In the Arena

School Shock

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No doubt, there will be a revival of racial debate over these data, reported in the New York Times today:

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

But let’s look at it another way: only 38% of white boys are “proficient” at reading, which is a level below true fluency with the printed word. What does that say about our educational system generally? It says, not to put too fine a point on it, that we are becoming a nation of ignoramuses. For more than 40 years, ever since the publication of the Coleman Report, the key variable when it comes to educational achievement is parental involvement; all other factors–money, class size, choice and competition–are peripheral. Over those same forty years, parents have had to work harder to get by–two, three jobs in many cases–as good paying manufacturing jobs vanished. And, over that same period of time, the impact of crap culture–the Jersey Shore-ization of American Society–has increased exponentially. Those effects hit hardest on the poorest families and those with a single-parent trying to do the job of two…but they are endemic across the culture.

It seems to me that these data demand a very serious national discussion, not about race, but about our culture, our values and ourselves.