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.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’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.
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.Jeanne A. writes:
You commented: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.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.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2007 01:32 AM | Send