Two Gaps
May 10, 2010, 11:08 PM
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A reader writes:
By the way, your observation that it'd be simpler, cheaper, and more beneficial to society to raise everyone's test scores slightly than to raise black and Hispanic test scores enough to close the racial achievement gap got me thinking about the interesting differences in how American society handles a parallel gap in the area of gender and health—the fact that women have an average life expectancy over 6% greater than men.

A few comparisons, with the gender life expectancy gap listed first, the racial achievement gap listed second:

- no big deal vs. national scandal;

- caused by biology + cultural factors too deepseated to be worth attempting to change vs. no biological contribution, the primary causes being malleable features of socioeconomic environment + racial prejudice and racial insecurity;

- near-term goal is general advance for all vs. near-term goal is advancement solely of lowest-performing group/s;

- ultimate goal is that everyone achieve the longest life expectancy he or she is capable of vs. ultimate goal is that everyone be perfectly equal;

- "cure" sought through targeted and control-grouped experimentation of ways to mitigate damage done by known contributing factors vs. "cure" sought through sweeping programs with weak controls and a high romantic theorizing-to-empirical verification ratio