Wednesday, January 10, 2007

DUMB (insert racial slur here)

"Charles Murray sure does rile a lot of people up. Especially those who 'hold these truths to be self evident: that we are endowed by our government with certain basic entitlements and among these are guaranteed success, a high standard of living and an enforced respect.'"

Many schools and school districts have special programs for "gifted" children, that is, children who are brighter, learn better, and are quicker mentally than the average youngster. These programs try to challenge the brighter students more and give them an education that better matches their mental and learning faculties. The basis for these programs has been subjective (this kid is really bright and could do better) and typically on IQ tests, which I would argue are rather subjective as well, but at least are more tangible. The first such "gifted student" program was instituted in New York in 1922

The state of Florida is examining a proposal to relax standards for entering such a program to get a broader group of students into it.
The proposal, which effectively lowers IQ standards, has the potential to reshape one of public education's most loved and loathed programs.

It could also cost taxpayers about $370 million by shifting students from relatively inexpensive regular-education classes into pricey gifted classrooms, and requiring that every student be screened for giftedness.

The new admission requirements could strip the program of its elitist aura, opening special classes to students who work hard, not just those who post genius IQ scores.

But critics worry the changes will erase the very reason gifted programs were created: to make sure exceptionally intelligent students aren't stunted academically by regular classwork.
Reactions to this are mixed, parents of such "gifted students" are concerned that their limited funding and resources will be spread even thinner if more students get in, thus making the effort less meaningful. This seems like a valid concern, since the changes would increase the present enrollment of 177,000 to 237,000 students or more. Parents of students who don't make the present cut are hopeful their kid can make it into the program which is viewed as a road to success. So why the desire to make such a change now?
State officials said the law is being revised to bring Florida up to date with the trend and give more children access to challenging work.

It also addresses affirmative action policy that has been overturned in the courts. Florida was forced to discontinue a policy allowing schools to drop the IQ requirement to 120 for low-income and minority students.

By allowing access to all students who score an IQ of 120, the new rule does away with those affirmative action policies. Some experts worry that will actually make the programs more exclusive by giving access to more white students.
See, what happened is that the Florida courts ruled that an affirmative action policy to get more minorities into the system was unconstitutional. Their previous plan was to lower the IQ requirement for minorities and low-income students. The logic behind this is that the bulk of these "gifted students" are from white middle class families. The fact that the majority of America is, in fact, white and middle class seems to have eluded them.

Since there are more whites who are middle class in Florida than any other ethnic group, then the reasonable expectation would be that they would comprise the greatest number of people in nearly any group. Further, lowering the standards in this manner would not succeed in putting in proportionally more minorities or poor, again, since there are more white middle class students. As LaShawn Barber puts it:
Considering there are more whites than blacks in the United States and whites on average have higher IQs, there will be more white students testing into gifted programs under the proposed lower requirement. It matters little whether whites average 115 and blacks 100, or whites 100 and blacks 85.
She goes on to point out that the main purpose of this, as the article admits, is to get more minorities into these programs, but that simply won't happen with this proposal.

If schools want more black kids in gifted classrooms, they’ll have to lower the bar for black students. Not only would this treat people unequally, it’s unfair to students who meet the requirement. Unless schools lower the bar for all, without regard to race, the scheme is illegal. If they lower the bar for all, they may as well do away with the concept of gifted altogether. It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma!

There just aren’t enough blacks testing at 130 IQ and above to fill gifted classrooms to the satisfaction of white liberals…

…who send their kids elsewhere.
Since the Florida courts pointed out this violates the civil rights of students, they can't do that. And isn't it a bit insulting to say that because you aren't white you have to have lower standards to be considered "gifted" anyway? Commenters at LaShawn Barber's Corner responded:
*blink* The race hustlers in Florida have absolutely no idea of what “giftedness” actually means. You can’t auto-magically make a kid function at a higher level (mathematically, verbally, emotionally, athletically, etc) by redefining “high functioning kid”–they’re still going to be constrained by their actual abilities. But they’re not trying to make kids achieve to the best of their abilities at all, are they?

In elementary/jr. high I was in a “gifted” program with a lot of kids who weren’t unusually gifted–they ended up putting about 25% of the school in the program! They used “peer selection” so a lot of kids were merely popular kids who did homework. It ended up being totally worthless for both the high-level kids, who had to wait for everyone else to catch up (just like always), and the lesser-gifted kids, who dropped out of the program and decided they were actually “dumb.” :(

In high school, when I went to a nationally-recognized summer program for gifted kids at Iowa State and met kids from around the country who were TRULY gifted, I was the lesser-functioning kid, and it knocked me for a loop for a few years. Took me awhile to realize I wasn’t really stupid.

Anyway. I don’t have a fancy-schmancy Edjumacation Degree, which is probably why I can see that these jokers in Florida don’t care at all about giving the best appropriate education to any of the children they’re manipulating to make themselves feel warm and fuzzy. Grrrr.
-by Radish

All 4 of my children attended the magnet program at Lubbock HS in Lubbock TX.

There were only a few minorities in the class; some bright Black and Mexican children said so - they qualified, but felt “uncomfortable” being the only minority in the class.

This is a function of parental support - if their parents “made them” attend the magnet classes, they would. Parents need to be “in charge’.

My wife and I never asked our children if they wanted to attend the magnet school; they wanted to, but if they did not, we would have “made them”. After all, we were “in charge”.

PS - Lubbock HS eliminated many of the “perks” in the magnet program (trips to Smithsonian, etc) because “the rich White kids got too good a deal”. But support for football stayed the same.

In truth, the “rich White kids” still went to the Smithsonian and elsewhere - they just did it without the blessing of the School.

More minority children could get into magnet programs if their parents “made them” study.
-by Frank Zavisca

Schools should ideally challenge every child that walks through the door. The clamor to get children into gifted rograms when they are not truly gifted is a sad reflection on the inability of schools to meet the needs of bright children. With such an inordinate percentage of the funding going to failing children in failing schools, bright children are not having their needs met. I think that one of the tragedies of no child left behind is the skewed focus on the bottom. Meanwhile, our best and brightest are performing in a mediocre fashion relative to their abilitites. Further, we simply do not have nearly enough gifted teachers who can really engage bright/extraordinarily bright students.
-by jan

I was in gifted programs for most of K-12. My father was a grocery store manager and my mom sold shoes at JC Penneys- does that make me upper-middle class?

The unspoken thing here is that many gifted programs are as half-assed and uninstructive as regular school classes. Except for advanced math and maybe science classes. I believe that most such programs are in place solely to placate parents who are school district shopping before they buy a home. The problem is that the gifted programs are still part of the “progressive education” disease that has steadliy eroded American schools for the better part of the last 50 years, at least.

When this dumbing down passes and is instituted you can bet that the results will mirror those of regular classes: teacher time will be absorbed with help ing the bottom third catch up and the middle third tread water while the upper, gifted third will get bored and wind up hating school as much as everyone else!
-by jeff

I can’t keep up with all the flim-flam schemes that bureaucrats who do everything in their power to socially engineer equality of results, instead of equality of opportunity.

I read a few books on it years ago and gave it up. Thomas Sowell and John Mchorter cover this area thoroughly, among others.
-by john

So are we saying that white people are smarter than blacks because of biology or experience. I tend to find that white parents expose their children to more and better opportunities than blacks.

Rural whites tend to be on the same level as inner city blacks.

If any black person succeeds is it only because of Affirmative Action and they don’t deserve it or are they just a statistical anomaly?

By rural I don’t simply mean living in the “country”. I am speaking of impoverished like in some Appalachian counties.

I am not calling those in all rural areas uneducated.
-by Heather in MD

I fought hard to get my son in a gifted program. He tested well, but his grades didn’t reflect his intelligence. Turned out to be a mistake - the program was set up for students who were self-motivated, and THAT he was not. It didn’t benefit him one iota. My older son completed the program, but honestly, I think the whole thing is a waste of time and money.

On a side note La Shawn, I don’t know if you’ve read this yet, but I highly recommend it -
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark
-by ElCee

Heather in MD asks about the statistical anomaly when blacks achieve.

I have experience helping black students negotiate their college years at a highly respected state university.

Mostly, blacks from outside the country have no problems focusing on their reason for attending the university and they blend very well with the overall student body.

Among the blacks from across the United States, there is a respectable group who are not unlike the blacks from outside the country. But there is always a large and challenging group of what I have come to call the “grievance blacks.” They are the ones who require a black student union, special attention to their “racial needs” and constant “dialog” so that others can reform and come to “understand” them.

Unfortunately, the “grievance blacks” get a lot of loud mouth professors and deans who help carry their water.

I suggest that you can not stick to business of get the best possible education for yourself if you are busy running around counting nicks and bruises and whining about it. (Be assured that any real concern over racial claims is examined promptly and thoroughly. The university fully understands the sting of charges of racism.)

I have a large circle of black friends who a very, very bright and capable thinkers. We really don’t discuss race much at all and when we do, it seems to focus on the “knuckleheads.”

These black friends have smart kids who are off making good livings and being strong citizens in their communities. Hopefully, they are driving the “anomaly statistics” down.
-by Heliotrope

Nobody is against a discussion of genetics in regards to intelligence, athleticism, etc. But, the question remains: Why? What are the solutions to the IQ gap? Improve the schools? How? Make the kids pray in an officially proscribed pre-school gathering? Go back to separate-but-equal nonsense? What does everyone want to see happen?

Will we have the “Brave New World” of Aldous Huxley where Alphas and Betas are categorized for certain careers based on genetic profiles? The main problem I have with this type of discussion is it doesn’t allow for the individual. All the research is based on the cohort. There are really bright black kids out there. I know because I was one of them.

Graduated from Boston Latin Academy in 1986, one of our city’s exam schools. Classical education. No feel-good, squishy filler in the curriculum. Six years of Latin which not only examined the language, but also the culture and government of Ancient Rome.

Public education worked for a long time. I think there were two factors in the decline. Lack of parental involvement and lack of societal interest. Educating the masses should be the goal of a noble society. What we have now is competition in which those with the most money benefit.

What I would like to see are private academies in urban centers that raise their own funds through appeals to citizens and industry. Their interaction with the local education appartus would be minimal (making sure they meet necessary requirement) allowing them to set their own curruculae, etc.

A little disjointed, but you get the idea.
-by Angel

College is now the great mecca to which we all must bow and pray. If we can just send our kids off to their ivy halls with high school diplomas in hand and decent GPAs in their pockets, all will be well with the world.

People with college degrees make more money and live longer and happier lives, right? But what if your kid wants to join the Army right out of high school? Well, as long as it’s merely a way to pay for college. What if he wants to become a carpenter? Maybe he can do that for a few years, save up enough money for college, then use his carpentry skills to become an engineer.

The kid who can’t dissect a Wordsworth poem to save his life but can rebuild an engine with his eyes closed is vastly undermined (and undervalued) by a system so tyrannically focused on contrived academic achievement.

Instead of expending our energy reducing standards in academia, why not invest in de-marginalizing the world of blue collar opportunities?

I’m aware of the various cans of worms such a proposal opens, especially in light of our discussions on poor parental involvement, but I’m going to stop here anyway. After all, it’s La Shawn’s blog, not mine. :)
-by Eric

I once heard that Abe Lincoln use to like to pose a riddle: How many legs does a dog have, if you call the tail a leg?

Answer: 4 (not 5). Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one. Defining “gifted” down won’t make those kids any better off…in fact it may set them up for major disappointments.
-by Mary M
I tested very high on the IQ scale, justified or not, when I was a little tyke. I would have qualified for this sort of education program. Motivated, however, I was not, and I think that's a significant need for students in such a program. Some of the most brilliant, inventive, and creative people in the world are indolent and lack ambition. What could they achieve with the drive of others?

This push for x favored group in every single setting is tiresome and a sad vestige of the PC push in the late 80s and early 90s. Not enough girls in golf, not enough Chinese in football, not enough Indians in acting, not enough blacks in lacrosse. The question is never asked "do they want to be there?" Nor is the question asked "are they qualified and do they deserve to be there?"

I once read a study that bemoaned the fact that few women are in the hard sciences (despite what you see on television, where almost inevitably the scientific expert is a woman). The question was never asked if women really wanted to be in that field and were being denied, it simply was presumed. When Harvard president Laurence Summers suggested that among the many reasons women might not be as represented in hard science studies at Harvard just might be lack of interest and inclination, he was drummed out of his position. It's simply not acceptable as an answer.

In England, the push was to avoid elitist distinctions in school of this sort, which eventually was decided to be a failure. They discovered that lowering the bar was simply producing students who were unprepared for college and that the overall quality of education for England was suffering for it. (Hat tip Fire and Hammer)

Despite our best efforts and ideals, people will always vary in interest, ability, and ambition. Some students simply are smarter and faster at learning than others. Some are better at football or chess or making friends or cooking or what have you. That's a fact of life, we are not all functionally equal or exchangeable, we excel in some areas and fail in others. Any attempt to eliminate those differences is doomed to failure, painful failure for the ones impacted by the effort.
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1 comment:

Anna Venger said...

Sadly, many gifted programs are not really such a much. That is one reason why some people are turning to homeschooling. A good friend of mine's son is off the chart smart and she has been able to challenge him far more than the schools could have.