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Guest Blogger Mica Pollock on: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School

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Mica Pollock is an anthropologist who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. She has two new books coming out this summer: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School (on which she has written the FAQ below) and Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools. Her first book, Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School, won AERA's 2005 book award. And she has just launched a new blog, schoolracetalk.org. Head on over to her site for what promises to be a provocative discussion.

1) What is "anti-racism?"

By “everyday antiracism,” we mean acts educators can take daily in schools and classrooms to counteract racial inequality of opportunity and outcome, and to counteract racist ideas about “types of people.”

I should note that by “racism,” we don’t mean the willful harming of people of color by white people. (This is how the law has often framed it.) Rather, the authors collectively define racism as any act or situation that, even unwittingly:

- tolerates, accepts, or reinforces racially unequal opportunities for children to learn and thrive;

- allows racial inequalities in opportunity as if they are normal and acceptable;

- or treats people of color as less worthy or less complex than “white” people.

2) Do you think that history, custom, teachers, or students themselves most often propagate racism?

All of the above. Still, this book focuses on acts by educators. They have great power to “deal” with race issues in schools, for good or ill. Students also react to educators’ everyday acts. This is also why educators are so powerful! In my introduction to Everyday Antiracism, I write that:

In schools, people interact across racial lines, distribute opportunities moment to moment, react to “outside” opportunity structures, and shape how future generations think about difference and equality. Interactions in educational settings help build or dismantle racial “achievement gaps.” To a student, one action can change everything. Everyday acts explored in this book include how we talk with our students and discipline them; the activities we set up for them to do; the ways we frame and discuss communities in our curriculum; and the ways we assign students to groups, grade their papers, interact with their parents, and envision their futures.

Everyday Antiracism shows that educators take many acts in educational settings that harm children of color, or privilege and value some children over others in racial terms, without educators meaning to at all. Further, many racist ideas about “types of people” are programmed into our heads as educators, despite our intentions. So, we want educators asking: which everyday acts by me counteract a racially unequal society, and racist ideas about “types of people”?

3) Some authors in your book deny the validity of racial categories, while others claim that to deny the existence of racial inequality is foolish. Explain.

Racial categories are social realities built on biological fictions. As Alan Goodman discusses in his essay in Everyday Antiracism, 20th and 21st century genetics show that there are no biologically meaningful “racial” subdivisions to the human race. How could race categories like “white,” “black,” “Asian,” or “Latino” be genetically valid if someone labeled “white” in Brazil can be labeled “black” or “Latino” here?

Race categories are things people made up. Over six centuries of life in the Americas, people used law, “science,” and everyday activity to distribute opportunities along the lines of physical traits that were simply too small a portion of our genetic makeup to be valid ways of categorizing human beings (skin color, nose shape, and hair texture, for example). Still, we have made these categories socially real in the past nearly six centuries of American life. So, racial categories are false biologically, but real socially.

This is why the “antiracist” educator must negotiate between two antiracist impulses in deciding her everyday behaviors toward students. She must choose between the antiracist impulse to treat all people as human beings rather than racial group members, and the antiracist impulse to recognize people’s real experiences as racial group members in order to counteract racial inequality.

4) Do you think the promotion of anti-racism in schools will lead to the continuation of anti-racism post-graduation and in the workplace?

If our children are educated in settings where children of all “groups” are treated as equally smart and valuable, they will learn to see one another more that way, too. What children learn in school is typically the opposite. One author in the book, Karolyn Tyson, has studied almost-all-black schools in North Carolina where the “gifted” class is completely white. The very existence of that “gifted” classroom teaches students a lie: it teaches them that some “race groups” are more “gifted” than others. Another author in the book, Beth Rubin, discusses how racially patterned tracking “teaches” students the same false lesson: that some “race groups” are smarter than others. How could these false ideas not continue after graduation? Conversely, if students are schooled in environments where educators actively treat students from all “groups” as smart and “gifted,” how could they not learn to see one another more that way, too? And how could that not continue after graduation?
61 Comments

Greetings, Mica, and congratulations on your books and AERA award! I look forward to reading them, beginning with "Because of Race."

Hi Mica,

I was just over at your blog, and was really impressed to find that the book operates on three levels - a great idea!:

* The level of PRINCIPLE: big ideas about antiracist teaching and the pursuit of equal opportunity.

* The level of STRATEGY: general actions for classroom use.

* The level of TRY TOMORROW: specific solutions for a specific classroom or school, depending on local personalities and dynamics.

Can you share an example of a general principal, a strategy, and a try tomorrow?

Racial categories are social realities built on biological fictions. As Alan Goodman discusses in his essay in Everyday Antiracism, 20th and 21st century genetics show that there are no biologically meaningful “racial” subdivisions to the human race.

I share the sentiment behind this reasoning . . . that all races are equal and should be treated equally.

Even so, to deny the biological reality of race is quite ignorant. The slightest familiarity with the medical literature shows innumerable journal articles pointing out that one race has a higher or lower risk for certain diseases. For example:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/36679.php
"African Americans who smoke face a higher risk of developing lung cancer than smokers of other races, indicating that genes 'might help explain the racial differences long seen in the disease,' according to a study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine."

Or this:

http://www.nyp.org/news/health/051102.html
"Being African American can double the risk of developing clogged leg arteries, according to a study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. . . .

“Our study found that African-American ethnicity was a strong and independent risk factor for peripheral arterial disease,” says lead author Dr. Michael H. Criqui, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine."

Again, this sort of finding is utterly routine -- even after the researchers control for every type of behavior and environmental factor they can imagine, race has an independent effect on the rates of many diseases.

Why would that be, if race has no biological reality?

I ask readers to pinpoint "gold nugget" ideas for use at each of these three levels when reading each essay. I do this for two reasons. First, educators need [and want] to think on all three levels simultaneously; they need big ideas AND specific ideas for specific situations. Second, conversations about race are often so wide-ranging and complex that no one pinpoints any "takeaway" ideas. So, the book asks readers to pinpoint "gold nuggets" at each level before finishing a conversation about any essay.

Here's an example. In a class of new teachers, we were talking about Dorinda Carter's essay in Everyday Antiracism (EAR). Dorinda's essay is about racial "spotlighting." She writes about moments when teachers or peers turn to a student and ask him to "represent" the entire racial group. She talks about the burden this places on students of color in particular, who are often asked to speak for "groups" in a way that totally overlooks students' individuality. "Spotlighting" also reinforces reductive ideas about group experience. (For example, Jocelyn Chadwick talks in her EAR essay about black students whose teacher expected them -- and no one else in the class -- to share the experiences of black characters in novels they were reading. They found this so annoying that they stopped wanting to participate in the discussion at all.)

So, in our conversation about Dorinda's essay, the class of new teachers and I came up with the following ideas at each "level."

One teacher named the following PRINCIPLE: "People can speak as racial group members if they choose to, but no one speaks FOR the group."

STRATEGY: Dorinda suggests this general strategy: teachers can try NOT to spotlight students. Rather, teachers can strive to create an atmosphere where students can voice and share experiences without being pressured to speak "for" any community.

TRY TOMORROW: Each educator needs to figure out specific "try tomorrows" for herself, depending on specific people and situations. In this case, a teacher decided that if she started to sense that Jose, a particular student, felt "spotlighted" in a discussion, she would explicitly open the discussion to all participants in the class by saying, "All of us have experiences related to this issue. What do you all think?"

Mica,

You've set a new standard for making academic work usable! I just came across this post, which is by a professor who talks about how her position as a white woman affects her teaching about race in the classroom. I'm wondering if articles in the book address some of the issues she raises below? This is, of course, in a college context, so her comments about establishing legitimacy in discussing these issues may apply to whichever group is in the minority; in her context, faculty of color are in the minority, and in many urban schools, white teachers do not share the racial/ethnic background of their students.

Just as I accept my status as a privileged person and use it in teaching, I want to stress that racial minority instructors in particular, and young white women to some extent, have to deal with their own race/gender status with respect to the students. White students will resist teachers’ challenges to the racial structure of society more when they are coming from persons of color. This is just a fact, and I think it is important for white instructors to recognize this when trying to mentor or advise new instructors of color. White men and older white women can step into the classroom with their legitimacy and authority as instructors taken as a given. People of color have to establish their legitimacy. Instructors of color are justifiably angry, insulted and hurt by this, but they nevertheless have to deal with it. You basically have to “sell yourself” as an authority and as a personality before you can get past white students’ resistance in teaching about hierarchical structures and privilege. I doubt very much that a black instructor could begin a course the way I do, with a series of lectures on “the construction of the US as a racial state.” In my observation of the struggles of some of my colleagues in the classroom, I am convinced that there has been too little recognition of these issues in the academy, even among people who are concerned about teaching about privilege and diversity. I think resources and attention need to be devoted to these issues in mentoring instructors of color.

Just posting links back to this conversation; this one's from Fordham's Flypaper. How someone could address this issue as "educational gobbledygook" is truly beyond me.

From the Dept. of “Say Wha?”
Liam Julian

Eduwonkette provides a fine example of the educational gobbledygook that we must hack away in order to find some clarity. Here’s a snippet:

This is why the “antiracist” educator must negotiate between two antiracist impulses in deciding her everyday behaviors toward students. She must choose between the antiracist impulse to treat all people as human beings rather than racial group members, and the antiracist impulse to recognize people’s real experiences as racial group members in order to counteract racial inequality.

How true. In fact, as an “antinonsense” writer, I encounter a similar struggle everyday when I choose between the antinonsense impulse to point out and lambast such balderdash and the antinonsense impulse to let it alone and hope that it will die of its own accord.

I too believe in clarity. I'll use shorter sentences for him. These come straight from the book.

Antiracism in education involves:

1. Rejecting false notions of human difference

2. Acknowledging lived experiences shaped along racial lines

3. Learning from diverse forms of knowledge and experience

4. Challenging systems of racial inequality.

What happened to my other post? It had a couple of links, so maybe it got held up somehow. Anyway, I took issue with the claim that race has no biological basis. Clearly that can't be true, given that medical researchers are constantly identifying ways in which one race is more prone to certain diseases or conditions (even to the level of identifying specific genes, say, for breast cancer that are more prevalent in one race than in another). That's not directly relevant to education, of course, and I share the impulse to deny the reality of race, but still, I don't think it's very useful to make ignorant arguments even in a good cause.

A second point that comes to mind: Tracking. You say, "The very existence of that “gifted” classroom teaches students a lie: it teaches them that some “race groups” are more “gifted” than others."

Well, it's a plain fact that the achievement gap exists. In fact, NCES statistics show that the average black 12th grader is performing on the level of a white 8th grader. That's a stunning gap. So if you combine all of the "gifted" and "non-gifted" students into one class, students are still going to be able to figure out pretty darn quickly what's going on if the average white student is doing algebra while the average black student is struggling just to do long division. There's no way you can get away from sending the "message" that the white students are more advanced (on average) as long as the achievement gap exists.

John - Regarding your comment about predispositions for certain diseases, Mica wrote that such traits are "simply too small a portion of our genetic makeup to be valid ways of categorizing human beings." A more competent evolutionary biologist than myself might point to the enforced separation via banning marriage between groups, along with selection in terms of who survived the Middle Passage, to explain some of these disease patterns, which again, represent a meaningless fraction of the human genome.

Re tracking: Because of the out-of-school inequalities that African-American and Hispanic students face, the majority of kids who show up in kindergarten with high test scores by some absolute standard are going to be white or Asian. If we "ability group" within schools or assign students to gifted schools based on scores, we create racially segregated classrooms and/or magnet schools with very few black or Hispanic students. And there is enough evidence that low-achieving students get offered something different - and inferior - in low-ability group classrooms to worry about such an outcome. Your point is well taken - these gaps are very large by high school; but I worry that initial gaps may be exacerbated by ability grouping.

At the same time, it is very difficult to serve all students well in a classroom with that much heterogeneity, and I appreciate the challenges to differentiate instruction that this causes for teachers. And I think there is evidence that high-achieving students perform better in homogeneous classrooms, though to be honest I haven't looked at that issue closely in a while. I increasingly worry that in the current accountability environment, high achievers from all racial/ethnic groups get the shaft in heterogeneous classrooms. And we've seen evidence from recent studies that I've discussed here before to suggest that high-achieving African-American students in particular are not getting the attention they deserve in school.

No stunning conclusions here - as must be obvious by know, I am really conflicted about tracking and ability grouping.

Regarding your comment about predispositions for certain diseases, Mica wrote that such traits are "simply too small a portion of our genetic makeup to be valid ways of categorizing human beings."

That's a more limited and defensible way of putting it than claiming that racial differences have nothing to do with biology, which is simply an ignorant statement.

Is there really good evidence that tracking harms lower-track students? There's a good argument that such students aren't really helped by being put in classes that are over their heads. In any event, I think of tracking as the symptom of educational inequality -- getting rid of tracking will get rid of an obvious indicator that there is a real achievement gap, but the gap will still remain (for the most part). All you've done is put up a set of curtains to hide the fact that part of your house is rotten and falling down. Might fool some people for a while, but it doesn't address the underlying problem.

Arguments that race isn't biological is naive see... Lewontin's Fallacy. The critical debate is whether IQ/intelligence/academic ability is genetic, but to focus on that question misses the boat when it comes to education.

Education standards should be set based on the premise that they are achievable by all students regardless of their ability (speed of learning) or starting point. Once we have accepted this, the key then is to figure out how to get all students across this line.

I am probably spoiled and naive when it comes to addressing race due to my upbringing (adopted multiracial family) and to the Air Force (most successfully integrated organization in the world), but I realize that there are probably some system/organizational changes to made to provide every student with the proper opportunities and outlook.

However, I am convinced that the key to improving education outcomes for disadvantaged groups just doesn't lie in addressing race. Simply put, it all boils down to the curriculum and pedagogy. There are right ways and wrong ways to teach. It’s just that middle/upper class students have the advantage of parents and an environment that can compensate for the shortcomings.

As to ability grouping, it really comes down to a simple premise.

Ability grouping is better for low, middle, and high performing kids in absolute terms. The problem is that in comparative terms, the differences between the groups get relatively larger and larger.

Our system has subtly decided that it's better to keep the relative differences smaller instead of making greater performance gains for all groups. Ironically, given NCLB's measuring stick of all kids getting above a certain line, the system works against itself. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

I think a number of the comments here illuminate some of Mica's remarks regarding the social construction of racial differences. Whether or not there is a biological basis for racial categories, we treat them as if they are real, and factors such as skin color have real consequences for how individuals in our society are treated, and categorized as being in certain desirable or undesirable groups.

Lawrence Hirschfeld, Professor of Anthropology and Psychology at the New School for Social Research, has suggested that there is a universal, cognitive mechanism in people that leads them -- as early as the age of three -- to look for and construct categories to understand and represent groups of people.

I think it's hard for individuals in positions of privilege -- such as white, middle-class guys like skoolboy --to truly understand the experience of being treated differently because of attributions about their race. This was driven home to me some years ago by one of my students, a young African-American man who was a graduate of a prestigious university. Walking in a well-lit corridor in an academic building on the campus of another prestigious university, in the middle of the day, a middle-aged woman saw him and clutched her purse. Clutched her purse as if to ward off a mugging by a clean-cut graduate student in a well-lit hallway in an academic building -- just because his skin was black. It shook him up, in part because it was highly likely, given the context, that the woman was a K-12 classroom teacher.

This is one of the diverse forms of experience that can inform an understanding of antiracist education.

"The very existence of that 'gifted' classroom teaches students a lie: it teaches them that some 'race groups' are more 'gifted' than others."

Students are perfectly capable of figuring out that some students are more gifted than others, with or without a gifted class.

Shackling together children of disparate skills and academic ability deprives the gifted children of the education they are entitled to and breeds resentment and ill will (not to mention poor study skills among the academically able). When it ties to race, it is more likely to breed racism than prevent it.

I's love to know the logical contortions needed to explain away the success of northeast-asians, who are a readily identifiable racial minority group, and represent a good counterexample to Prof. Pollock's theories.

Rory and John Doe - You've convinced me that it's worth going back to ability-grouping/tracking lit to see what's changed and what's stayed the same. I'll plan on doing a post on that in the near future. And John, we were able to rescue your comment from the spam filter, so it appears above.

skoolboy - Your story serves as a potent reminder to our friends over at Flypaper, who wanted to dismiss these concerns as trivial educational gobbledygook.

mischief - What I don't know is how much variance in achievement can be accommodated in one classroom. We might imagine that this depends on a number of factors - class size, the behavior of the students, the subject, the grade level, etc.

Ken - To what part of Pollock's theories do Northeast Asians provide a counterexample? Certainly Asians are often treated as "all the same," which is one of the core problems that she is trying to help educators address. And Asians also benefit from many educators' view of the group as the "model minority" (even as this stereotype is pernicious in other ways) - educators' expectations that these students can and will perform at a high level are already there.

Pollock's contention is that there are no differences between self-identified "races." (This contention will be vividly refuted once again next month, as it is every four years, as different racial groups dominate certain events in the Olympics as they do year in and year out.)

Because there are no human differences, then the lower performance of minority groups must be caused by the majority group's racism.

But we have a minority group, asians, that has not only succeeded, but has exceeded the performance of the majority group. If the majority group were really as racist, as Pollock contends, then I don't see why they would have permitted the asians to succeed

I find it very odd (and typically touchy-feely liberal) for Mica Pollack to conclude that because Asians and whites are overrepresented in high level tracks, that the tracking system should be abolished, apparently for the sake of the self-esteem of the non-Asian and white students.

This bothers me on two levels. First, it appears that students perform better academically when they are grouped with other students with similar skills. It certainly makes it easier for the teacher to develop and teach appropriate lesson plans (especially in areas like math). Mica's solution of abolishing tracking therefore appears to trade off the academic success of the students for the benefit of self-esteem.

Second, I disagree with Pollack's assumption that the self-esteem of the Black and Hispanic students will improve if placed in classes with higher performing white and Asian students. What evidence does she have to support this? I found the opposite to be true when I was a student. If I was in a class with super smart kids, my relative self-esteem fell. If I was placed in a class with poorly performing students, by contrast I felt like an academic superstar. I'd like to see researh to support Mica's assumption that self-esteem rises when low-performing kids are placed next to high-performing kids in the same classes.

Kudos to Kderosa for pointing out the sports analogy as well on race - let's not pretend there are no physical differences between the races at all. That's silly. Are we going to have to start eliminting pro basketball teams b/c they make white b-ball players feel bad? Seriously.

I’m struck that several people posting here have used the “achievement gap” as evidence that some “races” are more “gifted” than others. The racial achievement gap is a result of differing educational experiences, not biology.

Old myths that so-called “races” are useful biological categories die hard. Look up the science. Here are two resources: http://www.understandingrace.org; and How Real is Race? A Sourcebook on Race, Culture, and Biology (2007).

How Real is Race demonstrates that “There are no subspecies of humans” (xv) and that racial categories are a “biological fallacy and cultural reality” (xvi). See particularly the chapter “Why Contemporary Races are Not Scientifically Valid,” which is full of scientific knowledge about the invalidity of racial categories from a biological perspective. See also “Human Biological Variation, What We Don’t See,” which demonstrates that “populations differ genetically but these populations do not correspond to major racial groupings.” (35)

Here are some “gold nugget” points from that book. Even though some populations share some propensities for some diseases (as John Doe points out in his post), the groups we have come to call “races” just don’t share enough other exclusive genetics to be biologically valid containers for classifying human diversity. The groups we have come to call “races” – “whites,” “blacks,” and “Asians,” for example -- are too genetically diverse internally to be classified scientifically as genetic, biological populations.

How Real is Race shows that Lewontin’s 1972 study, misquoted in “rory’s” post from yesterday, showed that almost 95% of “total human genetic diversity” occurs WITHIN the geographic-origin populations we’ve often called “races.” (65) Indeed, as How Real is Race reminds us, “Africa also contains more human genetic diversity than any other geographic area in the world” (63). Lewontin concluded that “racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance” (66).

Scientists a few centuries ago decided that a handful of “races” could be classified based on a selection of visible traits (skin color, hair texture, nose and eye shape, for example). Those visible traits are genetic, of course, but they are too genetically insignificant to be used for classifying subgroups of the human race. As How Real is Race puts it, “If we wanted to classify people by genetic traits, it would probably make more sense to form races based on ABO blood type or lactose intolerance than to base them on skin color or nose shape.” (35)

Humans originated in Africa, then migrated elsewhere on the globe and developed different appearances, in part due to “adaptations of populations to . . . different microclimates” (44-5). But that doesn’t mean that these groups became so genetically different that we should label them genetic subgroups to the human race. How Real is Race puts it nicely: “Given the 30,000 or so genes in the human genome,” racialized appearance traits “constitute only a small fraction of the total genetic variation within the human species” (62). Most of humans’ genetic variation is invisible. And, “Most human biological variation lies at the individual level.” (61)

Appearance traits don’t even classify humans neatly into “races.” Check out http://www.pbs.org/race/004_HumanDiversity/004_01-explore.htm, which demonstrates visually that populations have “mixed” throughout world history and that various appearance traits are shared round the globe, not easily clumped into “races.” For example, some people who are “Asian” share the same skin color with people who are “white,” and some people in India share the same skin color with people who are “black.” And people across Africa, whom Americans might all call “black,” have infinite shades of skin color! Types of noses and hair are similarly shared worldwide.

Here’s the point: our genetics simply don’t divide us into the “races” we have come to take for granted. The categories just don’t work out, genetically speaking. That’s why I say they are “social realities built on biological fictions.”

Can we split the difference here? let's use the word "populations," and posit that some groups of populations tend to share (in a statistically significant way) some visible and invisible biological characterics, but that these populations are in (sometimes rapid) flux and that they can and do merge, separate, and re-group themselves.

I agree that our concept of race is a social construct. But, it is a simplification of the real nature of human genetic variation caused at least partially by geographic barriers and teh resultant isolation of particular populations of peoples. All of that is irrelevalant, however, because we determine racial distinctions, at least for educational purposes, by self-selection.

Those who self-select their race as "black" have a different academic achievement distribution than those that self-select "white" or "asian." In fact there are many different achievement distributions between these self-selected races for many aspects of human endeavor, such as the Olympic sporting event example I used above.

"The racial achievement gap is a result of differing educational experiences, not biology."

There is no emperical support for such a statement. Thanks to NCLB, we now know that there is an achievement gap present between students who self-select as "black" and those who self-select as "white" in almost every public school for which data has been reported. You're putting yourself way out on a limb if you're going to mainatain the claim that students in the same school have "different educational experiences" and that those experiences are completely responsible for the achievement gap. If this were true, than you should be able to point to at least a few enlightened schools in the US in which students from similar SES backgrounds perform similarly regardless of race.

Of course, I can make the same points regarding the different academic achievement between "whites" and "asians," it is not merely a "white" and "black" phenomenon.

Have any of you read John McWhorter's books on race and academic achievement? McWhorter (who is black) makes some very interesting and illuminating observations about the reasons behind the black-white achievement gap. Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom's statistics-filled book about race and education is also very well-researched and interesting.

KDeRosa suggests: "You're putting yourself way out on a limb if you're going to mainatain the claim that students in the same school have "different educational experiences" and that those experiences are completely responsible for the achievement gap. If this were true, than you should be able to point to at least a few enlightened schools in the US in which students from similar SES backgrounds perform similarly regardless of race."

I may be spitting into the wind on this one, but there has in fact been some research into the differing educational experiences of "racial" groups within the same school. Most are familiar with Ogbu--although I don't necessarily fall in line with his conclusions. Ronald Ferguson has ongoing work in middle class contexts. He finds some evidence of ongoing differences that support the cultural side of the argument--such things as asking for help and receiving it, among others.

It is also worthwhile to look at some of Haycock's work identifying schools with smaller gaps--and what the differences are.

For a real up close and personal look at the interaction of "race" and culture, I would suggest three biographical works: The Color of Water by McBride; The Sweeter the Juice by Haizlip; and Life on the Color Line by Williams.

I’m struck that several people posting here have used the “achievement gap” as evidence that some “races” are more “gifted” than others. The racial achievement gap is a result of differing educational experiences, not biology.

I love running into creationists who find a refuge in academia. Let's begin with your opening statement. Your conclusion can be attacked from a variety of fronts.

Genetics:

"These observations suggest that some genetic variants that influence g will vary between populations rather than within populations. For instance, certain Asian populations have a frequency of 0.60 in COMT Met158 allele, which predicts lower COMT-enzyme activity and thereby better cognitive performance, while Caucasians have a frequency of 0.42 for the same allele.

Culture: Stanley Sue and Sumie Okazaki, noted in their paper, "Asian-American educational achievements: A phenomenon in search of an explanation" that the parenting styles and values found in East Asian-American homes tend to correlate with lower test scores when they are found in white homes.

Socioeconomic status: How to explain the fact that Black children raised in homes where the parents earn over $70,000 per year tend to have lower SAT scores than White children raised in homes where the parents earn less $10,000? If you're a devotee of the notion that socioeconomic status is the independent variable to the dependent variable, intelligence, rather than the reverse, then this finding poses significant problems for folks like you.

Old myths that so-called “races” are useful biological categories die hard. Look up the science.

Thanks for the advice, but I suggest you heed it first, rather than relying on warmed over S.J. Gould popularizations. Here is the science:

For each person in the study, the researchers examined 326 DNA regions that tend to vary between people. These regions are not necessarily within genes, but are simply genetic signposts on chromosomes that come in a variety of different forms at the same location.

Without knowing how the participants had identified themselves, Risch and his team ran the results through a computer program that grouped individuals according to patterns of the 326 signposts. This analysis could have resulted in any number of different clusters, but only four clear groups turned up. And in each case the individuals within those clusters all fell within the same self-identified racial group.

"This shows that people's self-identified race/ethnicity is a nearly perfect indicator of their genetic background," Risch said.

How Real is Race shows that Lewontin’s 1972 study, misquoted in “rory’s” post from yesterday, showed that almost 95% of “total human genetic diversity” occurs WITHIN the geographic-origin populations we’ve often called “races.”

The problem here is that Lewontin made an error, hence Lewontin's Fallacy, and secondly, many people don't really understand the meaning of his finding. The best way to sum up the error in thinking, is to address to points. The first is that overlap is not equality. The second is that the genetic diversity is found in the correlation structure of the genome, not the raw ingredients.

Let's take a look at this scenario. We identify the lactose intolerance trait. Many people of many different races have this trait. Now recall that overlap is not equality. The incidence of lactose intolerance varies significantly by race, for instance, South East Asians have a lactose intolerance rate of 98% compared to a North European rate of 5%. . Now, if we misused Lewontin's finding we'd conclude that because this ONE genetic variation overlaps all racial groups, that it is improper to derive racial categories from genetic data. But other than Jared Diamond and his claim that there should exist a "lactose intolerant race" this is not the genetic basis for race, rather it is the correlational structure of the genetic diversity that is at the heart of the racial groupings. If we correlate the genetic basis for lactose intolerance with other genetic factors we can start to identify racial groupings. This is why we don't see blond haired, blue eyed, light skinned children born to Nigerian parents from the Yoruba lineage. This is why the Japanese have the lowest incidence of Graft vs Host Disease (they are a very homogenous population and thus they exhibit fewer complications from organ transplants.) Risch's study goes right to the heart of the question, in that simply by identifying 326 genetic markers he was able to program a computer to parse the samples into racial groups. This is also how forensic scientists are able to classify a suspect's race simply by analyzing their DNA. Race does exist despite the bleatings of social scientists and anthropologists who are trying to advance a political agenda.

And if you still have an emotional attachment to Lewontin's point, that due to the fact that there is more genetic diversity within races, than between races, consider the following points:

1.) Lewontin uses a category, race, in order to disprove that such a category can exist. This begs the question of how he determined his racial groupings in order to disprove the basis for such groupings.

2.) Using the same logic results in the following argument:
-Let's isolate sex and height as two variables. The average height of women is less than that of men. We know that the variation of height within genders is far greater than the variation in height between genders.

If you reached the same conclusion as Lewontin did, you'd then conclude that sexes don't exist, or are only a social construction, because the variation in height in greater within a group than between the groups. Like Lewontin, we only isolate single factors, in this case height, and we don't correlate all of the (correlational) factors that go into determining a person's sex.

3.) If you really do wish to continue minimizing the role of race due to the fact that there is more variation within a group than between a group, then you really should get on board with abandoning a good part of the liberal agenda, in that, "It is important to recognize that most wage inequality occurs within and not between groups."

Goodbye affirmative action, goodbye wage equalization for women, goodbye minority quotas, goodbye pretty much every liberal policy wish which is predicated on the existence of group differences.

And Asians also benefit from many educators' view of the group as the "model minority" (even as this stereotype is pernicious in other ways) - educators' expectations that these students can and will perform at a high level are already there.

So what? You surely can't be referring to the debunked Pygmalion Effect (R.E.Snow /Pygmalion and Intelligence? /Current Directions in Psychological Science 4 (1995): 169-171.) Snow's meta-analysis of 18 studies on teacher expectancy on children's IQ found a positive effect of less than 0.5 IQ points.

If I'm reading your comment properly you seem to be leading us down a dead-end by focusing on the Pygmalion Effect.

eduwonkette,

Please check your comment moderation queue as I have a link intensive response to Professor Pollack awaiting approval.

Margo/Mom writes: “there has in fact been some research into the differing educational experiences of "racial" groups within the same school.”

Absolutely. Hundreds of such studies. "Everyday Antiracism" cites many of these. Our book is all about how various racial groups experience schooling, and about how educators (even unwittingly) treat various racial groups.

By the way: the “educational” experiences that add up to the achievement gap include the learning experiences that young people experience outside of schools (who gets music lessons; who gets up early to learn to care for younger siblings). Everyday Antiracism focuses on the educational experiences within schools that add up to how young people “achieve” in school. These include how schools react to what parents do at home; how children are taught to read; what texts children are offered to read; how children are disciplined; who is placed in gifted education (or special education), and what services which children then receive; how educators react to students who arrive at school speaking languages other than English; which parents successfully demand opportunities for their children; who is given which opportunities to learn, within and between schools; and many more.

Our book is also about how racist ideologies programmed into our brains over several centuries -- like “some race groups are smarter than others” -- factor into the everyday harmful treatment of young people of color in schools and classrooms.
See my next post.

Eduwonkette, this conversation so far has illuminated the striking (and troubling) persistence of the myth that some race groups are smarter than others.

Again, many well-meaning people believe this myth. Many believe it even unconsciously (see the work of Mahzarin Banaji, linked to in my first post.).

Good teachers struggle against it.

Clearly, more work has to be done to clarify that some race groups are NOT smarter than others. A statement from the American Anthropological Association says it well: (http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/race.htm):

American Anthropological Association, Statement on "Race" and Intelligence
(adopted December 1994)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is deeply concerned by recent public discussions which imply that intelligence is biologically determined by race.

Repeatedly challenged by scientists, nevertheless these ideas continue to be advanced. Such discussions distract public and scholarly attention from and diminish support for the collective challenge to ensure equal opportunities for all people, regardless of ethnicity or phenotypic variation.

Earlier AAA resolutions against racism (1961, 1969, 1971, 1972) have spoken to this concern. The AAA further resolves:

WHEREAS all human beings are members of one species, Homo sapiens, and

WHEREAS, differentiating species into biologically defined "races" has proven meaningless and unscientific as a way of explaining variation (whether in intelligence or other traits),

THEREFORE, the American Anthropological Association urges the academy, our political leaders and our communities to affirm, without distraction by mistaken claims of racially determined intelligence, the common stake in assuring equal opportunity, in respecting diversity and in securing a harmonious quality of life for all people.


So, shall we tackle a new topic now on this blog?

No stunning conclusions here - as must be obvious by know, I am really conflicted about tracking and ability grouping.

Being a newcomer to your blog and your opinions, could you tell me whether you've already addressed the question of what you see as the mission of education and schools. Should the mission be to deliver as much value-added benefit to each individual student so as to aid them in maximizing their potential or should the mission be to insure that all students reach a certain level of proficiency, even if that means that not all students are aided in reaching their potential.

I can see how those who subscribe to the latter mission statement would be troubled by tracking, in that they see the goal of education as being to equalize outcomes, and if that means squashing potential in order to minimize disparity then they're only working towards the "greater good." However, for those who subscribe to the former mission statement, how can one be conflicted about tracking if it aids in the individual development of students?

Eduwonkette, this conversation so far has illuminated the striking (and troubling) persistence of the myth that some race groups are smarter than others.

Myth?

http://judaism.about.com/b/2008/06/17/jewish-nobel-prize-winners.htm

Of the 750 Nobel Prizes granted between 1901 and 2007, at least 176 were awarded to persons of Jewish and half-Jewish ancestry. While Jews are approximately 0.25% of the world's population, Jews make up approximately 23% of all Nobel Prize laureates worldwide between 1901 and 2007.

Troubling? How so? Is it troubling for people to recognize cognitive differences amongst their family members?

I would suggest that people stop applying normative principles to descriptive situations. Is Does Not Imply Ought. There is nothing troubling about describing the world, or humanity, as it is. Yes, it's a shame that IS doesn't comport with how people feel that the world OUGHT to be, but that doesn't stop us from adhering to important philosophical principles while also recognizing human differences and human inequality. Far better to address the world as it is, while advancing important principles rather than making believe that the world is different from what it is and misapplying resources in efforts to shape the world to our normative wishes.

This leftist creationist notion that evolutionary forces have stopped working on humans 60,000 years ago is no different, in practical application, that the religious creationist notion that god created mankind in his image and that no evolutionary forces have worked on us. The only real difference is the mystical force each side relies on to justify the fact that homo sapiens in immune to evolutionary effects.

TangoMan asks, "should the mission be to insure that all students reach a certain level of proficiency, even if that means that not all students are aided in reaching their potential?"

The question of "reaching potential" in this context is troubling to me. Not only is "potential" a fairly elusive term, but there have been some court rulings, in the area of special education that the standard of reaching one's potential DID NOT apply to students with disabilities. In fact the standard was set quite a bit lower at "receiving some benefit" from an education. Fortunately the advent of NCLB and AYP has raised the bar somewhat to a new definition of "access to the regular curriculum." But we are only beginning to move away from "squashing potential" that resulted in maximizing disparity.

I have to think back to Harriet Tubman's famous Ain't I a Woman speech. In it she says something about women being denied education because they are not as smart as men. She counters, eloquently, that if a man's head holds a pint and hers holds only half a pint, isn't it mean of him to deny her her little half measure full. I feel something of the same thing going on right now. If the education we are providing is equal--but some just aren't as smart--then why are the smarter ones all in a fuss? Who will be able to take that away from them? But if the issue is that it is not intelligence but education that is maldistributed--well maybe things will have to change.

Earlier AAA resolutions against racism

I Love it. Science conducted by political resolutions designed to further an ideological agenda.

Most science literate folks aren't convinced by ideological resolutions.

Contra the AAA, the American Psychological Association, not exactly a bunch of racist yahoos, has taken the position in Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns (1996) that

* IQ scores have high predictive validity for individual differences in school achievement.

* IQ scores have predictive validity for adult occupational status, even when variables such as education and family background have been statistically controlled.

*Individual differences in intelligence are substantially influenced by both genetics and environment.

and "The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support."

I don't know of any emperical evidence that supports the notion that if we somehow were able to "fix" all the things Prof Pollock proposes that the result will be a substantial reduction/elimination of the achievement gap. Without the evidence all we have is Prof Pollocks's and other's unsupported opinion. So where is the evidence?

If the education we are providing is equal--but some just aren't as smart--then why are the smarter ones all in a fuss? Who will be able to take that away from them?

You raise some interesting questions. Let me ask you one back - should schools be tasked with providing equal education or should they be tasked with educating each student to their ability?

If schools set the bar so low that all students can achieve proficiency, then they are indeed providing "equal education" but are they really serving the interests of the majority of students who are being held back from achieving their potential so that the low performers among them can also pass the proficiency threshold and thus be on par with every other student in benefiting equally from an "equal education."

The fuss, from my perspective at least, is the teaching pedagogies which are implemented to insure the goal of "equal education." For instance, tasking the high performing students with tutoring the low performing students. It's more than likely that the high performing student would find more personal benefit from mastering new material, or exploring derivative branches of inquiry, or adding more depth to what they've already mastered than they receive from helping their less-able peers comprehend that which they've already mastered. Peer learning is a sub-optimal use of a gifted student's time and thus they are hindered from their pursuit of maximizing value added during their school day.

If the education we are providing is equal--but some just aren't as smart--then why are the smarter ones all in a fuss?

The problem isn't that the education is unequal. By most measures, the things that we think matter, like teacher pay and experience and school funding, turn out not to matter all that much with respect to improving student achievement. The problem is that education isn't all that good; never has been. Only the smart have access to it. The quality of education needs to improve so that kids who aren't so smart and/or who can't rely on the advantages conferred by having high-SES parents, regardless of race or ethnicity, have access to education. These anti-racism screeds do nothing to improve this situation and, if anything, attract attention and resources away from the underlying problem: poor instruction.

But if the issue is that it is not intelligence but education that is maldistributed--well maybe things will have to change.

How do you propose redistributing education such that student achievement can be improve? I suggest poring through the NCLB data (such as at http://www.schooldatadirect.org/) and look at the achievement levels of low-SES and mionority children in the tony suburban school districts and note how the achievement gaps persist even at those schools where presumably the education is properly distributed.

look at the achievement levels of low-SES and mionority children in the tony suburban school districts and note how the achievement gaps persist even at those schools where presumably the education is properly distributed.

KDeRosa makes some good points. Take a look at this NYT story on the achievement gap at Princeton High School:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/nyregion/28education.html?ex=1285560000&en=e4521b45550cae9e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Several months after Blake graduated, Princeton High School (and thus the district as a whole) ran afoul of the statute for the first time, based on the lagging scores of African-American students on a standardized English test given to 11th graders. Last month, the school was cited for the second year in a row, this time because 37 percent of black students failed to meet standards in English, and 55 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics failed in math. One of the standard complaints about No Child Left Behind by its critics in public education is that it punishes urban schools that are chronically underfinanced and already contending with a concentration of poor, nonwhite, bilingual and special-education pupils. Princeton could hardly be more different. It is an Ivy League town with a minority population of slightly more than 10 percent and per-student spending well above the state average. The high school sends 94 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and offers 29 different Advanced Placement courses. Over all, 98 percent of Princeton High School students exceed the math and English standards required by No Child Left Behind.

Somewhere upthread, Professor Ronald Ferguson was mentioned. He is also referenced in this NYT story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/04/education/04EDUC.html?ex=1370750400&en=fea635218b907fe6&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

Yet whites and blacks taking similar level courses report that they spend the same time on homework. It is just that the results are different: 38 percent of whites who spend two hours on homework nightly get all their work done; only 20 percent of blacks spending two hours finish their homework — the Gap.

It would be politically convenient for Professor Ferguson, a black man raising his two children plus a nephew in a Boston suburb, if the Gap could be explained away by economics.

It cannot. When he controls for income, half the Gap persists. Among the richest families, blacks average B+, whites A-. How to explain it?

These anti-racism screeds do nothing to improve this situation and, if anything, attract attention and resources away from the underlying problem: poor instruction.

This comment hits the nail squarely on the head and ties in with my comment about normative biases influencing what should be descriptive analysis.

If Professor Pollock and her like-minded colleagues really believe racism is at the root of the achievement gap then they should create falsifiable experiments which can measure the effect rather than advocating for the diversion of scarce educational resources towards anti-racist efforts in the classroom which produce no discernable outcome but which serve to reinforce the normative notion that society is at fault for the poor outcomes seen by some students of color.

I don't know of any emperical evidence that supports the notion that if we somehow were able to "fix" all the things Prof Pollock proposes that the result will be a substantial reduction/elimination of the achievement gap.

In fact, the reverse would happen, and disparity would increase once we equalized environment for then all disparity would be the result of genetic factors.

Here's a way to look at the problem. Let me set up an analogy to aid the analysis. Let's look at the genetic-environmental influence on skin cancer. We take a large cross section of society and we note that some particular people are more prone to skin cancer than others, just like some students achieve subject mastery easier than others. After some study we conclude that genetics plays a significant role, skin pigmentation as a first order effect, in the onset of cancer. For some reason however this conclusion is deemed insufficient and we want to downgrade the influence of genetics, let's say the Sunscreen Manufacturers fund the study because they hope to show that ALL PEOPLE have equal need to use sunscreen and they want the sales of their products to increase. Think of this as the education establishment wanting to minimize the importance of heritability of intelligence and wanting to emphasize the role of environment in learning outcomes.

So back to the analogy - we separate out the fair skinned redheads and blondes from the main group which encompassed peoples from all racial backgrounds because we hypothesize that this group, which has a disproportionate incidence of skin cancer, may have distinct behavioral traits that increase their risk for developing skin cancer. Now, within this restricted range of subjects we also parse by people who've had family history of skin cancer and we chose to study only them. Within this group of subjects there are office workers and there are people who work in the outdoors. There are people who use sunscreen religiously and cover themselves while others do not use suncreen and don't take any particular care about shielding themselves from the sun. So, what will we expect to find? Of course, we'll see that the behavior has an extremely large role to play in whether one develops skin cancer and that genetics plays a diminished role for all of the subjects were drawn from a restricted range of subjects, namely those who were fair skinned and had a family history of skin cancer. We've restricted the genetic range considerably and thus increased the influence of environmental factors.

The same principle works in reverse, that is, if we equalize all of the environmental factors then the role of genetic factors will increase. So, if every student gets the same degree of teacher attention, if every teacher is equally qualified, if textbooks and learning equipment are standardized, if nutrition is standardized, if after school play and study is regimented, if family dynamics are controlled, etc then the result is that genetic factors will only increase in importance. Now, creationists may not be troubled by this scenario because they believe that genetically we're all equal with respect to intelligence but the rest of society, which understands and accepts evolutionary principles, sees that the notion of enforced equality is simply unachievable.

"What I don't know is how much variance in achievement can be accommodated in one classroom. We might imagine that this depends on a number of factors - class size, the behavior of the students, the subject, the grade level, etc."

Another factor is to what extent are you willing to sacrifice the gifted students.

Besides the education you are not giving them, such groupings actively teach them poor study habits, and furthermore, bore them senseless. The academically gifted are at increased risk of dropping out because of such boredom.

TangoMan writes:
Should the mission be to deliver as much value-added benefit to each individual student so as to aid them in maximizing their potential or should the mission be to insure that all students reach a certain level of proficiency, even if that means that not all students are aided in reaching their potential.

Whatever I, personally, think about the issue, NCLB has pretty clearly come down on the side of the latter.

Rachel writes:

Whatever I, personally, think about the issue, NCLB has pretty clearly come down on the side of the latter.

Correct indeed, but if we're discussing the purpose of schooling then we should feel free to step outside of what is the current modus operandi of the education establishment and look at alternative models. It's clear to me that the goal of the current system isn't to best educate the greatest number of students, rather it's goal is to minimize the achievement gap. Closing that Achievement Gap is Mission #1, and as we see here, there is a lot of effort attached to all sorts of Rube Goldberg theories as to the underlying cause. Epicycles built on epicycles are necessary with these approaches.

However, if we can come to accept that disparity is the essence of diversity and we refocus on how best to deliver instruction to meet each individual student's circumstances, then the educational value added per student will increase but at the cost of increased disparity in educational performance.

There are costs and benefits to each approach. Currently the system seems willing to incur the cost of handicapping gifted and above average students in order to bolster the self-esteem of the average and less than average students. Cost versus benefit. I can't really get a sense of how this approach delivers a greater aggregate good for society than the alternative approach of allocating teacher time and resources equally to students, rather than having them focused on the poorly performing students, and letting the students accelerate to the best of the abilities and thus incurring increased disparity of educational outcomes. At least with this approach the system isn't purposely setting out to kneecap able students by having them spin their intellectual engines at idle while the slowest of their peers catches up.

From the original post:

If our children are educated in settings where children of all “groups” are treated as equally smart and valuable, they will learn to see one another more that way, too.

If you're advocating this as policy, then you should provide proof that such a policy will yield the outcome you argue. All I see are pretty words and idealistic concepts being used as the basis for policy formation.

What's more likely is that children will learn to see others based on how the other children act in the environment they share with their classmates. It's sheer lunacy to expect children to view classmates as equally smart when some classmates are struggling to master the material being taught while other classmates comprehended the material as soon as the teacher introduced it. Children can see with their own eyes and you're expecting them to believe this "anti-racist" propaganda rather than their own lying eyes. Children are not that gullible - it takes years of training and indoctrination in a Ph.D program to come to believe such things.

I’m struck that several people posting here have used the “achievement gap” as evidence that some “races” are more “gifted” than others. The racial achievement gap is a result of differing educational experiences, not biology.

Are you talking about me? That is quite a misreading. I made two separate points:

1: Race does have at least some biological basis. Even if that biological basis doesn't include any genetically-caused IQ differences, there are most certainly genetic differences between human races, enough that genetic testing can pinpoint someone's race. To deny this is silly, and just discredits the noble goal of anti-racism.

2. This is a SEPARATE POINT: It seems particularly blind to reality to suggest that it's only because of tracking that black students perceive white students as more advanced. The plain fact is that white students are, on average, more advanced. We can talk until we're blue in the face about the many-fold historical causes of this, and about what could possibly fix the achievement gap, but for now a staggering gap does exist. It's not just a myth, and getting rid of tracking will certainly not convince the black student struggling to read a 4th grade text that he's equally advanced as the white student next to him cruising through Hamlet.

TangoMan writes:
if we're discussing the purpose of schooling then we should feel free to step outside of what is the current modus operandi of the education establishment and look at alternative models.

But it's also important to remember that "closing the achievement gap" isn't just the modus operandi of the education establishment, but a federal policy directive supported by a wide cross-section of the political establishment. And in fact when members of the "educational establishment" suggest that proficiency for all by 2014 may not be a realistic goal, politicians on both the right and left accuse them of veiled racism.

From TangoMan: "However, if we can come to accept that disparity is the essence of diversity and we refocus on how best to deliver instruction to meet each individual student's circumstances, then the educational value added per student will increase but at the cost of increased disparity in educational performance."

This assumes facts not in evidence regarding the "potential" or maximum level of achievement possible for each student. In the past, and still, we have carefully avoided any obligation to do as TM suggests for students with disabilities (and bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of disabilities are not cognitive). These students, while far more diverse than the general population, have been shown (only recently, when we determined that we should actually TEST their knowledge), have consistently scored at the bottom of the heap, as a group, and all over the map when viewed school by school (the same could be said of students with low income).

Teaching this group of students (more closely) according to their circumstance (as motivated by expectations of AYP) has resulted in at least pockets of increased achievement. Is TM's thesis that this group of students (or those with low income), if educated to maximum potential (whatever that is) will, in comparative terms, place at an even greater distance from those who are "gifted" if educated to their maximum potential?


Pollack said: "I’m struck that several people posting here have used the “achievement gap” as evidence that some “races” are more “gifted” than others. The racial achievement gap is a result of differing educational experiences, not biology."

This is my take on the issue: There are numerous factors outside of school that influence student performance and contribute to the recognized gap in average achievement by race.

I don't believe that intelligence is influenced by "race." I do believe that academic performance is influenced by many things that strongly correlate with race in America.

One: Single parents/young parents. Many studies show that children from single parent households or children of teenage parents fare worse academically. Not surprisingly - it's hard to raise a child (or children) by yourself.

Two: Cultural values toward education. As in Tango's post above, Jews are very successful academically and professionally. This is partly due to the large influence Jews place on academics and book learning. Very devout Jews spend hours each day discussing the Talmud, etc. It's part of the culture. Similar story with Asian culture - emphasis on educational success is very high. Studies have shown that Asian parents are NOT satisfied with grades that white or black parents would consider acceptable in their children.

Three: Biological factors other than genetics (although I believe intelligence is partially due to genetic factors). These include: low birth weight, premature delivery, mothers who smoked/drank/used drugs during pregnancy, poor childhood nutrition, less access to childhood medical care and prenatal care, just to name a few.

I could go on... My point is that the academic gap between the races can be acknowledged as being influenced by many factors associated with different races in America. This does not lead to the conclusion that some "races" are "more intelligent" than others, as Mica suggested that some of the posters believed. Racial gaps can exist for reasons other than schools, teachers or "racism"


Hi folks – I’m going to sign off at this point. Thanks to Eduwonkette for the invitation to participate. I have found the conversation interesting, and in some ways useful.

A few last things. First, several of the commentators who have dominated here have cherrypicked from research to support their opinions. I’m amazed that the person who quoted from the American Psychological Association statement (Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns (1995/6)), literally lopped off the finding in the next sentence that when it comes to some average differences in IQ test scores between “Blacks” and “Whites,” “There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. “

And BTW, the APA statement also makes clear that:

1) IQ tests insufficiently measure “intelligence,” which is a phenomenon just too complex to be so easily quantified;

2) An IQ test score, like any test score, is affected by many life experiences. These include children’s educational experiences over time; their experience (or lack thereof) of formal schooling; and their experiences of certain forms of instruction.

The APA statement thus makes clear that various differences in life experience and “everyday” school experience are causal factors even in IQ test score differences.

So I’ll repeat what I said in an earlier post. Differences in life experience and school experience undergird racial “achievement gaps” in education. Our task, in education, is to figure out how to improve those experiences so that each child is engaged intellectually and academically at the highest level. It is what our society needs, and our ethics demand.

I’m also going to sign off by repeating my book’s definition of racism and its four core principles of everyday antiracism, to clarify some posts that have written their own versions of my “theories” and “proposals.”

By “everyday antiracism,” we mean acts educators can take daily in schools and classrooms to counteract racial inequality of opportunity and outcome, and to counteract racist ideas about “types of people. ”

I should note that by “racism,” we don’t mean the willful harming of people of color by white people. (This is how the law has often framed it.) Rather, the authors collectively define racism as any act or situation that, even unwittingly,

tolerates, accepts, or reinforces racially unequal opportunities for children to learn and thrive;

allows racial inequalities in opportunity as if they are normal and acceptable;

or treats people of color as less worthy or less complex than “white” people.

My book also suggests four principles of “everyday antiracism”:

1. Rejecting false notions of human difference

2. Acknowledging lived experiences shaped along racial lines

3. Learning from diverse forms of knowledge and experience

4. Challenging systems of racial inequality.

OK, I’m signing off. Thanks to those who have contributed thoughtfully here. I will periodically post “gold nugget” ideas from research and practice for public use and comment on my website.

Mica

I’m amazed that the person who quoted from the American Psychological Association statement (Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns (1995/6)), literally lopped off the finding in the next sentence that when it comes to some average differences in IQ test scores between “Blacks” and “Whites,” “There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. “

Let's keep in mind that this response was written in 1995 and that genetic science has progressed dramatically since then. My first, link heavy response has no been processed through the comment filter and I provide direct evidence of alleles associated with cognition differing by race. This was unknown to the "Committee" back in 1995, which btw had to develop a consensus position, and as the Snyderman and Rothman study of experts on intelligence found, only 15% of the 1200 experts, from the fields of psychology, sociology, cognitive science, and genetics, believed that the Black-White Achievement Gap was due solely to environmental factors. It's quite likely that these 15%, when on a committee seeking to issue a consensus opinion, can muck up the works for the 45% who believed the Gap to be the result of both genetics and environment.

So I’ll repeat what I said in an earlier post. Differences in life experience and school experience undergird racial “achievement gaps” in education.

Don't run away from defending your book. Stick around and prove the assertions you're making, such as the one above. You do your reputation a disservice by fleeing and relying on argument by assertion and authority.

If you're preparing to argue that genetics has no bearing on the situation then you should really be directing your criticism at someone intimately familiar with the topic. I've provided you with a 3 broad criticisms of your work and you've chosen to completely ignore them and proceed, simply on the basis of repeated assertion, as though you understand the nuances involved with the topic that you're advancing. Doesn't your audience deserve to see you defend your thesis rather than skedaddle away when you're challenged?

I’m amazed that the person who quoted from the American Psychological Association statement (Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns (1995/6)), literally lopped off the finding in the next sentence that when it comes to some average differences in IQ test scores between “Blacks” and “Whites,” “There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. “

Hold on a second. You skipped the sentence immediately before and after the one you've added. Here are all three.

"Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support. There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. At present, no one knows what causes this differential"

The preceding sentence goes against your argument. The subsequent sentence reinforces tangoman's point that the committee was taking a neutral consensus position.

Why would you cherrypick the citation like that?

"Hi folks – I’m going to sign off at this point."

See ya.

Hi everyone,

Mica, thank you so much for coming over to guest blog. I apologize that I haven't been part of this discussion for the last two days - I've been swamped.

There is so much to discuss here that I'm going to plan on doing a series of posts about issues raised here (and some of these topics stray far enough from my knowledge base that I want to do some reading first or invite others with expertise in these areas to come on). Please suggest other posts on topics you'd like to talk more about. My ideas are:

1) Tracking/Ability Grouping - What do we know about the racial and socioeconomic distribution of students between ability groups - i.e. who ends up where, and why? What are the effects of ability grouping - academic and social - on high and low group students?

2) IQ - Is it/when is it appropriate to use a construct like IQ? I.e. does it predict future success, and does its predictive ability vary across groups? What are its limitations? (Ken, I know this is an interest of yours - maybe we can coordinate a cross-blog "symposium" on this issue, here and at D-ED Reckoning? And if anyone else wants to get a cross-blog conversation going on any of these topics, email me.)

3) Genetics, Environment, Race, and Achievement/IQ/Ability - Is there evidence that rac and SES gaps are based on different genetic endowments of different groups?

4) Reasons for the Black-White Achievement Gap : This is a huge topic, so this might be a week of posts about different factors raised (in conjuction with the post about genetics above), I might look at family structure, SES, culture, orientations to education, what Attorney DC calls "non-genetic biological factors" (see above), etc.

5) Within school differentiation (discussed a lot above): Do students of different groups experience school differently, even within the same school?

6) What factors contribute to Asian-Americans' high achievement?

And TangoMan and Matthew - You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect anyone to debate here forever. When I ask people to guest blog, I don't require that they comment at all, and Mica has spilled about 500% more ink here than any guest has in the past. I'd like to continue to have guest bloggers, but that will be impossible if they feel like they have to spend multiple work days responding, or if they feel like they will be accused of running away if they don't respond to every comment.

If you have thoughts on how guest blogging could be organized differently, let me know - but I don't see any other way around this. All bloggers leave discussions when we have stuff we need to get done - as I did today and yesterday and have to do more often than I would like - and we shouldn't expect anything different from guest bloggers, even if you feel it would be fruitful to continue discussing.

This thread is open for more discussion, so by all means, keep the discussion going if you've got more to say!

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect anyone to debate here forever.

I don't disagree with you, but I think that you're being generous in characterizing your guest's responses as "debate."

She made assertions, such as:

-Differences in life experience and school experience undergird racial “achievement gaps” in education.

-If our children are educated in settings where children of all “groups” are treated as equally smart and valuable, they will learn to see one another more that way, too.

-Eduwonkette, this conversation so far has illuminated the striking (and troubling) persistence of the myth that some race groups are smarter than others.

-Our book is also about how racist ideologies programmed into our brains over several centuries -- like “some race groups are smarter than others” -- factor into the everyday harmful treatment of young people of color in schools and classrooms.

These statements are very problematic in that they're loaded with ideology and oblivious to real world conditions and data. Such statements should be defended, not merely asserted as being true.

When I ask people to guest blog, I don't require that they comment at all, and Mica has spilled about 500% more ink here than any guest has in the past.

Fair enough, but if your guest bloggers profess expertise on a topic then they should have little trouble in defending their ideas. Choosing not to engage critics, IMO, isn't a winning tactic, especially so when the book in question is advancing an ideological agenda absent evidence. If she and her co-authors wish to influence educational policy on the basis of sound bites and posturing because they're unable to make their case through the methods of social science, then I would think it is incumbent on them to be extremely persuasive in trying to advance their "fashionable" ideas for they are certain to engage critics who believe that their attempts to further expand the "victim" mentality and to further expand the meaning of racism are causing harm to students and the reputation of the educational establishment.

Eduwonkette: Looking forward to hearing more about the topics you mentioned, above. Especially interested in the tracking issue and the reasons behind poor relative performance of African Americans vs. whites and Asians. Enjoy your weekend!

Hi Tango,

I disagree that Mica "ignored critics" in this discussion or did not defend her ideas. To provide a full explication of each of those assertions and the evidence base supporting/refuting them would require a treatise, which is difficult to put together for a blog comment.

Before making sweeping judgments, I think that it is only fair for us to read the book. Tango, I'm wondering if you or others might be interested in sort of a "online book club" - I know this sounds painfully nerdy, but I want to read the book and would like to have other people who are interested in this topic to discuss it with, especially those who are likely to have divergent views.

Is anyone up for that? Basically, we could read a few chapters a week and maybe we could take turns writing the lead blog post on those chapters, and others participating could comment.

Thanks, Attorney DC. With any luck it will get a little cooler out.

Though he hasn't spoken up a lot in this discussion, my co-blogger skoolboy knows the tracking literature well, so hopefully I can convince him to weigh in on that front.

These are all good issues that go to the heart of educational policy.

With respect to the guest blogger comment debate issue, here's what I wrote over at my blog:

e, it's always a judgment call as to how far to carry the debate or whether you need to respond at all. And then there is the time factor.

I'll try to be objective, but I think that Professor Pollock made a tactical mistake. Sometimes it's better not to respond at all, rather than doing a half-hearted response that leaves many points unresponded to. It's also probably a mistake to state that you're leaving the debate, instead of just leqaving. It's the equivalent of taking your ball and running home from the schoolyard. It's also unfortunate that no other commenters came to Professor Pollock's aid. I would have thought that some of your frequent commenters would have agreed with Profesor Pollock's position and helped out.

These race, SES, IQ, genetics issues are the hot button issues in education and there are strong opinions all around. I think everyone interested in improving education is trying to figure these isues out because of the implied policy considerations.

Having knowledgable active commenters, regardless or viewpoint, is a good thing for any blog. You might have to start warning your guest posters.

Hi Ken,

I'd rather someone tell me that they were signing off - which implies that s/he took my ideas seriously enough to feel accountable to the people discussing and didn't want them to feel simply ignored - than to leave the debate without saying anything.

I have to take some of the responsibility here for the comments going primarily in one direction. Had I been chiming in as I was on the first day, I think many of the regular commenters might have joined in.

And I agree that having knowledgable and active commenters is what makes this blog great (well, at least in my opinion;) But I have to say that if I was asked to guest blog, I would be wary of making that commitment if it involved an indefinite period of comment. I think we're better off having guest bloggers who at least write a post that generates discussion among regular readers - which has mostly been the case in the past - rather than having none at all because folks feel that it's too large a time commitment.

Maybe all this popularity will translate into book sales.

"I have to think back to Harriet Tubman's famous Ain't I a Woman speech. In it she says something about women being denied education because they are not as smart as men."

That was Sojourner Truth, actually. She never directly addresses women being denied an education, but she does discuss whether intellect has a bearing on a person's rights.

"Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?"

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.html

Redkudu:

I knew that was Sojourner Truth--and even thought that was what I had written. I hope you won't take this as an indicator of innate limitations on my intelligence :)

No worries Margo/Mom.

"If you have thoughts on how guest blogging could be organized differently, let me know - but I don't see any other way around this."

It's a very, very simple rule that can apply to guest bloggers - don't engage in a discussion you can't finish, or at least stick with for a little while.

I'm not particularly interested in the excuses for why Pollock or anyone else can't be expected to carry on a discussion. And really - Pollock is committed to reforming humanity's attitudes on race, but can't be bothered to address substantive points made by interested, knowledgeable commenters?

I'll draw on Senator B. H. Obama's recent rhetoric to sum this up:

"Any fool can write a blog post... it's the courage to engage in discussion that makes you a blogger."

Pollock abandoned her blog-baby the moment it started teething - end of story.

This is definitely fascinating and helpful. We put up a guest post today too in which the author discusses how work with ARA would have been different had he had the communication technologies he has available to him now. They're interesting companion pieces.

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