Have you ever gone somewhere and gotten the distinct impression that you were not welcome? Suppose you were a student of color and a school board member stated his belief that you are incapable of academic success because of your race. What could you possibly make of this?
Recently, Marysville School Board Member Michael Kundu told his fellow board members that he believes that academic achievement is genetically determined. In an e-mail discussion, Kundu asserted that students in certain racial groups are simply incapable of achieving academic success based on biological or genetic disadvantages. In other words, a third of the students in the Marysville School District are almost not worth teaching.
As shocking as it may sound to hear statements like this from a person who is responsible for the education of thousands of children, it is even more incredible to learn the details about the flawed research cited by Kundu as support for his claim of racial inferiority. A simple Google search – something even a busy school board member should be able to do - quickly reveals the dubious quality of the “research.”
In 1995, Philippe Rushton, a former professor of psychology at the Western Ontario University in Canada published his findings on race and intelligence in a book called Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective. Rushton separated people into three groups: “Orientals,” Whites and Blacks. He then listed a series of attributes including brain size, intelligence, cultural achievements, aggressiveness, and social organization. Rushton found “Orientals” to be superior in all categories, Blacks to be inferior in all categories, and Whites in the middle. Not surprisingly, Rushton’s work – both the content and the methodology - has been challenged and debunked by reputable scientists around the world. And Mr. Rushton continues to cause problems. In 2002, Rushton left his position at the university to head the Pioneer Foundation in New York, an organization listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch list. The Pioneer Fund gave Rushton over $1 million to support his race and intelligence research and has also funded the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and “American Renaissance”, a magazine that calls itself a “journal of race, immigration and the decline of civility.”
Instead of Kundu’s ridiculous claims of racial inferiority, the Marysville School Board should look for guidance from the nearby Everett School District. Everett has taken strategic steps to increase graduation rates by implementing “Success Coordinators” who provide extra school connections and support for students who might otherwise drop out. Everett’s success is significant not only because the district experienced an overall increase in graduation rates, but also because the students in the racial groups that Kundu classifies as genetically inferior have been graduating at a higher rate than their counterparts in Marysville. Proving the point that when all students feel valued and welcome they are able to reach their academic potential.