The Vocabulary of Virtue

David Clemens

I have written elsewhere on the NAS site about the misguided plan to revamp California’s vast community college system.  Buried in the report of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Student Success, I found the following gem.  After congratulating themselves on their commitment to “educational equity,” the Task Force says that: 

. . . improving overall completion rates and closing achievement gaps among historically underrepresented students are co-equal goals. The Task Force’s commitment to educational equity is reflected throughout the recommendations, but perhaps most explicitly in its proposal to establish statewide and college-level performance goals that are disaggregated by racial/ethnic group [my emphasis]. Doing so will allow the system and state leaders to monitor impacts of the policy changes on these subgroups while also focusing state and local efforts on closing gaps in educational attainment.

“Equity,” social engineering’s favorite vocabulary word, apparently is achieved and student success assured by setting different goals and standards for different racial and ethnic groups.  This sounds suspiciously like “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and the wonky “disaggregated” is used to avoid a more familiar vocabulary word with a sorry history:  segregated.  As Dr. Yehudi Webster says, “You can’t end racism by practicing racism,” even when you pretend it is virtuous. 

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