« When 'Equity' Is Used to Increase Segregation | Main | Civil Rights and Democracy are Inseparable »

Why Education Is Not the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time


Dear Deborah,

I was glad to read your comments on the faux-Education Equality Project (EEP), now headed by New York City’s Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton, with the assistance of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The papers used to call Klein and Sharpton the odd couple; now they will have to refer to the leaders as the odd trio.

I have wondered why veterans of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century were willing to sit by silently and see their language corrupted by present-day politicians. The civil rights movement was about dignity, justice, and equality—not just in schooling, but in every realm of life. It was about opening the doors that were shut by law and that blocked access to almost every aspect of public life. It was about securing equality of access to education, but also to jobs, health care, housing, public transit, public facilities of all kinds, and a decent life. It was about equality before the law and the right to vote.

And now, as you so rightly point out, the EEP claims that equality can be defined solely by raising test scores. The EEP’s central argument is that schools alone can produce equality and nothing needs to be done about health care, jobs, housing, or any of the other legacies of a history of racism. The fact that we have a black president, a black attorney general, and in our state, a black governor, is a strong indicator that racism is vastly diminished. But it is not gone, and our society continues to be blighted by our history.

Frankly, I am tired of the claim that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. No, it is not. The leaders of EEP say that the civil rights revolution will be completed if only the test scores of whites and blacks converge; and that if kids take test prep endlessly and conquer the demands of standardized testing, then Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy will be fulfilled.

If the EEP “reformers” were truly concerned about civil rights and not just posturing, they would have a plan to do something about de facto segregation; they would launch a program to make sure that every child had access to good health care and started school ready to learn; they would coordinate between the schools and other government agencies to make sure that families had access to job training programs and social services and the basic necessities of life.

If the EEP “reformers” truly wanted schools to close the achievement gap, they would develop a coherent curriculum to make sure that children in every community and every school had access to the knowledge and skills that are needed to prepare for life in this society. And they would make sure that class sizes were reasonable—smaller where the children need extra attention. And they would promote their belief in the importance of education by taking steps to really improve education, not just by ratcheting up the pressure on principals and teachers to produce higher test scores (by any means necessary).

I cannot take EEP seriously because it does not actually have a civil rights agenda other than raising test scores, and it does not have an educational agenda other than threatening or rewarding teachers and principals. This is a publicity campaign, not a civil rights campaign, nor even a campaign for better education.



Diane -

Education is, in fact, the civil rights issue of our generation. I attended the Education Equality Rally in DC on May 16 and appluad the diverse political and policy leaders who participated.

Is there any doubt an achievement gap exists between classes and races in this country?

We know poverty is the primary indicator of poor academic performance. As a society, we must be committed to fixing both poverty and education. I submit we have had more documented success in changing education and improving achievement among at-risk students -- which will break the cycle of poverty.

We need to do more of what works -- and less of the same old status quo. This includes creating smaller schools with dynamic teachers, additional time on task (longer school day & school year), decision-making at the building level, etc.

Let's all work together and create great schools for all kids!!

Beware our most popular dogma term "Closing the Achievement Gap." It leads us into many decisions that are unwise - like education is the civil rights issue of our time. Education for all means helping as many people as possible succeed or learn or become better citizens. Burdening this with civil rights talks is a beautiful dead end. Pride in misguided sweetness is why ignoring education bureaucrats is wise. No pride in that statement.

Remember pride is a sin. In this case, it leads us to a variation on the old saw "those who are merciful to the cruel, will be cruel to the merciful."

Our whole test-culture is an example of meanness and futility in the name of goodness. It's sickly funny being a participant in such madness. Have any of the Ph.D's in education taken a humanities class? What would Plato say?


I have trouble believing your statement that if we improve education then poverty will improve as well.(Taken from " I submit we have had more documented success in changing education and improving achievement among at-risk students -- which will break the cycle of poverty.")

I liken poverty and education to a horse and a cart. The horse and the cart are only good if they are connected to each other. Poverty and education must also move together. Improving one and not the other gets us nowhere. They must be improved together. We can offer the best education in the world to a child, but if they do not have healthcare, then the child will not be able to take advantage of the opportunity to learn.


Many of us "veterans" of the Civil Rights Movement are not sitting silently by, as you put it, while Gingrich & Co. lecture us about what is, or isn't the civil rights issue of this century.


It's astonishing to hear the likes of Gingrich and Klein defining the parameters of the movement for us today. He could have never done it back then. Gingrich was a declared enemy of the movement when he first ran as a DixiePub candidate for congress from the state of Georgia. He is one still. They stole our language 8 years ago with "No Child Left Behind." They are trying it again. Thanks for the expose.

Thank you. I attended a conference not long ago where the head of the United Negro College Fund agreed with my assertion and added: "If education is the civil rights issue of our time, what are our goals? how do we know we have achieved them? whose office do we march on?" That was a nicely clarifying response.

To the young teachers who may stumble upon this column,

Diane and Deb say there is nothing you can do to help bridge the achievement gap in America. At least not as a teacher. You can quit your job and agitate for health care and more Pre-K child services; you can pester your congressperson; you can become a lobbyist in DC or Albany; but if you have these youth in your classroom for part of their years in the public school system, there’s nothing much more you can do.

They will likely not graduate; their children will be born to parents without the minimum qualifications for a decent job. They will subject their own children to all the problems of teen pregnancy, single parent households, not enough parental attention during 0-4 and up; crowded living conditions, street life, etc. Those children will arrive in your classroom in 17 years, and you will again in 2026 teach a child who will likely not graduate from high school.

Its possible Deb, Diane and Co. are correct. Personally, I don’t think they’ve made the case, but lets assume they are. How are you to go to school in the morning? Knowing all your efforts are for naught?

Remember, we have elected the most completely 'progressive' government in history. Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are running the show, with no real opposition. Yet still, say our hostesses, no one from the government is helping these kids.

That’s their story.

I have another story.

This morn America woke up to a bit of news. That the theory Barack Obama and the New Left entertained about hard-line dictators—-that they will be good if only we “talk to them, listen to them”—-imploded. North Korea detonated a Hiroshima sized nuclear weapon, and tossed in a couple missile tests just to stir the pot a bit.

This was not supposed to happen. The left has assured us that if we're just nicer, dictators will not develop and test weapons. We heard it for 2 1/2 years now; its the cornerstone of the "Change" in foreign policy.

Today the New Left theory of nuclear containment fell apart in one day. One wonders if a few Americans might note this as they ponder future policy choices.

Do they still have that poster, “The New Yorker’s View of the World?” Where Midtown and Downtown take up all the poster, New Jersey is sort of visible, and the rest of the country is a tiny bit in the background? I think of it often reading Bridging. This column recalls such a pov, in that it forgets that there are places all throughout the US who have lessons to teach.

Will you, young teacher, look for those lessons? Will you put aside the traditional partisan bias of teachers your elders? Will you look wherever you can for solutions? Will you tolerate a few negative results from experiments so long as experiments are used to learn and improve?

Will you open yourself to possible solutions from all directions?

Will you stand up and say, "50-80% dropout rates are unacceptable and inexcusable"? Will you accept that educators can play a role in keeping these kids in school?

Through the 80's and '90's, the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton coopted the message and brand of Rev. King and his contemporaries. Rev. Al, fortunately, has discovered the error of his youth.

Dr. King and co. understood and appreciated the value of leadership in a free society.

None of them would have looked out on the urban landscape today and accepted the status quo, nor would they have insisted that more federal aid was the way out and up.

They would have insisted that young people stay in school when at all possible, and insisted that adults keep them there.

Will you?

A local newspaper in my state has been running a series on one of the schools that is threatened with closure. The are apparently now in "turnaround" status and have through next school year to reach some goal or face closure. But, the journalist opines, this doesn't tell the whole story. Then follow the requisite list of data about how poor, how limited and how "diverse" the student body is. Better than one in four receives special education. Six of ten speak English as a second language. The speak nineteen different first languages. They are homeless, their parents are not together (the term "divorced" is avoided--suggesting that many were never married). They have health problems. They don't take their medications. A student is reported as starting school with the "mental development" of a two and a half year old. Poor, poor students. Poor, hardworking teachers. Poor, overwhelmed parents.

And the usual message--this school is all that these kids have. They are doing the best that anyone could possibly hope. No one could possibly do better--from the first grade teacher who sends home twenty different weekly spelling lists to the special ed teacher who "understands" that parents ration medication so that kids behave at home, even if they cannot afford to medicate them for school.

What no one seems to be asking is why we such a school should exist in the first place. Rather than bemoaning their condition of having eight different "subgroups" to be accountable for--why are we not asking why we have built school systems in such a way as to concentrate all of the problems in buildings such as this, if in fact the data are accurate. How does a school end up with a dramatically higher than average population of disabled students? Is there in fact a public health issue to be addressed in the school's attendance zone? Has anyone called in the public health officials? Or, is the number of students with "disabilities" more related to chasing after supportive services for students who are not succeeding in the classroom? One is a health issue. The other is an education issue. In addition, the provision of access to an appropriate education for students with disabilities is an issue of civil rights, defined by law.

For those who are seeking an agenda related to civil rights, as it pertains to education, how about a few of these items. How about ensuring a more equitable distribution of experience and educational credentials across racial and SES divides? These are crude indicators of quality to be sure--but their maldistribution does tend to relate to our unwillingness to provide for students equitably. I am not opposed, as some are, to using the outcome indicators of test scores to determine the success of our efforts at equity. Also crude, perhaps--but there aren't a lot of well educated kids who score very poorly, nor poorly educated kids who get good scores by accident. And if concentration on test prep were a good way around this reality, we would have closed the achievement gap by now.

The differences in access to education by SES, by disability status, by ethnicity, are very real. The same things are also frequently true with regard to employment, health care, nutrition. This does not let education off the hook. If someone from the far right wing wants to hoist the civil rights flag in education, I say we hold them to it.


Not sure what Reverend Al or his sidekicks are professing. What I have stated, even had quoted by Ed Week is that closing the achievement gap is the civil right issue of the twenty-first century, not simply education per say.

Paul Hoss

Hi All......

"Diane and Deb say there is nothing you can do to help bridge the achievement gap in America. At least not as a teacher." Ed Jones

To the young teachers who may stumble upon this column.... recognize that this above quote does not represent Diane or Deb's life long work. Both have alot to say regarding what and how our schools should work!!!!

I would suggest to young teachers and Ed..... read their work!

Start here:

In Schools We Trust By Deborah Meier

Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform- By Diane Ravitch

A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read.
Mark Twain

be well.... mike

And now, as you so rightly point out, the EEP claims that equality can be defined solely by raising test scores. The EEP’s central argument is that schools alone can produce equality and nothing needs to be done about health care, jobs, housing, or any of the other legacies of a history of racism.

That is totally untrue. If you take the trouble to read EEP's Statement of Principles, it does NOT define equality just in terms of test scores, and it does NOT say that "nothing needs to be done" about any issue other than education.

It's a sign of weakness when you can't attack your enemies' actual positions, but instead have to rely on such utter caricatures.

Just as a clue, EEP's Statement of Principles leads off with the importance of having good teachers in urban classrooms (it's a commonplace observation that urban classrooms often end up with the dregs of the teacher workforce), and then the importance of school choice including charter schools. Only then is accountability listed, which would arguably be about test scores. So again, it is completely false to say that EEP thinks of equality solely in terms of "test scores."

And I note the irony inherent in two elderly white women lecturing Geoffrey Canada, Kevin Chavous, and Roger Wilkins (among many others) on not caring about real civil rights.

John Doe,
I don't think you know much about the Education Equality Project. Its central tenet is that schools alone can close the achievement gap, without regard to social and economic conditions in which children live. It can do this by paying bonuses to teachers whose kids get higher test scores and by opening more charters, which will get higher test scores.
We are all in favor of better schools and great teachers. But we don't share the idea that testing should be the main engine of equity.
I am sorry to see that you do not think that we two "elderly white women" should be permitted to express our views on the issues of the day.
What part of these characteristics do you find obnoxious?
Our age? You don't think that people over a certain age are entitled to speak up? What age might that be? When will you reach it?
Our race? You don't think that people who are Caucasian have standing to speak about education and equality?
Or is that we are women that you don't believe we should say anything that you don't like?
You have some very bad attitudes, bub.

I'm just pointing out the obvious lack of credibility both of you have in lecturing long-time civil rights leaders like Roger Wilkins for "posturing" rather than being "truly concerned about civil rights" -- a phrase that apparently applies only to you.

And really now, after your recent post praising Geoffrey Canada's Harlem efforts for allegedly proving that "Broader, Bolder" is better than the Education Equality Project, one would never have known that Canada actually signed on to the Education Equality Project rather than "Broader, Bolder"! That's a fact that might have been worth checking.

And in all events, Canada OBVIOUSLY doesn't believe that "nothing needs to be done about health care, jobs, housing, or any of the other legacies of a history of racism." So readers might rightly question your credibility in claiming that the Education Equality Project -- which Canada signed -- is of that view.

Its central tenet is that schools alone can close the achievement gap, without regard to social and economic conditions in which children live.

EEP does focus on the achievement gap, yes, and it does focus on what schools can do, yes, but I haven't seen a claim that school reform "ALONE" will close the achievement gap. Given the tendency to caricature, I'll have to ask for an exact citation before I'll believe that claim.

Following up on this:

I'm just pointing out the obvious lack of credibility both of you have in lecturing long-time civil rights leaders like Roger Wilkins for "posturing" rather than being "truly concerned about civil rights" -- a phrase that apparently applies only to you.

Have you ever thought that maybe people just have a good faith difference of opinion from you? That there's no need to hector such distinguished civil rights leaders as "posturing" just because they have a different vision of education reform than your (quite new) vision?*

* I say "quite new" because it wasn't that long ago that you were a staunch defender of testing. E.g., http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,997945,00.html It's not clear why you've switched 180 degrees such that anyone who wants testing is a chump for thinking that schools can make a difference.


18 months of hearing you has not convinced me you are 1/3 as broadly or deeply read as myself. So save your lecturing on reading for someone less informed.

And while you're at it, save it for someone sitting on a nice fat education pension and tenure, and benefits package like yourself.

Me, I'm sitting here with an aching gumline because I can't see a dentist because I have no health care.

My leg is now infected with something I can't afford to pay for the care for, because instead of saving against a recession, I used what savings I had to do R&D on better ways of measuring cultural literacy in kids.

I'm fat and out of shape because there isn't a pool or a decent gym within 30 miles of here, & I don't have the dues anyway.

I have this month been driven to the decision that there is no place for problem-solvers like myself in education; you don't want us, and I'll never be able to make a living. So I'm now sending my resume to places like KBR and Defense Daily, hoping they'll take me back to the bombs-on-target world.

As a last gasp, I was hoping to be at Educational Innovation and Philadelphia's School of the Future in DC Thursday. I won't because the foundations fund endless papers defending the status quo, but little in the way of experimental innovation. Though I'm willing to tent-camp and eat McChicken's to get there, I won't have enough funds to make the trip.

So leave me alone already. Take your quotes and your stats you don't understand, take your complete lack of knowledge about how the world works, take your narrow-minded, bureau-centric thinking, take your opposition to change, and pick on someone else for awhile.

Mike K. and Diane,

"If education is the civil rights issue of our time... whose office do we march on?"

That's just the problem. Too many think its all about the march. The show. The drama. Good old progress and ingenuity, experiment and innovation, and steady advancement under workable processes doesn't have the glitz of a nice protest.

A bit of a reminder, Mike K., of who is who in this fight:

Civil Rights Act of 1964 votes by Party:

The original House version:[9]

* Democratic Party: 152-96 (61%-39%)
* Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)

The Senate version:[9]

* Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%-31%)
* Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:[9]

* Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
* Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

The Republican Party
Founded in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854 by anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers,[3] the Republican Party quickly surpassed the Whig Party as the principal opposition to the Democratic Party.[4] It first came to power in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and presided over the American Civil War and Reconstruction.[Wikipedia]

When it comes to Civil Rights, nothing has changed in 160 years about who is leading and who is dragging tail.

One has to read between the lines of the EEP position papers to see what they're really about. Here's a quote from the Position Paper on Improving Teacher Quality (boldface mine):

"To be sure, value added analysis is still a work in progress and methodological challenges remain. Yet for all its imperfections, value added analysis is still a vast improvement on the existing system, which fails in its elemental duty to use the one measuring stick that really matters: Compared to other educators with similar students and facing similar challenges, how well are a given teacher’s students actually acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life?

Now, the EEP apparently assumes test scores measure knowledge. This is not the case when many schools lack a viable curriculum and when the tests focus on vague skills and strategies. But the EEP still claims that this is "the one measuring stick that really matters."

They try to sound reasonable by encouraging schools to use "a variety of outcome-based measures" to rate teachers. But what are some of these "outcome-based measures" that schools use? They look at the way these teachers group students (they must have a different grouping for every subject); the items they have on the wall; the appearance of their data folders and binders; their adherence to mandated models such as Balanced Literacy. Is this what makes good teaching? Is this what gives children the knowledge and ideas that they need? I say no.

So, John Doe, instead of insulting people from behind a pseudonym, take the time to read, observe, and listen.

Diana Senechal

Last year, Elizabeth Green of the late New York Sun, reported that the New York City Department of Education had assigned public relations staff to monitor blogs and to make anonymous comments. This blog, she reported, is one that is monitored by the department.

Subsequently the NYC Parent blog learned that a public relations outfit working to support Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein was "lurking" on several NYC blogs and posting anonymous comments.

I fear that this blog is now hosting some of these paid lurkers.

That's OK. Everyone is entitled to express an opinion here, even those who are paid to hold them. Just try to be civil.


That's a cheap way out of having to explain why you're accusing people like Geoffrey Canada and Roger Wilkins of not caring about civil rights, of just "posturing," etc., even after using Canada as supposed proof that EEP's approach doesn't work.

Anyway, if you're intent on casting ad hominem aspersions, I'll bet you could look up my IP address, and see for yourself that I'm certainly not in New York City. Quite far away, in fact. The only reason I'm anonymous is because I'm wasting time on the Internet when I'm supposed to be working. (And really, folks: have you never seen the Internet before? There are lots of valid reasons that probably a statistical majority of commenters choose anonymity.)

I agree with Diane and Deb and I went to school every morning for 35 years in Brooklyn with an optimisitic attitude that I could make things better for my kids.

No real teacher would ever say "Diane and Deb say there is nothing you can do to help bridge the achievement gap in America. At least not as a teacher."

The "achievement gap" is about numbers and a phony straw man. Sorry, we dealt with actual kids, all too many of whom ended up dead or in jail or wasted.

You know something? A lot of them could actually read. And even do some math.

So what did closing the achievement gap mean? We were battling the lure of the steets where school took an increasingly second seat as they got older. I was often surprised to see what happened to formerly good students who just gave up - not because of their schools but becsause of all the other factors that come into play. Some came back years later in good shape.

What we learned over years of teaching in the same school - and yes many of our teachers spent their careers there - was that we keep doing our best in the hope that some of the kids will escape the streets. You never can know which in advance as life take strange turns. But we kept trying and never once thought what we were doing was useless.

Diana is spot on with her frustration of EEP's (and NYC's) outcome based measures to rate teachers. "They look at the way these teachers group students (they must have a different grouping for every subject); the items they have on the wall; the appearance of their data folders and binders; their adherence to mandated models such as Balanced Literacy." I think they forgot to include other relevant bits of information on teachers such as: Do they use a red or blue pen/marker when correcting student work? Do they allow students to hand in work in either cursive, script, or off the printer? Do they use graphic organizers, white boards, or have a word board in their room? Are they now or have they ever been a member of the Republican Party?

Is this really what public education has come to? How are schools ever going to attract intelligent candidates into teaching if these folks realize this type of regimented nonsense will dominate their time in the classroom?

Paul Hoss,
You make some good points. First I like your reference to "mandated nonsense." I can't understand why any politician or civil rights leader or minister or anyone else thinks that there is only one right way to teach. Teachers have many different ways to be successful, and I have never seen persuasive evidence that the answer to all pedagogical debates has been discovered and should be forced on all teachers. This seems to be the case with Balanced Literacy, whose devotees (at least in this country) sometimes seem to be cult members.
Paul, on the subject of the "gap," would you agree that the real civil rights challenge is not to equalize test scores (by hook or by crook), but to equalize poverty rates?

Forgive me for protecting my identity. Sometimes I write about my kids, and they deserve anonymity, even if I don't. No one has be believe me, but I am not from New York, nor am I in the employ of anyone from any part of New York education or any related political machinery.

Seems like there's a whole lot of ugly flying around on this topic. Among the things that I don't find to be particularly helpful are the sorts of "read between the lines" suppositions about motivations of folks who are not in the room (even realizing that this is an open forum). I just don't think anyone gets anywhere from debating what someone "really" meant, as opposed to what they actually said.

I think that the key question for educators to answer is whether there are any improvements available within education that can result in improved chances for the groups of kids who are chronically left out. If not, then perhaps what educators (which could include individuals and any and all organized groups of educators) should be doing is dropping any calls for increased funding and throwing their efforts behind health care for all, or crime reduction efforts, or public housing at scattered sites throughout the demographic spectrum, or better mental health care, or jobs preparation--whatever it is that they think is lacking outside of their locus of control that inhibits their efforts. I have spent a good bit of my working career in similar efforts. I cannot recall a time that educators had any significant involvement.

But, to take educators as sincere in their speech, and holding them to their words, I think that this is a necessary direction--just as I am willing to hold Newt Gingrich or George W. Bush to their intent to improve educational outcomes.

I have watched a child grow from kindergarten through twelfth grade as the local school district became more segregated, and as his hope for inclusion in a school that could respond to his needs grew dimmer every year. This is the logical end point of believing, however sincerely, that it's not the education, its the kids (or their families, or their neighborhoods).


On the subject of the "gap" I think instead of "equalizing" poverty rates I'd like to see them minimized or reduced to the point they no longer impede any one cohort of students. If that could be accomplished I believe test scores would take care of themselves. I realize that's dreaming a bit but it would be nice to see this country at least headed in that direction.

Of course adequate health care for all would be a great start (and it looks to be on the horizon) as well.



Thanks for coming clean on your anonymity. I've always wondered about your real identity. Now it's out there for all BD regulars to view. You sly devil (just kidding).

So you don't misunderstand what I meant in my previous comment. I was not suggesting that we hope for an increase in poverty rates so that all groups are equally poor, but rather a reduction in poverty rates among historically disadvantaged populations, especially African Americans and Hispanics.
Anyone who has read my work over the years knows that I believe strongly in the power of education to improve lives. I have seen it happen again and again.
But I am sufficiently conversant with social science research to know that the odds shift decisively on the side of the affluent, who can endow their children with many advantages before they even start school.
My friend Checker Finn once pointed out that only 9% of a child's life is spent in school; the rest at home or with friends or elsewhere. That is why it behooves us to do whatever we can to improve education, but not to be fooled into thinking that the playing field can be leveled solely by schools.
Yes, poverty matters, in terms of the odds of being able to make the best of one's abilities. Yes, health care matters, and so do lots of other non-school factors.
There are many Sonia Sotomayors out there, young women with excellent brains and great potential, but for every Sonia, there are 1,000 just as talented who are beaten down by the bad hand they were dealt.
We have to work to improve education and to improve all the other factors that impinge on children's lives.

Paul.... i like this idea and think it is worth pursuing...

"On the subject of the "gap" I think instead of "equalizing" poverty rates I'd like to see them minimized or reduced to the point they no longer impede any one cohort of students" (Paul)

Many states are currently pursuing consolidation or school districts. Here in New Jersey we have over 600 distrcits. I am not suggesting creating huge districts...but done county by county with the added idea of balancing over-all distrcit poverty rates could be a variable worth looking at.

Wonder what Diane or Deb's experience in this area may be??

Ed... OK... i will certainly leave you alone... just trying to point out that both Diane and Deb have written much on there ideas to transform schools.

be well... mike

We have to work to improve education and to improve all the other factors that impinge on children's lives.

I think most people would agree with this. Which is why it's so ridiculous to accuse people like Cory Booker and Roger Wilkins and Geoffrey Canada of thinking that "nothing needs to be done about health care, jobs, housing, or any of the other legacies of a history of racism." Just because they want to improve schools as a goal in and of itself doesn't mean that they want "nothing . . . to be done" about poverty, health care.


The good news for kids today: There is a much greater opportunity for kids today to become the next Sonia Sotomayor or Barack Obama than there was when I grew up in the middle of the last century.

I used a US history book called Great Names as a supplement to my social studies unit. It was a chapter book on individuals from Columbus through Eisenhower. It had a chapter on Booker T. Washington and another chapter on Clara Barton. The other twenty five chapters were devoted to white men. I always made it a point to discuss these histrionics with my classes citing the familiar rhetorical refrain, "How could this be? All white men?" I then explained that for the first four to five hundred years white men were given the only opportunities in this country. African Americans, women, and other minorities were treated essentially as second class citizens and rarely if ever given any positions of control or substance. The second half of this discussion assured them that this was no longer the case in this country and that they could be whatever they wanted in life through hard work, determination, and a little luck. I also told them that in their lifetime they would see either an African American or a woman elected president.

I wonder what they think today?

There is one crucial fact that most modern "education experts" carefully ignore and suppress: The fact is that ethnic/racial groups differ significantly in IQ-type intelligence.

So before we can dream about closing the achievement gap first we must confront the IQ gap, which of course is the underlying cause of the achievement gap.

We can assume that (on average) students from higher-IQ ethnic groups (Chinese, Koreans, Jews) will probably always perform significantly better than mainstream whites, similarly (on average) students from lower-IQ ethnic groups (Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians) will probably always perform significantly worse than mainstream whites.

In our modern meritocratic society, differences in IQ-type intelligence are largely determined by differences in genes. Ethnic groups probably differ in terms of the gene variants that determine differences in human traits such as intelligence, height, weight, sprinting and jumping ability, creativity, musical talent etc.

Civil rights is all about civil rights--making sure that people are not victims of unfair discrimination. Striving toward higher civil rights should not mean that we should expect Chinese and Jewish students to become (on average) as dumb as mainstream whites; why then as a civil rights goal should we ever expect blacks and Hispanics to become (on average) as smart as mainstream whites?

Nice to know John Doe that you have the time to spend at work commenting on blogs. If you were a teacher you would blame yourself for causing the achievement gap.


I completely disagree with what you say. I have never seen any evidence to persuade me that IQ is determined by race and/or ethnicity. Read my chapter on IQ testing in "Left Back," which explains its origins and its misuse. In the early part of the 20th century, psychologists believed that Jews and Italians were mentally inferior because their IQ scores were low. Only a few people then acknowledged that most of what we think of as "intelligence" is determined by nurture and environment (and knowing the language), not by heredity.
Most psychologists believed as you do, 90 years ago, that IQ was fixed and related to race. That is now considered a discredited idea.

Dear John Doe,

Your "black friends" aren't going to like the insulting tone of "two elderly white women" any more than your own elderly white mother. Just ask her.

Then ask Geoffrey Canada if he appreciates your keen sense of "irony." Does he really want you speaking for him?

As for your sales pitch, if you imagine African-Americans are dumb enough to buy the EEP message because an African-American is selling it, you are as foolish as the people who hired Sharpton. No one spites the Reverend for taking $500,000 to promote EEP. He needs the money to buy those suits. And those are some nice suits, especially since he lost the weight. But for every Reverend King, there has always been two Reverend Ikes. Unfortunately for EEP, Al isn't half as charming as Ike was. Reverend Ike could draw a crowd. Reverend Al promoted that EEP rally like mad on Tom Joyner's radio show, but he couldn't draw enough people to fill a high school gym. They were even offering rides to the rally and still nobody came. Was it worth the money for Al and the radio ads? I guess the money is tax deductable, isn't it?

Maybe next time, you can hire Armstrong Williams. He loves NCLB. For $10,000 a story.

Finally, try to avoid the "Black Like Me" game some white people like to play. If you imagine calling out "two elderly white women" is going to make you seem cool with your "black friends," you are mistaken. It would take about 50,000 words to explain why it won't make anyone like you or trust you. The short version is that, if you can tell your "black friends" where two real racists are, you probably know where the other 1,243,278 are, so you'd better bring a list.

In the meantime, enjoy your visit to the hood and remember to keep it real.

Well, that was a whole lot of idiotic bluster.

I didn't say that the two bloggers here are the "real racists." I said that they don't have the credibility to make such histrionic pronouncements about how black people worried about education are just "posturing." And black involvement in EEP goes way beyond Al Sharpton, whom I never mentioned.

Nor am I claiming to speak for Geoffrey Canada, except that I alone seem to be aware that it's not honest and above-board to cite Geoffrey Canada as proof that "Broader Bolder" is better than EEP without noting that he himself signed EEP but not "Broader Bolder." Nor is it consistent to praise Canada with one breath but then to implicitly call him just a posturer with the next. Astute readers will notice that Ravitch has no answer to either point.

And I'm not trying to impress any black people (again, how dumb . . . I wouldn't be anonymous if I were trying to do that, would I?) I'm offended on my own behalf at the malicious accusation that people like Roger Wilkins and Cory Booker, both of whom I admire, don't care about poverty, health care, etc.

The idea that IQ is fixed and determined by race has indeed been discredited, and yet it lives on in some mainstream education blogs and journals. That's unfortunate, to say the least.

Charles Murray and his acolytes attack both in-school and out-of-school strategies to close achievement gaps and promote equal opportunity.

Diane's "Left Back" should be required reading for those who like to dabble in theories about race and IQ. Richard Nisbett's more recent book, "Intelligence and How to Get It" is another useful book on this topic. It discredits the "facts" to which Rifraf alludes.

John Doe,

"Astute readers" are going to get hung up on you saying that Diane was making "histrionic pronouncements." Only a certain kind of man calls women "hysterical." Maybe your ex-wife can explain it to you. How many times did you try to end an argument by calling her "hysterical" before she finally divorced you?

Thanks for reminding us that, although Carroll O'Conner is dead, Archie Bunker still lives on.

I just didn't think he'd be here lecturing us on civil rights.

News flash, Einstein: "histrionic" and "hysterical" aren't the same word.

In any event, I'll happily supply lots of other adjectives to a post accusing the likes of Geoffrey Canada as not caring about real civil rights: inaccurate, dishonest, sloppy, disingenuous, hackish, and exaggerated. Happy?

To the blog proprietors: I apologize for not being civil towards this latest interlocutor; I can only point out that my responses to him have been affected by his own complete lack of civility and logic.

I find it curious that the "reformers" are talking in terms of "revolution." The EEP does this; so does Steve Barr with his "parent revolution" (which is funded by Broad, among others).

Why the rhetoric of revolution? It is deliberate, but what is the point? Who is the target audience? Why have they chosen this loaded word?

Diana Senechal

Comments are now closed for this post.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments