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"Unlearning racism" but not closing the racial learning gap
Subj: [Mpls] "Unlearning racism, " but not closing the racial learning gap
Date: 5/27/2004 7:19:14 AM Central Daylight Time
How can one explain the huge racial learning gap in a town where just about
all the whites say they are not racists or that they are racists but are trying
to unlearn racism?
The public school system in the US was "closing the gap" during the 1970s and
early 1980s. However, the Reagan-Bush administration supported school reforms
to deal with a "rising tide of mediocrity" in the public schools (from "A
Nation at Risk," the report of a blue ribbon panel of K-12 experts selected by
the Reagan-Bush administration. It was released in April 1983). And Democratic
Party politicians soon began to jump on the "quest for excellence" bandwagon.
Is it just a coincidence that the racial learning gap has steadily widened
since the 1980s?
In 1983 no evidence was offered to back the assertion that there was a threat
of a rising tide of mediocrity (the gap being closed at the expense of the
high achievers), and no evidence of a rising tide of mediocrity was found in
educational data from the 1970s and early 1980s by a team from the Sandia
National Laboratories that was commissioned by the first Bush administration to
analyze educational data from the 1970s and early 1980s, including math and reading
scores from National Assessment of Educational Progress exams.
Just like the threat of weapons of mass destruction was used to justify the
invasion and occupation of Iraq last year, the threat of a rising tide of
mediocrity in the public schools was a pretext for a shift in educational policy
away from the strategic goal of closing the gap in the 1980s.
In my opinion, Minneapolis schools could close most of the racial learning
gap within a few years, and without pushing the poor performing students of
color out of the district's schools, if a large majority of the school community
really supported the goal of closing the gap as the district's strategic goal,
and if the board was willing to choose effective strategies to close the gap.
(Please note that I do not support No Child Left Behind. I am for fixing the
public school system, not privatizing it).
-Doug Mann, King Field
Mann for School Board