All Americans—minorities and non-minorities—would benefit if minority students performed better in school at all levels. Few things are more effective at preventing poverty and crime than a commitment to excellence in the classroom by individual students, including minorities. Not only are students who are serious about their education less likely to engage in criminal behavior, they are more likely to build successful lives for themselves and become positive, contributing citizens.
I spent 37 years in education. That experience taught me an invaluable lesson, to wit: Students who are serious about learning and committed to getting a good education will do so—regardless of the obstacles. In spite of what liberals like to claim, the race, age, gender, and socio-economic circumstances of students are not the principal determiners of school performance. Performance in the classroom is no different than performance on the playing field. It is the result of desire, commitment, hard work, and perseverance.
The single-most important factor in the performance of students is commitment to learning. Students who are serious about their education do well. Those who lack commitment and look for excuses do not. These rules of thumb apply from Kindergarten through college. Consequently, minorities as a group are not likely to improve their school performance until they stop listening to pandering politicians who would rather provide them with excuses for failure than tell them the truth about how to succeed.
Sadly, a real commitment to learning is not present in many American students, particularly minority students. Minority students throughout the United States who excel in football, basketball, baseball, track, and other sports do so because they make a commitment to achieving excellence on the playing field. But too often, among minority students, that same level of commitment is lacking in the classroom. This lack of commitment to academic excellence is a sad commentary, not just for minorities but for all Americans. To paraphrase Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon, the world won’t be improved by another basketball player who can hit a 30 foot jump shot. But it might be improved by a student who learns to solve the quadratic equation. What happens in the classroom is infinitely more important to the future of individual students and to the future of America than what happens on the basketball court, football field, or baseball diamond. Note to readers: I played all three sports, so these are not the words of an academic geek who is resentful of athletes.
Minorities in America perform well below their white and Asian contemporaries in graduation rates, grade point averages, and scores on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Educators, politicians, and community leaders should be concerned about this unnecessary fact—concerned enough to ask why. Could the disparity exist because minorities are not academically capable? No, this can’t be the reason because too many individual minority students outperform their white and Asian contemporaries. Every year throughout the United States some of the highest performing high school graduates are minorities.
Could the lower academic performance of minorities be—as liberals like to claim—the result of financial discrimination that results in schools with large minority populations being habitually underfunded? No, this cannot be the reason because the highest per-pupil expenditures on education in America are found in school districts with high minority populations such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. Further, many minority students excel in private and charter schools that when compared with public schools are grossly underfunded.
As an elementary and high school student, Dr. Ben Carson could have been the poster child for liberal excuse making concerning the under-performance of minority students. He had it all when it came to making excuses for failure: illiterate single mother, poverty, inner-city streets that resembled war zones, and constant exposure to contemporaries who were angry and resentful toward life in general. But young Ben had something many of his contemporaries did not have: a mother who was committed to seeing him make education his launching pad to a better life, a commitment she passed on to Ben.
Dr. Carson’s life is worthy of study by those who are truly interested in improving the academic performance of minorities. Unfortunately, liberals tend to characterize the Ben Carson’s of the world as exceptions whose lives can be ignored as irrelevant. Of course, they define as irrelevant anything that does not comport with liberal orthodoxy. But the academic performance of black students from Barbados—the tiny island nation in the lesser Antilles—suggests that liberals and others interested in improving the academic performance of minorities should pay attention and learn from Carson’s example.
According to David Beard of the Sun-Sentinel, South Florida, students in Barbados face all of the obstacles that liberals in America use to excuse the under-achievement of minority students, yet by comparison the students from Barbados excel. Teachers in Barbados earn substantially less than their counterparts in America, per pupil expenditures are well below the national average in the U.S., and more than half of the students in Barbados come from single-parent households. Yet these students average 1,345 on the SAT. Why do the “disadvantaged” students in Barbados perform so well academically? The answer is simple: Their parents make no excuses and accept no excuses. For parents in Barbados, education is their number one priority. They have high expectations of their children and hold them accountable for meeting those expectations (just as Ben Carson’s mother did).
The answer to improving the academic performance of all students in America—including minority students—can be found in this example. If you are a liberal who likes to characterize minorities as disadvantaged victims, perhaps you should visit sunny Barbados, but not to vacation—to learn.