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Race becomes obligatory in Washington schools

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on June 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm with 11 Comments »
June 7, 2010 5:45 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In Washington, a schoolchild can be white, African American, Latino, Asian America, Native American, Pacific Islander and more than 50 permutations thereof.

What’s not permitted is apathy about race.

Schools have long tried to get parents to identify their children by race. That’s a good idea for several reasons. For example, there’s no way to see what’s happening with the “achievement gap” if blacks and Latino students can’t be compared with white and Asian-American children.

Now the state is pushing that generally good idea to the point of ridiculous absolutism.

Not all parents want to classify their kids racially, and not all of them care. Lots of kids show up at school without having been properly profiled by their moms or dads. The requisite forms could be filled out with boxes checked for “unknown,” “multiracial” or “declined to answer.”

Under a new policy, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is permitting no such ambiguity. A race must be assigned – and the people at school will have to do it if the parents won’t.

There’s no shortage of racial options provided, though the logic behind some of them is a little murky. The first question – something like the “para español …” option on the telephone – asks if the child is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Once that hurdle is cleared, the parent or educator must squeeze the kid – Latino or not – into one of many dozens of boxes.

Young Pacific Islanders who are Fijian, Micronesian, Samoan, etc., must be specified as such. Indian children must be designated as Makah, Muckleshoot, Quinault, Puyallup, etc., unless they are generically “other Washingtonian Indian” or “other American Indian.”

Such specificity would seem to argue for letting blacks identify themselves as Nigerians, Senegalese, Kenyans, etc. – especially if they in fact migrated from Nigeria, Senegal or Kenya, etc. But apparently “black” (and “white”) is label enough.

Demanding that educators classify kids under a system this rigid and complex does seem, as Federal Way Superintendent Tom Murphy said, “ludicrous.” How on earth is the assistant principal or whoever supposed to know if an unlabeled child is Pacific Islander, let alone a Micronesian.

Why isn’t multiracial an option? Take a student with a café au lait complexion. Maybe he or she – and Mom and Dad, too – consider themselves white. Or, heaven forbid, genuinely multiracial. Where would Tiger Woods fit into the scheme?

You may be indifferent, ambivalent, annoyed or simply confused about America’s obsession with race. You may want to drop out of the racial classification business altogether. You may prefer to think of yourself simply as a human being.

Doesn’t matter: Race is going to follow you, find you and never let you go.

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. slasmith says:

    Why isn’t American a choice?

  2. It is time to fire the Superintendent of Public Instruction and elect a new one. Better yet, eliminate this worthless position and save the taxpayers some money.

  3. larsman says:

    There is a holiday in January dedicated to and individual who expressed the idea of being considered by the “content of your CHARACTER and not the COLOR of your skin”. Since that time, our govt. at almost all levels has proceeded to undermine, marginalize and actively oppose and dismantle that common sense position by requiring us individual citizens to brand ourselves with absurd hyphenations that only divide (separate) us further. A divided citizenry is much easier to control.By parceling out everyone into a group-think mentality we have created nothing more than a dependency mentality of selfish little GANGS. It’s also easier to hide inside of a category instead of identifying as an individual, claiming victim-hood and dodging responsibility. The “we need to know” bean-counters are really saying that one “group” is smarter than another “group” but really they are trying to appease a future voting block. So THIS is ‘transparency': Divide and control.

  4. larsman says:

    BTW-when the ‘race bait’ question comes up, I always put (north) “American”, and yes, I’m all in favor of dissolving the Dept. of Mis-education who use our kids as financial human shields while corrupt administrators and greedy extreme-left unions ( not necessarily the teachers themselves although they can only go as far as they are allowed) continue to dumb down our kids so they will not know the significance of history, conjugate a verb or demonstrate the commutative principle within algebra. Again ,a dumb, poor and divided populace is so much easier to control…

  5. This is important information. It may seem useless now, but at some point in the future it can be used to determine who will be allowed to remain in the Northwest. Remember that US Census data on race was used to round up Japanese in California and Oregon and send them to internment camps for the duration of WW2. In a similar fashion this data will be saved forever and, in a different political climate, may prove very useful in sorting out people of undesirable backgrounds for expulsion and exclusion. Yes, it can happen here.

    Also, no ‘multi-racial’ category is needed because American traditon is quite clear on this. The ‘one-drop rule’ means that any amount of black blood makes you black. Blacks understand and agree with this, which is why Obama filled out his census form as “black”, not mixed race, despite having a white mother. Obama is 1/2 white and all black. That’s how it works.

  6. Question_One says:

    Dr.Zero: What people are you talking about that may have undesirable backgrounds?

  7. Honestly this is one of the more ridiculous and phony controversies since the “War on Christmas.” The purpose is not to round people up and put them in camps. Nor is it designed to discriminate against white people. It’s to make sure our system serves everyone, equally, and without regard to their race. If we don’t have a way to track it, there’s no way to tell when the system has failed.

    When I was in banking we had a similar rule. Often people refused to check the box and it was our obligation to make our best guess. The reason? To make sure banks weren’t discriminating like they used to. Pretty simple and totally not controversial.

  8. larsman says:

    “To make sure banks weren’t “discriminating” like they used to”? Barney F. and Chris D. were following the dictates of the ‘community re-investment act’ of 1978 (read Carter here) which culminated into the derivative fiasco. Quotas are EXACTLY what MLK was against. Suddenly Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner, in their revolving door capacities, used the result of 30 years of financial blasphemy as a pre-planned reason to force a “pork-u-lus” (read “never-ending-debt-load-for-our-children here) on us. Please re-read your Constitution and D.of I. to se the phrase “all men (and women) are created equal”. It does not say that an addiction to hyphenation is a “We (?) need to know” requirement. Group-mentality = Gang mentality = cowardice. The glaring omissions in these misguided policies are the words “Individual” and “Responsibility”. Questions?…

  9. CRA had nothing to do with with the subprime collapse nor with quotas. It simply requires that banks not discriminate. It says that you can’t deny a creditworthy borrower simply because they live in a poor neighborhood. It says that you have to lend in areas you accept deposits in.

    Almost all subprime loans, which were then securitized by investment banks, were done by lenders not even regulated by CRA. In fact most of them wouldn’t even qualify as CRA loans since they were in the wrong areas in the wrong income brackets.

    There are a lot of tragedies that stemmed from this financial crisis. But perhaps the most sad was the attempt by Republicans to blame the crisis on poor minorities instead of the wealthy unregulated Wall Street bankers who actually caused it.

  10. And Tim Geithner worked for whom? And the “small” community banks had no policy input from the non-federal non-reserve (read central bank here), Goldman, B.Stearns or Fan or Fred? Or community organizers or Rainbow PUSHHHHy? When one is TOLD to loosen the lending requirements to make a financially unqualified voting block all of a sudden become politically qualified, the clear water becomes cloudier until you have to repackage it to “look” like it is clear. That is called a derivative which morphs into a (oxy- moronic term comin’ up, ready) “toxic” “asset”. I’ve got a bridge to sell ya…

  11. Geithner worked for the NY Fed. Nobody was told to relax their standards. In fact a large number of banks never made a single subprime loan. Subprime loans were almost exclusively made by non-deposit mortgage lenders (meaning they were not regulated by the Fed nor did they have to meet CRA standards.)

    These loans are the result of deregulation, not regulation.

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