On the "Achievement Gap" A Challenge to the Terms of Public Debate Over Equality in Primary and Secondary Education
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Both sides of the "achievement gap" debate are problematic in two ways. First, neither side questions the significance of the "achievement gap" itself as a measure of equality. Second, both are flawed in their programmatic responses to the "achievement gap." The sameness approach's policy of treating all students the same regardless of race would make sense only if we lived in a world in which everyone was equal. Although proponents of the difference approach recognize that we do not live in such a world, their programmatic responses attack "black culture" and recognize the banns of African American boys while delegitimizing those of African American girls. It is only by problematizing the "achievement gap" debate itself that we can begin to discuss equality in American public schools. In Part I, I summarize the structure of both the difference approach and the sameness approach and end with a longer description of the actual debate over the "achievement gap" between the two. In Part II, I provide my analysis of the sameness approach's stance within this debate. Particularly, I argue against the sameness approach's assumption of present-day equality. In Part III, I offer three critiques of the difference approach within the "achievement gap" debate. In the first, I problematize the rhetoric of the "achievement gap" itself and work toward proof that scholars and policy makers create this "gap" and that inequality precedes its creation. In the second, I discard the difference approach's notion of"black culture" and critique those programs built on the premise that such a thing exists. In the third, I offer a critique of the unjustified attention that proponents of the difference approach pay to boys. In the conclusion, I provide a brief summary of my arguments along with my closing thoughts.