Saturday, November 30, 2002

Why black students lag-part n Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The New York Times has one of its recurring pieces up on why black students from middle-class backgrounds don't do well. The article runs around in circles. There are juxtpositions of contradictory assertions: black students don't value education, they value it more, black families have the same income, no that's deceptive, and so forth. One of the commentators says:
Where Professor Ogbu found that some middle class blacks were clueless about their children's academic life, for example, Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, instead concluded that such parents were often excluded from the informal networks that white parents use for information about courses, gifted programs and testing. "I believe, based on my own research, that the center of gravity lies with the school system," she said.
If the black middle-class is excluded from these "informal networks," why is the Asian middle/lower class not excluded? As a first generation immigrant in the United States, my parents were pretty "excluded" for "informal networks," and that didn't bother me that much (yes, I know a data sample of one is not much to go on, but this can be applied to the Vietnamese refugees that show up in the United States too-they create their own "informal networks"). This sounds like the old excuse that black students don't study together for math, so that's one reason they don't do well. Well yeah, but is that anyone elses fault? Does anyone believe that mandating black students to study together the exact same number of hours as Asian or white students will pull them to the same level? It might. But perhaps you should try it and see if someone doesn't accuse you of being a patronizing racist that isn't sensative to the different cultural norms of minorities. Note this excuse:
And Walter R. Allen, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that even when racial minorities and whites attended the same schools, they could have radically different experiences because of tracking and teacher expectations.
Well-perhaps we should reinstitute segregation and take as models school districts in majority-black suburban areas like Prince George's [someone pointed out this error to me-thanks Ed] county in Maryland where tracking and expectations should be less problematic since almost everyone is black. Oops! Scratch that, the black middle-class tends to under-perform there too. With or without whites, they lack social capital, stop blaming it on blue-eyed gaze or liberal Jewish teachers (like in New York City) who have lower expectations of their charges (yes, they have lower lower expectations, but from experience, not a priori principles, as they tend to be quite liberal and idealistic fresh out of college). One thing you have to remember is that many of these "middle-class" individuals could also be less competent tokens in their profession (the head of Human Resources or Public Relations) or work in government. These are not exactly the type of people that would produce academic all-stars, many of them might have gotten into law schools with a GPA of 2.8 and low LSAT scores, why should their children value standards when they know their own parents had to jump a low bar. Check out this gem:
The two anthropologists theorized that a long history of discrimination helped foster what is known in sociological lingo as an oppositional peer culture. Not only were students resisting the notion that white behavior was superior to their own, but they also saw no connection between good grades and finding a job.
There is a word for people that don't see a connection between good grades and a good job-they're called stupid. It seems to me that the best course is to stop worrying about this situation-it will resolve itself or it won't. Many of these kids will graduate from high school, will go college, get a degree in a soft non-rigorous field and parlay their race into a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. When you have low expectations, don't expect anyone to go the extra mile-that's why Communism always failed, you provided no incentives and no penalties. There is of course a one sentence reference to biological differences in g, which is ignored for the rest of the article. As John McWhorter told me in an e-mail a few years back: you don't have to be that smart to be in the middle-class. Black people in the US are pretty well-off, half of them are in the middle-class. So they won't be the stars on the math team anytime soon-is it the end of the world? If you accept the axiom of equality it might be.... Just curious: What's up with this picture? The black kid looks like he's got some major inflammation going on....

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