Hope, Anguish, and the Problem of Our Time: An Essay on Publication of The Black-White Test Score Gap
Teachers College Record
The Black-White Test Score Gap, edited by Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips, raises a series of important questions as to the cause and consequences of observed differences in measured achievement. Jencks, Phillips, and colleagues provide the most successful and sustained assessment of the claims of racial difference attributed to Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve. Even so, striking similarities between the two books reveal the inability of current analyses to truly deepen our
... ly deepen our understanding of race in America. In the metropolis of the modern world, in this the closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a congress of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation and outlook of the darker races of mankind. The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, the question as to how far differences of race-which show themselves chiefly in the color of the skin and texture of the hair-will hereafter be made the basis to denying over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization. -W. E. B. Du Bois, 1900, Address to the Nations of the World Although Du Bois identified the problem of the twentieth century with international sweep, as the century comes to a close American social scientists are still trying to determine just what the American problem is. Even a boundless optimist must be disheartened that now, nearly a century after Du Bois' call, many leading scholars in the most powerful nation the world has ever seen are still engaged in argument around the facts of racial inequality. Further, this continuing debate has created neither a new consensus nor a redoubled commitment to eradicating racial inequality; instead, in the last years of the twentieth century American scholars have resurrected an old query concerning race. Scholars now ask the tired question yet again: Is racial inequality in the United States driven by social factors, or does it flow from biogenetic differences between blacks and whites?