I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bad-Mouthing Johnny

Apparently, some people are surprised by this:

A Tennessee high school principal has issued a letter of apology to parents and students for saying the school's black students are "less smart," as evidenced by a state report card issued this month, WREG reports.
"I unintentionally offended a number of students on this campus," Germantown High School Principal Ted Horrell wrote in the letter. "I apologize to all the students and parents who were offended."
During a school presentation last week, Horrell reportedly laid out the results of the Germantown High's Tennessee state report card, which breaks down standardized test scores by race and income. The assembly aimed to discuss how the school can close the achievement gap and introduce a new program that would offer assistance to struggling students, WMC-TV
But a number of parents and students were offended by the presentation, arguing that it only created a greater divide among students as some students found it reason to start mocking black students for "being dumb," according to WMC-TV.
So a principal at a high school is being criticized for discussing the achievement gap in front of his students. Gosh, that's shocking - wherever did he get the idea that we should publicly address the gap in test scores between black and white or rich and poor children? Oh, maybe from...
Maybe all these people thought that their constant harping on the lower "achievement" of black or poor or Hispanic students wasn't going to actually fall on the ears of the kids themselves. Maybe they thought spreading the good news about the remarkable improvement minority and disadvantaged children have made over the last 30 years might cause the kids to get cocky and start slacking. 

It never fails to amaze me how so many people who claim to care so much about kids spend so little time praising their successes. Everyone who works with kids knows you have to temper criticism with praise (works with adults, too). When have these people ever praised America's children? When have they ever said they were proud of our kids, except for the times they immediately followed their applause with a "However..."?

All of these people, by the way, embrace a culture of testing precipitated by the odious No Child Left Behind Act; an act that specifically requires states, districts, and schools to break down test scores by race, ethnicity, gender, and poverty status. Did they think the kids wouldn't find out that's how their government sees them?

I don't know how this principal dealt with this in front of his students. I really can't think of a way that he could have addressed this topic that wouldn't have been hurtful in some way; he most likely should have left it alone.

But I'll also bet he looked around and saw that all of his "betters" are constantly talking about exactly the same thing. Why shouldn't he be straight with his students?

I am all for honesty in our discussions about race and income inequality in America. I have no problem seriously and candidly discussing the differences in educational outcomes (of which a test score is only one, and a relatively unimportant one) between different groups of students. But the discussion has to be measured. What we have now is a constant refrain, dwelling on mediocrity and failure, with little acknowledgement of our children's hard-won achievements.

They are listening. Pray the last several years don't become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

ADDING: Journalists, if you're going to put something in quotes ("less smart") in a story like this, make sure someone actually said it. The principal said he didn't say that; you're confusing the issue.

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