Sunday, November 21, 2010

The national conversation that is not being had

The New York Times reported last week on gaps in achievement - as measured in reading and math tests administered in 4th and 8th grade - that exist between black and white boys:

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

What I find interesting is the prevailing acceptance of the idea that "poverty" is the problem here - and the consternation being churned because "poverty" appears not to be the answer, or at least not the only answer:

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

To be honest, I was surprised that the "sociological and historical forces" and the "conversations that people are unwilling to have" referred to "early childhood parenting practices."

From where I perch, the chatter about parenting sounds like a deafening roar.

Has it become more comfortable for we the Nacirema to discuss "poverty" because we will not discuss race?

No comments:

Post a Comment