A Caveat

In my previous post I expressed the view that race and cognitive ability are linked and that this link is important and can’t be ignored. But I want to make it clear what I, personally, in regular life, plan to do with this information.

The answer is “Very little”. If I see a group of black guys walking on the sidewalk with me, I might cross the street (see “the knockout game”). And in neighborhoods made up of mostly minorities I’ll be a lot more careful then I would, in general, in mostly white neighborhoods. And no, this isn’t exactly cognitive ability I’m talking about. But when it comes to how my beliefs would affect me, that’s about it.

I judge people as individuals. If I go into a class and meet a black person, I do not assume they’re stupider than me, or smarter than me. I judge them based on how they act and how they do in the class. I’ve met black men who were obviously more intelligent than me, and I wasn’t hesitant to admit it for a second – same for Hispanics. Though interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever met an Asian I was smarter than…but that’s just me.

I do not assume each individual black or Hispanic person I meet is a criminal. Granted, I work with statistics when it comes to protecting me or people I love, but if I were a judge and a black man was put before me in court it would not affect my decision making process.

I am in school to be a teacher. I will assure you that in class the race of my students will not affect my teaching methods. You get good grades and score well on tests, you get into honors. You get bad grades and poor test scores, you get remedial classes. Period. I will not go into a class expecting more from students.

The reason it is important to recognize cognitive differences between races is because by not acknowledging them we set up the school system in such a way that students who simply can’t handle higher level work are forced into those classes because people refuse to admit that the reason there are so many blacks in remedial Algebra might, in fact, not be due to white privilege. We need to start acknowledging that the best way to teach people might, in fact, be teaching to their actual level of cognitive ability, and denying reality isn’t going to help us along that path.

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3 Responses to A Caveat

  1. Latias says:

    I am in school to be a teacher. I will assure you that in class the race of my students will not affect my teaching methods. You get good grades and score well on tests, you get into honors. You get bad grades and poor test scores, you get remedial classes. Period. I will not go into a class expecting more from students.

    I thought about being a teacher before and that would mean I have to encounter the despondent reality of HBD, both racial and in general, everyday, not just in the discussion section of psychometrics papers and the low p-values in those papers. It would be nice to improve the academic prospects of students and to genuinely arouse their curiosity for scientific topics but I will become sullen when I have to encounter a clearly conscientious kid who diligently students and promptly completes his assignments but fails to pass the tests, especially if there others who are unconscientious but perform well on the tests.

    • What you’re talking about is a very real phenomenon that the Education Realist has talked about: http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/the-myth-of-they-werent-ever-taught/

      Any new learning seems to overwrite or at best confuse the old learning, like an insufficient hard drive.

      That’s when they get it: the kids were taught. They just forgot it all, just as they’re going to forget what they were taught this year.

      All over America, teachers reach this moment of epiphany. Think of a double mirror shot, an look of shocked comprehension on an infinity of teachers who come to the awful truth.

      End Stage One and the algebra specificity.

      Stage Two: At this point, some teachers quit. But for the rest, their reaction to Stage One takes one of two paths.

      Blame the students: The transformation from “these poor kids have just never been taught anything” to “These kids just don’t value education” is on display throughout the idealistic Teach for America blogs. It’s pretty funny to watch, since on many sites you have the naive newbies excoriating their kids’ previous teachers for taking money and doing nothing, while on other sites the cynical second-years are simultaneously posting about how they hadn’t understood the degree to which kids could sabotage their own destinies, or some such nonsense. Indeed, I once had a conversation with a TFAer at my school, and she said this to a word: “I’ve realized I’m a great teacher, but my students are terrible.”

      Not that this reaction is unique to TFAers. Many experienced teachers who began their careers in a homogenous, high-achieving district that transformed over time into a Title I area with a majority of low income blacks or Hispanics have this response as well.

      It’s easy to denounce this attitude, but teaching has taught me that easy is never a good way to go. These teachers are best served at a place like KIPP, where the kids who don’t work are booted. It’s not that the kids learn more, but at least the ones that stay work hard, and that allows the blamers to reward virtue. At comprehensive schools, the teachers who saw their student body population change over time respond by failing half or more of their classes.

      These teachers please both progressives and eduformers, because they have high expectations. Their low-achiever test scores, however, are often (but not always) terrible.

      Acceptance: Here, I do not refer to teachers who show movies all day, but teachers who realize that Whack-a-Mole is what it’s going to be. They adjust. Many, but not all, accept that cognitive ability is the root cause of this learning and forgetting (some blame poverty, still others can’t figure it out and don’t try). They try to find a path from the kids’ current knowledge to the demands of the course at hand, and the best ones try to find a way to craft the teaching so that the kids remember a few core ideas.

      So if you’re gonna make it in this field you either need to find a niche market or you need to accept that some of your students will have trouble hacking it, period.

  2. Latias says:

    I suppose that unlike you, I just want to ignore the issue, except when it interests me as it is being discussed on blogs such as Lion.

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