Oregon Fails Disadvantaged Students With Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, discreetly signed a bill in July dispensing with the requirement that high school students must prove they can read, write, and do math before graduating.  

Although Brown signed Senate Bill 744 with little fanfare on July 14, she neglected to log the law into Oregon’s legislative database until July 29. The delay coupled with her departure from the usual bill signing ceremony indicated Brown wanted to keep Senate Bill 744 quiet. 

When it came to light that the bill was signed into law, damage control ensued. The governor’s office tried justifying the law by saying it will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”  

How does removing a requirement proving students can read, write, and do high school-level math benefit these students exactly?  

Charles Boyle, Brown’s communications director, said, “Leaders from those communities have advocated time and again for equitable graduation standards, along with expanded learning opportunities and supports.” 

“Equitable” graduation standards apparently means eliminating them altogether.  

The governor and her staff are playing into the soft bigotry of low expectations, or the idea that disadvantaged students from racial minority groups aren’t smart enough or driven enough to succeed. Therefore, the only way to get them across the proverbial finish line is to make it impossible to fail.  

This idea is, of course, completely ludicrous. Minority students aren’t any less capable of academic success than their white peers. 

It is true that Oregon’s black and American Indian students historically have low graduation rates. A 2020 report says, “African American and Native American students were the worst off, with graduating rates of 70.4% and 67.7% respectively. That’s over 10% less compared to the graduation rate of white students at 81.3%.” 

While minority students generally do worse than their white peers, even the white kids fall short of the national mark. Local reporting indicated that around 83% total of Oregon’s high school students graduated in the 2019 to 2020 school year, compared to the national average of 86%.  

It is a shame Oregonians must fight over race and equity, when the very students this staggeringly awful bill attempts to help will be those most harmed by it. Giving a child who can’t read or write a pat on the back and saying, “Nice try in high school, better luck in college!” is cruelty, not kindness. 

Plentiful data indicates rubber-stamping students who don’t have basic skills sets them up to fail later in life. Leftists must ask themselves if these so-called equity initiatives improve the educational standards of Oregon’s students or if they just make graduation rates look better on paper. 

Oregon has failed its students on too many occasions to count. But of all the blunders and errors the state has made, this new bill is by far the worst. This bill is not simply a matter of failing to teach well enough. It’s a racist abdication of responsibility. 

Struggling students need to be told they cannot move onto the next level, whether it’s college, trade school, or employment, until they’ve achieved basic competency in core subjects. It’s not racist to hold a student back a year to give them a chance to catch up to their peers.  

“Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color” deserve better than a governor who thinks they’re too stupid to read, write, and do math

Oregon’s high school diplomas aren’t worth what they used to be. 

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