A recent study by the Center for American Progress released this month highlighted what some might call the “soft bigotry of low expectations” if there was a way to take a jug of Downy fabric softener and make old-fashioned implicit bias gentler.
The study found that teachers can have a bit of a Pygmalion effect on students, as in, if they believe a student is gifted and has promise, they will try to deliver on it—unless that child is black, brown or low-income; then the outlook is not so bright.
For poor students and students of color, CAP’s researchers found that teachers thought a college degree was more out of reach for African-American students, to the tune of thinking black students were 47 percent less likely than white students to make it to a higher education. Their thoughts on Latino students? That they were 42 percent less likely to attend college. The view was even bleaker for low-income students: The view was that they were 53 percent less likely than students from more-affluent families to go to college.
Now, sure, there’s a chance that these expectations of teachers are in line with how quite a few people view the impoverished, as well as black and brown children. Because of historical inequities in our society, more than a century of institutionalized racism, and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, of course children who are affluent and white would be viewed with more promise. Based on how the decks are stacked in our society, such children do have more promise by design.
But education is supposed to be the great equalizer, the real chance students across the board have to become successful adults. Next to voting rights and ending segregation, the biggest fights in the civil rights movement involved the power and promise of education. Parents of lesser means fight to get their children into better schools and go on lengthy waiting lists for charter schools because they know education is the best bet they can place on their child.
I’ve had 3 Black teachers in my whole academic career even though I come from a city that is half Black. The kids in our community will continued to be left behind untl we start getting more Black teachers that are committed to our kids.