Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CEO's belief that white privilege just isn't high enough

As you may have heard, there was a bit of disturbance today around campus when an "educational reform" group that has received $240,000 in Koch money over the years tried to race-bait those UW-Madison liberals with statistics relating to the admission of students from different racial backgrounds. Maybe the counter-protest by the multicultural student group was a bit over the top (bum-rushing the hotel always makes the news) but as you'll see, these people were peddling a false narrative that has to be confronted and countered at every turn, and I don't have a big problem with what they did.

Well, I combed through the report, and it's research that wouldn't get you passed out of an upper-level college course. Sure, it emphasizes that the average and median white and Asian student admitted to UW scores higher on standardized test scores compared to their black and Hispanic counterparts. But why is this a noteworthy stat, especially when put into the context of black vs. white student test scores in Wisconsin, especially in the Milwaukee area?
Racial disparities also remained a problem in the state for the Class of 2011. The average composite score for black students was nearly seven points below that of white students - 16.2 compared with 23.1. Nationwide, the difference between the two groups was 5.4 points.

The percentage of 2011 graduates prepared for college-level core subject areas also varied greatly by race, with 36% of white students in Wisconsin considered ready for college classes compared with only 4% of black students......

In Milwaukee Public Schools, where all students now take the test during their junior year of high school, the predominantly minority school system's average composite score was 16....Meanwhile, students in the wealthier, suburban Whitefish Bay School District averaged 26.6 on the ACT, with about 90% of the class of 2011 taking the test.

With that in mind, the 5-6 point gap the study cites between black and white UW admittees in 2007 and 2008 is a whole lot smaller than the MPS vs. suburban difference. The statewide ACT numbers also show that Hispanics rate 4 points lower than whites in Wisconsin, and Asians interestingly are 3 points lower than whites (the report doesn't seem to show an International Asian vs. Asian-American breaksdown, so this can explain the higher UW admittee scores). So when you see the inflammatory stat in the CEO report showing that half of in-state white students would be turned down with median black admittee scores, keep the fact that the white student is actually well below the normal white advantage in scores.

And let's zoom back out a bit, because we need to realize that today's release on U.S. poverty numbers shows that blacks and Latinos have poverty rates twice that of whites, and the disparity is much wider in the Milwaukee area, as over 80% of MPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. That's a rate as much as 4-11 times that of the high ACT-scoring districts in the suburbs. Think the low-income backgground and lack of positive reinforcement and opportunities that comes from that life has something to do with the score disparities in majority-minority MPS and the rest of the area?

Educational achievement in America is still a two-tier system between races as well, as whites are nearly 60% more likely to have a college degree than blacks, and twice as likely as Latinos. (Asians are even more likely to have a degree than whites) So when you realize that whites and Asians are more likely to come from homes with higher incomes, lower rates of poverty, and higher educational acheivement, is it any surprise that they score much higher on college tests and academic achievement in general? They have a much smaller hill to climb than the average back or Latino student, and so for a minority student to even get close to the white/Asian level indicates that ceteris paribus they performed a much higher level than their peers compared to the average white prospective UW student. If you were evaluating two candidates where they were largely similar on paper, but one clearly had overcome more to reach their destination, wouldn't you give the nod to the one that worked to get where they were at?

Being taken away from the peer group you grew up in is a serious culture shock for many minority American students when they go to a school that has 6 out of 7 students be either white or International, and while the NCAA may tout studies that show disproportionately minority athletes outperform non-athletes of all races, that makes sense as well when you think about it, because athletes are around a cohort of people with similar backgrounds and frames of reference (other athletes), and often have Athletic Department support in academic fields.

While I appreciate the time constraints and efforts that athletes put in academically (and what they do is quite an accomplishment, and a testament to a work ethic that probably went a long way toward landing them in NCAA athletics), I don't think showing up at Fall practice in August is as strange an adjustment for a minority student as a non-athlete minority may feel when he or she checks into Witte and English 207 after coming from a majority-minority school in a low-income neighborhood. Sure, the CEO types may whine about the lower retention rates, but throw those D.C. oligarchs into an inner-city company that actually requires work and proof for a living, and see if they make it, or if they pack it in and try something else. It goes much further than the whole "minorities fail because they didn't deserve to be there" argument, and the older I have gotten, the more I appreciate the breaks I got in being born to a white family that appreciated education and always laid out a pathway to success. It allowed me the chance to struggle, screw up and find my way through that many low-income and minority students never can recover from. But unlike the average 262 suburban, I am grateful for the break, and am determined to take advantage of the strong hand I've been dealt, instead of being fearful that I'll lose it or that someone else will get a good hand as well.

So these Koch whores at their Virginia think tank got rightfully reamed out of the Doubletree. These fake scholars know the real answers to solving these disparities in education don't come from whipping up resentment by whites and Asians who have enjoyed many advantages their black and Latino counterparts had. Nor is it through school vouchers that allow a select few to run away from a local school district (vouchers don't really improve outcomes anyway). Instead, it's acknowledging the two-tier society that still exists, but doing so would require the Koch whores to demand real solutions that deal with poverty and this country's obscene inequality of wealth, and that's the LAST thing those guys want angry white slugs to think about. Better to play the "affirmative action" and "crucified white guys" card, and keep 'em distracted than do anything that might cost their corporate benefactors another dime in a potential income stream.


  1. I think you've nailed down the agenda motivating the visit of the right-wing troublemakers. Some people see through the manipulation easily, some learn more slowly, and some never seem to become aware that they're being played. But most people come eventually to realize that their fellow wage slaves are not to blame for the waning fortunes of the middle class. They wise up to the fact that those who are screwing them over are those who have the power to do so. Thank you for helping to put us wise.

  2. tony- No problem, and thanks for reading. CEO is playing the same game Ann Coulter or David Horowitz or any of those right-wing agitators do. Their game is the same, they try to get on-campus liberals pissed off because they show up to call out the righties on their BS, and the righties throw a bunch of inflammatory crap against the wall. And then they claim that schools don't respect "freedom of speech."

    It's really pathetic, and the doubly ironic part? Mr. Clegg is a shining example of the affirmative action he alleges hates, as a clown like him wouldn't have prominence for any other organization that wasn't fronted by right-wing Koch money. But because it is a Koch org, and because they get media access in the name of "both sides of the story", Clegg becomes a "legitimate" voice.