Racial Stupidity and Malevolence

Many do-gooders and race hustlers insist that the black-white achievement gap in the US today is the product of racism.  But how do you explain black students' stellar performance during Jim Crow?
Walter-williams

The white liberal's agenda, coupled with that of black race hustlers, has had and continues to have a devastating impact on ordinary black people. Perhaps the most debilitating aspect of this liberal malevolence is in the area of education.
       
Recently, I spoke with a Midwestern university engineering professor who was trying to help an inner-city black student who was admitted to the university's electrical engineering program. The student was sure that he was well prepared for an engineering curriculum; his high school had convinced him of that and the university recruiters supported that notion.

His poor performance on the university's math placement exam required that he take remedial math courses. He's failed them and is now on academic probation after two semesters of earning less than a 2.0 grade point average.
       
The young man and his parents were sure of his preparedness. After all, he had good high school grades, but those grades only meant that he was well behaved. The college recruiters probably knew this youngster didn't have the academic preparation for an electrical engineering curriculum. They were more concerned with racial diversity.
       
This young man's background is far from unique. Public schools give most black students fraudulent diplomas that certify a 12th-grade achievement level. According to a report by Abigail Thernstrom, "The Racial Gap in Academic Achievement," black students in 12th grade dealt with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade; they wrote about as well as whites in the eighth grade. The average black high school senior had math skills on a par with a typical white student in the middle of ninth grade. The average 17-year-old black student could only read as well as the typical white child who had not yet reached age 13.
       
Black youngsters who take the SAT exam earn an average score that's 70 to 80 percent of the score of white students, and keep in mind, the achievement level of white students is nothing to write home about. Under misguided diversity pressures, colleges recruit many black students who are academically ill equipped. Very often, these students become quickly disillusioned, embarrassed and flunk out, or they're steered into curricula that have little or no academic content, or professors practice affirmative-action grading.

In any case, the 12 years of poor academic preparation is not repaired in four or five years of college. This is seen by the huge performance gap between blacks and whites on exams for graduate school admittance such as the GRE, MCAT and LSAT.
       
Is poor academic performance among blacks something immutable or pre-ordained? There is no evidence for such a claim. Let's sample some evidence from earlier periods. In "Assumptions Versus History in Ethnic Education," in Teachers College Record (1981), Dr. Thomas Sowell reports on academic achievement in some of New York city's public schools. He compares test scores for sixth graders in Harlem schools with those in the predominantly white Lower East Side for April 1941 and December 1941.
       
In paragraph and word meaning, Harlem students, compared to Lower East Side students, scored equally or higher. In 1947 and 1951, Harlem third-graders in paragraph and word meaning, and arithmetic reasoning and computation scored about the same as — and in some cases, slightly higher, and in others, slightly lower than — their white Lower East Side counterparts.
       
Going back to an earlier era, Washington, D.C.'s Dunbar High School's black students scored higher in citywide tests than any of the city's white schools. In fact, from its founding in 1870 to 1955, most of Dunbar's graduates went off to college.
       
Let's return to the tale of the youngster at the Midwestern college. Recruiting this youngster to be a failure is cruel, psychologically damaging and an embarrassment for his family. But the campus hustlers might come to the aid of the student by convincing him that his academic failure is a result of white racism and Eurocentric values.


Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has authored more than 150 publications, including many in scholarly journals, and has frequently given expert testimony before Congressional committees on public policy issues ranging from labor policy to taxation and spending.

6 comments from readers  

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Small
It would be interesting to see the current comparison scores at those NY schools.
Small
Good analysis, but where is the suggested solution? Who is to tweak what? Can I infer that it is a problem that teachers can solve by grading blindly? What is the way to persuade sports-minded young black folks that a muscular mind will stand them better than muscular bodies?

As always, thanks for thinking.
Small
"Pre-ordained" is probably too absolute a term, but it certainly doesn't have much to do with race, except in a cultural sense. I think I read about it first in Freakonomics, but a recent long-term study demonstrated that, when controlled for economic background, home life, and other socioeconomic factors there was no difference in school performance between races (yes that's right, the asian kids weren't better at math either...).

In any case I find it hard to criticize poorly-performing students when the only performance metrics are the ability to sit still, be quiet, and retain facts for a month or so until exam time. The first set of skills is utterly irrelevant in the real world unless you're going to work in a 19th-century factory and the latter is increasingly obsolete in the information age, where the ability to *index* information is vastly more valuable than the ability to retain it for short periods. Strategies to impart both actively discourage and cripple extremely valuable skills like creative problem solving, self-direction, personal independence, logic, and reason. The whole system is bunk. The students who do poorly in it may be suffering from outside influences or disability, but they may just have figured out early that their time was being wasted and, given nothing better to do, turned to self-destruction.
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This is a great article but it is incomplete. It does not address why black students aren't being prepared for college as they were in the 1940s. The fact is that black students were taught by black teachers and these teachers cared more for their well being and their future. Integration has supplied black students with educators that have written them off as failures.
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The column did not contain information about the ethnic backgrounds and English language skill levels of the whites on the Lower East Side.

The column did not give an explanation as to why Dunbar High School graduates performed so well.

In summary, there was no connection between these examples and the rest of the article.
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Thank you for dealing with this sensitive subject that most can't, or won't, address.

The schools are doing a terrible injustice to the children, and many school districts are little other than political franchises.

Special Ed rewards underperforming kids with more audio-video learning and less homework. It also tends to start them on mind-altering drugs. Most importantly to admistrators, SE designation brings in more per-student funds to that school than "regular ed" kids or geniuses.

Thankfully, they didn't have a "Bilingual Ed" track in my son's school system in the 1970s... if they had, he probably would still be unable to read English!
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