Whiteness Studies' researchers at U look
at racial identity
Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune
White people consider their race to be an important part
of who they are, and most are aware that being white gives them advantages in America, according to an unusual survey released
last week by the University of Minnesota.
survey found that 74 percent of white Americans interviewed said their racial identity was important -- a number that surprised
researchers, who believed that Caucasians simply took their race for granted.
Likewise, the white Americans said they
understood they benefit from their race.
While more than 80 percent said access to schools and social connections were
important in explaining "white advantage" over racial minorities, 62 percent said prejudice and discrimination against nonwhites
also explained those advantages.
• Fewer than 50 percent of whites thought US laws and institutions
contributed to disadvantages for blacks. But 81 percent of minority groups believed they did.
Full text at
wonder what percentage of Minneapolis voters might share my opinion that whites generally have better access to education
than blacks, and that differences in access to a quality public education is largely a consequence of institutionalized racial
discrimination that should be addressed by the board and board candidates?
Re: U of MN servey of whites re: racial identity
Message to the Minneapolis issues list
Laura Waterman Wittstock writes:
"...What we have
here in Minneapolis are a lot of students who come to kindergarten not ready for school. They are behind and stay behind,
sometimes tragically up into the first year of high school when it is too late to make up for the lost learning. The system,
the community, the parents, and the State have to turn their attention to this at the same time and do much more investment
in early childhood preparation for a lifetime of learning.
"The critical years are birth to three and then from three
to five. All of that happens before public school entry. The sooner we get to work on that, the sooner we will see much better
results in closing the achievement gap."
[Doug Mann responds]: I am also in favor of much more investment in early
childhood education. Much of the "school readiness gap" among children entering kindergarten is undoubtedly related to differences
in access to good early childhood educational experiences. Money buys access. And parents on the upper third of the household
income ladder can more easily afford the more expensive preschool programs than those that qualify for free and reduced price
However, the students who start out behind are not necessarily less able or impaired-for-life learners. Children
learn to speak simply by being exposed to a spoken language. The ability to learn a spoken language is hard-wired into the
brain of most children before birth just as learning how to fly is hard-wired into the brains of most birds, something know
as imprinting. On the other hand, the ability to read and write is generally not hard-wired into the brains of children.
When it comes to learning to read and write, expert instruction and a coherent curriculum make a big difference.
students who start behind usually stay behind, and in most cases also fall further and further behind the high performers
every year. Of all students tested from one year to the next, a much smaller percentage of students of color achieve at least
a year's growth in reading and math than white students.
The widening racial differences in test scores for MPS students
may have something to do with high concentrations of low seniority teachers in schools where poor and nonwhite students are
over-represented, and a high turnover rate for low seniority teachers, especially in most of the high-poverty, high-minority
Another cause of the widening test score gap may be related to the district's ability grouping practices,
such as assigning students to separate classrooms for reading and / or math instruction based on ability. The pace of learning
is generally more accelerated, and the curriculum content more enriched in classes for the more able readers than it is for
the students in the lower-level curriculum tracks. Students who learn the most advanced reading skills are better equipped
to succeed in other subject areas (math, social studies, writing, spelling, foreign languages, etc.)
In the 1970s and
early 1980s, differences in average reading test scores between black and white 13 year olds declined by about 50% on National
Assessment of Educational Progress exams. In my estimate, the racial test score gap during that period was narrowing because
more black students acquired access to higher quality K-12 programs.
By the 1970s, the education access gap was being
closed due to pressure from the civil rights movement to upgrade educational facilities for black students, and a policy of
"root and branch" desegregation enforced by the federal court system after the Supreme Court's ruling in Green v. Kent County
Schools in 1968. The Green decision went way beyond merely requiring racial balance at a school site. Academic and after-school
programs had to be integrated. Teachers in the black and white schools had to be integrated. In Minneapolis, black schools
were shut down and the students and teachers in those schools were integrated into white schools. More progress toward closing
the access gap might have been made had it not been for resistance from the school board, the political establishment to which
it is hot-wired, and the school community's more privileged members.
Public education will not long survive
in the face of an agenda of privatizing and charterizing the school system unless the school system is fixed so it works
It is time to go back to work on closing the education access gap in the K-12 school system.