By the 1920s what we call the SAT was simply known as the College Boards; it is a test designed to measure ones ability to perform certain skill sets: Verbal communication and quantitative reasoning. Regardless of class and race, all students are measured by either the SAT or the ACT. For years the argument promulgated by black liberals was one that suggested both exams were racially biased. Many blacks felt that a black kid in urban or rural America would not receive the same type of education as a white student in suburban America. This discussion has subsided some in recent years with the emphasis being placed on state required high risk exams under George W. Bush’s NO Child Left Behind. This topic is nothing new. Historically, blacks have tested far below that of their white counterparts. Much of this, in my opinion, is reflected by the social realities of black poverty. With an inadequate system of funding schools, politicians focus much of the blame on teaching and not state funding.
For years conservative Republicans and Democrats have fought against the funding of schools by the federal government. Here is their argument: It is a matter for the states since the Constitution does not address education; yet, the federal government uses its dollars to manipulate states into following poorly designed legislation: No Child Left Behind. At the center of the conflict is that of poor black and white students who will one day have to pass an exam they are not ready for. At least with the ACT/SAT a student has various options. In the early 1990s, Asa Hilliard, a black educational advocate stated:
The risk for our children in school is not a risk associated with their intelligence. Our failures have nothing to do with poverty, nothing to do with race, nothing to do with language, nothing to do with style, nothing to do with the need to discover new pedagogy, nothing to do with the development of unique and differentiated special pedagogues, nothing to do with the children’s families. All of these are red herrings. The study of them may ultimately lead to some greater insight into the instructional process; but at present they serve to distract attention from the fundamental problem facing us today. We have one and only one problem: Do we truly will to see each and every child in this nation develop to the peak of his or her capacities? If our destination is excellence on a massive scale, not only must we change from the slow lane into the fast lane; we literally must change highways. Perhaps we need to abandon the highways altogether and take flight, because the highest goals that we can imagine are well within reach for those who have the will to excellence.
Mr. Hilliard promoted the concept of cultural pluralism as a means of helping each child realize his full potential. As author of over 200 articles and books on education and child development Hilliard encouraged parents and educators to reject mediocrity and promote a more demanding learning environment that encouraged a positive self-identity. As a founding member of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, Hilliard believed that an awareness and appreciation of African history was a meaningful way of promoting student achievement. Although I agree with the concept of cultural and heritage knowledge articulated by Hilliard, he too failed to realize the important role the government plays in protecting and educating the poor.
As I stated before, racism today is more covert; it is found in the urban centers of America where the impact of ghettoization due to Jim Crowism have institutionalized a cycle of vice, poverty, and poor education. Much of this institution has been derived from exploitation. State governments should reallocate more state educational funding from property tax rich communities. Thanks to the growth of the federal government, blacks have been able to use devices such as affirmative action to elevate themselves to middle class status. However, with the demise of AA and the lack of funding by states and the federal government, more black students could find it difficult to climb that social ladder. Education, which is the greatest equalizer, has failed many Americans, regardless of race. The federal government has become too conservative when it comes to matters of race and class.