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March 09, 2003

Education gap as seen by an educator

Highered Intelligence wrote some time back about the achievement gap, and I only bring it up again for this quote:

ACHIEVEMENT GAP: Is anyone even remotely surprised by this anymore? Enough is enough. I do not wish for newspapers to carry headlines reading "Study suggests black students scoring lower in college." Everyone with eyes and a brain can tell that already. What I want to see is "Researchers find solution to achievement gap." Hell, I'd settle for researchers working on a solution.
He goes on to make fun of people, saying that most of them are "illogical buffoons who wouldn't know a necessary from a contingent if it came up and bit them in the ass", but then makes a truly excellent, if somewhat self-contradictory point:
And this is where the problem lies. Racism is, in great part, the result of a flawed heuristical process. That heuristical process starts off with the mind looking at a scene it sees, or looking at headlines that say "Study suggests black students scoring lower in college," and saying "Ah ha... there's something significant here." Let me be perfectly clear in what I believe here so that no one can misunderstand me: we won't change the way the brain works by offering competing data if that data isn't backed up by hard evidence. People are too smart.
Obviously someone who knows the difference between necessary and contingent conditions also knows the difference between data and evidence, so I'm going to guess he meant to write "if that data doesn't provide hard evidence" or maybe "offering competing theories unless those theories are backed up by data". At any rate, the best part is next:
It won't help to put a bunch of uneducated dark-skinned people into a University and hope that the mere sight of them will eliminate racism. In order to escape the heuristical trap on the empirical side, we have to have actual parity. And that's where affirmative action goes wrong. What's required is that we attack the heuristical trap FOR ITS FLAWS. And the flaw is the illogical (but perfectly understandable) line that gets drawn between skin color and poverty, or skin color and academic achievment. We need to teach people to recognize that skin color isn't useful as a proxy for anything except skin color, precisely because the only reason that it turns out to be truly significant is because people expect it to be. In other words, it's a house of cards waiting to collapse.
So here's a guy who has a good enough analytical mind to understand and speak directly about some of the issues we try to discuss here. He unfortunately hasn't read beyond educational journals into the science (or he might modify those last two, but not three sentences), but I really feel like he would be capable of conducting a much higher quality discussion than some(MacDiva?) who opine on the subject.

Posted by razib at 02:29 PM




"Figures show that black students of Caribbean origin got the worst results of any ethnic group in last summer's GCSE exams in England"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2816369.stm

Note the Chinese and Indian results. In the UK Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are all lumped together by white folks.

Posted by: Steve at March 10, 2003 04:25 AM