“Look around and you will find, No one’s really color blind. Maybe it’s a fact we all should face: Everyone makes judgments based on race.”
Although the musical “Avenue Q” is nothing but a Broadway comedy full of Muppet-esque creatures, its songs have truth in them. Still, it hurts to know people make such judgments — even more so when these people are the ones that are shaping the future of America.
Most people know that students of color and low income students are less likely to get a college education — to be exact, black and Hispanic students are about 45 percent less likely to graduate from college than their Caucasian peers. The real question is why: are these students truly less intelligent, or is something else causing the disparity? A 2014 study by the Center of American Progress found that middle school teachers expect students of color, including African Americans and Hispanics, to perform at a lower level and graduate from college at a lower rate than white students. Now, although the study explains that this may not be intentional prejudice but rather teachers “looking at the question from a sociological point,” (i.e, knowing that children of color are less likely to have the funds necessary for college) this still raises a huge question about the levels of motivation and encouragement given to students. If a teacher goes into the classroom “knowing” that a student won’t be able to attend college, why would that teacher push the student into college-preparatory coursework?
Picture George, an African American student, Michael, a Hispanic student, and Phillip, a Caucasian student, sitting in a row and waiting while Ms. Calderone passes back a test that all three students failed. She gives George and Michael their test, huge red Ds face down. When he reaches Philip, she hands him his paper and asks him if he needs any help. She asks him how he studied and encourages him to pursue tutoring. Meanwhile, George and Michael stare gloomily at their grades, feeling like they should just give up.
This is an impressionable age for these kids — every choice and decision they make has the potential impact their entire life forever. When Ms. Calderone makes 12-year-old Michael feel like he can never get an A, it makes Michael think twice about pursuing higher education.
The study tracked these students for 10 years and found that students who received more encouragement from their teachers, regardless of what grades they started with, were three times more likely to graduate from college than those who did not. In addition to low expectations from their teachers, children of color are also surrounded by negative stereotypes sustained by the media. White faces fill the covers of their magazines, white movie stars win all the Oscars and a sea of white historical figures makes up their history books. They turn on the news, and the only non-Caucasian people they see are the ones that were pushed into a life of violence and crime, pushed by the very same system that’s ushering the child into it today. It’s a seemingly endless cycle.
When children go to school they should be taught that these images and the media are wrong and that they, students of all races and colors of the human spectrum, are the new age, the generation that will change the world, the generation that will break the cycle.
Lauren Williams is a writer for The Spectator.