I've stated before (see the comments in the link above) that I don't think California's teachers are racist, whether overt, subliminal, or institutional. This crutch of racism dishonors those who struggled under true, legalized racism--when, as a group, blacks performed much better, in underfunded schools, than they do today. Culture, not racism, accounts for the lack of performance of so many today.
A majority of black Americans blame individual failings -- not racial prejudice -- for the lack of economic progress by lower-income African Americans, according to a survey released Tuesday -- a significant change in attitudes from the early 1990s.
At the same time, black college graduates say the values of middle-class African Americans are more closely aligned with those of middle-class whites than those of lower-income blacks, the poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found.
Slate, not known for its conservative leanings, had an interesting take.
Yesterday we looked at evidence for a genetic theory of racial differences in IQ. Today let's look at some of the arguments against it. Again, I'm drawing heavily on a recent exchange of papers published by the American Psychological Association...
The current favorite alternative to a genetic explanation is that black kids grow up in a less intellectually supportive culture. This is a testament to how far the race discussion has shifted to the right. Twenty years ago, conservatives were blaming culture, while liberals blamed racism and poverty. Now liberals are blaming culture because the emerging alternative, genetics, is even more repellent...
When I look at all the data, studies, and arguments, I see a prima facie case for partial genetic influence. I don't see conclusive evidence either way in the adoption studies. I don't see closure of the racial IQ gap to single digits. And I see too much data that can't be reconciled with the surge (partial closing of the US black-white IQ gap in the last century) or explained by current environmental theories. I hope the surge surprises me. But in case it doesn't, I want to start thinking about how to be an egalitarian in an age of genetic difference, even between races. More on that tomorrow.
The Los Angeles Times, yet another not-quite-conservative bastion, had an opinion piece on last week's conference at which O'Connell was present.
Hardly had the figurative strains of "Kumbaya" faded when racial fault lines erupted. Before the end of the first day, numerous white educators had stormed out. At workshop after workshop, they had been asked to examine their attitudes toward and expectations for black and Latino students. Only once that was done, they were told, could they initiate change in their schools. Hurt, resentful and angry, the white educators heard this message: Stop being racist.
That's right, folks--if you're going to judge me by the color of my skin, that's racist. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that's the very definition of racism.
In turn, some black educators were nearly or literally in tears after Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute stated that even the best schools cannot close the gap. Rather, he said, the cultural and socioeconomic divides between the races -- differences in wealth, health, child-rearing -- must be addressed. Deflated, demoralized and anguished, the black educators heard this: It's not white institutions that require scrutiny, it's black and Latino homes.So everyone got ticked off. I guess that's what we call equality.
Then there's the closing.
Personally, I'm tired of talking about race. In education it seems that half of what we talk about is race. The racial achievement gap is real--that's not even debatable. The question is how best to address it, and if the problem is even one the schools can address. It doesn't make sense to me, though, to have the starting point be that all of California's teachers are racist. Not only is it not constructive, it's not even close to accurate.
Unfortunately, misunderstanding, fear and hurt are inevitable consequences of talking about race. But we hope O'Connell doesn't back down now. If we are committed to educating all of our children, this conversation must continue. It's probably going to become a lot more uncomfortable -- certainly for him, but also for the rest of us.
I wonder how Mrs. Barton would react to this foolishness.
Update: Joanne Jacobs has addressed this topic on her blog as well. The comments afterward are especially enlightening.