The Gap In middle-class suburbs

The Gap
In middle-class suburbs across the country, the The Gap between black and white students’ grades and test scores persists, writes Michael Winerip in the New York Times. He talks to Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard professor, who surveyed 34,000 seventh to eleventh graders in 15 racially mixed suburbs.

Everywhere, he finds the achievement gap, with whites averaging B+ and blacks C+. Professor Ferguson calculates about half the Gap can be explained by economic differences.

But half can’t.

As an explanation, Ferguson points to the legacy of slavery and legalized segregation. Blacks are more insecure about their abilities, more dependent on a teacher’s encouragement.

Winerip’s point is that affirmative action is needed, since even middle-class black kids aren’t competing well with middle-class whites. But affirmative action tells black students that they’re incapable of competing on the merits, a dangerous message for young people who start out with doubts about their abilities.

I don’t know why Winerip never mentions John Ogbu’s study of The Gap in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It seems like an odd omission.

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