which suggests that it is both unreasonable and unnecessary for blacks to meet the same academic standards as whites. This sense of entitlement manifests itself in ways as varied as intimations that standardized tests are racially biased to suggestions to the effect that there are different types of intelligence and/or different styles of learning.

Of course the most direct evidence of this sentiment is the idea that affirmative action in education is a sufficient remedy for whatever ails black students. The notion that skin color alone is or should be the determining criterion that allows for variant (read lower) standards for admission to institutions of higher learning and employment has had a corrosive effect on the thinking and imagination of black recipients and liberal supporters of affirmative action. That such is the case is indicated by the following taken from the aforementioned JBHE article, in which the authors discuss the impact of changes in the composition of the SAT.

Nevertheless, there are analysts who say that the introduction of the writing component will reduce the racial scoring gap. The reason has to do with the probable biases of the test grader rather than the ability of the test taker. These experts maintain that the people who score the new writing section will be able to detect the race of the writer by the vocabulary and subject matter of the student's essay. There is then a suspicion in some quarters that the scorers of the test, who are often able to determine the race of the test taker, may be inclined to "give a break" to black students. Therefore, it is suggested that the examination will be graded on a curve that benefits blacks and Hispanics. It is argued, too, that for political and social reasons scoring on the writing test may be manipulated to narrow the overall gap between whites and blacks and thereby will lessen criticism that the test is biased against minority students. These suspicions may turn out to be correct. Preliminary results released by The College Board on high school juniors who took the test this past spring show that under the new system the racial scoring gap will be the same or smaller than it was before. (Emphasis added.)
So we have, for all to behold, an expression of the notion that racially-based biases might (or perhaps the writers meant "should") overleap their current boundary at the door of the college lecture hall to the high school setting. But over and above that most pernicious ideation, the thought that the JBHE would be content with the suggestion that nonstandard "vocabulary and subject matter" should constitute some sort of secret handshake between black and Hispanic test takers and sympathetic test scorers is hideous. And under any other circumstance, it would be too ludicrous to find its way into print. But as the concept of different standards for different races - all in the name of equality of course - has seeped its way into the thinking of most educators, it has resulted in the degradation of any sort of reasoning ability on matters residing at the intersection of education and race.

This idea that black students are best left estranged from what are considered typical scholastic goings-on for students of every other ethnicity expresses itself in one other crucial way. The JBHE article presents one more set of facts that should send a chill down the spine of every black parent in America. While we are told that disparities in household income and per-pupil educational resources are responsible for most of the performance gap, the fact is that there are demonstrable differences in what African American children are exposed to in the classroom versus the instruction that white students receive.
A major reason for the SAT racial gap appears to be the fact that black students who take the SAT have not followed the same academic track as white students. It is true that 97 percent of both blacks and whites who take the SAT have studied algebra in high school. But in higher level mathematics courses such as trigonometry and calculus, whites hold a large lead. In 2005, 47 percent of white SAT test takers had taken trigonometry in high school compared to 35 percent of black test takers. Some 28 percent of white test takers had taken calculus in high school. Only 14 percent of black students had taken calculus, one half as many as whites. Thirty-two percent of white SAT test takers had taken honors courses in mathematics compared to 19 percent of black SAT test takers.

Similar discrepancies appear in the level of instruction in
English, the other major component of the SAT. Some 87 percent of white test takers had completed coursework in American literature compared to 75 percent of black test takers. For whites, 67 percent had taken high school courses in composition compared to 50 percent of blacks. Some 70 percent of whites and 59 percent of blacks had completed coursework in grammar. A full 40 percent of all white test takers had completed honors courses in English compared to 29 percent of black test takers.

Also, whites are far more likely than blacks to have taken honors
courses in science and social studies. Given the huge differences in course study between black and white high school students, it comes as no surprise that white SAT scores are significantly higher than black SAT scores. Whites, who are more likely to attend high-quality schools, have simply achieved a greater mastery of the subject matter than have blacks.
Not to put too fine a point on all of this, but it is self-evident that from the viewpoint of black leadership (as exemplified by the staff of JBHE), extensions of affirmative action from the college admissions office to the grading rooms of the College Board are of little consequence. Similarly, known variances in the subjects taken by black students as compared with students of other races are problematic, although not sufficiently so as to warrant consideration of school choice, merit pay for teachers or any other reasonable educational reform. Given these facts, there is little wonder why black students are having difficulties in school, as their thinking seems to be only as ossified and corrupted as that of those who would presume to lead them.

1 comment:

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