In an editorial in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, I tell the story of a phone call I received from a friend when I was a member of the Fairfax County school board.
Her daughter had just received her first-quarter marks, including a C in algebra.
The mother was upset, and she made an appointment to talk with the teacher. Later, she called me to report on that conversation.
The teacher had smiled at her and said, “Really, Mrs. Smith, a C isn’t such a bad grade.”
“It is,” my friend responded, “at our house. And I suspect it would be at yours.”
When President George W. Bush talked about the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” this is exactly what he meant. No one denied this young African-American girl the opportunity to take the algebra class. But neither did anyone really expect she would do very well.
Except, of course, her mother.
In tomorrow’s Washington Post, Andy Rotherham weighs in on the same issue. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP are very vocal in their dissent, pointing out that lowered expectations tend to translate into lowered student performance.
One wonders what the Virginia Department of Education had in mind when they decided it was a good idea to institutionalize lower expectations for students based on race. And one wonders what went through the minds of the folks at the U.S. Department of Education when they approved the waiver in the first place.