The African American Achievement Gap: Why is it There and What Can be Done Are Black Americans Dumber than White Americans? Can it unequivocally be stated that European Americans hold more intelligence then African Americans? Are African Americans genetically wired to have a lesser mental capacity then European Americans? For a long time this was the explanation to a burning problem. African Americans score lower than White Americans on vocabulary, reading, and mathematics tests, as well as on tests that claim to measure scholastic aptitude and intelligence. “This gap appears before children enter kindergarten and it persists into adulthood. The typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on most standardized tests. On some tests the typical American black scores below more than 85 percent of whites.” (CHRISTOPHER, JENCKS) This test score gap is not an inevitable fact of nature. It is true that the gap shrinks only a little when black and white children attend the same schools. It is also true that the gap shrinks only a little when black and white families have the same amount of schooling, the same income, and the same wealth. However, after extensive research, no one has found any evidence saying that blacks have less intellectual ability than whites. So what causes this gap in test scores? Some attribute it to the culture of African Americans. They say that African Americans are uninterested in learning and don’t seek to pursue academic excellence. Some attribute the gap to testing conditions. Some attribute it to concepts such as “White Guilt” and “Stereotype Threat.”(Will be explained later) I however cannot attribute it to any one thing. This whole issue cannot be explained by one concept. Rather then trying to describe the achievement gap with one concept, I attribute it to a combination of many. The reason for the perceived gap in test scores is an intricate combination of things such as Stereotype threat, White Guilt, and Culture. On this issue, Thomas Sowell takes the position that this gap has nothing to do with racism or race. Sowell says, “For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race-that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th Century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.” (Sowell, Thomas) However, his research showed something different. With his study at Harvard, he noticed that most of the black alumni were either from “the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.” (Sowell, Thomas) This completely dispels the idea of race being a factor. So what does cause the gap? Sowell believes Culture does. His main argument is that the culture from so-called “rednecks” from Europe caused this uneducated culture seen in blacks. He says, “The culture of the people who were called “rednecks” and “crackers” before they ever got on the boats to cross the Atlantic was a culture that produce far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as high levels of violence and sexual promiscuity.” (Sowell, Thomas) Now the most important points raised are that only a third of whites lived in this culture while 90% of blacks live in it. Of course culture fades away eventually but, it has very slow within the black community; especially in the worst black ghettos in the country. This is a culture of counter productivity and self-destruction. Sowell says all blacks are regarded this way. However, the question has to be asked; can this really be applied to all blacks? It really can’t. Culture can be a valid explanation for this particular group of black people but it does not prove anything for all blacks. Not all blacks...
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