As seen in The Atlantic: It's sad, but it's true:
When it comes to issues of gender and race, there's nothing so improbable or odd that our liberal tribe's intellectual leaders won't be willing to go there. In these ways, we rack up votes for the disordered Donald J. Trump.
Consider an essay which appeared last week in The Atlantic, one of the mainstream/liberal world's most venerable publications.
Inevitably, the essay concerned a matter of "segregation" in the nation's public schools.
Such language sets liberal hearts aflutter, but may cloud liberal thinking.
Did The Atlantic's essay make sense? Inevitably, it started at Stuyvesant High. Headlines included, the essay started like this:
PIRTLE (4/23/19): The Other Segregation/The essay was written by Whitney Pirtle, a very good person and a professor of sociology at the University of California Merced. In that opening passage, Pirtle notes a basic fact about modern-day public schooling:
The public focuses its attention on divides between schools, while tracking has created separate and unequal education systems within single schools.
The segregation of America’s public schools is a perpetual newsmaker. The fact that not even 1 percent of the incoming freshman class identifies as black at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School made national headlines last month. And New York isn’t unusual. The minority gap in enrollment at elite academic public schools is a problem across America.
But more troubling, and often less discussed, is the modern-day form of segregation that occurs within the same school through academic tracking, which selects certain students for gifted and talented education (GATE) programs. These programs are tasked with challenging presumably smart students with acceleration and extra enrichment activities. Other students are kept in grade-level classes, or tracked into remedial courses that are tasked with catching students up to academic baselines.
Within many schools, higher-achieving students—students who are "presumably smart"—are placed in "gifted and talented" programs, otherwise known as GATE.
"Other students are kept in grade-level classes," Pirtle somewhat oddly notes. Or they're enrolled in remedial courses—classes which are tasked with catching students up to academic baselines.
This type of practice is commonly known as "tracking." Mayor de Blasio is suspicious of the practice, or so we were told on the front page of last Saturday's New York Times.
The mayor doesn't like "tracking!" As she continues, Pirtle notes a common artifact of this amazingly unremarkable educational practice—an artifact she describes as a "modern-day form of segregation."
Below, you see the way Pirtle describes the situation. She ends this passage with a statistic about gifted and talented programs in San Diego's public schools:
PIRTLE (continuing directly): Black students make up nearly 17 percent of the total student population nationwide. Yet less than 10 percent of students in GATE are black. A shocking 53 percent of remedial students are black. This disparity across tracks is what social scientists commonly call “racialized tracking”—in which students of color get sorted out of educational opportunities and long-term socioeconomic success.At present, black kids are disproportionately represented in "gifted and talented" programs on a nationwide basis. The situation in San Diego is offered as an example.
The level of disparity varies across the nation. A Department of Education Office for Civil Rights report from 2014 called attention to a Sacramento, California, district where black students accounted for 16.3 percent of the district’s enrollment but only 5.5 percent of students in GATE programs. At the other end of the state, in San Diego, 8 percent of students are black, but just 3 percent of GATE students are.
In San Diego, Pirtle says, "8 percent of students are black, but just 3 percent of GATE students are." Assuming those numbers are accurate, it might be worth exploring the reasons for that disparity in enrollment.
Pirtle doesn't identify the range of grade levels she is discussing. That said, here's a set of fourth-grade scores from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), our most reliable domestic source of educational data:
Average scores, Grade 4 mathAccording to a standard but very rough rule of thumb, the average white and Asian-American kids in San Diego are roughly three years ahead of their black and Hispanic counterparts by the spring of fourth grade. Or so those data from the Naep would seem to indicate, based upon a familiar but very rough rule of thumb.
San Diego Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 253.60
Black students: 223.22
Hispanic students: 225.24
Asian-American students: 254.19
The gaps defined by those data would seem to be very large. Presumably, this would help explain the enrollment patterns in San Diego's GATE programs.
That said, those are average scores for those four groups, and GATE programs are generally intended for higher-achieving kids. With that in mind, here are the 90th percentile scores for San Diego's fourth graders:
90th percentile scores, Grade 4 mathThe achievement gaps are even larger at this achievement level.
San Diego Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 287.96
Black students: 253.66
Hispanic students: 262.46
Asian-American students: 297.08
Presumably, this data set would help explain the disparity Pirtle describes. So might a third set of statistics, in which we see how many fourth graders from each group scored at the "Advanced" level (282 or higher) on this Naep math test:
Students scoring at "Advanced" level, Grade 4 mathApparently, fewer than 0.5 percent of San Diego's black fourth-graders scored at the "Advanced" level. Presumably, this helps explain the enrollment pattern in that city's GATE programs.
San Diego Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 15.2%
Black students: ("rounds to zero")
Hispanic students: 2.3%
Asian-American students: 20,0%
It also helps define "the problem we all (quite irrationally) live with." (Also, rather uncaringly.)
Why do black kids seem to be doing so poorly by the fourth grade in San Diego's schools? Pirtle would be performing a public service if she explored that question in a competent manner.
Instead, she did what our tribe's thought leaders much more typically do. She made it sound like those GATE enrollment patterns are some sort of mystery, and she linked those patterns to one of the ugliest terms which comes to us from our brutal racial history.
The Atlantic, a venerable publication, ran to put this in print. This is the way we currently play within our self-impressed tribe.
Why are black kids doing so poorly by the spring of fourth grade? That's an important question! But the fact that black kids seem to do poorly isn't really up for debate, until people like the New York Times' Eliza Shapiro offer ridiculous and disgraceful explanations like the one shown below:
CHANG (3/19/19): So what have been the explanations for why these stark racial disparities exist at these eight elite schools?That was Shapiro, on All Things Considered, reporting from the stupid side of the modern upper-class moon.
SHAPIRO: Yeah, so I think there's two things. The biggest issue here is test prep. We've seen the same debate with the SAT and ACT, certainly, in light of the college admissions scandal. There is a huge test prep industry in New York that prepares kids who are aware of the test to master it. So test prep is one. The other, which is related, is awareness. Some kids know about these schools from the minute they're in kindergarten. Some kids learn about the existence of the specialized high school system and the test to get into them a few months before they can sit to take the test.
What explains disproportional enrollment patterns in the nation's GATE programs and in our most competitive high schools?
It's all test prep, Shapiro said. It's test prep all the way down!
No sane person would credit or believe such a ridiculous claim. But publications like the New York Times and the Atlantic adore this stunningly stupid tale, and rush to put it into print. Obedient hosts on NPR pretend that such statements make sense.
(Shapiro's easily-satisifed host holds degrees from Stanford, Oxford, Columbia and Stanford Law School.)
We upper-class pseudo-liberals! We insult the interests of black kids when we behave this way. Also, through this obvious public lunacy, we are busily winning votes for the disordered Donald J. Trump!
We act like clowns when we act this way. On the brighter side, we avoid two difficult questions:
Why are black kids so far behind? And what might San Diego do to wipe those gaps away?
In truth, we pseudo-liberals don't much seem to care about questions like that. Few things are much more obvious in this dumbest of all possible worlds.
In fairness to Shapiro: In fairness to Shapiro, she comes from superior stock. The leading authority on her life spells it out like this:
"Eliza's dad Michael Shapiro teaches at the [Columbia] J-school, while her mom Susan Chira is an assistant managing editor of The New York Times. Her uncle, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, and aunt, biology professor Jill Shapiro, also teach at Columbia."
Such better people pretend to care in the manner described.