Affirmative Action: Finding the Real Cause of Education Disparity

This is something I’ve wanted to address for a while. While I don’t have hard numbers and statistics to back up my ideas (please point me in the direction of some if you know of any studies related to this), I think the ideas need to be said.

It looks like when schools, communities, non-profit organizations, and standardized test developers announce plans to foster diversity, inclusiveness, and benchmarks for mastery, they are mistakenly focusing all of their attention on race (and a bit on gender), and very little of their attention on class, income, education level of parents or caregivers, and available educational resources outside the home. Maybe if we stopped wondering why Black and Hispanic children (not “minorities”, since Asians are not typically placed in this category) are lagging behind and instead focused on the fact that low-income Black, Hispanic, Asian, White, Native American, etc. children are lagging behind. Their low performance is not predestined by their skin color, but rather by the limited resources available, the lack of their parents’ language fluency and quantitative skills, the poor health attributed to a high-calorie low-nutrition diet, and the low-achieving peers around them. How about our society where many people live in urban areas stops being biased against the low-income urban dwellers and remembers all of the rural low-income White, Christian Americans from all over the country who have just as little access to resources or knowledge or role models, and just as much fast food and distraction.

The other, and likely more controversial point, is that can we really say with certainty that the 4th generation janitor has the same natural level of aptitude, on average, as the 4th generation doctor? Is it just a matter of the fact that the latter had more money or a different color of skin that they would perform better in school? Isn’t it also likely that because of years of under-enriched environments across generations, the first student most likely will not reach the levels of aptitude that the second will?

That said, not that I used the word “aptitude” rather than “intelligence” or “success”. The natural abilities may not be at the same level, and therefore the student may struggle to learn things as quickly, but they can definitely be successful in a system that is willing to start from the beginning and allows children enough time to learn a topic, master it, and move on.

I think if we keep these ideas in mind and mold educational reforms in these directions, rather than in the misguided direction of race-based affirmative action and racial standardized test trend-tracking, educators and leaders will create more effective programs to give those with few resources and academic background the tools they need to help their child learn and grow.

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Hey! I'm a 19-year-old student at Tufts University where I am majoring in Math. I'm from Upstate New York and was the only Hindu in my small-town public school. I love artichokes and eyeliner and lifehacking. I have a ton of interests, but most of them fall under the umbrellas of Education/Learning, Media/Entertainment, Mathematics, Design, or Technology. I have been inseparable from my laptop(s) since I was a xanga-layout-making, neopoint-hoarding 12-year-old.

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