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Citizen Voices

Affirming Actions

I've become very interested in academic performance at local public schools, primarily due to my teaching credential program. Last week, I stepped onto the campus of a middle school in the San Diego Unified School District to observe a seventh grade social studies classroom. Anticipating my first truly "urban" school experience, I braced myself for some of the challenges described in my textbook. Twelve-year-olds wearing gang colors. Unruly kids disrespecting their teachers. Eighth graders reading at a third grade level. Despite attending the school made famous by Dangerous Minds , I do not feel that I had ever experienced this.

Instead, I entered a classroom with kids seated quietly at their desks, working on a warm-up activity in which they hypothesized some of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. And the great majority of them seemed not only engaged, but to be coming up with reasons that demonstrated higher-order thinking skills and a deep understanding of historical events.

Does this experience point to the success of San Diego schools? Does it demonstrate that unlike the typical urban school described in my textbook, the school I visited suffered none of the challenges commonly present in the public schools systems of metropolitan areas? Contrary to research and popular belief, was this class of 36 proof that a smaller student-to-teacher ratio is not necessary?


Unfortunately, no.

JKMora from San Ysidro
October 09, 2008 at 11:05 PM
Jessica, It's unfortunate that you have not recognized that the phrase "racial preferences" is code for the fears of whites who see their privileges being threatened and eroded by expanded opportunities for racial minorities. Tracking has always existed and its ultimate manifestation was the unspoken and assumed preference for whites in college admissions. This is the problematic racial preference that affirmative action is designed to overcome. Affirmative action is an attempt to force hiring and admissions committees and processes to recognize the reality that an equally qualified minority candidate had to work twice as hard and overcome many more obstacles and disadvantages to get to the point of competing for admissions or a job along with the preferred-race white candidates. We need more affirmative action and the nullification of the No Child Left Behind act in order to overcome racial inequality. NCLB is a travesty for racial equality since its punitive approach sanctions schools when students who suffer huge societal disadvantages do not score as if they were white middle class (the norming froup) on standardized test scores. There is absolutely no evidence that the NCLB sanctions improve schools' abilities to educate their predominantly minority non-native English speaking student populations, so NCLB creates more obstacles and larger hurdles to academic achievement for these students. The sanctions aggravate and institutionalize the very ineffective practices and programs that originally created the so-called "low performance" conditions of the schools such as teaching to the test, reductionist curriculum, disjointed and fact-based learning rather than critical analysis, problem solving and experiential learning. It is not as easy as "...addressing the disadvantages associated with socioeconomic level prior to a child's entry into kindergarten and actively reversing the achievement of first graders still unable to read can change the status quo..." since disadvantages are present throughout students' school careers and are aggravated by misguided education policies and programs. I hope that you will take the time to speak to some credential program faculty who are strongly opposed to No Child Left Behind who can give you a more realistic and in depth assessment of its impact. I also hope that you will be able to see how you have been mislead by conservative rhetoric that distorts the true purpose and nature of affirmative action as a tool for addressing institutional racism and racial inequality in our society.