Some of the minority kiddos fit into more than one category as well.
That was one reader’s comment last week on an article about the relationship between graduation rates and race. Along with the article, I included a graph showing how few African American and Hispanic students graduate compared with white students. Researchers who compile such statistics will tell you they use racial and ethnic categories to illustrate how disadvantaged students struggle academically. They aren’t really meaning to imply that students struggle because of their skin color or culture.
My initial response to this reader’s very astute comment was that the kiddos I was reporting on did identify themselves as exclusively African American, Hispanic or white. The government had a separate category for multiracial and multi-ethnic students that I didn’t include in the article. I didn’t include it, because there was no clear pattern. In some states, students who declined to be categorized by race or culture (and all these statistics are self-reported, by the way) fared much better than the average. In some states they fared no differently than the average. In some states they fared a little worse, but not by much. In other words, I didn’t see an achievement gap, and that was what I was writing about.
It wasn’t until later, though, that I realized there was a pattern. I just didn’t see it at first. The pattern is this: Students who identified themselves clearly by race and culture tended to fulfill societal expectations of how black, brown and white people perform academically.
Thinking about this pattern, my question is: Were the statistics for multicultural and multiracial children an artifact of small numbers and not really statistically significant … or is it possible that young people who refuse to identify themselves according to race and culture also refuse to accept being doomed to academic failure?
I was going to write a longer editorial, but I think the question is sufficient. Think about it.
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