source: CT Viewpoints

I am concerned with the content of the article written by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas [Dec. 10,, “Increase in Minority Teachers Not Keeping Pace with Influx of Minority Students”]. The article advocated hiring more racial minority teachers, by means including lowering the required teacher qualifications, as a measure to boost the performances of racial minority students. While its intent was probably benign, it looked at the wrong direction for a solution.

The article attributed the academic performances of minority students to an inadequate number of minority teachers in schools. It reported, in a positive tone, on the Connecticut government’s effort in attracting more minority teachers by lowering the teacher’s qualification requirements, a measure not only unlikely to benefit the minority students but detrimental to ALL students.

If the performances of certain minority student groups lag behind other students, the issue should certainly be addressed. The government should promote thorough, objective, research to look into the root causes of the apparent performance gap, and formulate corrective measures based on the findings of the research.

Even if the research shows that increasing the number of racial minority teachers would be beneficial, it needs to be done without sacrificing the collective quality of the teachers.

It would be positive if the government uses its resources to help more minority candidates better prepare themselves so that they can achieve the required qualifications to become teachers. However, simply lowering the standards will compromise the overall professional competence of the teachers, and consequently harm the performance of all students, including minority students. Lowering the standards could also be insulting to the minority teachers. This measure would be blunt, careless, and defeat the purpose, and its effect may resemble trying to catch more fish using a sledge hammer.

It would also be interesting to examine this issue from the perspective of one of the minority groups, the Asian American students, a much smaller minority than say, the African-American or Latino-American student groups.

In Connecticut, Asian American teachers are extremely rare, so rare that most Asian-American students would experience no influence at all from any Asian-American teacher during their years in primary or secondary schools. However, an overwhelming majority of Asian-American students perform relatively well in schools. It is worthwhile to note that Asian-Americans have never been a “privileged” race in American history, and a significant portion of Asian-American students in Connecticut grew up in new immigrant families, whose social assimilation into the American society is no more advanced than other minority groups. Yet the performances of students in this minority group appear to be immune to the lack of teachers sharing their racial identity. From this perspective, it appears invalid to attribute the performances of minority students to the lack of teachers of their own racial identities.

We live in a competitive global environment, where countries are competing intensely on science, technology, economy, and social developments. The future of America depends on the preparedness of our younger generation, the students. There are evidences that the current level of academic achievements of American students are already lacking behind those of many other countries. Lowering the teachers’ qualifications will only exacerbate things, and position America in a greater disadvantage in the future global competition.

America is said to be a melting pot of different races and ethnicities. The society would benefit in uniting people from all background into one race, the Americans. Public policies that emphasize and artificially strengthen the racial framework imposed by government will not help to unite. While diversity, equity and inclusion certainly matter, resorting to public policies purely based on racial identities is not the universal remedy to every single problem we have.