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Rich, black, and flunking.. June 16, 2007

Posted by The Armchair Economist in Culture, Education, Society.
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It’s not news that black kids under perform their white counterparts in American schools. Reasons given always include things like racism, less resources available etc. Here’s an interesting look at a highly controversial study that looked at the problems facing the highly regarded Shaker Heights school district. Although the median income for the black population was significantly above the national mean (most were highly educated, well to do doctors, lawyers, etc who came here specifically to enroll their kids in the schools) their children still vastly underperformed their white peers (ie: gpa 1.9 vs. 3.45). While he claims that there are multiple factors at work, his conclusion was that the children adopted a peer culture where effort and performance was equated as ‘selling out’ and ‘being white’, in addition to general parental disengagement in their children’s studies. He also has some interesting opinions as to the reasons for differences in performance by people who were ‘forced immigrants’ (ie: native americans, american blacks) vs. ‘voluntary immigrants’ (asians, immigrant blacks). As many of his critics put it, he isn’t the first sociologist to ‘blame the victims’, but it is interesting that he does have some (sparse) support among the black parents from Shaker Heights.

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Blind Faith: Americans believe in religion — but know little about it May 27, 2007

Posted by The Armchair Economist in Christianity, Commentary, Culture, Politics, Religion, Society.
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I’ve always wondered about the religious nature of Americans. While I have several close friends who are devout and intelligent Christians, being in the NY metro area and living a fairly secular life, it is hard for me to understand that there are so many Christians in this country (especially enough to give Bush the win in 2000). Its also ironic to think that if there are so many who profess to be Christians (and I assume to subscribe to the teachings of Christ against idolatry) that people like Paris Hilton can attain the status of social idols.

This article (actually a book review) begins with some startling facts, ie: that fewer than half of us can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible (he does go on to point out that fewer than 1/3 of Americans can name one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, so perhaps our ignorance isn’t limited strictly to religion). The author makes several other points along the same vein, but the main point is merely a call to improve the religious awareness of our country.

Assuming Americans are really this unaware, doesn’t it make you wonder about the democratic process when Americans use (their questionable knowledge of) religious values to decide certain policies that will govern our lives?

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