The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations
I've done some speaking at an inner city school. There, it's the rare kid who has a dad in the home. If they do, they're more likely Latino than black. A regular 11th grade class, not a special ed class, was reading and writing at the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade level.
A lot of these schools just promote the kids whether they've learned sufficiently or not. This has a cost.
For example, Kashawn Campbell became a straight A student at a high school in Los Angeles. It seems that was straight A by terribly "relaxed" standards. Kurt Streeter writes in The LA Times:
School had always been his safe harbor.
Growing up in one of South Los Angeles' bleakest, most violent neighborhoods, he learned about the world by watching "Jeopardy" and willed himself to become a straight-A student.
His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the nation's most renowned public universities.
A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students. It was early January, and he stared nervously at his first college transcript.
There wasn't much good to see.
He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays -- pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases -- were so weak that he would have to take the class again.
He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn't improve his grades by school year's end, he would flunk out.
...Jefferson, made up almost entirely of Latinos and blacks, had a woeful reputation. His freshman year, just under 13% of its students were judged to be proficient in English, less than 1% in math.
...By the end of his senior year, Kashawn's 4.06 grade point average was second best in the senior class. Because of a statewide program to attract top students from every public California high school, a spot at a UC system campus waited for him.
...Would he flunk out?
"All I can do is pray," he said.
One morning this summer he walked slowly to the kitchen table, sat in a black chair and cracked open his laptop. Cal's website had just posted grades.
He scrolled down the page and saw the results for College Writing. His teacher said he'd improved slightly, but not enough. She gave him an incomplete. To get a grade he'd have to turn in two more essays, if he came back to school.
His heart raced. He saw that he'd passed a three-unit seminar. He scanned further, his eyes resting finally on a line that said African American Studies 5A. There was his grade.
"Yes!" he exclaimed. An A- lifted his GPA above a 2.0.
He wasn't a freshman anymore. He would return to Cal for his sophomore year.
Also, how creepy and awful that there's a dorm floor that Cal State "reserves for black students."