Race And Education

Vincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages of the Rocky Mountain News, has two must-read columns on the racial achievement gap in education (here and here; HatTip to Linda Seebach).

Carroll writes about a school district in Colorado that has given a six-figure consulting contract to Glenn Singleton’s Pacific Educational Group. Singleton is co-author of a book, Courageous Conversations About Race, which argues that the racial achievement gap can be explained by (and apparently only by), you guessed it, racism. As Carroll summarizes this view in the frst of the columns cited above:

“It is our belief that the most devastating factor contributing to the lowered achievement of students of color is institutionalized racism,” Singleton writes (with co-author Curtis Linton) in his recent book Courageous Conversations About Race. White teachers (and minority teachers co-opted into the white power structure) stymie black and Hispanic students because they fail to understand their cultures and how daily racial oppression affects their outlook. They also push a curriculum tooled for whites, and are ignorant of the special ways that blacks and Hispanics communicate.

“We will shine the light on racial dominance to uncover how Whiteness challenges the performance of students of color while shaping and reinforcing the racial perspective of White children,” Singleton and Linton promise.

“Special ways that blacks and Hispanics communicate”? Yes, indeed:

The program also promotes a worldview in which American society is relentlessly oppressive; in which individuals, even today, remain at the mercy of their racial origins; in which “white talk” is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual” and “task-oriented,” while “color commentary” is “nonverbal, personal, emotional” and “process-oriented.”

This bizarre view stereotypes blacks and Hispanics in exactly the same way that women are often stereotyped.

And what are the “courageous conversations” Singleton proposes? As Carroll writes, these are “conversations” that

follow a structured format in which participants examine and embrace specific premises, such as the ubiquity of white privilege and racism, and thus raise the consciousness of whites.

Participants must “come to recognize that race impacts every aspect of your life 100 percent of the time.” Meanwhile, “anger, guilt and shame are just a few of the emotions” whites should expect to experience “as they move toward greater understanding of Whiteness.”

Enlightened whites, in the authors’ description, speak in the chastened, cringing language of someone who has emerged from a re-education camp.

But if the domination of “Whiteness” explains everything, Carroll asks in his second column, “why are Asian students immune to their crippling effects?”

Good question. Singleton’s answer is, predictably, circular: Asidans do better because whites expect them to do better.

Singleton and Linton caution against any cultural explanation that can be construed as “asking the Black community to just ‘act White.’” So long as they insist on reducing an enormously complex matter to crude racial categories, however, it’s at least worth noting that there’s always the option of “acting Asian.” Is that offensive, too?

What is offensive is the crude racism of Singleton’s analysis, and the expenditure of at least $100,000 in public funds for his advice.

Say What? (19)

  1. David T. Beito May 13, 2006 at 3:07 pm | | Reply

    Unfortunately, conservatives, including Michelle Malkin and Wayne Perryman, have helped to expand Glenn Singleton’s empire through their misguided campaign at Bellevue Community College. See below:



  2. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 13, 2006 at 3:27 pm | | Reply

    Googling for information on this book and its authors, I came across this statement from a Seattle elementary school principal whose district hired Singleton as a consultant. The language is interesting:

    “Courageous Conversations” is the name Seattle Public Schools has given to its work to decrease disproportionality in academic achievement and discipline among students. And just what is disproportionality? It is the gap in achievement between students of color, particularly Latino, African American, and Native American students and majority students, usually Caucasian and Asian. The gap is persistent and stubborn. It suggests that the historic, subtle and also overt racism that defines our country’s experience is not left at the schoolhouse door.

    I’ve noticed people forgetting that Asian-Americans are a “minority” many times before, but I don’t think I’ve seen it done as baldly as this before. Asian-American students are “majority students,” not “students of color”? A majority of what, exactly? And how can they and Caucasian students be “majority students” at the same time?

    I don’t know about the other readers here, but I’m a little uncomfortable with a de facto understanding of “minority” or “people of color” or what have you that includes, essentially by definition, the idea of academic underperformance.

  3. Jeff May 13, 2006 at 4:55 pm | | Reply

    He sounds like the tools over at racetraitor.org!

  4. Dom May 13, 2006 at 7:02 pm | | Reply

    The conversations “follow a structured format in which participants examine and embrace specific premises, such as the ubiquity of white privilege and racism, and thus raise the consciousness of whites.”

    I see this often. The agenda is not to raise black test scores, but to lower white test scores.

    BTW, I’ve asked this before, but why exactly are Hispanics always lumped in with blacks? Their experience in this country has been no different than that of other groups, and most evidence shows that many (especially Cubans and South Americans) are very successful. Liberal Programs like AA and bilingual education will probably hurt their advance.

  5. Richard Nieporent May 13, 2006 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    It is frightening to think that someone who can write something so illogical is in charge of educating our children. The inconvenient fact is that Asians “overachieve”. Now if one were really interested in helping Blacks and Hispanics do better they would determine why Asians perform so well in school and apply the results to minority groups that do not perform as well. In particular they would find out why Asian immigrants are able to do well in school even though they come from a different culture and must learn a new language. We are constantly told that these are just the factors that cause minority students to do poorly. So how have they managed to overcome these insurmountable obstacles? Of course we know the answer. It is parental involvement that enables these students to excel. But that is not the answer that the Left wants to hear. That would place the onus on the student and his parents. Instead we just blame it on institutionalized racism. Like gravity it permeates all space and therefore it is impossible for minorities to escape its effect. It is the all purpose excuse for failure. It makes you wonder whether the Left really wants minorities to acheive.

  6. superdestroyer May 14, 2006 at 5:31 am | | Reply

    Mr. Singleton seems to have also forgotten that the children of black immigrants from Africa are perfomring at a much higher level that the children of African-American families. If his theory held, those children would be held down as much as by racism as any other black child.

    I wonder if Mr. Singleton has ever watched the movie “Hoop Dreams?” It easly demonstrates that black children suffer much more from the environment created by the residents of their virtually all black neighborhood and from the poor deciisions of the black adults around them more than they every could be affected from the “racist” expectations of faceless whites.

  7. Alex Bensky May 14, 2006 at 10:44 am | | Reply

    Well, if blak communication is “non-verbal,” then it follows that we can’t expect blacks to be good in areas that require verbal communication, such as law or computer science, can we?

    Further, here in Detroit the average student is in a school with mostly black teachers and administrators and virtually no non-black students. The Detroit schools’ achievement levels are abysmal. Where is the institutional racism there? And in such cases, where is the “daily oppression” they face?

    What next? An assertion that blacks have natural rhythm?

  8. John Rosenberg May 14, 2006 at 11:04 pm | | Reply

    Michelle writes above:

    I don’t know about the other readers here, but I’m a little uncomfortable with a de facto understanding of “minority” or “people of color” or what have you that includes, essentially by definition, the idea of academic underperformance.

    I’m uncomfortable with this definition as well, but that is in fact how virtually (maybe literally) all preferential admission programs define minority. They don’t mean “minority” as that word is commonly understood, but instead “underrepresented minorities.” Those preference policies thus build “academic underperformance” into the very definition of “minority.”

  9. Richard Nieporent May 14, 2006 at 11:27 pm | | Reply

    It is a clever way of excluding Asians from getting preferences even though they are clearly a minority. Obviously some minorities are more equal than others.

  10. sharon May 15, 2006 at 6:20 am | | Reply

    “white talk” is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual” and “task-oriented,” while “color commentary” is “nonverbal, personal, emotional” and “process-oriented.”

    God knows we wouldn’t want to train children to talk in an intelligent and task-oriented way. And I thought “color commentary” was the annoying guy yammering inning after inning when the play-by-play guy is taking a drink of his beer.

  11. meep May 15, 2006 at 6:47 am | | Reply

    Hmmm, if “minority” means a particular group that doesn’t do well academically, I wonder if “my people” (aka “cracker”) would get a break. I think Thomas Sowell had something to say about “cracker culture” and the attitudes are very similar when it comes to devaluing education, except nobody goes around excusing their low educational achievement, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, etc. Generally, these people are called “poor white trash” and nobody is claiming that prejudice is keeping them down. It’s clearly recognized that their own bad behavior is keeping them down.


  12. LTEC May 15, 2006 at 1:56 pm | | Reply

    Michelle —

    How’s this for “baldly”, from an article discussed here:

    MIT defines underrepresented minorities as African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics — populations with disproportionately few members working in science, technology, engineering, and math. (Any subsequent mentions in this article of “minorities” at MIT refer to people from these groups.)

  13. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 15, 2006 at 4:33 pm | | Reply


    Good one. Did you link that post before here? I’m pretty sure I remember reading it before, though somehow I’d forgotten about MIT’s definition. Why do they do that so openly, I wonder? If the full expression takes up too much space, why not acronymize “underrepresented minorities” as “URMs,” as I have seen people do? (Or does that look too much like the name of a weapons system?) Defining several historically-discriminated-against immigrant groups out of the meaning of “minority” seems a pretty petty way of saving a little ink.

    But Richard Nieporent above is of course right: The point is to stop people thinking of Asian-American students as “minorities” or “people of color” at all. That way, it becomes less obvious that MIT is almost certainly majority “people of color” (Class of 2008: 46% combined African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American; 35% White/Caucasian; 13% “other” or “decline to state”; 7% foreign nationals).

    Add the interesting detail that 39% “speak a language other than English at home,” and even if every Asian-American student (26%) and every Hispanic student (12%) came from a non-English-speaking home, which is wildly improbable, there’s still an extra percent to be accounted for, from among the “others” and the students from abroad.

  14. John Rosenberg May 15, 2006 at 8:23 pm | | Reply

    Michelle – And let’s not forget the intricate idiocies that result from favoring some but not all “minorities,” such as the Univ. of Michigan law school’s granting admissions preferences, in the name of “diversity,’ to “mainland” Puerto Ricans but not to Puerto Ricans from Puerto Rico….

  15. Anita May 16, 2006 at 9:56 am | | Reply

    This study intends to put down whites and western ways by saying those ways are cold and impersonal and the other ways are warm and “nice” (like the racist professor’s theory of ice people and sun people). But if it’s true, the study does not go the credit of non whites. The areas where people are cold are the places people risk their lives to go to. The areas where people are warm are the places people risk their lives to get away from. It’s not just a matter of economics. You can’t say about those places, they are poor but kind to each other. Those places are more oppressive, more violative of human rights, more bigoted than the cold places. Furthermore the warmth and personal nature of things may be the reasons people in those places can’t cooperate with each other to get things done as well as the cold rational people. because when you come down to it, that’s what it is about, being able to get along with others, being able to take the long view of things, refraining from killing your political opponents, working with others you may not particulary like to build a school or water treatment plant, restraining alot of feelings. We take these things for granted but many peoples can’t do them. That’s why things don’t get done, because they can’t agree, perhaps because they’re so busy expressing feelings and being emotional. And is the US supposed to change the school system or business to acknowledge those values?

  16. The Constructivist May 16, 2006 at 10:50 am | | Reply

    Don’t think the Race Traitor/New Abolitionist folks are big fans of diversity management or consciousness-raising consulting gigs. They’re a little more direct action types.

    So what is the explanation for the achievement gap? I’ve seen some cultural explanations and individual choice ones. So far no explicit race-based inferiority ones….

    Workshops such as these are usually useless, but is the evidence put forward in Whitewashing Race or The Possessive Investment in Whiteness so easily dismissed?

  17. Dom May 17, 2006 at 3:29 pm | | Reply

    ” … but is the evidence put forward in Whitewashing Race or The Possessive Investment in Whiteness so easily dismissed?”

    I think so. I’ve read only “Whitewashing” and frankly I am not impressed. I don’t have the book in front of me but using Amazon, I find the following:

    “61% of basketball players were black in 1996-97, but 81.5 % of coaches were white; 52% of football players are black but in 2001 nearly 97% of head coaching positions were white.”

    This misuses proportionality. We take the percent of players as a base-line, and ask that the percent of coaches should match it. Why? We don’t, after all, demand that the racial make-up of the team reflect the population as a whole? If we did, we’d say that 61% black is far too high. This happens at Universities also. AA supporters ask for a racial make-up that matches the community, city, state, country or even the world, whatever is needed to favor the preferred race.

    Also, notice that the statements mix races; it uses black in the first part, and white in the second, as though they were the only two races. Why do we not demand more Japanese on a basketball team?

    And so on. I hope I don’t sound nit-picky, but I think the statistics in the book is very amateurish.

  18. The Colossus of Rhodey March 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm | | Reply

    Surprise, surprise

    “A new study shows that diversity training programs have roundly failed to eliminate bias and increase the number of minorities in management, despite the fact that many corporations have spent increasing amounts of money on them since the 1990s.” 擢or…

  19. John March 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm | | Reply

    Really? Your comment section is titled “Say What?”. Is this an episode of Sanford and Son? Lets avoid taking responsibility as parents of children of color for the ethic we provide them and the support we fail to give (as a whole). Let us blame the system and demand that our children need special accommodations. We are only serving to divide our children from children that look different by these attitudes and failing to call out the elephant in the room.

Say What?