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

Friday, August 18, 2006

Meritocracy, Racism, and the Blind Leading the Blinded

How legitimate are "legitimately high standards" that are just high enough to make sure that minorities are excluded?

This is the question that the color-blind community has ignored ever since the first "scientific" tests were devised to insure who does and who does not have merit in the manipulated meritocracy that disguises the instititutional racism of America's schools and the testocracy that they continue to breed.

It is the question that continues to be ignored in New York City, where, otherwise, sensible people scratch their heads and wonder why their special institute to help black and Hispanic students is not enough to raise their representation at the City's three high schools for the academic elite. Do these folks not know that parents who can buy (or borrow for) private high-dollar tutoring will take advantage of their advantage, especially since a ticket to Stuyvesant or Bronx or Brooklyn could save them over a hundred thousand dollars in private school tuition fees? Do these quizzical educated liberals not know that standardized test scores are more directly correlated to family income than any other factor?

Here is a clip from the Times article that explores this deep mystery:
More than a decade after the city created a special institute to prepare black and Hispanic students for the mind-bendingly difficult test that determines who gets into New York’s three most elite specialized high schools, the percentage of such students has not only failed to rise, it has declined.

The drop at Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School mirrors a trend recently reported at three of the City University of New York’s five most prestigious colleges, where the proportion of black students has dropped significantly in the six years since rigorous admissions policies were adopted.

The changes indicate that even as New York City has started to bridge the racial achievement gap in the earlier grades, it has not been able to make similar headway at top public high schools and colleges. Asian enrollment at all three high schools has soared over the decade, while white enrollment has declined at two of the three schools.

City education officials said they were at a loss to explain the changes at the three high schools despite years of efforts to broaden the applicant pools.

Andres Alonso, the city’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, described the figures as “extraordinarily surprising,” even though they are the Department of Education’s numbers. Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott called the schools “true gems of our system,” saying, “We have to make sure they’re open to all of our students.”

Robert Jackson, the chairman of the City Council education committee, who is from Washington Heights, was more pointed in his criticism.

“The statistics clearly show that black New Yorkers are being shut out,” he said. “If we’re looking to be inclusive in the greatest city in the world, I would think that the chancellor and every educator has to ask themselves why is this, and what do we need to do to reverse that. Is it institutional racism or is it something else?”

. . . . Gary Orfield, director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, called the schools’ racial compositions “absurd,” saying, “I don’t think someone would want to hire somebody just on the basis of a test score, and we don’t admit them to a great college on the basis of a test score, and we shouldn’t admit them to a great high school on that basis.”

Graphic: Enrollment at Specialized SchoolsHeather Mac Donald, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, however, said the enrollment figures showed “that we’re not yet managing to close the achievement gap and that this remains a serious problem for our schools, for our families and for our culture.”

“But we shouldn’t be blaming the messenger,” she said. “It’s not the specialized schools’ fault for maintaining legitimately high standards.”

If this Testing Only Policy is ever really challenged, I predict it will occur as a result of concern, yes, but not for unrepresented black and brown students, but by a concern for an over-representation of Asian-Americans, whose acculturation, laser focus, hard work, and sacrifice threaten the hierarchy that this "meritocracy" was put in place to assure.

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