Although I’ve been among the people annoyed at the media’s obsession with Barack Obama’s black heritage, there’s no denying that symbolism matters. But could that go far as student performance? The New York Times reports:
Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obamaâ€™s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election. The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.
Whoa. Now there’s two, possibly contradictory, reasons that occur to me. Firstly, that (racial) symbolism matters and those who argue for better representation of ethnic minorities in public offices have a point in that it might help people of those minorities feel like they have more of a stake in the country.
Secondly, it also suggests racial differences in education achievement are less because of a kid’s race or even ‘institutional racism’, but more down to how they see themselves doing. In other words, if they’re self-motivated then they do better than kids of other races who think they won’t achieve anything in life. Which may all suggest that if you want to achieve educational achievement among poor black, white and Bangladeshi kids – then money might be better spent motivating them rather than other things.
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Filed in: Economics,Race politics