Monday, August 04, 2008

Can Obama Keep His Promise to Black Males?

There is a sense of optimism among many US blacks regarding the so-far successful candidacy of Barak Obama. This ecstatic burst of utopianism extends well beyond the US black community into Europe--even to Islamic terror organisations--but it is US blacks whose hopes are elevated to the most rapturous levels.

If Obama could do anything to help black males in the US, perhaps it would be worth it to elect him president just for that. What are the challenges?
In examining graduation rates, the report finds a national graduation rate for black males (47 percent) that is 28 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for white males (75 percent). In ten states, the difference in graduation rates for black males and white males is 30 percentage points or more...In addition to low graduation rates, black males also have "consistently low educational attainment levels, are more chronically unemployed and underemployed, are less healthy and have access to fewer health care resources, die much younger, and are many times more likely to be sent to jail for periods significantly longer than males of other racial/ethnic groups," according to the report. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
As a group, black males are the chronic statistical laggards of US society. Can Barak Obama do anything at all to help them? The problem is vast and begins at a very early age.
In the country as a whole, the number of Black students in Special Education classes is disproportionately high and the number in Gifted/Talented programs is disproportionately low. The number of Black students, particularly Black male students, who receive out-of-school suspensions and are expelled is also disproportionately high. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
A quick look at the chart above shows that as bad as young black males are doing in school, their sisters--born of the same parents, raised in the same homes, and eating the same foods--are actually doing fairly well.
Why are black girls doing reasonably well by comparison? Black girls, in contrast to the boys, get pretty good grades, go to college at decent rates and graduate from college at very good rates, earning degrees as twice the rate of men. _Source_via_JoanneJacobs
Black males are staggeringly over-represented in the prison population--44% of prisoners, and only 5% or so of the population (black males of prison age). The overall IQ average for American blacks is 85. That is 1 standard deviation below the overall mean of roughly 100. It very possible that the black male average IQ is even less than the overall US black average IQ, looking at comparative life success.

We know that executive function (EF) is more important than IQ for life success, although EF lacks a comparably accepted metric to IQ, so it is more difficult to compare EF statistics. EF can be improved by training (Posner, Rothbart), which should be done not much later than age 6. Even so, EF--like IQ--is highly heritable, so that there are limits to what training can do. Still, better trained than not.

Finally, if Barak Obama becomes US President next January, will the IQ's and EF's of black males magically and instantly normalise? Will we see abrupt drops in criminal and delinquent behaviour from black males? Will black males suddenly begin succeeding in school--from kindergarten through college? Will the exaggerated strut of young black males suddenly have a full complement of efficacy and competence backing it up?

Probably not. Not immediately, and not for a very long time. Then what will become of all of the magical expectations floating around the messianic candidacy of Barak Obama?

Obama has no substantive achievements, no particular experience or accomplishments to prepare him for the challenges he would face as chief executive of the world's only superpower. But never mind all that. Born of a white mother, raised largely by a white family, and only absorbing the victimist culture of black America secondhand--what has prepared Obama to pull black males out of the incredibly deep hole they are in?

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