Minority children are not inherently deficient– so schools should stop treating them that way

The Florida Department of Education and Virginia State Board of Education recently approved strategic plans that establish different race-based academic achievement goals for K-12 students.  As we’ve explained before, assigning different scholastic targets based on students’ races is not only patronizing – it’s just plain wrong.  Such systems disregard the individuality of students and imply that pupils of some minority groups can’t compete adequately with classmates because of their skin color.

Last month, the Sacramento Bee relayed this story from Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald.  Mr. Pitts described his high school years and how teachers would applaud his mediocre academic performance. But when he started college at the University of Southern California, Mr. Pitts learned that his scores weren’t as good as he’d been led to believe.  One day his white roommate reluctantly explained that his score was “only” about 1200 or, over two hundred points higher than Pitts had scored.  Pitts writes: “[t]hat’s when I realized I had not done pretty well. I had done pretty well for a student of John C. Fremont High, in the poverty, crime and grime of South Los Angeles. I had done pretty well for a black kid.”  Pitts argues a point that PLF has made many times: affirmative action may give minority children “the mistaken idea they carry some inherent deficiency that renders them unable to compete with other kids on an equal footing.”

Though the article is well worth reading in its entirety, Pitts’s conclusion is especially poignant:

“We should be wary of anything, however well-intentioned, however temporary, which conveys that impression to our children. I am proof we have been doing just that for a very long time. And it burns – I tell you this from experience – to realize people have judged you by a lower standard, especially when you had the ability to meet the higher one all along. So this ‘interim’ cannot end soon enough.  Because ultimately, you do not fix education by lowering the bar. You do it by lifting the kids.”