Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maybe The Problem Isn't Money

A few weeks ago a news report came out that was sure to provoke all the wrong responses. The title says most of what you need to know:

Anyone who is shocked by these findings, raise your hand.


Anyone at all?

I didn't think so. The report goes on to tell us that not only are they not up to snuff, they are way below snuff.
The state DOE administered the tests in the fall of 2016, but released the data at the end of May, after it was analyzed by CALmatters, a non-profit journalism venture dedicated to exploring state policies and politics. Over 50 percent of these boys scored in the lowest category on the test’s English section, trailing far behind their female classmates. The disparity reflects a widening gender gap in literacy scores across ethnic groups.
California published separate figures on the performance of various ethnic and economic groups, but did not offer a more detailed breakdown of how boys and girls perform within those groups, with state officials claiming that sorting the data is costly and time consuming. This recent data provides rare insight into how gender interacts with race and class in mastering basic literacy skills.
Female students hold a sizable lead over their male classmates in language arts. The gap spans all grade levels, and a higher family income does not appear to have an effect. The gap is also not unique to California, given that girls out-read boys in almost every country and at every age.

So, from that we discover that half of the boys scored in the very lowest possible category, which I have to assume is "barely literate in any sense". But something else was interesting and I also underlined that in the third paragraph. Here is is again: "The gap spans all grade levels, and a higher family income does not appear to have an effect.".

That doesn't match what we are always told, that black underachievement is the result of poverty. It doesn't matter the age or the family financial situation. Black boys simply do not read and write with any level of proficiency that you would expect given how much we spend a year on public schooling.

The usual excuses are made by the usual suspects:
“Part of this may be structural, in having texts that aren’t relevant to the experiences and legacy of African-American boys,” said Chris Chatmon, executive director of the African-American Male Achievement program at the Oakland Unified School District. “When a lot of the curriculum you have access to isn’t familiar, or doesn’t acknowledge your past or your present, you have a tendency not to be engaged with it or want to read it.”
The African-American Male Achievement Program. What an ironic name since black male students are not achieving much of anything. It is also a load of crap. I am not a Hobbit living in Middle-Earth and I have never met a wizard or a Nazgul but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate and learn from the Lord of the Rings, I have never been to England or anywhere else in Europe but I still can learn from the classical authors of Western civilization. The other major problem is that if you restrict the course material to texts that are familiar to black boys or are "relevant" to their experiences, you don't have much to work with. There aren't exactly a plethora of black writers who are on par with Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare. Perhaps these black boys would benefit from reading works that challenge and expand their horizons instead of insisting that they can only learn from fellow African-Americans?

Or just maybe the problem is much more fundamental. Blacks just are not as intelligent and academically inclined as White and Asian students. You don't see a lot of Korean-American kids who can dunk a basketball or dominate the 100 meter dash but no one seems to care about that. Pretending that the problems of underachievement can all be solved by moving the bar or pushing more black focused curriculum or the old standby, throwing money at the problem (how much do you supposed Chris Chatmon mentioned above makes?) isn't going to change anything. Look at the difference in  college completion rates from Inside Higher Education:

Of blacks who start college, six years later only 38% have a degree. That compares poorly to Hispanics at 46% and even worse compared to Whites (62%) and Asians (63%). Keep in mind that colleges and universities trip over themselves to cater to blacks and they still are failing/dropping out at a high rate. In spite of that, there is still a huge push to get as many blacks into college as possible.

At every level and despite vast sums of money being spent, blacks and to a lesser extend Hispanics, lag behind Whites and Asians. Everyone knows it but we are always told that the problem is anything but the source material, the students themselves. It is poverty, it is Eurocentric curriculum, cultural bias, whatever. We keep making excuses, blacks keep on failing and the solution is to keep doing what we were doing, only with more gusto and money!

We should be steering blacks toward vocational training so they can get jobs that they can actually do instead of promising jobs that they can't get the education for. A young black man is going to be far better off if he gets vocational training and starts a career at 20 as a carpenter instead of going to college, failing out and finding himself without an education and without skills at 20.

Of course saying that is racist. So is suggesting that importing even more people who actually have even lower IQs and then wondering what to do with them might be bad policy. In fact anything other than mindlessly repeating the mantra "It's not their fault" is racist.

Maybe what is really "racist" is to use blacks as pawns in your political power plays regardless of whether it helps them or not?

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