October 14 2012

The Soft Racism of Low Expectations

Charlotte Hays

The racism charge gets hurled around a lot in politics. Quite frequently, it’s a bogus but useful accusation. This, however, is genuine racism:

The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.

On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level.

For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.

I am glad that the CBS report quoted above included angry remarks by an educator who says that, though the kids at his charter school come from all sorts of backgrounds, they have the ability to learn.

Thomas Lifson has a great piece on the American Thinker explaining what is behind Florida's experimentation with race-based educational standards. Lifson sees two forces at work:

On the one hand, we have liberal multicultural dogma that assert all cultures are intrinsically equal, and that there is no reason for one group to adopt the values and habits of another group which achieves at higher levels. If too many blacks cannot pass a firefighters test, then that test itself must be racist.

On the other hand, we have the bureaucratic necessity of measuring teachers' and students' performance. Teachers argue that they cannot be held responsible for correcting the problems that some children show up with in their classrooms, that students who come from chaotic home environments, who have never been exposed to books or who are unsupervised, cannot be brought up to minimal standards such as reading at or above grade level.

Because teachers will be evaluated based on how many students meet the standards, the teachers see their careers on the line, if they happen to work at a school where many students come from dysfunctional home environments. Their self-interest demands they seek relief from being held accountable for solving a problem they believe they did not create and cannot overcome.

So when a major liberal interest groups like teachers (and their unions) run up against the fallacious multicultural doctrine of cultural equivalency, self interest wins out. And the children lose. That is the leitmotif of public education for the last half century.

Until public education is able to distinguish habits and values from ethnicity, and proclaim that certain values (which happen to be more widely embraced in certain ethnicities than others) lead to success, and ought to be emulated by all, and that failure to embrace values and habits of study leads to consequences more serious than social promotion to the next grade, this mess will continue its devolution into outright racism.

Clear standards, uniformly applied, offer the only way for people who wish to overcome their parents' failures to better themselves.

USA Today quotes a Florida “educator” defending the race-based quotas:

Cheryl Etters, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, said the disparate numbers are not meant to lower expectations but rather set "realistic and attainable" goals, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

"Of course we want every student to be successful," Etters said. "But we do have to take into account their starting point."

I’d rather take into consideration the idea that we can achieve no matter what our starting point in life. Of course, that makes life difficult for lazy teachers.

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