Vindicating conservatives is fun, and not merely because it’s easy. For example, a report issued last week in California confirmed the vision of Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who led the successful effort to sharply curtail bilingual education two years ago.
Many educrats, of course, had predicted catastrophe if a million Spanish-speaking students were required to immerse themselves in English. So what has happened? Standardized test scores for students with limited English proficiency have improved dramatically. Reading scores pushed these kids from the 19th to the 28th percentile in national rankings. Math scores jumped even higher, from the 27th to the 41st percentile.
Another example of the vindication of a right-thinker came from an unexpected source Aug. 24. The Department of Education released results of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, which showed that average black 17-year-olds read about as well as average white 13-year-olds.
You might recall that University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia was subjected to vicious verbal abuse when, three years ago, he said that “blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions.” He denied that genetic inferiority accounted for the academic divide. Instead, he pointed to studies showing that “children of different groups and sub-groups … differ in the amount of time they spend on average in school or doing school work,” which explains “much of the performance gap.”
And now we learn that the gap that had narrowed during the Reagan era has been widening since 1992. Most unexpected, according to federal officials, is that black children of the best-educated parents have fallen back to pre-1980s achievement levels.
These sons and daughters of privilege, who so recently seemed ready, willing and able to bridge the academic divide between themselves and their white cohorts, have actually reversed their scholastic progress. As the New York Times News Service story put it, this “suggests that what was once considered an urban problem, the consequence of poverty and disadvantage, … may result from lower expectations by teachers, fewer black students taking tougher courses or different attitudes about education among black students.”
Graglia told me this week that he takes no delight in having been proved right. In fact, he sees some “extraordinarily promising” signs at his own university.
For example, after the Hopwood decision banned racial preferences in public college admissions, black law school enrollment at the University of Texas dropped precipitously. But Graglia was “surprised and pleased” to learn last week “that we have enrolled 16 black students” for the fall term.
He noted that law school officials who supported racial preferences used to tell such students that “you have a perfect right to be here.” Scary, isn’t it? Nobody makes such patronizing statements now, because everyone enrolled has achieved that victory through colorblind merit.
Like students with limited English proficiency who thrive when immersed in English instruction, minority students who turn off the TV, do hours of daily homework and take demanding courses can survive the rigors of post-university training.
Ask Asian students who typically outperform both whites and blacks on the SAT and other standardized tests. That’s right: If these tests are culturally biased against black students, as some apologists for mediocrity maintain, they also expose white underachievement relative to Asian-Americans. Graglia joked that such tests seem to be “biased in favor of Vietnamese.”
Ron Unz was right to decry the fact that students across California often languished for years in bilingual classrooms and rarely graduated.
And Lino Graglia’s common-sense approach to racial academic differentials has now been vindicated as well. Conservatives correctly regard truth as a close and formidable ally.
Don Erler of Hurst is president of General Building Maintenance in Fort Worth. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can write him at 3201 Airport Freeway, Suite 108, Bedford, TX 76021.