I know reader Lulu is familiar with the American education system, and she might have even better comments on this one than any I can offer. Nevertheless, I’ll stick take a stab at it. First, the story:
Despite a seventh straight year of improved test scores statewide, results released today show California schools failed to make a significant dent in a historically immovable achievement gap – one that leaves black and Hispanic students lagging well behind their white and Asian peers.
Based on the rate of improvement from 2003 to 2009, it would take up to 105 years to close the white/Hispanic achievement gap and at least 189 years to close the white/black gap, which has failed to narrow by even a point in English since 2003, according to scores released today.
It would take even longer for Hispanic and black students to perform on the standardized tests on par with Asian students, who post the highest scores in the state in both math and English.
For decades, politicians have been in thrall to unions and race based activists who continuously demand more and more money to solve the problem. To justify these demands, these people keep pointing to the fact that minorities are frequently in schools that are pathetically underfunded, which affects the buildings, the materials and the teachers.
Our common sense, however, coupled with the fact I set forth below, tell us that poverty is not the sole problem. Generations of brilliant Americans emerged from the ghettos of turn of the century New York City. Nowadays, people in India and China learn despite the fact that there may be one book per classroom. And, on the flip side, as the article says:
Wealthier black students score well below their white and Asian counterparts, including those who are from low-income families.
The fact that poor people can learn, and rich people (from certain cultures) cannot establishes conclusively that the intractably lagging test scores minorities generate aren’t the result of money problems, but of culture problems. And no, I’m not just going to point a finger at the black and Hispanic cultures and say that they’re cultures incapable of sustaining education — although I think both cultures value education less than generic white, Asian or Jewish cultures. Instead, I think the problem lies with our education system, which (as I’ve frequently complained), teaches “how” learning, not “why” learning.
“How” learning means that the children are simply taught how to do things. They are not taught the way in which the discipline developed (which is not only fascinating, but can also yield a greater understanding of the discipline), nor are they taught why the particular subject matters. Everything takes place in a vacuum, with tiny bits and bites of information and methodology being stuffed into the children. This approach creates a Teflon brain, which is one in which information goes in and then just slides right out again.
For children who are raised in a cultural environment that emphasizes knowledge, the stick stuff in the brain (the part to which facts stick and develop) comes from the home. Since I’m verbal and fairly knowledgeable, my kids understand inflation, they understand wealth creation, they understand the Cold War, they know about the Civil War, they appreciate why math matters, they know about the Holocaust, etc. I’m creating the sticky environment in their brain in which the otherwise unmoored facts in school can take root. Nor is mine the only approach. Even if Mom and Dad speak no English (as was the case in many of the homes in which my Asian friends grew up), an enormous emphasis on education’s value will aid the child in creating his or her own sticky mental environment, one in which the facts take permanent root, even if meaning follows later.
Those children, however, who grow up in a home where the parents do not emphasize learning and do not offer knowledge, and who face a street culture that denigrates education (as is the case with Hispanic and black kids), are at a profound disadvantage. At the domestic end, their parents aren’t giving them sticky brains, nor do they have an incentive to have sticky brains; while at the school end, the institution is completely anthetical to creating a rich mental environment in which facts can take root and grow.
I know this latest round of test scores is going to spur a demand for our bankrupt state to pour ever more sums into poor performing schools. And I’m here to tell you that this is throwing good money after bad. Until the American education system stops being an assembly line that just drills meaningless data into traction-free brains, nothing will change the test scores.