Are There Really No Asians In Virginia?

According to latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008 Asians were 4.9% of Virginia’s population, slightly higher than the 4.5% for the nation as a whole. But to Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine and a Washington Post staff writer, they apparently don’t exist.

In an article yesterday Michael Allison Chandler reported:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Tuesday that the Virginia Education Department has launched a study of minority students’ low participation in gifted education programs statewide.

African Americans represent 26 percent of the state’s 1.2 million students but 12 percent of those in gifted education programs. Hispanics are 9 percent of the state’s schoolchildren, but 5 percent of gifted students.

Are there no Asian-Americans in Virginia’s gifted programs, or in the alternative are they greatly “over-represented”? Is there any reliable evidence in the scholarly literature that giftedness manifests itself in equal proportions in all racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and cultural groups? In the absence of such evidence does it make any sense at all to be concerned with under- or over-representation?

Are gifted classes, in short, supposed to be representative of anything other than giftedness, some combination of aptitude and attitude. As I wrote here:

Prof. Julian Stanley of Johns Hopkins was perhaps the leading student of, and advocate for, gifted children in this country. See the fascinating article, “Nerd Camp,” New Yorker, July 26, 2004, about the Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer programs (daughter Jessie attended three of them) … for a discussion of Stanley and his work. I mention him here because he famously observed that what set gifted children apart was more attitude than aptitude.

According to the statement issued by Gov. Kaine, gifted education in Virginia is afflicted not only with “barriers” that impermissibly bar minorities (or some minorities) but “disproportionate barriers.”

“Virginia is proud of both the high standards of our educational system and the wealth of diversity in our communities,” Governor Kaine said. “As we continue to improve on our gifted education programs in particular, it’s critical we assess any disproportionate barriers to enrollment so we can ensure students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate.

I have written about the “barrier” metaphor several times, such as here and here.

All students of whatever race or ethnicity currently have an equal opportunity to be evaluated for admission to Virginia’s gifted classes. What Kaine obviously finds lacking is not the “opportunity to participate” but the politically correct result of all racial and ethnic groups participating proportionately, something which is quite different.

Say What?