There’s no closing the achievement gap.


I was woefully unprepared for college …

… and I don’t want the same to be true for anyone else.

I am composing this in some haste, which makes it harder to be fair.  Also, lots of unpleasant feelings are involved.  Also, the facts on the ground are changing as we speak.

I took Algebra I in 9th grade, Geometry in 10th grade, Algebra II/Trigonometry in 11th grade, and a course that was essentially pre-Calculus in 12th grade.  Yet I was, as said, wholly unprepared for the Calculus courses that were the only offerings for freshmen at the university I went to.

Whether one calls the courses I took “accelerated” or “advanced,” I don’t know.  They were the courses I took, and the courses expected for anyone who expected to go to college.

Now it is reported that the State of Virginia, per a plan to be implemented beginning two years from now, means to eliminate those courses for anyone prior to 11th grade.

The motivation …

… is to eliminate the measurability of any difference between achievement of black students and of white students; given that, historically, disproportionate numbers of white students enroll in the courses to be eliminated.

If you envision two overlapping bell curves sitting on top of a ruler, one more slightly to the left and one more slightly to the right; that is how the scores of black students and white students normally appear.  The proposed moves essentially cut off the right-most three inches of the ruler, so that the two bell curves are forced to come together.

There is a long, tortured history to efforts to eliminate the achievement gap.  The articles I link to mention the position papers I link to;  and the extensive bibliography attached to the first one, indicates how much energy the politically correct have invested in this cause.  Now it appears that they have basically taken over the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and also the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The problem (if there is one)

The achievement gap first appeared in the 1960s, and every conceivable approach has been taken to seek to close it.  None has worked.  I am without reason to believe this new approach will work, either.

Historically, the evidence is overwhelming that, as a group, black children do not achieve as well academically as white children, as a group.  A previous post included this passage:

As to the special “predicament” facing young black males, a report on the work of Robert Ferguson, “Peer Pressure, Stereotypes Fuel Minority Students’ Struggles,” notes:

For starters, Ferguson writes, efforts to dismantle the predicament should begin at birth, especially since research has shown that male children of color at each parental education level lag their peers in cognitive skills by age 2.

In other words, when poverty is removed from the equation, the disparity still appears — practically from birth.

If the difference appears at birth, one has to ask if it isn’t genetic.

I don’t like saying that.  Throughout the composition of this post, I have been beside myself with anger that the achievement gap exists.  As angry as I’ve been, I cannot be surprised that other folk are angry, too.  The achievement gap “should” not exist.  But what “should” be, and What Is, are rarely the same; and no amount of zeal will make not-facts, facts.

We have here, then, a problem that can’t be fixed.  If it can’t be fixed, maybe it’s not a problem.

The solution

The achievement gap is not the be-all, end-all issue for the quality of black life.

From the beginning of my thinking about this post, the real problem has appeared to me to be not the achievement gap itself, but rather the prestige society attaches to high achievers.

For myself, the question of all this controversy boils down to what I myself can do, what I myself will do.  And I have determined from long ago to esteem all people alike.  If the person is an engineer, or a medical doctor, or a truck driver, or a sex worker, I will esteem them all alike.

Society may not do that.  It will do what it will do.  So will I.

Related:

Blog posts

Articles

Position papers

 

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