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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Black-White Achievement Gap, a Perplexing Dilemma

A wise and frugal government... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” —Thomas Jefferson

Today the columnist George Will had a column in the Washington Post addressing the tragic dilemma facing the African-American community in the United States today. Will quotes Nathan Glazer, a sociology professor emeritus at Harvard as saying “the tragic condition in America is that is 70 percent of African American children are born to unmarried women.”

Writing in the American Interest, Glazer considers it a "paradox" that the election of Barack Obama coincided with the almost complete disappearance from American public life of discussion of the black condition and what public policy might do to improve it." This, says Glazer, is the black condition:”

Glazer goes on to state, “Employment prospects for young black men worsened even when the economy was robust. By the early 2000s, more than a third of all young black non-college men were under the supervision of the corrections system. More than 60 percent of black high school dropouts born since the mid-1960s go to prison. Mass incarceration blights the prospects of black women seeking husbands. So does another trend noted by sociologist William Julius Wilson: "In 2003-2004, for every 100 bachelor's degrees conferred on black men, 200 were conferred on black women."

Because changes in laws and mores have lowered barriers, the black middle class has been able to leave inner cities, which have become, Glazer says, "concentrations of the poor, the poorly educated, the unemployed and unemployable." High out-of-wedlock birthrates mean a constantly renewed cohort of adolescent males without male parenting, which means disorderly neighborhoods and schools. Glazer thinks it is possible that for some young black men, "acting white" – trying to excel in school – is considered "a betrayal of their group culture." This severely limits opportunities in an increasingly service-based economy where working with people matters more than working with things in manufacturing.

Will address a report from the Educational Testing Service , comes a report about "The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped," written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley. It examines the "startling" fact that most of the progress in closing the gap in reading and mathematics occurred in the 1970s and '80s. This means "progress generally halted for those born around the mid-1960s, a time when landmark legislative victories heralded an end to racial discrimination."

Only 35 percent of black children live with two parents, which partly explains why, while only 24 percent of white eighth-graders watch four or more hours of television on an average day, 59 percent of their black peers do. (Privileged children waste their time on new social media and other very mixed blessings of computers and fancy phones.) Black children also are disproportionately handicapped by this class-based disparity: By age 4, the average child in a professional family hears about 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family – a child often alone with a mother who is a high school dropout. You can read Will’s column by clicking here.

After reading Will’s column and in light of my last post regarding the Restoring America Rally and my comments on race relations in the United States today I down loaded the Educational Testing Service report to see for myself what academia has to say about this problem.(You can down load the report by clicking here)

Barton and Coley’s report traces the Black-White educational achievement and attainment gaps back to the early 20th century and presents a variety of data in an effort to understand why the gaps stopped closing over the last several decades. They drop back in time to the beginning of the 20th century when the gap in educational attainment started to narrow, and bring us to the startling and ironic conclusion that progress generally halted for those born around the mid-1960s, a time when landmark legislative victories heralded an end to racial discrimination.

You should read the report and make your own judgments on the validity and cogency of their conclusions. The authors provide a great deal of data through the use of simple charts. I found the charts to be a good means to quickly understand the points the authors were making. Here are a few excerpts from the report I found of particular interest.

Investment in Early Education and Nutrition. At the top of the list of factors that may have contributed to progress in closing the gap are the federal government’s investments in Head Start and Title I of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Evaluations of Head Start, over its long history, have reported positive results. Title I, an even larger program, involves some 5 million children in 14,000 school districts. The positive effects of Title I were established in a congressionally-mandated evaluation carried out in 1975.7 However, these positive results were tied to the early grades, with effects being “virtually nil by the sixth grade.” Fade-out effects also were found in Head Start.

Throughout human history, the nuclear family has been the basic institution for raising children, providing for their needs, protecting them, shaping their values, passing on the culture, and providing the models for shaping their understanding of what it is to become an adult. The nuclear family has been historically defined as a mother, a father, and their children. Clearly, there has been a trend toward deterioration of the makeup of the family unit, a trend most striking in the Black community in the United States — but one also apparent in other developed nations of the western world. Is there a relationship between changes in family structure and changes in the achievement gap? What has been happening most noticeably since the mid-1960s is the disappearance of adult Black males from the family.

The Negro family lived in Africa and subdued the hostile environment. In the United States, it has lived in a manmade social and psychological jungle which it could not subdue. Many have been destroyed by it. Yet, others have survived and developed an appalling capacity for hardship. It is on this strength that society can build. (Martin Luther King)

In addition to the strong links between single parenthood and poverty and welfare receipt, the available research indicates that children from mother-only households are more likely to be school dropouts, to receive lower earnings in young adulthood, and to be recipients of welfare. Moreover, the daughters who grew up in Black single-parent households are more likely to establish single-parent households themselves than those who were raised in married couple households. Furthermore, single-parent households tend to exert less control over the behavior of adolescents.

Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates sums it up this way: We do, however, know that the causes of poverty within the Black community are both structural and behavioral. Scholars as diverse as philosopher Cornel West and sociologist William Julius Wilson have pointed this out, and we are foolish to deny it. A household composed of a sixteen-year-old mother, a thirty two-year-old grandmother, and a forty-eight year-old great grandmother cannot possibly be a site for hope and optimism. Our task, it seems to me, is to lobby for those social programs that have been demonstrated to make a difference for those motivated to seize these expanded opportunities.

First are the observations made by a person of long experience, including the presidency of the National Urban League from 1994 to 2003 and his interactions with young people over the years, based on what the Urban League struggled with during his tenure. A major culture shock he sees is “hip hop — the music, the imagery, lyrics, values, and the impact on Black youngsters in their communities.” He says that hip hop became ubiquitous after emerging in the 1970s, thanks to the media, and permeated deep into African American youth culture. Much of its message, he says “was counter-cultural, oppositional, anti-establishment, anti-achievement, anti-education,  confrontational, anti-deferential and, if you will, anti-adult.”

There are many more excerpts I could include in the post, but they would only add to an unnecessary length. I suggest you read the report for yourself. You can down load a PDF version by clicking here.

I find it fascinating that that this report, probably after thousands of hours of research and writing and expenditures of money echoes what conservative African-Americans have been saying for years and being called traitors to the cause and uncle toms by their race baiting, social progressive fellows.

Black conservatives such as; Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, David Web, Ken Blackwell, Larry Elder, Joe Hicks, and Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to name a few have been preaching this mantra for years. Even entertainers like Bill Cosby and left leaning columnists like Juan Williams of NPR and Fox News have gotten into the fray.

They are continually disregarded and demonized by social progressive, race baiters like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Tavis Smiley who preach that “Whitey is at fault and that government must do more to alleviate the plight of the African-American in the United States. They need this issue to maintain their power and status. They preach to their followers a doctrine of more government, more welfare, larger government checks and it’s not your fault. They do not mention social or personal responsibility, the consequences of a lack of education, respect for the nation and its laws. They in essence are substituting the values of government for the moral values of God.

In Detroit, New York City and Cleveland, Ohio people were lining up in the hopes of receiving “Obama’ money. Click here for a video report. (Also note the comments below the YouTube video, which illustrates another point I make about the crass and obscene language used by the Left)

No doubt many of these people are the very same ones discussed in the ETS report. They have led down this path towards government dependency by the social progressive race baiters and I doubt there is any turning back at this point.

Another example can be seen here. After an Obama campaign rally a woman and her daughter were interviewed The woman was ecstatic over the possibility of Obama ascending to the presidency as she would no longer be responsible for her own finances – Obama would take care of her. This was the Hope and Change many African-Americans were looking for.

They have been so indoctrinated by the Al Sharpton’s of the world they did not realize that even if Obama could do what they believed he would do there was no guarantee it would continue. They were looking to he government rather than taking personal responsibility. This is what they had and are being taught in schools and society today.

I fear this will not change in the near future, if ever. The politicians, academics and media elites will not address this issue directly for fear of inviting the invective and ire of the social progressives and race baiters. Perhaps the Tea Party is a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel?

We must change! If you think Greece is bad wait until you see the riots in the streets when the government can no longer afford these massive welfare and handout programs. This is nation founded on personal liberty and responsibility where we were taught to be one out of many and to trust in God – not government.

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