Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Solving the Achievement Gap

Latinos score lower than whites on tests and drop-out of school more often and it is largely their fault!!!! The same goes for Black American youth! Wow!!! That was risky. One can get fired for saying such things. So to cover my buns let me just clarify that nothing in this paragraph had anything to do with race. Culture, not I.Q. or innate ability, explains this discrepancy. And if you really want to minimize the achievement gap between Latinos, Asians, Whites and Blacks, you should read on.

Fifth graders in Taipei, Taiwan spend an average of 13 hours a week on homework; their counterparts in Minneapolis spend slightly more than four hours a week on homework. In Asian cultures not having completed one's homework normally results in shame. Completing your homework is positively associated with academic success. Cultural differences provide a complete and satisfactory explanation as to why students in Asian countries do better at math.

The concept that racism plays any part in the achievement gap comes from the twisted logic of education professionals. As much as anything, their thought patterns create the disparity. Educators' fealty to multiculturalism makes us unable to do anything but praise cultural diversity. Yet, at heart, these multicultural educators take cultural diversity to be very shallow. They cannot imagine that it could be so important as to impact something as fundamental as study habits or the love of education. After discounting culture as a factor, the educators correctly discount innate ability as a factor. And from here on the errors of their assumptions lead to more and more destructive conclusions.

After discounting culture and race as possible sources of the achievement gap, the education professionals still have to find a culprit. Their solution? Institutional racism. This means that the achievement gap becomes proof of schools being racist. The other cause cited is poverty. But since this cannot have anything to do with culture or race, this explanation becomes proof that society is racist.

Teaching the youth of your country that your society is unjust and racist is something no culture that wanted to survive would ever do. Beyond endangering our society, though, it fosters anti-social behavior in youth. Would you work to fit into a racist society in which you have no hope of success? This attitude pervading the education environment largely explains why so many Black American youth consider studying to be "acting white" and giving in to "the man."

To help, we need to be willing to take a culturist point of view, to consider that culture might in fact be able to impact achievement. Such an explanation would reinstate the vital connection between merit and achievement. Culturist interpretations of the achievement gap can prompt cultures to take a good hard look at themselves. Meetings and community based solutions - such as tutoring centers - could then be discussed as solutions. The culturist perspective has the merit of better reflecting reality than saying schools are racist against Latinos and Blacks, but not Asians and Whites. Beyond this, it is much more likely to motivate students and close the achievement gap than calling schools and society racist.
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