Saturday, June 02, 2007

Wake Up - We're Brown

There's all this focus on immi- gration, and then there's the population that's already here. The National Bureau of Education Statistics issued a good report on the racial and ethnic composition of the country's schools. Two highlights, based in part on Sam Dillon's good piece in the New York Times yesterday:
  • the "minority" share of the school population has gone from 22% to 42% since 1972. In the West, whites fell from 73% to 46%. Latino enrollments went from 6% in 1972 to 20% in 2005. Black enrollments stayed about the same (14.8% to 15.6%). Rock the continent!
  • Students study more now than they did then, and more kids of every race take Advanced Placement courses. For example, "in 1980, 7 % of 19th graders reported spending 10 hours a week or more on homework, but by 2002 that number had risen to 37%, more than a fivefold increase."
Anyone ready to freak out about the browning of America might stop for one second to wonder if there's link between more minority students and more studying and achievement. It's not linear, but it's fun to think about. Asian American students have an eligibility rate for the University of California that is three times higher than that of whites. A study by Dick Flacks at UC Santa Barbara showed that students of color spend many more hours a week studying and working for fee and rent money than do their white counterparts. There's more where those facts came from.

But there's a big gap between the people who vote (overwhelmingly white) and the people who have kids in public school (much less white). Stereotypes die hard, and mere facts aren't going to keep voters from voting to cut their own taxes with the excuse that those ghetto kids can't or won't learn anyway so why fix their falling-down schools?

That's too bad, because as this blog loves to point out, there's never been a middle class in the history of the world that didn't depend on good public services. Meaning roads, hospitals, schools and the rest of the new deal. So we can either vote to tax and spend and lift everybody up, or let racial suspicion continue the current decline. Plan A or Plan D - there are no other plans.

Don't be dumb.

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