Wow! A bold, new explanation for the black-white testing gap!

At an “Achievement Gap Summit” this week in California reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, state schools chief Jack O’Connell proposed what he described as a whole new explanation as to why blacks and Hispanics are consistently behind whites and Asians in test scores. It’s not poverty, he says, because well-to-do blacks and Hispanics score as low as poor blacks. Reporter Nanette Azimov recounts O’Connell’s explanation of his discovery:

The realization was a jolt: Being black or Latino—not poor—was what the low-scorers had in common. And it changed everything.

O’Connell now believes that widespread cultural ignorance within the California school system is responsible for the poor academic performance of many black and Latino students in school.

He offered the example of black children who learn at church that it’s good to clap, speak loudly and be a bit raucous. But doing the same thing at school, where 72 percent of teachers are white and may be unfamiliar with such customs, will get them in trouble, he said.

The achievement gap is “absolutely, positively not genetic,” O’Connell said. “All kids can learn. I’m saying it’s racial.”

While O’Connell’s ideas are not entirely coherent as presented by Azimov, he seems to be saying that blacks and Hispanics of all socio-economic levels share an anti-academic culture. Ok, so the problem is not genetic. But then he turns around and says it’s racial. Huh? How could it not be genetic, yet be racial?

I think that what O’Connell is trying to say is that all blacks have the same culture, so their anti-academic attitudes are tantamount to a race problem. All blacks, regardless of socioeconomic status, IQ, etc., adopt an acting-out, anti-intellectual behavioral pattern. Since all blacks do it, it’s racial. That’s what he means by racial.

The article concludes:

Meanwhile, “race” is still a four-letter word to many educators.

O’Connell hopes his Achievement Gap Summit will help end the taboo on that subject, and get California educators talking.

He wants the conference to motivate educators and yield statewide changes, he said, including the possibility of legislation to increase preschool access for students of color.

“We’ll have 4,000 people there,” he said. “There’s no silver bullet or single solution.

“I could just look the other way and say the achievement gap is caused by socioeconomics—but it’s not.”

O’Connell’s idea seems new and daring because the liberal consensus is that the low black and Hispanic scores are a function of economic deprivation, meaning that they are society’s fault. By contrast, O’Connell is arguing that the problem is caused by a distinctive black and Hispanic culture. In comparison to the socio-economic explanation, his idea sounds daringly right-wing, because it implies that it’s not society that is causing the problem, but blacks, as blacks, and therefore it is only blacks, as blacks, who can change their culture and fix the problem. Again, because of Azimov’s less then clear reporting, I am guessing, but I think that this is what O’Connell means.

Assuming my reading of O’Connell is correct, two questions immediately arise. First, is this idea really new? Isn’t it the case that a black and Hispanic anti-intellectual culture has been for many years one of the common explanations offered by liberals for low black and Hispanic achievement? It seems to me that since the early 1990s the New York Times has an article every year or so talking about the persisting racial achievement gap and suggesting that among the possible causes is a black and Hispanic culture that is oriented away from academic achievement.

Second, let’s say that all educators accepted O’Connells’s putatively daring notion that it is a cultural attitude shared by all blacks and Hispanics, namely a view of themselves as non-intellectual, that causes their low intellectual achievement. Won’t the belief that negative cultural attitudes are the cause of low achievement lead automatically, as it has done repeatedly in the past, to the conclusion that it is America’s culturally dominant white majority which, consciously or unconsciously, is imposing those negative cultural attitudes on minorities, which in turn means that society in order to raise black and Hispanic achievement must eliminate the racial stereotypes which make all blacks and Hispanics believe that they are not intellectual? In reality, of course, all the attitudinal engineering in the world will not raise black and Hispanic intelligence.

We’ve already been through this, over and over, as in a dream from which we cannot awake. Yet each time we go through it the liberals act as if it’s the first time. In an afflatus of self-delusion, Jack O’Connell, right-leaning American liberal, imagines he’s saying something that no one has ever said before.

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Dimitri K. writes:

I think this “new” explanation is in line with the left’s shift from economic matters to cultural ones. I mean, their strategy to undermine the society by changing its culture. The message of O’Connell is not that blacks have to change, but teachers have to change and adapt themselves to blacks’ culture. Actually, it is already happening. For example, in my daughter’s school, almost completely white and Asian, in their music class they study exclusively African musical instruments and a lot of African songs (also some Hawaian). And they don’t teach a lot of math or grammar. The reason, as I understand it, is that no one can be left behind. And the only way to accomplish it, when having a broad range of abilities, is not to teach anything which is more complicated than playing a drum.

LA replies:

It’s Socialism 101. If you want to eliminate the inequalty between rich and poor, how do you do it? By taking away the property of the rich, so that everyone is equally poor. It’s the same with race differences in intelligence. If you want to eliminate the inequality between those who are able to learn and those who are not, how do you do it? By ceasing to teach anything, so that everyone is equally ignorant.

I remember when that thought first came up. I was walking and talking with Jared Taylor near his California home in May 1992.

Jeanne A. writes:

You commented:

“If you want to eliminate the inequality between those who are able to learn and those who are not, how do you do it? By ceasing to teach anything, so that everyone is equally ignorant.”

This is exactly the case with the modern public school system: it teaches nothing. The curriculum has been so dumbed down that children sit for hours and are indoctrinated with mind-numbing garbage that intellectually is worthless. Of course, an ignorant population is desirable for a centralized socialist government because if people are able to think for themselves, then they are a danger to the power structure. But this dumbing down is also due in large part to the influx of students who do not/cannot perform at a higher level academically. Instead of segregating children into classes based on their intellectual capability, the schools just water down the curriculum to an incredibly low level. They teach to the loWest common denominator. And what they actually do teach is largely worthless as it has been so filtered through the politically correctness screening system. My husband and I, desiring that our children actually be given an education instead of a state-mandated indoctrination, decided to home-school them. This way, we are able to devise a classical curriculum that is based on solid, pc-free subjects and that allows them to learn to their full potential.

The public school system is a failure. And its failures can be directly tied to the modern liberalistic philosophy that guides it. It is an incoherent jumble of mind-numbing, ignorant, baseless platitudes based on feelings and utopian desires more than anything that faintly resembles reality. I have always thought that if one wanted to look at the fruits of liberalism, they need look no farther than the public-school system. This one example of liberalism at work should make any thinking, intellectually honest person run away screaming.

DH. writes:

The research data on differences in intelligence has been very clear for at least 40 years. Will we, at last, follow the evidence and deal with it? Unfortunately, there also has long been silent agreement in the measurement field that nothing constructive can be done with this information.

So Jack O’Connell, who is from Santa Barbara and very liberal and “inclusive,” deserves some applause for even bringing up the subject. And this time it may go somewhere. However I notice that Moores has resigned from his appointment as a UC Regent and Ward Connerly is long gone. The UC Administration and faculty will do all in their power to block this information, let alone consider what can and should be done about it in terms of educational policy.

LA replies:

But O’Connell is not talking about IQ, but only about a supposed cultural pattern It seems to me that the best we could hope from O’Connell’s presentation is the recognition that if blacks and Hispanics are to improve, the blacks and Hispanics must make it happen themselves, since it is their own shared culture that is holding them back. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that such recognition will obtain. Instead, the view will be that, given that blacks and Hispanics have these negative cultural patterns, society must help them change their culture. And so we end up back at square one, with white society having the burden of equalizing the outcomes of blacks and Hispanics, and, when it inevitably fails in that task, with white society being held guilty for that failure and for the continued racial inequality.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The ONLY thing that can (maybe, possibly) put a stop to society’s crazed attempt to equalize collective racial outcomes is the recognition that there are inherent racial differences in intelligence.

Also, we should add that the recognition that a shared culture is the problem avoids the larger point that culture is itself to a significant degree an expression of race, and therefore racial self-improvement to a degree necessary to close the racial gap is unlikely to occur. But at least if there were an O’Connell type acknowledgment of a problematic black culture , the burden would be placed on the blacks and Hispanics themselves, not on society. That was the approach I took in my 2005 article at FrontPage, “Guilty Whites.” Since David Horowitz prohibited me from having any discussion of racial differences, the argument I used instead was that low black performance is a result of black behavior and culture, and therefore (following Booker T. Washington) only blacks can improve their performance, not anyone else. But if, after trying, they could not improve it, so be it. No white guilt. If our society were sane, the non-racial, Booker T. Washington argument would be enough to stop the racial engineering—meaning, only blacks can raise their performance, and if they cannot raise it, we will accept that result and not turn to racial engineering to raise it. But our society is not sane. Therefore, again, the ONLY thing that can decisively and permanently discredit the racial engineering agenda is the general recognition of inherited racial differences in intelligence.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2007 01:32 AM | Send

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