Another Thought on Racism in Education

Florida’s Department of Education has set race-based goals for its K-12 students (the Florida’s DoE Strategic Plan can be found here and here.  For reading, these goals are

  • Asian students: 90% reading at or above grade level
  • White students: 88% reading at or above grade level of white students,
  • Hispanic students: 81% reading at or above grade level
  • Black students: 74% reading at or above grade level
  • American Indian students: 82% at or above grade level

The math goals are

  • Asian students: 92% at or above grade level
  • White students: 86% at or above grade level
  • Hispanic students: 80% at or above grade level
  • Black students: 74% at or above grade level
  • American Indian students: 81% at or above grade level

These are not trivial differences.  Education Sector’s Director of Strategic Communications, Kristen Amundson, notes

I understand that this is recognition that students are beginning at different places—and that’s honest—but I think it is, at best, ill-advised to set different learning standards for students based on the color of their skin.

She’s being generous.  This is a blatantly racist program, and it harkens back to Woodrow Wilson’s paternalistic racism.  Some races, the Florida DoE seems to be suggesting, are just inherently inferior to others, and so they should not be held to the same standards.

Adding failure to injury, while this…policy…correctly recognizes that some groups of children start from different—lower—bases than others, it does absolutely nothing to correct those differences—which are educational, not innate capability.  Recognizing that these kids start out at different levels of preparation for school, and that much of these differences correlate with race (they also correlate with a host of socioeconomic factors—family income, family stability, and so on; these factors subsume race into them, so there’s a bit of double-counting here), makes for a useful start point.  But the Florida DoE is telling these kids that nothing will be done to help them finish school on a more-or-less equal footing with their peers.  “There’s no point in teaching you to do better.  You just can’t catch up.”

Yet the Florida School Board Association Executive Director, Dr Wayne Blanton, said this—and he was serious:

The message could have been portrayed a little clearer, but as far as racism, I see nothing in wanting to raise test scores that would be racist.  You’re trying to raise all test scores, not just in one particular group.

No, doctor, the message was portrayed quite clearly.  As clearly as your own disingenuousness.  No one is suggesting Florida is trying to raise test scores only in “one particular group.”  That’s just a cynical red herring.  What Florida is doing is providing drinking fountains, or bathrooms, to all groups—but some will be better maintained than others.

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