Teacher Diversity In America

The Center for American Regress Progress (CAP), a left-wing think tank, is sounding the alarm about teacher diversity or rather the lack of it (see here). According to CAP, the findings of studies about teacher diversity are stark:  minority students make up 48 percent of the U.S. school-age population whereas only 18 percent of their teachers are minorities and the gap is only getting worse.

CAP claims that closing the diversity gap would benefit minority students. For example, more teachers of color would benefit students of color because there would be more teachers serving as role models to make students feel more welcome in the classroom. In addition, minority teachers would have “insider knowledge” which helps students do better on a variety of academic outcomes.

But CAP ignores the experience of Asian American students (who are included in CAP’s definition of students of color). These students, despite being taught by all those teachers who don’t look like them, rank among the best academic performers in the U.S. and Asian Americans as a group are among the highest income earners, primarily because of their commitment to education and academic achievement.

Ignoring Asian American success suggests that CAP’s position on teacher diversity is not based on evidence. More likely, it’s a matter of blindly following the idea that every ethnic and racial group must be represented in any institution or other setting according to a formula based on their representation in the larger population (“quota games” as once described by former president Bill Clinton).

This view forms the basis of the “disparate impact” theory of discrimination beloved by DOJ that seeks to hold employers responsible for disparities among groups for any reason. The idea also fits nicely with liberals’ genetically implanted desire to organize every last detail of our lives, no matter how small. For liberals, there is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

The attempt, however, to bring about proportional representation of ethnic groups in every activity under the sun is ill-advised. As economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, there are many geographic, demographic, cultural, and other factors that make “equal outcomes among races, classes or other subdivisions of the human species progressively less likely.”

The CAP report describes a number of reasons for the lack of teacher diversity and for once liberals don’t blame racism (at least not at the moment, which is refreshing). Although CAP offers policy suggestions to increase diversity, it concludes that what’s really needed to insure that “teachers standing in the front of the classroom mirror the students filling the seats” is political will.

Of course, if the standard is that people in front of an audience must mirror the audience, then one wonders how CAP views the disparities in professional sports, such as football and basketball, where the players certainly do not reflect members of the audience who not only “fill the seats,” but also finance the entire operation.

Perhaps CAP will formulate policy proposals to attract white kids to sports and develop their abilities, but we shouldn’t hold our breath. And as for teachers in our nation’s schools, it sounds like CAP is preparing the groundwork for what may turn out to be an unfortunate program of massive and systematic discrimination against white teachers.

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