Saturday, August 25, 2007

The So-Called Achievement Gap is Closing - Fast

It's true. You don't need No Child Left Behind laws, extensive testing schemes, or US Department of Education payoffs to see this is true. A simple article in the New York Times explains it all, Iraq War Brings Drop in Black Enlistees by Sarah Abruzzese.
The sharpest decline in black recruitment has been experienced by the Army, which has the most troops deployed in Iraq; black recruits dropped to 13 percent of the Army’s total in 2006 from 23 percent in 2001. In the Marines, with the second-largest force in Iraq, the share of black recruits decreased to 8 percent from 12 percent in the same period. There were also declines in the Navy and the Air Force, though not as great as those in the two other services.

The commander of the Army’s recruitment efforts, Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, himself a black graduate of West Point, said there were several reasons for the change, including a healthy job market competing for youths but also African-Americans’ disapproval of the war. General Bostick said parents and educators who had recommended the military in the past might be less inclined to do so today.

In a recent CBS News telephone poll, 83 percent of the blacks surveyed said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq; only 14 percent said it had done the right thing in taking military action. Whites, by contrast, were closely divided: 48 percent said military action had been right, and 46 percent said the United States should have stayed out. The poll was conducted Aug. 8-12 with 1,214 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The poll numbers show up in the daily hardships of recruiters trained by Sgt. First Class Abdul-Malik Muhammad, based in Birmingham, Ala. “With blacks, there is not really a great support for the war,” Sergeant Muhammad said, recalling one prospective recruit who was told by his parents that they would sever all ties with him if he enlisted.

There were few such warnings half a century ago, when, as a trailblazer in equal opportunity employment, the military offered a chance for education and training. “You could go right off the street and into the military and make something of yourself,” said Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

One vocal opponent of the war, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said, “I still think that in many ways the armed forces is unfortunately one of the few viable options for young people growing up in inner cities who may lack resources for college and have few other opportunities for upward mobility.”

But for others, times have changed. Joining up is not even part of the discussion for high school students who attend Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, said the Rev. Dana Ashton, who works with young people. Students within her congregation go to college.

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