Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I am not a Racist, am I? Part 1

My entire school just watched, Andre Lee's, I Am Not a Racist, Am I? which argues quite convincingly that racism is an institutional construct.   (movie website). I've taught for now a quarter of a century. That is staggering to me. For all of those years and thousands of kids I've taught, the students who almost always struggle the most are African-American males. Most black boys at my school don't struggle. But of the 4-6 kids who struggle the most, the majority of these kids are almost always black boys.

Why has this persisted at my school?

I'm on a task force to study this more deeply. There are a lot of uncomfortable places this can take us. Charles Murray speaks to this in ways that make me uncomfortable. He posits that IQ is different by race. While he claims to be agnostic on whether this is genetically based, he strongly suggests that there is such a component. I take comfort in the work of Steele and Aronson on stereotype threat which, I feel, negates/ explains away Murray's findings. The saddest finding of Steele and Aronson's work is  that African immigrants to the United States are not at risk of stereotype threat and perform just as well on IQ tests as their white and Asian counterparts. But their children ARE at risk. This seems to disprove any argument that suggests IQ differences are genetic.

The other explanation is that my school is structured in a way that makes it harder for black boys to succeed, in other words, we are structurally racist.  What does that look like? What about the way we teach history, English, math and science, make it more likely for some cohorts to succeed and others to struggle? Some argue that there is no "white" way to teach physics, chemistry, and math.  Indeed, the political right in the United States mocks any attempts to alleviate and address this discrepancy.

I have more thoughts on this.

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