mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
Federal Government Now Endorses Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Classroom

According to Alabama’s new education standards, black students will not be expected to do as well as white ones in public schools. The WSJ reports:

“Beginning this fall, Alabama public schools will be under a new state-created academic accountability system that sets different goals for students in math and reading based on their race, economic status, ability to speak English and disabilities.” Alabama’s Plan 2020 “sets a different standard for students in each of several subgroups — American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty, special education and white.”

In other words, minority students will need to meet lower expectations, while white students (and Asians) will be expected to reach higher proficiency levels.

This practice is not new. In an effort to escape the No Child Left Behind Act’s stringent standards for schools, a number of states applied for a waiver, which would allow states to keep federal funding if their schools met a limited number of benchmarks. Of the 33 states granted a waiver last year, 27 now have different achievement goals for different groups of students. And the Obama administration fully supports this measure, “as long as the low-performing students are required to make greater rates of progress, so that the gap between struggling students and high-achieving students is cut in half over six years.”

The issue of race is clearly still entangling a society that likes to think of itself as post-racial. Ironically, not only are the liberal democrats of the Obama administration not raising red flags when states ask to do this; they are actively supporting racial profiling in schools.

In practical terms, this is setting up a system in which some teachers will think they’ve succeeded as long as the black kids in a class reach a certain low level of proficiency. Meanwhile, they’ll keep pushing the others to do better. This hardly seems like a behavior we want to incentivize, but a teacher trying to do well under these new evaluation standards would be acting rationally to do exactly that. We appear to be recreating the old “separate but equal” education systems within integrated classrooms. Surely color blind standards make more sense.

[Classroom image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • rheddles

    The headline is perfect. And tragic. This is shameful and a waste of human lives. We are denying these children the best opportunity they will have to escape poverty and ignorance. Not to mention the inherent racism.

    • Corlyss

      How much are we obligated to look away from failure after failure and go on subsidizing the failures? How long are we obliged to keep paying minorities to be a stable of unskilled, ignorant but reliable voters for one or the other party?

      Robert Hooks, an actor of some fame who happens to be black, once remarked, “Blacks will not be truly equal until they are allowed to fail.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. For 60+ years, we and our good intentions have been getting in the way of nature taking its course.

  • Nick Bidler

    You don’t even need to *try* to create a perpetually-struggling underclass. All you have to do is let people live down to your expectations.

    • Corlyss

      What is society to do when the people in question have no better expectations for themselves?

      • Andrew Allison

        Set expectations for them!

        • Corlyss

          Isn’t that the patronizing racism too, about which minorities complain all the time?

  • Andrew Allison

    George Wallace must be rolling with laughter. Setting lower educational standards for blacks is only marginally different from shutting them out of school altogether. Either way they are robbed of the opportunity to compete with whites.

    • Corlyss

      I would consider them “victims” only if they weren’t so politically active in undermining their own success. They aren’t robbed of opportunities to compete with whites. Many of them self-select out of programs that demand adherence to standards, the deviation from which has material consequences. That’s the whole point behind the serious re-examination of how much Affirmative Action, race-based admission criteria actually help minorities to break into demanding professions. When the minorities keep abandoning science and math courses for poli-sci and black studies and crap like that, they just make the case for terminating all race-based preference programs. They aren’t doing themselves any favors and it’s mostly their own doing, following the leads of 70 and 80 year old veterans of the Civil Rights movement.

      • Andrew Allison

        Let’s agree to differ on this. I think that, like most of us, they “self-select” the easy path. I blame the enablers more than the victims.

        • Corlyss

          It’s a dance made for two, Andrew. Minorities have made a sociology, a pathology, and a bulwark of their victimhood. You have to give them props for making many of us think it was all our fault when we didn’t have anything to do with it. Exonerating them from that is to ignore reality and do both a disservice.

  • Suzyqpie

    The damage done to the black community in the name of help is truly stunning.

    • Beauceron

      Well, it must be said that most of that damage has been done, or greatly assisted by, black community “leaders”. How else can one look at racial preferences in college entrance applications, hiring in the private sector, and in government jobs and contracts? Take the once-vaunted FDNY, for example. Because of low “minority” hiring (minority is in quotes because, in NYC, non-hispanic whites are a minority, so in effect there is no minority here anymore), the courts (pressured by the usual groups) insisted the entrance tests were racist. They had an outside firm that specialized in diversity redesign the tests. Still a racial discrepancy. They went through the process several more times, all with pretty much the same result. In the end they did the only thing a just society that values diversity could do: they made the test so easy thet pretty much anyone can pass it now. Passing the test is now absolutely meaningless and they have no real standards.
      One assumes, perhaps incorrectly, Alabama has done this to avoid the same fate.

  • Anthony

    High quality time-tested standards, WRM, make sense and expecting all public school children to meet them is only logical. “Alabama’s Plan 2020 sets a different standard for students….” I can’t add to previous comments beyond echoing that soft bigotry of low expectations damages more than present generation of students exposed.

  • Pete

    “According to Alabama’s new education standards, black students will not be expected to do as well as white ones in public schools.”

    When you look at group averages, this policy makes eminent sense.

    The alternative, which has been in practiced for quite a while now, unintentionally drags down the academic level potential of white & Asian students as a way of closing the performance gap between them and back and Hispanic children.

    • Andrew Allison

      Not if the same, high, standards are set for everybody.

      • Pete

        If you set the same high standards for everyone, you get an increase the ‘achievement gap.’

        This embarrasses and vexes the ruling elite as it bring up uncomfortable questions, questions the elite do not want the larger society to hear let alone contemplate.

        • Andrew Allison

          The achievement gap exists regardless of race or socioeconomic background. If you are arguing that the ruling elite refuses to recognize this, I’ll agree. My point was that it’s not race-related.

          • Pete

            You been into the politically correct Kool-Aid to much, Brother.

            Whenever the ‘the achievement gap’ is spoken of in sociology or education or politics, it is almost always is defined specifically as the lower of academic performance of blacks and Hispanics to everyone else.

  • Corlyss

    “Federal Government Now Endorses Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations”
    Your observation is about 42 years late. The nanosecond Affirmative Action became enshrined in law, the soft bigotry of low expectations became the norm in government policies. The whole point of Affirmative Action was to waive in people who couldn’t hack the local standards because “the system” was stacked against them. The legal fiction we were all ordered to swallow was that the Affirmative Action beneficiaries were just as skilled and masterful of the material as others, but there was systemic prejudice that prevented them from demonstrating their skill and mastery. It is hogwash. It always was hogwash. It always will be hogwash. But as long as the feds are committed to the legal fiction, the soft bigotry will predominate.

  • ElmerEvans

    Will this include a stamp on their foreheads reading “Dummy”?
    Because that is, in essence, what Alabama is doing.

  • lukelea

    I would call it realism. Treat people as individuals regardless of racial disparities by giving each child an appropriate education based on his or her demonstrated abilities and interests.

    The soft bigotry of low expectations is an evil phrase. It needs to be retired.

    • Mary Elizabeth Sarks

      You are a bigot.

      • Jim__L

        Leaving aside whether there’s any detectable “bigotry” in his post or not, if his prescription to “treat children as individuals regardless of race by giving each student an appropriate education based on his or her demonstrated abilities and interests” is scrupulously followed, that would be a good thing, no?

      • Corlyss

        Are you being as funny as your post sounds?

      • lukelea

        I hope you will withdraw that comment. Otherwise I suggest you are the bigot for calling me one.

        Not only do I think every person should be judged as an individual irrespective of race, but like a good parent I believe the happiness of all our children is equally important irrespective of any differences in ability.

        The problem, as I see it, is that our governing elites don’t see it that way. They seem to believe that everyone should master algebra and get a college education, and for the half of the population that doesn’t to bad for them. It is this lack of caring for the left side of the bell curve — the half of the population that is below average in academic ability — that fosters so much racial strife.

        To see what I mean, see here: http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/

        In the meantime I hope you will reconsider your slur. You may have meant it to shut down discussion but I regard it as a libelous defamation of character.

      • Notjack

        For what reason? I know Ms. Sarks won’t be hiring a minority contractor for any work and demand to pay them 10% more than a non-minority contractor.

        And I am definitely sure that she wouldn’t go to a Doctor who couldn’t read cursive, or answer her questions in a coherent fashion, no matter what race.

    • Corlyss

      “If racial disparities result it doesn’t follow that teachers are racists.”
      Well, minorities rarely claim the teachers are racists. They argue the racism is inherently systemic. The education system or the course itself is racist.
      I have to disagree with you Luke, about the phrase soft bigotry. I absolutely believe it lies at the heart of all the preferential treatment programs for every minority. Let’s give X a break because you know their education was handicapped by society; let’s not expect too much of Y because for two hundred years they’ve been migrants and come from unstable homelives; let’s pay a 10% premium for goods or services from Z because, you know, they have trouble competing against firms in their field and we need to promote more ownership by Zs.

  • John McCarthy

    I think the policy makes sense. The fact is that over the population African Americans average 85 IQ while european americans have about 100 IQ and asian americans have about 108 IQ. This has been found repeatedly for generations. IQ correlates very highly with academic success.

    Not everyone can learn calculus. Trying to teach someone with below 120 IQ calculus is both frustrating to those unable to learn it as well as an incredible waste of time.

    Allow the slower kids to learn at a slower pace. Expect more from the smart kids. However one is denounced as racist if you notice these facts – and they are facts, not opinion. It may give one a case of the sads to notice this but it is reality.

    • catorenasci

      The IQ numbers you cite are facts, but they also represent averages, and the differences they represent probably are much more important at the high school level than elementary level

      I think it is very important to do two things:

      1. NOT lower expectations for any group, but only for individuals who, in the early years of schooling, demonstrate that they do not have the cognitive ability to keep up.
      2. Make every effort with all kids in the earliest grades to teach the behaviors needed for academic success as well as the academic information as well.

      No one wants to go back to the bad old days of segregation, but even in those bad days there were blacks schools with high standards and black students who excelled, meeting the same standards as whites.

      We need to explore and find the ways to recapture for black students the ways in which those black schools and students were able to do that, even under the appalling conditions they faced.

      • John McCarthy

        I wish they would IQ test each student and then put them in a separate track then see if they are keeping up with what is expected of that track. Alabama is using race and income as proxies for IQ. Each person should be treated as an individual.

        But IQ is such a touchy subject it is illegal in California to IQ test students!

        But do not tell me that the schools are failing african american kids when as a group they just can’t do as well as europeans and asians.

        • Jim__L

          IQ tests are not necessarily reliable. Some kids are just late bloomers, and some kids who show early promise never quite deliver.

          A system based on “interests and demonstrated capabilities” would be best. Someone with a low(er) IQ but a high level of interest in a given subject can achieve more than an indifferent “genius”.

          • catorenasci

            This is correct, but it should not mean that testing is abandoned: we have to have some way of distinguishing the students who can achieve at higher levels and those for whom it’s just not possible.

            What it does mean is that we need to be alert for those who bloom later, and to take into account those who achieve well above expectations.

            It also means that teaching needs to be geared to encouraging children’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. That takes outstanding teachers. Who are, unfortunately, in extremely limited supply. Even in the best public school systems, probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the teachers aren’t outstanding, but marginal to incompetent. Of the remaining 1/3 to 1/4, probably only a small portion of that group are outstanding, and the remainder merely competent, which isn’t really good enough.

            In my 13 years of public schooling, I think I had only 2 outstanding teachers: both in elementary school.

            For my own kids, the best teacher they had in 13 years each was in kindergarten – it was literally all downhill from there, with 2 other excellent teachers in the rest of the process.

    • khm001

      I think the policy makes sense.

      Not everyone can learn calculus.

      These two statements cannot be reconciled. Grades not reflecting reality do not make sense. Giving a passing grade in calculus to a black kid who doesn’t understand calculus, while giving a white kid of similar performance a failing grade, in order to “normalize” achievement in no way changes the fact that the black kid didn’t understand calculus.

  • bpuharic

    Conservatives were in favor of racist quotas when they oppressed blacks, now they’re against them since the shoe’s on the other foot. Funny how that works.

    • khm001

      Conservatives were in favor of racist quotas when they oppressed blacks

      Conservatives didn’t oppress blacks. It was liberal democrats. Slavery, Jim Crow, Bacon Davis, etc. were all liberal democratic policies to keep blacks oppressed. When these policies failed in their purpose, liberal democrats changed tack and created a class of government dependent black culture that finally did what slavery, Jim Crow, and economic warefare didn’t – destroy the black family and keep blacks perpetually impoverished.

      But I guess it’s best not to learn history if you’re a liberal. Otherwise you’d have to come face to face with the fact that everything you think is evil about conservatives is actually true about democrats.

      • bpuharic

        Uh conservatives used to be democrats.Every conservative was in favor of racism. The S Baptist Church…which NO ONE would say was liberal…was formed as a proslavery church. The Catholic Bishops…which NO ONE would say was liberal…was in favor of slavery

        William F Buckley, who NO ONE would say was liberal, was in favor of poll taxes to ‘protect white civilization’. James J Kilpatrick, who NO ONE would say was liberal, was plain about his racism. John Derbyshire, who NO ONE would say was liberal, was fired from “National Review” for racism

        To the right wing. ‘liberal’ means democrat. They’re too uneducated to know that Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’ used racism to win racist Republicans to the GOP.

        You guys have a narrative…AKA a lie…that your own history is that of protecting blacks.

        Paul Ryan who NO ONE would say is liberal, wrote a newsletter containing racist sentiments, and Rand Paul, his son, has an avowed racist on his staff today

        But go ahead. Tell us how all those ‘states rights’ racists were liberals.

        • Flatley

          Paul Ryan is not Ron Paul, silly.

          • bpuharic

            Sorry. All racists look alike. Hard to tell under their sheets.

          • Old Fan

            You do realize it was Al Gore’s father who fought for segregation? Long ago, GW Bush campaigned for a Republican who challenged the ugly racist named Wallace. You have it backwards, buying into a vivid partisan swindle. Even Bill Clinton’s inspirational political mentor, J. William Fulbright was a racist. Bill Clinton interned for J. William Fulbright in 1966-67, when Fulbright was still a segregationist. As President, the ugly Clinton bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the racist Fulbright.

          • bpuharic

            Hold on…let me find my swooning couch.

            FORSOOTH!! Thou hast me here! Golly…that’s the first time I’ve heard that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            The fact is the GOP used to be moderate. Today it’s virulently right wing. And the south was RIGHT WING even when it was DEMOCRAT. It was CONSERVATIVE AND RACIST even when it was democrat

            But you go ahead. Tell us how liberal the south was. And try to sell that bridge while you’re at it

            You guys have your cliches and that’s pretty much it.

            LBJ signed BOTH the VRA and the CRA. Who opposed them

            William F Buckley…founder of modern conservatism

            Barry Goldwater, 1964 GOP PRESIDENTIAL candidate

            If it was for the DEMOCRATS blacks wouldn’t have the right to vote because CONSERVATIVES fought against black civil rights.

  • Sammy

    I guess the feds have decided the original three-fifths calculation was right after all!
    Hope N Change

  • Arch

    The old South had “separate but equal.”

    Today we are ushering in “together but inferior.”

  • Jim__L

    Professor, could you write a comparison between the approaches of Booker T Washington and WEB DuBois? I can’t help but think that that’s a debate we should revisit today, now that DuBois’ view has triumphed. It seems to me that if Washington’s view had had the same success in parallel with DuBois’, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  • http://www.tempeteaparty.org Lee Reynolds

    If the goal is to create and maintain an underclass immediately identifiable by the color of their skin, subjecting the intended victims of this scheme to an inferior education is a great way to start.

    George Wallace must be laughing in his grave right now.

  • bittman

    This approach sounds racist. I can see separating kids into different groups based on IQs and actual achievement in class; however, I understand “political correctness” no longer allows this. The goal of education should be to provide an interesting but challenging education system instead of having schools mainly babysit and brainwash kids with Progressive ideology.

  • peterike

    Since the ever-stubborn “gap” is entirely genetic in origin, educational policy will never have any effect, and lowering of standards for non-Asian minorities is entirely sensible as they are largely incapable of meeting the same standards.

    • bpuharic

      And you know that how?

      • SamuelThomas

        It’s called evolution. Everyone was not created equal by a magic sky wizard. Grow up.

        • bpuharic

          Hmmm…”All men are created equal”…seem to recall reading that somewhere…

          but conservatives think the DoI is s commie document and Jefferson was a red.

          And social darwinism isn’t evolution. Don’t play with words you don’t understand.

          • The Bogeyman

            Men of non-European descent were not considered to be men at the time that was written.

          • bpuharic

            Conservatives have pretty much the same view today.

          • The Bogeyman

            And liberals have turned a huge proportion of the descendants of slaves into little more than pets, completely dependent upon the state for their shelter and sustenance. Which is worse?

          • bpuharic

            So you say. And yet the right has turned the entire middle class into slaves.

            Funny how that works.

          • The Bogeyman

            Can’t argue with you there, anyone who pays income tax is a slave to some extent.

            And those who push for higher taxes are the most responsible. Which happen to be the leftists.

  • Notjack

    Some kids learn through positive reinforcement and some through negative reinforcement.

    The fact that schools can no longer use the latter is the problem.

    As a public reference librarian, I see too many minority kids who are incapable of reading, incapable of filling out an online application (because of the previous point), and an entitlement mentality that literally expects some one else to fill out their application.

  • Notjack

    Giving some one an award for something they did not actually achieve is soul destroying, unless you currently reside at the White House.

    African American job applicant: Of course I can read, I have this HS diploma.

    Interviewer: Ok, read this. (Place NY Time paper in front of applicant.

    AA job applicant: I don’t read Times New Roman font. And what’s more I don’t have too.

  • Notjack

    All you white and Asian kids! We’ll be reducing your grades so we can give the black kids higher grades.

    It is only fair.

  • Boritz

    This is important news because it removes one of the two remaining institutional burdens minorities must shoulder, the other being the requirement to compete in the college classroom within a one-size-fits-all evaluation system. While affirmative action helps level the playing field in the competition for admission to college, once they have gained admission to elite institutions minority students find themselves competing for grades with other students many of whom were admitted with better credentials and preparation. There is ample evidence that this is a factor in the minority drop-out rates at these institutions. EEOC set-asides have long addressed the issue of unfair competition in the work place. With these new evaluation standards Alabama has removed inflexible standards from all education except at the college level.

    Social scientists and other experts who are interested in the state of education will want to follow this Alabama experiment as success here would provide powerful empirical evidence for the efficacy of implementing the same rules at the university level. Flexible evaluation standards in the university, especially elite institutions, would go a long way toward addressing the minority drop out rate and would bring the overall minority experience in higher education into the same realm as the admissions process, the workplace, and now public education.

  • Old Fan

    This is another symbol of political irony. Democrats are mythically deemed as “caring”, yet the stereotype is severely misguided. The various Teacher’s Unions were predictably upset with the introduction of standards, testing, competition via the No Child Left Behind Act. It was obvious the self serving Democratic Partisans exploiting Public Education would reject this effort to stop the enormous failure, thinking only of themselves. Ironically, Obama regretfully crushed a successful voucher system providing less fortunate American Children their only chance at a quality education as well. It is as if Democrats simply want Americans to be ignorant, illiterate, uniformed, uneducated and dependent. This failure has been enabled and encouraged for decades. Again, the youth of America suffer greatly at the hands of the greedy, incompetent, corrupt Democratic Party. Where is the outrage in response to the Chicago Teacher’s Union Leader who pathetically blamed her own massive failure on “racist rich white” people? GW Bush showed again, as he did with the admirable effort to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa, he cared. The Democrats clearly do not.

  • 500_lb_Gorrila

    So, ‘useful idiot’ has now been replaced by ‘useful bigot’.

  • saailer

    Could someone please explain why 14 year old Black kids can not read, write a simple sentence or grasp basic math? Is it due to a fault of the school system or lack of parental discipline? Criteria for answer: do not point at other bad behavior to justify, do not bring up poverty ( I was raised in poverty), no reference to my political feelings and lastly no labels ie..racist…Just answer the question…

  • Jon LeVeille

    That’s a big problem with government education, it isn’t focused on teaching students how to learn, but rather, making sure they receive good marks.

  • Michael Enoch

    This article makes the assumption that it is not appropriate to set lower standards for black students. The actual performance of black students in comparison to whites and asians over many many years and despite all efforts to bring them up to that level says otherwise. I think this is actually a good policy and that it is needlessly cruel to black children to integrate them with whites and then expect them to perform at that level.

  • Right-wing Realist

    This is completely unnatural and will only serve to harm society further down the road.

    Are we going to allow a low I.Q. minority become a surgeon just because we want to make them feel better? Are skilled jobs going to be taken over by unskilled people? This does nothing to help the students and only allows them to get away with not trying as hard as the others, which will undoubtedly create tensions between races (yet again).

    This is just another reason why government is unnatural and only causes harm to societies.

    • bpuharic

      The anarchist right pretends govt harms society.

      Proof? Well…none. And govts are natural. Every society has rules. Just because you’re too ignorant to think doesn’t mean you should expose your ignorance here.

    • Augur Mayson

      This one does, that’s for sure. But anarchy would only work if we weren’t already surrounded by ^__^holes.

  • SamuelThomas

    This is what happens when you put clothes on monkeys and expect them to be civilized.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service