Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

 In Texas, our standardized tests for public schools is called TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), and as in other states performance-scores based on this test determine how the school will be funded the following year. I find it odd that schools who perform poorly get less funding, instead of additional funds to help improve the scores... but awarding or denying money is probably not the solution and a potential topic for a future blog. Administrators are encouraged to take an active role in helping to ensure that their schools meets the scores, with the TAKS often given more weight than the rest of the curriculum.

 Given the nature of this system, it makes sense that an assistant-principal would want to do something to motivate the lowest-scoring students in her school. So, in February at a Bastrop Middle-School, just such an administrator called 8 students in the 8th grade who's scores were below the standard into the library via the school's public address system. The students were called by name, and the reason for the request was not provided. The meeting was meant to illustrate where these students' scores were relative to the rest of the student body, why it was important that they take an active role in their education, and to suggest that they assist one another by forming a study group.

 No problem so far, right?

 Well, not quite. It seems that all 8 of the students happen to also be African-American. It was not the assistant Principal's intent to single-out black students. The intent was to single-out the lowest scoring students. At least one black 8th-grader was not called because her score met the standard. Instead, however, of focusing on the commonality of poor grades and an even poorer future outlook, these students focused on their own race. They ran home and cried to their parents, and their parents, instead of being concerned about their students failing grades and the many doors of opportunity that will be closed to them as a result, assumed that RACISM must be afoot!

 Of course, the school district's administration has completely tucked-tail and handed out apologies left-and-right in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. What they should have done was simply show that these 8 students are below the required threshold, and that their common skin-pigmentation is coincidental and inconsequential. Now, instead of these students getting the help they need with their grades, they are a part of a march on the school. Four people in a photo-op were holding signs with one word each which should have read "We-Shall-Over-Come", but instead read "We-Come-Over-Shall".


 This is why education, and not race, should be the focus in this situation. The common issue being addressed is not racial... it is stupidity.

 I know that sounds harsh. It is not the low test-scores that suggests that these students are stupid. It is how they responded to the news. Their priorities, their race-baiting... that is what is stupid.

 We, as a society, are ever more blind to color and focused on advancement based on merit. We could easily move beyond all issues of race if EVERYONE agreed to get over it. More often than not, when you hear a story about discrimination anymore, it is not an overt act of bias against another based on their ethnicity, it is either an overt act of bias in favor of their ethnicity or a simple and logical act being misconstrued as racist... often because the "disenfranchised" doesn't want to admit their ownership of the issue.

 I would also say that this seems to be intentional. When the society is less concerned about race, those who have benefited from being the victim in race-issues begin to lose those benefits. Attention gets shifted from how they have been maligned and discriminated against in the past to what they are doing as individuals to contribute to their own welfare in the future. You get used to having an excuse, and as that excuse loses its impact, you begin looking for any reason, no matter how off-the-wall, to invoke it and keep it alive.

 The net result will be simple. The school district will create a new round of redundant policies relevant to tolerance. The local media will have something to discuss for a few days. The local minority communities can feel justified for a few months.

 And, 8 students' conviction in their own abilities and self-worth is destroyed as they learn that they don't have to be responsible for themselves because of the color of their skin.

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