This has got to be the worst, most misguided initiative since Jim Crow—and if you’re a eugenicist, a Klansman, or just a garden-variety bigot, you’re popping champagne corks.
The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.
On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.
Consider this reasoning:
“It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.”
Oh, wait. That’s not the Florida Board of Education’s reasoning. That was the conclusion of social scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard Herrnstein in their 1994 book The Bell Curve, and the anguished outcry over their research led to, among other things, investigations into the background of the authors and accusations that they were fronts for racist groups with ill intentions. Here’s more from the Wikipedia entry:
In his book The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America, Steven Fraser writes that “by scrutinizing the footnotes and bibliography in The Bell Curve, readers can more easily recognize the project for what it is: a chilly synthesis of the work of disreputable race theorists and eccentric eugenicists“.
Since the book provided statistical data supporting the assertion that blacks were, on average, less intelligent than whites, some people have feared that The Bell Curve could be used by extremists to justify genocide and hate crimes. Much of the work referenced by the Bell Curve was funded by the Pioneer Fund, which aims to advance the scientific study of heredity and human differences, and has been accused of promoting scientific racism.
Welcome home to the roost, chickens.
Alas, what they’ve come home from is not The Bell Curve but affirmative action—that well-intentioned but insidiously corrosive and divisive program (that Martin Luther King would have opposed). The moment you begin assigning performance expectations based on race, the slope doesn’t have to be slippery to drop off into the gutter.
Hey, here’s a progressive idea. Why don’t we expect 100 percent of all students to read and compute at grade level? Sure, we’ll fall short. But the number of kids who succeed will certainly be far higher than the target goals, if only because certain kids won’t be burdened with the stigma of knowing that less is demanded of them.
In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education established that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Well, so are separate educational expectations.
Even as social scientists have transformed our understanding of affirmative action, universities don’t seem to be paying attention. Consider the University of California system, which since 1998 has been legally precluded (by Proposition 209) from considering race in admissions. Throughout the past 15 years—most recently in a brief submitted to the Supreme Court—university officials have denounced race neutrality and pointed to the substantial drop in freshman black and Hispanic students at the system’s two flagship schools, Berkeley and UCLA.
Yet race-neutrality has produced stunning benefits for minorities in the UC system as a whole, as shown in a data set that economists obtained from UC administrators. Black, American-Indian and Hispanic students made up 26% of all U.C. freshmen in 2010, up from 16% in 1997; the number of B.A.s earned by black and Hispanic students in four years rose 55% between 1995-97 and 2001-03, while the number with GPAs above 3.5 rose 63%.
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