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