Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Academic Achievement Gap

Doubtless you have heard all about the achievement gap in education. Apparently, minority children consistently underperform when compared with their white and Asian peers. Actually, compared with Asian children, everyone underperforms.

The debate over charter schools and over meritocratic admissions to certain public high schools in New York has raised this issue.

And yet, the question is: who is responsible? And what can we do about it?

Now, Paul Mirengoff of the Powerline blog reports on the debate over the issue in Montgomery County, Maryland. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Apparently, activists have discovered that there is a very large achievement gap between minority and non-minority children. The activists blame it on the school system, because, why not shift the blame.

Mirengoff tries to set them straight:

The school system has no obligation to make sure one set of students performs as well and learns as much as another. Its obligation is to provide every student with the opportunity to learn and perform.

Don’t parents, he continues, have some responsibility to prepare their children for school? Doesn’t home environment and neighborhood have something to do with it?

But if minority students have this “crushing sense of urgency,” why don’t they work harder at their studies? Surely, that’s the most effective “corrective action” that can be taken.

Similarly, why don’t families with this crushing sense do a better job of preparing their kids for school and of keeping them focused and on track once they start class?

Surely, the benefit that Asian students gain from having their parents actively involved in their education can be copied by other groups. One understands that Mirenghoff is crossing a line here. He is saying what we are not allowed to say, namely that it is not helpful to anyone’s education to blame all faults and failings on other people. Shifting the blame, to the point of scapegoating certain groups, tells children and even adults that their fate is solely in the hands of other people. It absolves them of responsibility and tells them that they do not have the power to excel.

Mirengoff is commenting on a Washington Post article, one that blames it all on the school system, and presumably on white people, while offering no solutions to the problem:

The most interesting thing about the Washington Post’s article on this subject is its failure to identify any “corrective actions” that Montgomery County schools might take, but isn’t taking, that likely would close the achievement gap. Why, then, assume that it’s the school system’s fault that Black and Latino students as a group achieve less than White students? Making this assumption helps reinforce poor performing students’ status as victims, but by discounting individual responsibility for achievement, it may depress their performance.

Thus, the issue may come down to this: What’s more important to minority students and their parents, affirming victim status or putting in the work both at home and in the classroom that has always been associated with high achievement? There was a time not so long ago when this question would answer itself. But in today’s identity politics America, perhaps it doesn’t.

A difficult topic to address, addressed clearly. Obviously, most people avoid the subject because they do not want to risk being called bigots.


Sam L. said...

One is REQUIRED to be oblivious.

trigger warning said...

"And yet, the question is: who is responsible?"

Easy. Donald Trump and Confederate statues.

MikeyParks said...

The black urban subculture is caught in a cleverly devised trap. For at least three generations they've had the government standing by giving them excuses for failure plus free money. It's hard to break free of that. But it's no accident – the Democrats thought it out very carefully as a new and more palatable version of slavery. Today, many black parents are too ignorant to school their children in the basics. I have no answers, but I know it would take something extremely radical to change it at this point.