School Study on Character

A focus on race and ethnicity on applications for jobs and student enrollment is a conspicuous measure of the importance on which some in government place on these traits. Of course, the key reason for gathering these statistics is to insure that jobs and school performance are proportionately distributed by government action. Any disparity in outcome becomes a reason to allocate more resources to minority students or to provide preferential treatment. The repetition of such actions and thoughts inevitably results in the internalization of such race-conscious view of the world. The recent controversial study commissioned by Fairfax County, a prosperous county in suburban Virgina, is one unfortunate consequence.

By examining teacher marks on report cards on whether a student “listens to and follows directions,” “respects personal and school property,” “complies with established rules,” and “follows through on assignments,”  the study compiled statistics on this admittedly rather crude estimates of character. The authors of the study found that Asian and white students scored higher than Hispanic and black students on their measure of  “sound moral character and ethical judgment.”

This disparity is not so pleasing because it does not obviously suggest that more government resources should be devoted to minority groups, but rather re-enforces negative racial and ethnic stereotypes. It is hard to be too sympathetic to this Liberal quandary because such situations are result of persistently focusing on race and ethnicity instead of more relevant issues and concerns.

I am not sure whether such statistics are available to Fairfax County researchers, but it would seem more relevant to search for correlations and possible causes of character problems with the concern of parents as to the moral education of their children, whether there are two parents active in the child’s life, the number and quality of books in the home, the amount of television watched in the home, parental drug and alcohol abuse,  and whether the children are overly exposed to the negative cultural influences such as “gangster rap.”

There is absolutely no reason to believe that skin pigmentation in any way influences moral character. However, situations that are correlated with inadequate child rearing have come to be associated with race, ethnicity an poverty. In some ways, we may be all to blame. Perhaps our Libertarian instincts make it difficult to involve ourselves in our community to encourage proper more behavior. Maybe welfare programs and public housing programs were unintentionally structured in a manner that discourages the involvement of fathers in lives of their children.

These are all  reasonable and fruitful areas for academic inquiry. However, an inordinate focus on race and ethnicity may have been responsible for looking for correlates to moral character in the wrong places. Are we now at a time when Conservatives and Liberals can at least agree on this much?

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