Roots Sandra Day O’Connor thinks

Sandra Day O’Connor thinks the need for racial preferences in university admission may fade away in 25 years. But the gap in academic performance isn’t narrowing, points out Stuart Taylor, Jr. in National Journal. While blacks were gaining in academic measures from 1971 to 1988, they’ve held steady or lost ground since then. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows black 17-year-olds were 5.9 years behind whites in reading skills in 1971, only 2.5 years behind in 1988; they’d slipped to 4.7 years behind by 2002, which means white eighth graders outscore black 12th graders in reading. Math scores showed a similar pattern; in science, the gap grew.

On the combined SATs, the gap narrowed from 240 to 189, and then widened again: In 2002, the average white student outscored the average black by 202 points; for whites and blacks with family incomes over $100,000, the gap was 142 points.

Juggling the college admissions numbers hides the crisis for students who aren’t going to pass a college class, Taylor writes.

These racial gaps may well be a legacy of slavery and past discrimination. But dwelling on all that, as victimologists so love to do, does not do any African-American child, anywhere, a bit of good. Nor does the racial-grievance industry offer a shred of hope for closing the academic gaps that will doom most black (and Hispanic) kids to bad jobs at bad wages until they are given—and are motivated to take advantage of—decent elementary and secondary school educations.

Spending more money won’t do it. Cambridge, Mass. spends $17,000 per student without much to show for it as far as low-income minority students are concerned.

The imperative is to reform the schools, by confronting such intractable problems as civil service rules that make it impossible for principals to get rid of nonperforming teachers and legal rules that make it impossible for teachers to prevent unruly students from constantly disrupting classrooms and thus destroying the learning process for all. Effective reform requires facing down bitter resistance from entrenched bureaucracies, teachers unions, and others wedded to the catastrophic status quo.

Taylor is on the right track here. Read it all.

Joseph Brown, a Tampa Trib columnist, shares Taylor’s concern that racial preferences in admissions will allow underachievement to be ignored. Brown, who’s black, says parents must motivate their children to work harder in school. It’s not the money, he writes. It’s the motivation.

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