Problematic Tigers

SteelyKid is, as I have noted previously, half Korean, a quarter Polish, and an eighth each Irish and German. Her parents are irreligious, the extended family is Catholic (more so on my side than Kate’s), and she goes to day care at the Jewish Community Center. In other words, a thoroughly American sort of upbringing. I can’t wait to see what she finds to rebel against when she hits the teenage years.

For no obvious reason, three of the four kids she’s most likely to play with on the playground when I pick her up in the evening (we play at the JCC for a while before going home, to give Kate time to get home and change clothes and stuff) have parents whose primary language at home is not English. Earlier this week, another parent asked me if Kate spoke another language, wondering how SteelyKid dealt with the bilingual thing; I explained that Kate’s really from Boston, and we’re a monolingual household. SteelyKid makes up for that by talking twice as much as any of her playmates.

(Seriously, she chatters almost constantly, with a wonderful sort of free-associative quality to it. The other day she asked what a large brown piece of paper in one of the classrooms was, and I said that it was some sort of art project, but I didn’t know what it was. She looked at it for a minute, then said, “It’s probably going to turn into a bear.” Which was the start of a five-minute monologue about how it wasn’t going to be a big scary bear with sharp teeth but a little tiny bear, not scary, and how the bear would play with her and her friends. It’s a little like my own personal Axe Cop every afternoon.)

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I was thinking about when I followed a link from Steve Hsu to this New York Magazine piece by Wesley Yang about cultural obstacles to success for Asian-Americans. This obviously isn’t a direct problem for me, but I wonder a bit about what sort of expectations people will put on SteelyKid as she gets older.

Unfortunately, I think it’s a deeply, deeply problematic article.

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Annual Mis-Reporting on Graduation Rates

It’s NCAA tournament time, which is time for everybody to break out the moralizing stories about the pernicious aspects of college athletics that they’ve been sitting on since the football season ended. The Associated Press (via the New York Times) clocks in with a particularly discreditable entry, a story on a study of racial disparities in graduation rates in major college baskeball:

An annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found a 2 percent overall graduation rate increase to 66 percent for Division I players, but showed the rates for white players is increasing at a higher rate.

The gap has grown from 22 percent in 2009 to a current level of 32 percent. White players show a 91 percent graduation rate, which is up 7 percent. Black players have a graduation rate at 59 percent, up 3 percent from last year’s study. This is the third straight year the gap has increased.

Sounds bad, right? Of course, it makes the classic error of such stories, which is an inappropriate comparison between groups. Given that there are huge disparities in graduation rates for black and white students in general, the proper comparison is not between black athletes and white athletes, but between black athletes and black non-athletes and white athletes and white non-athletes (and so on, through however many racial categories you want to go through).

So, this sounds like a sloppy and biased study. Only it’s not. Being the oldest of Old Media organizations, the AP and NYT don’t deign to link to their sources, but a little Googling turns up the original study, or at least a press release about the study, which includes on page three the follow quote from Richard Lapchick, the lead author:

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