Can the Achievement Gap Be Closed? as Long as Our Curricula Continue to Minimize the Contributions of the People of Color, the Achievement Gap between Whites and Non-Whites Will Persist

By Asres, Alem | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, October 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Can the Achievement Gap Be Closed? as Long as Our Curricula Continue to Minimize the Contributions of the People of Color, the Achievement Gap between Whites and Non-Whites Will Persist


Asres, Alem, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


It is said that preparing the youth for good citizenship and for living a productive life is a universally recognized purpose of private and public schools. Therefore, to answer the question, "Can the achievement gap be closed?" we need to examine objectively both the purpose and the history of our educational system.

Noted German philosopher Johann Fichte saw education as a "reliable and deliberate instrument for fashioning in a citizen a stable and infallible good will." Lester Ward, an American sociologist, considered education the "only available means of setting the progressive wheels of society in motion." Justice Earl Warren saw education as "the very foundation of good citizenship."

How can America promote good citizenship and instill in all its youth an infallible good will toward each other if its educational system continues to exclude the contributions of people of color from textbooks and school curricula? Most important, how can we close the achievement gap if our youth, especially our students of color, do not see successful men and women they can identify with in their textbooks or in their classrooms? Even though we tend to agree that a just, balanced and self-empowering education is needed for transmitting knowledge and for molding good citizenship, most of our institutions remain Eurocentric, and our curricula remain unaltered. The negative and lasting impact of such exclusive curricula on students of color, especially on Black students, is not difficult to imagine.

Let me share with the reader my own experiences in attending a predominantly White institution of higher education. I came to the United States in my late 20s as a member of the Ethiopian diplomatic corps. When I left my diplomatic post to reside in the United States, I realized that the education I had received in Ethiopia was adequate enough for working in and representing Ethiopia abroad but did not prepare me for life in America. Sensing that I had no marketable skills to make my transition, I decided to go to school and retool myself. I was driven not only to fit in and be gainfully employed, but also to contribute to the society I wanted to be a part of. Moreover, I envisioned that the education I sought would be challenging, exciting and more empowering.

To my surprise, the excitement I expected began to fade away, giving rise to feelings of frustration, powerlessness and alienation. …

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