Mike Kueber's Blog

November 8, 2012

Is government responsible for ensuring that the education gap between Asians/Whites and Blacks/Hispanics is narrowed?

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:01 am
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Remember that old saying, “As GM goes, so goes the nation”?  According to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, that statement can be revised to say, “As Hispanic education goes, so goes Texas.” 

  • Whether Texas prospers or gets pulled down by poverty hinges on educating the state’s fastest-growing population – Hispanics – demographer Steve Murdock said Tuesday during opening testimony of a school funding lawsuit.  By 2050, Texas will be home for 12 million non-Hispanic whites and 31 million Hispanics, Murdock said. Hispanic children will make up nearly two-thirds of the state’s public school enrollment while the percentage of white children, now about 30 percent, will have dropped to 15.5 percent, said Murdock, Texas’ first official state demographer.  “Their need is our need in the sense that how well minority population groups do in Texas is how well Texas will do,” Murdock said. 

This argument is not something new for Murdock.  I attended a State Bar seminar on immigration policy more than a year, and subsequently posted the following in my blog:

  • In contrast to Julian [Castro], the other members of the panel provided substantive information on the illegal-immigration issue.  Dr. Steven Murdock from Rice University provided a plethora of statistical information suggesting that immigrants were critical to the economic future of Texas and America. 

The unasked question raised by Dr. Murdock’s statements is whether government is responsible for ensuring that the education gap between Asians/Whites and Blacks/Hispanics is narrowed.  And, as reported in a recent article in the New York Times, it is inaccurate to lump all Asians into a single group.  Although Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Indians are generally super-achievers in education (comprising over half of the students at UCLA and UC-Berkley), Southeast Asians and Pacific-Islanders can be grouped with African-Americans and Hispanics as “underrepresented minorities”:

  • Many of the Asian groups doing well have parents with college and graduate degrees,” noted Madeline Hsu, director of Asian-American Studies at the Austin campus, speaking especially of Koreans, Japanese, Indians and some Chinese. “This is partly because of regulations that sought to bring in skilled immigrants. What we need now is not to group everyone together into some mythic model minority but to have greater nuance in understanding Asian-American groups. We need greater help for Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders.”

This varying experience of immigrants from different Asian nations suggests to me that the results are due, not to discrimination, but rather to family or cultural factors.  Some families or cultures place a great emphasis on educational achievement while others don’t.  One of my law-school professors, Lino Graglia, was almost lynched when he made that argument back in the 70s when I was in law school and again a few years ago:

  • Blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions,” he said.  “It is the result primarily of cultural effects. It seems to be the case that, various studies seem to show, that blacks and Mexican-Americans spend much less time in school. They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.”  

The fact that we keep statistics about the academic achievement of different races and ethnicities seems to suggest that we should do something about unequal results, but I don’t think we should.  As Supreme Court Justice Roberts said, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” 

This issue reminds me of William Bennett being asked several years ago about whether he believed whites, on average, had higher IQs than blacks.  His response was that the answer was irrelevant – i.e., it would not have an effect on policy analysis or decision. 

I feel the same way about comparing the educational achievement of various races and ethnicities.  The fact that Filipinos or Cambodians achieve less than Koreans or Indians is not relevant to public policy.  Kids need to be pushed toward educational achievement regardless of their race or ethnicity.     

Which brings us back to Murdock’s point about the success of Texas depending on the success of Hispanics.  I think Murdock is providing us with irrelevant information.  Texas needs to work toward increased educational scores from all kids, not just Hispanic kids.  San Antonio’s new Pre-K 4 SA program is a good example of that.  Qualification for the program depends on income, not ethnicity.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] about a year ago, there was a lengthy newspaper article that prompted me to do another blogpost, this one titled, “Is government responsible for ensuring that the education gap between […]

    Pingback by Sunday Book Review #129 – Changing Texas | Mike Kueber's Blog — March 23, 2014 @ 9:32 pm | Reply


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