As an introduction to what goes into the make-up of the U.S. I would like to enter a response I wrote to a message on a listserv for fl teachers. It is appended below. Keep in mind that the writer of that post was trying to cram many paragraphs of complexity into one paragraph and so her stated opinions may be a little abrupt and not representative of her concern for students expressed many times in other posts.
Violating my own vow not to get involved in these crazy standards issues anymore, I must interject that the issue of discrimination has been documented a million times over: the White kids are automatically assigned to the high track for college prep classes, the brown kids get automatically assigned to auto mechanics and culinary arts. And then Whites complain that minorities get all the breaks. The assignments are based on structural racism, not on mean, prejudiced White people; they are caught up in the system the same way everyone else is.
The problem is that culinary arts, a great profession, and auto mechanics, a great profession, are given short shrift in a system that does not understand what an education is and among a public that sees education as nothing more than a ticket to a “good” (read: high-paying) job and that route is through college. When we compare our non-university training to Germany’s, as Bunny points out, it is clear that what we call ’vocational training’ doesn’t get near the support that it does in other countries so parents don’t want their kids going near it.
I don’t know how much better Europeans do but I hear about all kinds of problems with minority groups and I think it no accident that the countries scoring highest on tests are countries with few or no minorities: Sweden, South Korea, Japan where the minority are Koreans, and Finland where the minority are Swedes (also Lapps but I don’t think Lapps do well in the school system – maybe someone can tell us about that).
In the U.S., when you disaggregate test scores along various lines incl ethnicity, middle-class White kids compare favorably to countries with high test scores. It is when you bring in the many other schools, filled with poor kids, minority kids, rural kids, immigrant kids, transient kids, that our scores start to drop on averaging.
In our society, those lines drawn in the 1600s are still with us and they extend directly into our education system. Everything is documented, it’s all on line or in your library; you can even take classes in it. Compare our history to that of Cuba, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Jamaica, on and on: the Indians are killed off, Africans are imported as slaves, Europeans run everything, anti-colonial wars occur, the Whites stay on top, the Africans stay on the bottom, the surviving Native Americans are kept out of sight (I love the Mexican saying re los indigenas: fregados pero cristianiazados), and the Anglo north imports cheap labor from the Hispanic south.
Can we change this?
And it is current. My wife is reading Slavery By Another Name, the system in which Blacks were swept up in police round ups to be sold to mines, factories and farms to work for free as their “sentence”. My father-in-law grew up under that system in the 20s and 30s and 40s. His grandkids are heirs to that. Do you honestly think that the effects of that system disappear in 3 generations? Hispanics pour into this country as cheap labor from brutal conditions in Mexico and other countries. Do you think that getting on a list for English classes will solve their problems? Native Americans got casinos – it helped, but when they have grandfathers who got literally tied up and dragged away from their families to go to boarding school, do you think this has no effect on them?
Can we change this?
In response to the following post:
Gosh, I hate to hear this, Bob (that Europe thinks U.S. grades are worthless). It seems that the U.S. tries to educate everyone, however, whereas Europe educates (university) the smartest. Maybe if we were more like Europe, our technical education would be better. Some years ago I watched a 60 Minutes program that examined Germany’s educational system re. educating those who did not go to university. They were turning out master electricians, mechanics, etc. I think that we need more of these types of programs, but then students not suited for university would cry “discrimination.”