Over on her blog, Dana Goldstein makes the important point that in so many discussions about education reform — a topic that seems to be inescapable right now — the issue of race is avoided.
It’s important to note that the major problem with American education is the problem of class and race inequality. As Linda Darling Hammond writes in The Flat World and Education, “students in the highest-achieving states and districts in the United States do as well as those in high-achieving nations elsewhere.” Indeed, American white, Asian, and multiracial children perform better than the OECD average in reading, science, math, and problem solving. It is black and Hispanic kids that are falling behind.
[Bold hers.] You can see this at play in the documentary Waiting for Superman, in which the achievement gap is mentioned, but only as it pertains to class. But there are racial disparities in student achievement, even when controlling for parental income class. In fact, when the movie talks about the halcyon days of American education in the 1950’s and 1960’s, there’s no mention at all of school segregation or desegregation and how they’ve impacted how American schools function.
At TAPPED, Jamelle suggests that making the education reform conversation about race could dampen concern for reform efforts, since Americans tend not to like policy ventures that they see are aimed at people of color.
That said, and at the risk of sounding a little cynical, it might be good that attention is focused on the school system as a whole, and not just those schools serving disadvantaged populations; Americans tend to be a lot less enthusiastic about reform efforts when the beneficiaries are black and brown.
I’d also add that bringing up race means inviting one of those predictable conversations in which the problems facing youth of color are chalked up to dysfunctional pathology. Still, it seems hard to ignore the role race plays in the achievement gap, as the disparities in performance often persist even when when the black and brown kids are middle class with college-educated parents.
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