Opinion by Dr. Alton C. Strange
One of the things that sets our public education system apart from the rest of the world is the belief in education being the “great equalizer.” The ability of any individual, regardless of their circumstance, can attain the American Dreamthrough education. While this belief has not always been implemented throughout our history, there are individuals that have overcome obstacles and their circumstances through education to become productive citizens and trailblazers.
With the historic election of President Obama, the idea that anyone can grow up to be President has become true again. Unfortunately, there are some educators in Virginia and Floridawho have adopted achievement standards that are based on race and ethnicity.Several weeks ago, the Boards of Education in Virginia and Florida adopted race-based standards for students attending public schools.
These standards mandate that by 2018:
1) 90% of Asian students, 88% white students, 81% if Hispanic students & 74% of “black” students are to be reading at or above grade level. 2), 86% of white students, 92% of Asian students, 80% of Hispanic students and 74% of black students are to be at or above their grade level in math.
Surprisingly, these standards were adopted with virtually little national attention or public outrage.
There are several questions that need to be asked. The first question is why would educators who are supposed to believe all children have the ability to learn, develop racially based standards that expect less of certain students? Additionally, why would these educators make the “black” students perform substantially less than Asian and white students? Are their reasons due to personal bias or misguided beliefs in racial stereotypes?
The second question is what did educators plan to accomplish by developing racially based standards? Did these educators feel they were helping “black” families and youth by developing a lower standards? Did these educators hope to provide skewed data of the achievement standards by increasing the expectations of Asian and Hispanic students to cover the lower expectations of “black” students? Would these educators attempt to show that minorities are improving or meeting expectations to receive additional state or federal funds? Will the achievement scores of “black” students even be counted?
Third, what message is this policy sending to teachers, students, parents? Will teachers and administrators view this policy as a reason to focus more on the academic achievement of Asians, whites and Hispanic students to the detriment of “black” students? Will “black” students find themselves invisible again? Will the lowered expectation of black students solidify a superior/inferior mentality among “black” and non “black” students? Lastly, what message are parents of “black” students receiving from these new racially based academic standards and what are they prepared to do about it?
Finally, how is this legal? This policy is obviously discriminatory and goes against the constitutional rights of American citizens. Furthermore, these “blacks” are taxpayers who expect their public school system to provide their child with the foundation to obtain the American Dream. There should be no reason for educators to have lower expectations for any child, particularly a child from a specific race or ethnicity.
At time when our country needs all children excelling academically to reclaim our position as leader of the global market, we cannot afford to go back and fight another Civil Rights campaign. What are we going to do to put an end to educational Jim Crowism before it begins to spread?
Dr. Alton C. Strange is an educator and activist who writes the blog Strange Ideas on Education. He holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Morehouse College. Follow him on Twitter @alton_strange.