RE: Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/education/09gap.html?_r=1)
It seems a casual pastime of The New York Times is to paint bleak pictures of the black community. Their latest article, "Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected" is their latest shadowy attempt to alert the public that black males are destine to permanently occupy the basement of American society. With all of the obstacles that black boys have, using phrases like, "vexing to policy makers" insults the most modest levels of intelligence. What is more vexing is how only 38 percent of white boys are proficient in reading, with all of the social advantages afforded to them. Yet even more vexing is how this society can establish a metric that only finds 25 percent of black and white boys combined proficient in reading, and consider it valid.
When I was in the fourth grade, I was assigned to a "slow readers" group because my command of literacy was deemed insufficient. Fortunately, through actions by my parents, I was eventually able to enjoy mainstream education. However, I can honestly say that I did not become truly proficient in reading until college, where I learned that reading line-by-line and page-by-page was incompatible with my alternative learning styles. After learning how to concept map and "explore" books before reading, I went on to master literacy and become a published author and editor of a major journal. I share this as evidence that America does not have a clue about how to diagnose or correct reading proficiencies, especially at the elementary and secondary education levels.
The article goes on to dismiss poverty as a factor, while ignoring cultural bias in testing as even a remote consideration. In the heart of the article, the author threads a myriad of social indicators of failure, including the fact that, "In college, black men represented just 5 percent of students in 2008." In this context, a reader could easily miss the fact that black men are about 5 percent of the US population, so this particular fact is not an indicator of failure.
We have enough legitimate issues to grapple with in our fight to eliminate educational disparities between races. I encourage all of my fellow grantees to actively scrutinize this material and try to avoid using these stats as justification of a program. There are plenty of credible scholars doing objective research that is subject to peer review, that we can use to justify our work. We also have to challenge the New York Times, and other media sources, on the glaring omissions and negative slants. Their suggestion that mentors in urban schools is needed to correct problems with this so-called lack of "proficiency," trivializes true problems associated with America's very broken educational system, which is caught in the crosshairs of political gridlock and baseless testing corporations.