Medved: A Cruel Delusion on “Equalized Achievement”

The New York Times recently reported good news on the education performance gap between black-and-white children—a gap that’s narrowed by 50 percent over the last 30 years. But the distance between privileged kids and disadvantaged children of all races has only gotten wider: offspring of college graduates are seven times more likely to earn college degrees themselves, than are the children of high school drop-outs.

Professor Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University says the problem begins before kindergarten. “If we could equalize achievement from zero to 14, that would go a long way to closing the college enrollment gap,” she says. But this is an absurd idea: even in the same classroom, there is never “equalized achievement.” Heredity is a major factor: children of parents who struggle with poverty will generally have less native ability than offspring of driven high-achievers. But even siblings growing up in the same family don’t perform identically or equally, so expecting “equalized achievement” is a cruel delusion.