Cultural and environmental factors

The culture and environment in which children are raised may play a role in the achievement gap. There is a fair amount of support for the idea that minorities begin their educational careers at a disadvantage due to cultural differences. Jencks and Phillips argue that black parents may not encourage early education in toddlers because they do not see the personal benefits of having exceptional academic skills. As a result of cultural differences, black students tend to begin school with smaller vocabularies than their white classmates. However, poverty often acts as a confounding factor and differences that are assumed to arise from racial/cultural factors may be socioeconomically driven. Many children who are poor, regardless of race, come from homes that lack stability, continuity of care, adequate nutrition, and medical care creating a level of environmental stress that can affect the young child’s development. As a result, these children enter school with decreased word knowledge that can affect their language skills, influence their experience with books, and create different perceptions and expectations in the classroom context.

Studies show that when students have assistance from a parent with homework, they do much better in school. This is a problem for many minority students due to the large number of single-parent households and the increase in non-English speaking parents. Students from single-parent homes often find it difficult to find time to receive help from their parent. Similarly, some Hispanic students have difficulty getting help with their homework because there is not an English speaker at home to offer assistance.

Another explanation that has been suggested for racial and ethnic differences in intellectual performance is that minority children are not motivated to do their best on standardized tests. The first explanation is that standardized IQ tests and testing procedures are culturally biased toward European-American middle class knowledge and experiences. Claude M. Steele suggested that minority children and adolescents may experience stereotype threat—the fear that they will be judged to have traits associated with negative appraisals and/or stereotypes of their race or ethnic group which produces test anxiety and keeps them from doing as well as they could on tests. According to Steele, minority test takers experience anxiety, believing that if they do poorly on their test they will confirm the stereotypes about inferior intellectual performance of their minority group. As a result, a self-fulfilling prophecy begins, and the child performs at a level beneath his or her inherent abilities. Some researchers also hypothesize that minorities, especially African American students, stop trying in school because they do not want to be accused of “acting white” by their peers. It has also been suggested that some minority students simply stop trying because they do not believe they will ever see the true benefits of their hard work. As some researchers point out, minority students often feel little motivation to do well in school because they do not believe it will pay off in the form of a better job or upward social mobility. By not trying to do well in school, minorities are engaging in a conscious rejection of the achievement ideology. The achievement ideology is the idea that working hard and studying long hours will pay-off for students in the form of higher wages or upward social mobility.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.