Education, Identity, Top Stories

The Misleading Racial Achievement Gap Statistic

Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of the most racially diverse counties in the United States. Four different ethnic groups—white, black, Hispanic, and Asian—all comprise at least 15 percent of the population of the county, not to mention a vast mixed-race population as well.  It is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation by average household income.

It also has a high “racial achievement gap.” The Stanford Educational Opportunity metric pegs the black/white achievement gap score at 3.09, and the black-Hispanic/white-Asian gap even higher, which means that the average white or Asian eighth-grader in Montgomery County scores more than three grade-levels higher on standardized performance exams than the average black or Hispanic student.

Apparently, by the standards of the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, the racial achievement gap is nothing short of an educational crisis or profligate systemic failure. Current MCPS superintendent Jack R. Smith wrote in the Washington Post, “For 50 years, the achievement gap in Montgomery County has grown in the shadows while many of our county’s schools and students garnered well-deserved praise and earned awards… This disparity in academic outcomes is a crisis in our community that must be addressed.”

In 2015, MCPS embarked on a large-scale “equity and excellence” initiative sparked by the findings of a large racial achievement gap in the county. They transformed their entire choice and magnet school programs to give racial preferences to blacks and Hispanics. They established a “Racial Equity and Social Justice Program,” hired extra staff to promote MCPS equity initiatives, and invested huge sums of money in things like implicit bias training. They have even required seemingly irrelevant departments like the MCPS Facilities Management Department to write and sign equity statements. All in all, they have spent countless hours of energy—and more than $120 million of federal government money—on these achievement gap efforts since 2015.

The idea of closing the racial achievement gap has been a common theme in public school boards across America for the past 40 years. But have these efforts been successful? A new report by the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight reveals that they have not. It found that MCPS’s initiatives are doing little to stem the tide of the increasing racial achievement gap in the county. Says the December 2019 report: “a review of the data evidences a wide performance gap that has not diminished by race or ethnicity among a majority of the metrics reviewed.” This report comes in spite of all of these efforts to fix this gap.

But what if these efforts seem fruitless because these school boards are focusing on narrow, misleading measurements of success instead of the broader picture? What if closing the “racial achievement gap” is not a useful measure of a school district’s success or failure, and of the success of low-income blacks and Hispanics in particular? As it turns out, the racial achievement gap is a heavily flawed metric, and often tells a distorted story of a county’s truly educational progress, which is then co-opted for political ends.

Firstly, a high racial achievement gap masks the stories of good public school stewardship, which tends to help all races but doesn’t necessarily “close” the gap.

While it is true that MCPS has a high racial achievement gap, it is also true that the achievement of the black population is actually higher than the national average. Black students in MCPS score roughly 0.5 grade levels below the national average for all races, which is still high for the black population. The fact that the black population is doing better than average suggests MCPS had been doing something right, not wrong.

Compare MCPS’s record of achievement and public school growth with that of neighboring Prince George County, MD. Although Prince George, a primarily black county, only has a black/white achievement gap score of 2.06 compared to 3.09 for MCPS, its black students score 1.1 grade levels below the all-race national average—which is worse than MCPS. If you were a black parent deciding where to send your child, where would you pick? The system with the lower achievement gap—or the system with better black results? Clearly the latter.

Secondly, racial achievement gap statistics are heavily skewed by metrics that should not be considered when thoroughly evaluating the performance of a school district. For example, if a school system is trying to improve results for Hispanic citizens, and receives an influx of low-income, low-achieving Hispanic immigrants who have not been through the system, then the entire Hispanic achievement score will be dragged down by those who have not yet been fully assimilated into the school system.

This is particularly critical in Montgomery County, where two groups have been growing faster than the rest. The county population of Asians has nearly doubled in size since 1990, while Hispanics have nearly tripled in size since 1990. Nationally, Asian immigrants have a much higher educational level on average, which is reflected in their kids’ achievement; the reverse is the case for Hispanics. If local educational correlates to race reproduce this pattern, the result of that immigration would be a naturally increasing racial achievement gap—but nothing which merits criticism of the school system per se.

As it turns out, focusing too heavily on closing the racial achievement gap to the exclusion of other priorities can be counterproductive to a school system’s mission and purpose, which is to educate all its students. It leads to consequences that burden high achievers and remove the attractive qualities of a school system that have led high achieving parents to invest in the public school system in the first place.

MCPS’s efforts to restructure the Gifted and Talented programs in the county, for instance, have encountered vocal resistance from local parents. In an effort to (symbolically, for the most part) curb the racial achievement gap, they made the selection process less transparent and used racial proxy factors to determine entry into the programs. Sure, lowering top-end achievement would close the racial achievement gap, but under no scenario could clamping down on excellence possibly benefit low-achievers.

The BOE recently announced that it will redistrict school boundaries based on racial and ethnic diversity standards. MCPS insists on doing this, again, in the name of closing the racial achievement gap. But, in so doing, they have driven away many formerly trusting parents, who contributed tax money to fund the public school system. Many parents move their families into neighborhoods for the schools, and when those expectations are not met, they lose trust in the governance of their public institutions. Said one concerned parent at a contentious MCPS School Board meeting: “Many families buy homes based on the current school districts and making changes will have a direct impact not only on the home values, but also the educational plans they have created for their children’s futures.”

All of these reforms, made in the name of improving “racial equity,” and directly linked to closing the racial achievement gap, have instead stoked anger within the county community and failed to improve the outcomes of the lowest performing students in the school system. This tends to happen when school boards define goals based on terms like “race” and “gap,” which inherently split and divide communities for political ends.

What should be done instead is to focus on managing the school’s resources in a way that will actually improve the outcomes of these students’ lives. This doesn’t mean undermining those students who are already successful in an attempt to flatten the racial achievement gap and make administrators feel better about themselves. Montgomery County offers us an important lesson in the fallacy of simple “tell-all” statistics. The reality, as usual, is complicated and the solutions are rarely simple.

 

Kenny Xu is a writer for the Federalist and the Washington Examiner, covering race, identity, and culture. You can follow him on Facebook @thekennethxu and on Twitter @kennymxu

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Why are we even tracking achievement by skin color in the first place?

  2. We are always told that race is a social construct, created by racists to maintain a racist system to the benefit of the racists; yet the government seems to be the real culprit here. If race is a social construct, then why does the government track so many things by race? I have never understood this and there is no plausible explanation for this double think.

  3. I’ve looked into this matter quite deeply, and there are several ways to boost results for everyone. It is possible to distil it down into three simple steps. The first is that the curriculum can be either progressive or traditional, but it must be knowledge-rich- which is perhaps why, when Robert Pondiscio embedded with Success Academy, he found that the syllabus and teaching methods were less progressive that Eva Moskowitz thought (she herself has discussed that they needed to rewrite much of the material they used, in order to cram in more knowledge and Maths reasoning).

    The second is to institute a strict low-level discipline policy (using detentions and the like) to optimise behaviour and make the most of every moment in the day. By the time many students leave K12 they have lost the equivalent of two years worth of teaching to disruption- even a burst of boisterousness in a corridor can cost minutes before the kids settle. Front-end contracts that the kids sign so they know what is expected of them is a great idea, as is a full induction of at least a couple of days, during which they can observe classes to see the way they are expected to behave. Most of all, there must never be the spectre of bureaucrats and parents standing over the teacher’s shoulder making accusation of racism for disciplining kids whose ethnicity means that they are more likely to come from poorer backgrounds, higher crime communities and single parent homes, with fewer productive fathers pursuing the vital role of social enforcer.

    The final requirement is to insist upon the active participation by the parent or parents in the educational process. Now this can vary by school and home resources, but at the very least it should include asking the kids what they learned today, making sure they do their homework and, depending on age, listening to them read for half an hour every night. Many liberal teachers persist in the notion that if you just have a few good kids from good parents in a class, then their attitudes will naturally rub off on others- what they overlook is the effect this has over time, with the lowest common denominator being the rule, rather than the exception.

    Because good parents all working in concert with well-run school can achieve amazing results if Success Academy in New York, or The Michaela Community School in London are anything to go by. This is because peer groups during these vital years are incredibly important, as many a couple have found to their dismay, with their previously good kid going off the rails. As teenagers we are learning to socialise as well as learning to learn- and often the former can have a huge impact on the latter. It may sound merciless, but if a parent can’t be bothered to participate in this bare minimum of educational support, then their child should be unceremoniously dumped in a school for problem kids, where their inevitably bad behaviour can do no harm to the prospects of other kids.

    One final issue is the American insistence on phonics- other than the bureaucratic need to go after teachers for disciplinary racism, thus hampering their ability to do their job (and adversely affecting black and latino kids, in the main), it is the principal centrepiece of systemic racism within the American school system. Abandon Whole Word. Please, Abandon Whole Word for all, but those who need it (dyslexics). Because when the kids of wealthy parents go home at the end of the day, they always learn phonics at the hands of their parents. It’s an unfair advantage, and one of those perverse (rather than pernicious) subtle bits of racism that really does infect the system.

    With these few small changes, accomplished at little or no cost, it should be possible to close the gap, hopefully by half. It might even provide one enduring morsel of systemic advantage to the poor- given that I can’t see all those liberal parents of the sprouting woke taking too kindly to all that strict discipline. The reason why the progressive educational establishment has failed for so long is because they are attempting to use the institutional to accomplish what can only be achieved by social means. It’s why the social conservative mindset is so often found amongst those born to modest means, or conservative parents- because the philosophy of gratitude, personal responsibility and grit is just so important for those born in harder circumstances. Without it, they will continue to lag behind.

  4. Add it to the following:

    I don’t believe in God but I know the universe has a plan for me.

    Gender is a social construct but some children are just born in the wrong body.

    The patriarchy keeps western women down yet somehow women are statistically far better off than men under numerous metrics.

    Toxic masculinity is disgusting but I somehow find myself attracted to these men.

    I believe that everyone has a right to fair procedures but no not for that crime.

  5. It keeps the money flowing into the pockets of professional Victimologists?

  6. There are two ways to close the education gap. One is to improve the results of the poorly-performing students. That is hard work.

    The second way is to reduce the outcomes for the high-performing students, or to drive them out of the system. Intentionally or not, most of the BOE’s initiatives seem to lead to this second outcome. This will make the “gap” number look better, but lower the overall education for everybody.

  7. Not to mention achievement is an individual achievement, not a collective one. Putting achievement into racial buckets is clearly racist. Better would be to use ethnicity, as we’ve seen repeatedly that blacks from the Caribbean and Nigeria, for example, doing much better than African Americans, which suggests race doesn’t determine a collective outcome, not to mention that surely even some African Americans do really well.

  8. What is your area of expertise, if you don’t mind my asking? I myself work directly with low income youth, and have been for the past 12 years.

    Your solutions are well meant but either very naive, insufficient, or already done.

    1. Your first solution, that the teaching is ‘knowledge rich’ is bewilderingly irrelevant. I assume by this you mean teaching facts? What data do you have that shows that "knowledge rich’ teaching helps minorities? I don’t know literally any data that supports this. Not that I’m against teaching facts.

    2. A strict low level discipline policy has already been tried, for decades. It is being attacked by the state and the media because of the unequal results–blacks on average are disproportionately severely misbehaving. Front-end contracts are laughably useless. I agree that bureaucrats need to disappear and discipline needs to be reintroduced, but the result will be unequal rates of discipline, period. The problem is and always has been: What do we do with the ‘bottom’ 10%-15% who severely disrupt? Right now in our district, they’re trying (again) an in-house program for severe disrupters (kids who have been arrested many times, are violent, etc). The problem is that they want to have the same academic results as ‘regular’ kids, and that’s impossible. These kids have severe behaviors. The behaviors impede their learning and that of others. To expect similar results is insane.

    3. "Insisting’ on parents participation–hahaha. How??? No ‘liberal’ teachers I know of think that a few good kids will have their attitudes rub off on others. If you spend a second in an actual classroom, you’d never think this.

    Your solutions, while well meant, are not workable and don’t go to the heart of the problem: the extent of dysfuctional behavior coming from African American kids. It’s huge. The media is utterly clueless as to how bad it is so if you’re not on the trenches you have no idea. Ignoring it makes it worse. Saying, “I have an idea! Let’s tell parents to be more involved! They’ll listen! I mean, when they’re not snorting or languishing in jail or ignoring the kid,” is just plain pointless.

    The problem is the culture the kids grow up in. Period, end of discussion. The culture can only be changed from within. The “war on poverty” has been catastrophic for Black culture. There are many wonderful hard working parents in poverty. Poverty alone is not the cause. I have students who have overcome terrible hardships to learn. Giving excuses for the behavior is horribly enabling. But you also must work with what you have. These kids in general do NOT have functioning homes. They have absent parents, abusive parents, no parents, and in general parents who do not understand the value of education at all, and who condone girls getting pregnant at 12. (One of my very disruptive students - he kills kittens and has other very dysfunctional behavior - just became a father at 14. Everyone is celebrating and saying how adorable his daughter is.)

    The biggest obtuseness in ‘solutions’ is not understanding that the culture is not upper class white culture, or Asian culture, or any culture that values the necessary traits one must have for success and knows how to implement it. We are not dealing with little clones of a white suburban kid, but at the same time, we are dealing with human beings who must be treated with dignity, not as symbols of our own desires for equality of outcome and the pipe dream that all cultures are equally functional.

  9. I am an analyst and technical writer of sorts, although I usually work under various noms de plume. For the most part, my work is covered by confidentiality. I’m not a teacher, but I do come from a family of teachers. In a previous job, I also trained a significant number of adults in how to access basic IT skills, many of whom were afraid of technology or didn’t want to learn. Much of my reading and research into education is driven by a world building process for a science fiction novel I am working on. I know that sounds lame, but the goal is introduce the reading public to many of this issues that you discuss. Fiction, if done well, is one of the few venues where you can legitimately change peoples minds, given sufficient levels of guile in framing the readers perspective and it’s certainly my objective to change attitudes through illustration.

    It was largely arrived at by reading Seven Myths About Education by Daisy Christodoulou, and looking at some of the Cognitive Science on the subject. It’s premise is that working memory is puny and relies on knowledge committed to memory as knowledge schema, in order to manage even the most mundane cognitive tasks. It’s not the only book I’ve read on education, but it’s certainly the one that struck me as being of the most practical use, and the science which underpins it is sound, contradicting much of the dogma being produced by educational academics.

    That was my point. Responding to misbehaviour with discipline is the only way to even begin to cope with the issue, even though it doesn’t always accomplish much. Obama’s easy acceptance of disparate discipline rates as proof of racism, was a blemish on his time as President.

    Build special schools for them, and separate them from the general school population. This was a solution that used to work well, before many of the special schools were shut down. With my generation, there was always an implied threat that if you misbehaved you would end up going to the special school. It worked.

    Make sure the parents understand that the quality of the school that their kid goes to is directly affected by the level of time and attention they put into their kids education. Many parents are desperate for school choice- let them have it, but only on the condition that they become active participants in a voluntary association of parents aiming to transform their kids fortunes.

    This the whole point of my evolving theory. Whether we look at private schools, Catholics in Northern Ireland, the hyper-successful ethnicities, Success Academy or other Charters, or any number of other successful ground-level educational enterprises one of the common denominators is a community of parents acting in common cause. Apart from anything else, the social enforcement benefits of so many parents having an effect on their individual children will help keep bad apples out of the peer groups.

    It’s not an optimal solution. What I am proposing only helps that portion of the population that wants to help themselves and their children. For everyone else, it only defers the problem to the next generation. But I have to believe that the type of option that Success Academy gives parents, could transform into a broader social movement given half a chance. The alternative is just too depressing to contemplate.

    By depicting a geographically isolated white population in a similar situation historically to the one you describe, I hope to shed light on many of the issues you raise. Maybe then I can contribute in some small to help addressing the situation.

    I didn’t mean to pass myself off as an expert. I have in previous posts pointed out I’m not a teacher, but often forget that when I have researched a subject thoroughly I can come across as more of an expert than I actually am, to a broader lay audience. I of course bow to your greater wisdom and experience. Part of the reason why I regularly comment here is to learn from feedback. Just an observation, but do you keep in touch with any of your success stories? My mother always used to bump into former pupils at the local pub, and over recent years has found herself being introduced to their kids. They always tell her that she was their favourite teacher. It seems like a life well spent, despite whatever trials and tribulations might present themselves along the way. Do you keep up with any of your former students? I am interested to see whether there are universals, given the very different day-to-day experiences you have faced.

  10. First, thanks for participating in this discussion. I think my tone was a bit aggressive, because I feel deeply about this and am so despondent about the future of these kids. But I do apologize for my tone.

    Let me address the above quote first because it gets to the heart of the matter: Your solution is not only to kick out all the extreme dysfunctionally-misbeheaving students, but any students whose “parents won’t participate in the bare minimum.” The problem is twofold:

    First, with respect, you are operating in a sort of bubble, in which you assume that everyone is like people you see on TV and in your neighborhood, and so you assume the number of students whose parents won’t do the bare minimum is small. Let me assure you it is not. In any district, honestly - I used to work in an upper class district, and there were definitely horrible parents there too - but in my district, I’d say a sizable number, at least 50%, are from families who are unwilling and/or incapable of participating in the bare minimum. Back to school might, I’m lucky to get more than 3-4 parents (out of 60 students total). Unsurprisingly, the parents you want to see most, never show. If you call parents, many are unreachable. The reasons are many and complex: some are just terrible parents (in jail, dealing drugs, making their kids deal drugs, doing drugs, not caring, abusive). Others can’t find the means to come in (they don’t have a car, say, and can’t take the bus late at night because, for instance, they’re watching 6 of their kids and can’t come in with all of them either); others don’t know how to connect with the school and have no idea back-to-school night exists despite it being sent home in letters, on the school and district web page, on FB, and with robocalls. You have the majority of students with single moms and 6-10 kids and several different fathers–these mothers, even the best intentioned ones who are often poorly educated and/or cognitively low, simply cannot manage to come in or engage.

    So how does your solution help? Kick out their children? And then what? How is it fair on the kids as well? This is the second problem. There is no place for them to go. After you “unceremoniously dump” these kids, then what? Not to mention the crime rate will soar even higher.

    But the problem remains because despite the many challenges of their lives - not just home, but neighborhood, in which every single kid knows at least one person who has been shot and killed, and all know what gunshots sound like - many students are still good students, who want to do their best. But they’re pulled down by the other kids. A large portion of kids in these dysfunctional homes/environments will behave accordingly. These kids bully and torment the other kids but aren’t removed because the there is nowhere for them to go. “Dumping” them is not a solution.

    1. I agree with your point about Obama.
    2. The special schools still exist but if we were to send the kids there who belong there, we’d literally send over half the district. I personally think we need to do that. But it’s not realistic because of the media and the narrative of 'institutional racism." Ironically it is precisely this narrative that dooms the students to lives of misery and desperation, for it effectively helps destroy their schools. Right now, in order to get into such schools, you have to really really really try. My student who ended up a father at 14 got expelled because he did a series of things culminating in theft and pulling the fire alarm falsely. He was in a sepcial program (“cares”) and then…returned back to school. Naturally, the social workers in the program all thought they’d brilliantly ‘fixed’ him in 2 months. (We get this all the time–outsiders who have zero idea what they’re doing, thinking we’re idiots who’ve failed the poor child, and only they have the expertise to ‘rescue’ them. They’re always fooled.)

    Part of the legality you don’t mention, perhaps because you’re unaware, is that it’s much harder to discipline special needs students because of the law. You can do it but you have to cross your T’s and dot your I’s and you can still be sued. In our district, one 25% are special needs. It’s high both because the students simply qualify (IQs in the 70s, severe learning disabilities) and because parents want their kids to be classified because they get more money from the state. (This is openly said by many parents and kids.) The biggest scam is “emotional disability” which can be an actual one, or reactive from trauma, or mental illness, or just plain being a jerk (to be blunt). All these kids are covered.

    1. “Making the parents aware” of how important school is is simply extremely naive. Do you think the schools don’t try? We have parent liaisons whose full time job is to help parents. We have social workers. We have psychologists. The state has additional psychologists and social workers. There are zillions of free programs and after school programs. People give their entire lives trying to reach out to parents. Sorry, but see under: culture.

    2. Your charter examples are moot. charters pick and choose kids. Even the lottery ones can kick out students at any time. It’s apples and oranges. Simply requiring the parents be involved in order for hte kids to go there, is picking and choosing. They’re allowed to choose and allowed to kick out, but public schools are not. It’s ridiculous to compare the two. Why public schools can’t act like charters I don’t know. My own solution: Have the troubled kids in charters. Then do something different with them, not the same thing that has proven to fail. Success Academy is, I’m sorry, an irrelevant example.

    All that said, there is a reason I stay. I love my students. I love making a difference. There are many kids whose lives are impacted. Yes, of course I keep in touch; many come back to see me. I agree that is a life well spent. Thank you for saying that.

    What is the solution then? I think, as I said, it all stems from the culture. This is a bottom up change, not a top down one. Also remove the incentives to not work and to cheat hte system. I realize this is supposed to be something we’re never supposed to talk about, but it’s quite real. Kids are open about it. The biggest path to poverty is having children before you’re married and not graduating high school. Unfortunately, the culture is fine with both.

    And again I need to stress I’m not talking of everyone. Indeed, it’s my frustration at the invisibility of the other ones that drives me. So many kids go through our system and deserve better. They need the adults to step up to the plate. By 'adults" i don’t mean paternalistic white people. I mean their parents, their pastors, their mayor. There are such wonderful individuals, but not enough. And drugs are ever-present and very tempting. I’ve lost several students this way (several have been killed).

  11. This is nearly unfathomably wrong, I am sorry.

    I grew up in a very progressive community doing exactly this. Listen very carefully, please.

    The talented and gifted program had been eliminated a few years previously, as part of a “holistic” movement in education. The going theories? There were “no bad kids,” that every child who was cruel or abusive was merely misunderstood and acting out (despite how this erased their victims), etc. Blank slate was huge, and mainstreaming was the rage. By high school, they had de facto re segregated the high performing students because they saw a drop in the high end, not a raise in the lower.

    They brought back the talented and gifted program as a limited after school program option when I was in first grade. Students were selected on the basis of whether their kindergarten and first grade teachers thought they were TAG students. My kindergarten teacher did, but my first grade teacher believed I had a learning disability- I choked on “sounding out” simple words and I argued that negative numbers were real.

    So I wasn’t in TAG. My mother objected. I was given an assessment test by the school. When my results came back, I was taken to re-take the assessment under supervision of some suit (literally, some guy in a suit) and the school counselor. Per my results, I was reading at a collegiate level, and my math skills were on par with a high school graduate. They told my parents I could start as a freshman if they wanted the following year; they deferred. I was then moved into the TAG program. The teacher in charge objected. My name was “lost” from the mailing list; and I was not invited to any of the events associated.

    Third grade, we had an “advanced reading group.” Laura Ingalls Wilder. We would go during “reading time” to read chapters aloud to each other. I enjoyed the book; I was reading ahead. Another student noticed, I was told not to. I therefore was doing it under the table. Net result: My book was taken away; and I was forced to sit and wait while everyone else took turns reading. On my turn, I was issued my book, only for it to be promptly reclaimed once my turn was over. I was lectured for “repeatedly making the other students feel bad.”

    In fifth grade, I ended up with the same teacher that headed up the TAG program. She would make me redo assignments multiple times. Not because they were wrong- she wouldn’t even look at them. At first she claimed penmanship, then she claimed I was rushing, then she pulled me aside and lectured me about “trying to embarrass the other students” and that “I needed to learn how it felt for people who weren’t as smart as I was.” She would make me redo assignments until other students finished; on a few occasions (days I assume I irritated her) she would make me redo assignments until I was the last one done. I only had 43% of my recesses that year.

    Her sister-in-law was my seventh grade teacher, and again tried to have me kicked out of the TAG program. She also lectured me, in class, about “trying to make the other students feel bad by finishing so quickly.”

    In eighth grade, all TAG students were given the NMSQT (or PSAT) for “reference.” I had a perfect score. The high school counselor called me in to tell me I, quote, “would have no more problems with teachers in the future”, endquote.

    During this same time period, from the age of 7 until 14, I was in no fewer than 27 fistfights, only one of which did I take the first swing. The others? A couple of pushing matches, twice I was rabbit punched while quietly reading, once I had a locker kicked nearly closed on my open hand (got quite a cut from that one), on one occasion someone kicked me in the stomach (again while reading) like a soccer ball without warning. Stabbed with a pencil (back), jabbed with a fork (back); I was expressly told, by a mix of teachers and the school counselor, that:

    1. The other boys were jealous that I’d “get mine later” and were just trying to “get theirs” while they thought they could
    2. That if I was so smart, I had to “learn to deal with it”

    So I did. I scared the crap out of those boys. You let a guy kick you again and again, and just look at him blank faced and don’t show pain, he’s going to step in and stop guarding his throat. One punch puts down most, and they tend to remember.

    Other fun bit: Every instructor I had, from second grade through my sophomore year of college, told me I was no longer allowed to answer questions in class.

    This is what happens to the high end gifted when you mainstream, especially in a progressive environment.

    Am I an academic or doctor? Hell no. If not for my wife, I’d be a night janitor somewhere with a room stacked floor to ceiling with books. Sixteen times, I was told I deserved student of the month; but another student “needed it more” or “showed such a great improvement” and I would, of course, “get mine later.” I went to a school with the second highest concentration of National Merit Scholars in the country (offered a full academic ride); I know at least six other guys with a similar opinion/outlook from that experience. I owe society nothing. My gifts are mine, and I am no subhuman slave who was born to serve other people’s needs.

    I’ve said again and again on Quillette, you can’t make lower performing students top tier; but you can turn off top end students.

    What the gifted need is their humanity. Let them know how excellent they are, reward them based on their achievements, but put them with peers who understand and don’t constantly attempt to “put them in their place.” These are gifted children we are talking about. The minds of adults in some ways, but the intense emotions and sensitivities of children.

  12. I come from the old USSR - this nonsense is soooooo familiar.
    Proletariat. Bourgeoisie. Intelligentsia. Peasants. Blacks. Hispanics. Asians.
    Even the Soviets used the terms “Uzbek” “Tadjik”, “Kirghiz”, and not “Central Asians”. Sweeping social/racial/ethnic/sexual branding, without regard to individual qualities, needs, desires, perceptions, etc. The worst of the groupthink. The Soviets did it, the American leftists are doing it now. The Americans haven’t learned anything of the sorry experience of socialist solutions to every problem under the sun.
    There’re two 800 lb gorillas the commissars in the American school boards do not wish to notice:

    1. It’s not the race, stupid. It’s the economic class and decreasing social mobility for ALL races in America, thanks to mindless capitalism and governments’ abrogation of responsibility as a balancer of business-public interests.

    2. Obsession with metrics in things that cannot be measured. For example - absence of father figures in 70% of black households, or insistence on speaking or learning Spanish as a matter of cultural prerogative…in the USA. Obsession with group solutions where groups are at best artificially defined and lack of focus on best individuals within those groups. You know, as in good example is contagious?

    At he very least, the leftist do-gooders are incredibly condescending (and geographically and anthropologically illiterate, and some would say racist) to group people into such categories and then have the gall to measure them as such.

    Dear leftists, other than having a common language, there’s no such race or ethnic group as “Hispanics”. My upstairs neighbors, architects from Colombia are not the same as illegal aztecas washing dishes at Scappy’s Italian Restaurant. There was a choice in their lives and the choice was made without your “benevolent” measurements.

    Same with blacks. All the nonsense about intersectionality, institutional racism, the evils of whitehood, etc. will not produce the desired result. But a visit and a talk at a predominantly black school from a black astronaut would do wonders for those kids’ self-esteem and success impulse

  13. “Immensely helpful” should be expanded. Bored gifted kids can be unhappy and really disruptive. It’s not just a matter of wasting a good draft animal.

  14. It’s striking that the local heroes who are brought in as exemplars of success are invariably athletes (college or pro), or performers. Invariably. In all my years being subjected to these false ‘enthusiasm exhortations’ (usually before state testing), I have literally never seen Black scientists, mathematicians, business owners, investors, artists, brought in. None. They exist, naturally, but are not brought in as role models. Small business owners especially.

    The other striking thing is that when students see other races’/cultures’ success - in my city, it’s Mexican/Dominican/Guatemalian corner store owners; Jamaican small restaurant owners; Middle Eastern fried chicken restaurant owners; and Asian restaurant owners - they say something like, “Why do these people get to own the stores and not Black folks?” (There is a divide between African Americans and legal immigrants from the caribbean and Africa. The immigrants are doing well though they are quite poor. The African Americans resent this in general. I"m always talking in general by the way; never individually.)

    That is, what they’ve learned over the years is a helpless dependency and lack of individual will. I believe this is entirely due to the enabling patronizing ‘War on Poverty’. So rather than say, “I’m going to own my own salon and specialize in African American hair products;” or “I’m going to invest in my own construction business;” or “I’m going to revitalize the city by reinvesting in small businesses”, they say, “There’s some sort of vague conspiracy going on that makes the businesses not owned by African Americans.”

    And though many mothers say, “Don’t get pregnant young like I did,” the overall culture has not only no negative social cost to getting pregnant and keeping the baby at, say, 15; it rewards those who do by first showering the family with extra money, and, on an on the ground level, by outright admiration.

    I had a meeting in which my 7th grade student returned to school after having delivered he baby. She arrived for the meeting walking side by side with her mother, both of them proudly pushing their small babies in their strollers. That basically says it all.

    Again I am certainly NOT saying all people in the city are like this. Many despise it. They call it “ghetto” and look down on it. But the “ghetto” culture is too strong. And the music glorifies the life of drug dealing, quick money, women as commodities.

    The saddest thing is what I just wrote would never in a zillion years get published pretty much anywhere. On the very off chance it did, I’d be excoriated for racism and possibly ruin my entire career, as would the publication. And what’s despicable is that the people doing this would be almost invariably upper class folks who’d literally never set foot into the city and would never consider patronizing any inner city business. Their cries of 'racism" are entirely for their own egos and an attempt to narcissistically prop up how they see the world, as opposed to helping in any way those they purport they want to help.

  15. I think as a side note, this is one reason Jews are so despised. Most of us came over in extreme poverty with literally nothing. I know many Holocaust survivors who came to America not only not speaking English and with no money or formal education, but with horrific traumas–and then proceeded, despite significant racism (“No Jews, No Negroes, No Dogs” were common signs then), to become successful business owners, pushing their children to go to college and become doctors, lawyers, etc. This is common as opposed to the exception. I see the same with Asian immigrants. One striking image: I was tutoring a child in reading because he was earning an A- and his parents didn’t want him to all behind in reading. His grandparents lived with his family. The house was immaculate but nearly empty. What the family invested in: tutors, and a large piano. Literally. I didn’t see a giant TV, expensive furniture and clothes. The money went entirely into education and deepening of the soul with music.

    A friend of mine is an immigrant from the caribbean in her 60s. She grew up in poverty on her island–they didn’t have electricity and she had to study with a candle. She had one school outfit she had to wash every night by hand. Her parents spent all their money on her education. She came to America, and all four of her kids are doctors or nurses. She herself is a successful teacher/administrator. She is Black. There is no reason African Americans cannot likewise achieve such success stories. Any racism they experience would likewise be experienced by her. Her ancestors were slaves, too. The difference? The lack of the “Great Society”. The different culture. That’s it.

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