Modern universities are hotbeds of socially correct agitation, and race is always a popular cudgel with which to beat just about anyone on campus. The Washington Post recently demonstrated the legacy media’s general cluelessness by writing on this issue, as reported by Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff:
In separate articles, today’s Washington Post takes up two racial disparities revealed by recent studies. The first pertains to ‘degree selection.’ Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports:
‘African-American and Hispanic students disproportionately earn more bachelor’s degrees in low-paying majors, putting them at higher risk for financial instability after graduation, according to a new study from Young Invincibles, an advocacy group. . . .
The highest paying majors through mid-career were primarily in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields, while the lowest were in law enforcement, education, and professional studies.
Researchers found African-Americans are overrepresented in four of the six lowest-paying fields; the same is true for Hispanic students in three of the six majors at the bottom of the income ladder.
What explains the disparity?
‘There is no singular reason for the disparities within majors, but centuries of racial discrimination, uneven budgetary support for K-12 education and poor academic advising and student support contribute to the problem, said Tom Allison, deputy director of policy and research at Young Invincibles, and one of the authors of the study.’
This is the kind of analysis you’d expect from a liberal advocacy group, and some of it may have merit. But there’s a much more obvious and straightforward explanation that is missing from the Post’s story — college mismatch caused by racial preferences.
If stands to reason that if a student is admitted into a college with grades and test scores well below those of most other students, he or she will be less likely than others to take courses in difficult subject areas such as science and engineering.
I’ve often written about the “college readiness” fad in education, which embraces the idea that everyone should go to college, and high schools should spend considerable time and money preparing everyone for college. Mr. Obama has taken the idea to the next level, by suggesting that the taxpayers should pay for college for all, and even Jeb Bush has jumped on that ill-considered bandwagon. The problem is that not everyone wants to attend college, and that only a relatively small portion of the public has an IQ sufficiently high to allow them to successfully do genuinely college level work.
Yes, some people are smarter than others.
This fundamental truth of human nature, much ignored, would obviously produce disparities in choices of majors. People that are forced to take remedial English and math courses for no credit—and struggle even with those high-school level reviews–are hardly going to study science, math or engineering.
The other, larger issue is that for many black students, particularly those that are not, by IQ and/or academic interest and achievement, motivated from a young age to attend college as a means of gaining specific qualifications for a particular professional career, simply have different interests and expectations for themselves compared with other racial groups, including whites and Asians.
Yes, culture matters, and matters a very great deal.
The second disparity highlighted today by the Post is that black teachers are disproportionately quitting jobs in inner-city public schools. In Washington, D.C., for example, the portion of the teaching force that is white more than doubled between 2003 and 2011 (from 16 percent to 39 percent), while the share of black teachers shrank from 77 percent to 49 percent. Attrition was a big driver of this shift.
The Washington experience is the most dramatic result found by the study about which the Post reports (by the left-leaning Albert Shanker Institute). But the trend was the same in the eight other school districts analyzed.
Such studies make assumptions that are themselves questionable at best. Among them, the idea that racial diversity in teachers is as important, and usually, more important than qualifications, ability and competence. Mirengoff makes the point well:
The Shanker Institute says that its study raises questions about whether those school systems are doing enough to maintain a diverse teaching corps. But what, short of discriminating against white teachers, can the school systems do to retain African-American teachers?’
The answer depends on the cause of the disparity in quit rates. Post reporter Lyndsey Layton quotes professor Richard Ingersoll, who helped write the study. He says that minority teachers quit because of working conditions in their schools.
Thanks, prof. But what conditions drive them to quit in greater numbers than their white counterparts?
Ingersoll cites ‘standardized curriculum that’s scripted and sometimes micromanaged.’ This, he says, ‘drives teachers nuts.’ But why would it drive black teachers more nuts than white teachers? The Post doesn’t say and I can’t think of a plausible reason.
I can. Scripted curriculum is indeed insane and amounts to educational malpractice, but that kind of material is very helpful to low-performing, ill-prepared teachers, who merely have to show up, read and play the occasional audio or video clip. Such curricula usually don’t allow much leeway for those that want to teach social justice and race theory rather than academic disciplines. This may, for at least some, be a factor. Of course, some scripted curricula are all about social justice and race theory.
Here’s an alternative explanation: black teachers may be more frustrated by the indiscipline of their students who (this being the city) tend predominantly to be black, and more discouraged by restrictions on their ability to impose discipline.
I’m speculating here. However, the Shanker study itself argues that minority teachers have higher expectations for minority students than white teachers do. And the study cites discipline problems as a reason for high teacher quit-rates among minorities (the Post doesn’t mention this). The study concludes that minority teachers are leaving because they want more classroom discretion and autonomy. It seems likely that an important area in which they crave discretion and autonomy is student discipline.
This is rife with contradiction. Particularly in big city school districts, unions are primarily in charge, and they often discourage effective discipline due to far left-beliefs and the desire to indoctrinate rather than teach students. Simultaneously, such schools are infamous for dysfunctional discipline policies, driven by leftist social assumptions. I doubt that there is any legitimate, reliable data that proves that black teachers—that’s what they mean by “minority” for the most part—have higher expectations for kids of the same racial background, and traditionally, white teachers have been more likely to leave racially dysfunctional schools, all of which would tend to cause one to doubt the research and conclusions derived from it.
There’s another real possibility: minority kids encouraged to attend colleges they aren’t qualified to attend, are eventually awarded degrees they didn’t earn (semesters of “studies” classes often substitute for substantial courses in their chosen disciplines), and are hired for positions for which they are unqualified. This is particularly true in education, where such new teachers find themselves entirely unqualified in temperament, knowledge of their discipline, and ability to do their jobs. Such people may be hell on wheels in spouting superficially erudite social justice platitudes, but when it comes to teaching Johnny or Suzy to read and write, they’re clueless.
So why do some teachers stay in dysfunctional schools? They tend to be the most dedicated, determined and disciplined teachers. They’re people that see teaching not as a job, but as a calling. Others tend to stay because of family or personal ties to their city, or because they’re past the point of no return in terms of earning a pension. In schools with no discipline, that don’t appreciate good teaching, only the most secure, confident, dedicated and disciplined teachers will tend to stay. That, or the worst teachers that can’t get jobs anywhere else, and know they’re safe in schools that can’t or won’t discipline bad teachers stick around as well. It’s not either/or, and much depends on the school and the people teaching there.
In any event, I found it interesting, though hardly surprising, that the Post reflexively explained the two racial disparity stories of the day in terms suitable to liberals — past racial discrimination, insufficient spending, standardized curriculum — while ignoring explanations, one of them obvious, that a conservative might advance.
Notice that he assumes that standardized curriculum is a worthy conservative goal. Tragically, it has become something conservatives support. They shouldn’t. Go here to discover why.
What’s more likely? That minorities do not choose demanding, technologically oriented studies, and that they leave teaching because they are, in various ways, the victims of racial oppression, or that they don’t choose advanced studies because they are unprepared, and leave teaching for the same reason? And can we ignore the effects of culture, which we are told we must embrace, even praise, when a supposedly unique culture conflicts with societal norms, even when pretending that all cultures are equally valuable and effective guarantees that the practitioners and advocates of cultures that are not, in fact, equally valuable and effective, will fail?