NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

May 6, 2004

If white students are receiving a poor education in public schools, then what black students are receiving is even worse, according to Walter Williams in the Washington Times. Williams cites the book, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning," by Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom, which describes the serious educational divide between black and white students.

According to the Thernstroms:

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals that 70 percent of high school students score "below basic" in math, where "basic" is defined as "partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work."
  • In science, 75 percent of black high school students score "below basic."
  • Black high school graduates performed below the level of white eighth graders in reading, U.S. history, math and geography.

Williams adds that black students enter college with an average SAT score of 200 points lower than the scores of white students, making it difficult for them to perform well on college tests such as the GRE, LSAT and MCAT.

Moreover, the low expectations created by race preferences and "touchy-feely" cirricula (such as black studies, women's studies, etc.) create a disincentive for black students to work hard.

However, law professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton argues that tests such as the LSAT are discriminatory -- that is, if the minimum cut-off score is 145 (most law schools allow a score between 120 and 180), 60 percent of black applicants would not be admitted to law school, while only 20 percent of white students will be turned down.

Williams notes that at the top law schools -- Yale, Harvard and Chicago -- even if a student scores 165 on the LSAT with a 3.9 percent GPA, there is no guarantee of admission.

Source: Walter E. Williams, "Poor Education Propaganda," Washington Times, May 6, 2004. Stephen Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning" (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, October 2003).


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