"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, April 27, 2006

High Stakes and Low Incomes: The Recipe for Repression

We know and we have known for years that family income is the most reliable predictor of standardized test scores, whether third grade state math tests or the GREs required to get into grad school.

What kind of social and political structure, then, would require that the poorest children perform on tests at the same level as the children of more well-to-do parents, knowing that the poor children are going to come up short?

What kind of social and political structure would then blame those children for their failure, which remains entirely predictable by anyone who does not have her eyes and heart tightly shut in order to maintain a "color-blindness" or "economic class blindness" that is, then, used to excuse the blaming of children for their own disadvantage that the children are not blind to at all?

Will the denial that discrimination exists make discrimination go away, or will the pretense that poverty is not a factor in performance results deliver us from the devastating effects of poverty? Or will the embrace of color-blind and class-blind policies make racism and poverty so ingrained that we can continue on for years to punish children for their inability to be blind to what we have have successfully refused to see?

Does our "color-blindness" allow us, then, to leave children behind in classrooms to repeat the same mind-numbing scripted anti-thought curriculums developed to control the behavior of children who will never learn that learning is the necessary tool of freedom?

Do we then pretend that the totalitarian horror shows we have made out of urban schools is the best we can do for the children who our history has ignored, and who bit parts in our visions of the future?

How long can we use our advantage to blame the disadvantaged for not being what we have never allowed? How long will we cluck at their "lagging" performance, while exerting more pressure on the school to become more like a boot camp, more pressure on teachers to become the drill sergeants?

Is this not the classic definition of racism--the joint exercise of prejudice plus power?

How long will we celebrate incremental test score advances, while we make sure that 23% of Hispanic children and 32% of black children repeat the nightmares they have just come through while their classmates move on? And will Katrina refugees in Texas complete another failing year while they are waiting for the right to return home?

With no humanitarianism in sight, do we really have we really no shame remaining that might stop this modern-day eugenics movement that is going on in Texas, Louisiana, or New York City?

TAKS Math Test 2006

White passing rate: 91%

Hispanic passing rate: 77%

Black passing rate: 68%

Spanish language version: 47%

Displaced hurricane survivors: 45%

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