I use the phrase Voldemort View (borrowed from an anonymous teacher) to describe the troubles that come along with suggesting that cognitive issues may be the source of the achievement gap. (To repeat myself: the average IQ of a racial group doesn’t say squat about the cognitive abilities of any one individual.)
But Ted Horrell, new principal of a Memphis Tennessee high school, didn’t discuss the cause of the achievement gap. In fact, he didn’t mention it at all. He was going through test scores by race and SES, using state reports, to explain why the school was starting a new advisory period. Naturally, a student goes home and complains about the race-based graphics, totally misrepresents Horrell’s presentation, the media jumps all over the story and ensures the misrepresentation gets played all over the country. (Day One and Day Two of the coverage). Horrell apologizes, but at least makes it clear that it was the students’ imagination, not his presentation, that started the problem.
Apparently, Horrell should have had race-based assemblies to discuss the results.
You could just dismiss this as just another example of the niggardly issue; if a certified member of an identity group takes offense, reality takes a back seat.
But education in America begins and ends with the achievement gap. Horrell took the slides from the state’s website. The media–the same media now playing up the insanity–routinely reports state scores broken down by race and income. I don’t recall them being rated R. No warning to leave the room, or an alert that some viewers might find the information offensive.
Now, apparently all someone has to do is call the paper or the TV station and complain.
So when Congress tries to renew No Child Left Behind and mandated reporting to close the achievement gap…..Hey. Not in front of the kiddies.
January 20th, 2012 at 1:57 pm
The reason it’s the Voldemort view is simply this: You can repeat yourself until you are blue in the face that the average IQ of a racial group doesn’t say squat about the cognitive abilities of any one individual.
It won’t matter.
The vast majority of human beings will not be able to accept that individuals may differ from the group without having proof forced upon them, and 50% of those won’t be able to accept it even once the proof is there.
Now my personal experience is the male/female version of this, but I’ve witnessed teachers and even professors fall victim to this (to say nothing of the huge number of peers that bought into this), and had quite a number of horror stories related to me. It was pretty frightening (and eye-opening) that almost every women in maths and sciences I knew experienced at least one such incident from a teacher or prof!
So, to the matter at hand, the principal *did* make a mistake, and it should have been foreseeable. It was inevitable that bringing up the results would result in the other students “blaming” the all the black students for their poor marks.
The achievement gap is real, and does have to be addressed, but as human beings are what they are, you have to be *very* careful that in addressing it, you don’t do more harm than good.
The principal failed in this, and an apology was in order.
January 22nd, 2012 at 5:19 am
But in fact, there’s no evidence that the other students did “blame” the black students for their poor marks.