Posted on June 16, 2011

The ‘Achievement Gap’ Fraud

John T. Bennett, American Thinker, June 15, 2011

Our educational system is self-destructing because of a fraud known as the “achievement gap.” One result of that fraud is that public school bureaucrats are taking away opportunities from good students in a misguided effort to help underperforming students.

When the mainstream media reports on progressive social policies, the results can be astonishing. A recent Washington Post “Metro” section featured a stunning educational policy: a school policy that ruins opportunities for bright students in order to help the less bright students (“Dumping honors classes for AP,” May 22). The Post reports that honors classes are being abolished from the curriculum in Fairfax, VA, and many schools across the country. The purpose of abolishing the honors courses: to help “underrepresented minority students.” With that article, the Post unwittingly exhibited the core of the problem with education in this country: The flawed system and students’ low culture. Each factor combines in a downward spiral to give us the bad educational results we have today.


The very concept of the “achievement gap” is a fraud. It assumes that the correct result in schools is equal educational outcomes among different ethnic groups. The same is true of the concept of “underrepresentation.” There is a simple problem with these concepts: It is resolutely ignorant to assume that there will be equal outcomes among ethnic groups. Thomas Sowell has richly detailed the myriad ways in which different ethnic groups have always behaved differently and had disparate outcomes in life, around the world, and throughout history. As Sowell points out, there is no basis in human experience or in logic to expect that different ethnic groups would have identical outcomes. Different ethnic groups have vastly different attitudes, habits, and preferences with regard to many aspects of life, including education. Berkeley Professor John Ogbu (1939-2003), who was black, concluded exactly that in his incredibly important work on black student achievement. Ogbu concluded that “black students did not generally work hard,” he wrote. “In fact, most appeared to be characterized by low-effort syndrome. The amount of time and effort they invested in academic pursuit was neither adequate nor impressive.”

The expectation of equal outcomes only exists because of a radical ideology of liberal equality that has rooted itself like a tick into the public education system. {snip}

As the Post article points out, parents of “high-achieving students” in “suburbs” don’t want this good option removed. We don’t hear from the parents of the “underrepresented minorities”; we don’t know if those parents want to eliminate opportunities for those from the “suburbs.” But the social engineers in charge of Fairfax schools have determined that the good students’ interests are not worth as much as dubious, experimental efforts to advance the “underrepresented minority” students’ interests.


The pious fraud about the “achievement gap” is more than just bunk social science and bad policy; it is harming the interests of good students. “Underrepresented” students are not going to improve their performance in a way that justifies the cost imposed on good students.