Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Ignore an Argument has Three Legs Does Not Make it So

At five feet of fury, Kathy Shaidle links to an "observation" about Latinos (I assume in America) and academic success:

* Latino and white infants share a fairly equal level of cognitive skills — vocabulary, listening and problem-solving skills. But by the time they’re toddlers, Latino children are lagging in all three areas, according to a study led by researchers at UC Berkeley ( 10.20.09) .
* The reasons? Larger Latino families and Hispanic-dominant mamás working full-time means there's less individual time with each child. Also, Latina mothers tend to be less educated than their white counterparts, so they read fewer books and share fewer stories with their children. That's fundamental for building a growing child's skills.
Ms. Shaidle's response, in a post titled, Last time I checked, lots of white women worked full time too:
But the real explanation can't possibly be genetic or anything!
Now, I'm disinclined to think that the explanation is genetic or anything.  I'm more inclined to think circumstance, social life and, possibly, culture are better explanations.  Nonetheless, Ms. Shaidle's implication is correct; I have no data or evidence that the explanation isn't genetic.  That's not really my issue with this post.

I have a good deal of respect for Ms. Shaidle.  She's been a prominent warrior for free speech and she uses that freedom with few inhibitions.  There's never much guesswork needed to determine what Ms. Shaidle truly believes.  However, I think this post of hers is disingenuous.

To be clear, I think the title of this post is disingenuous.

Of the "reasons" that are given to explain the disparity between the academic success of whites and that of Latinos, not one is that Hispanic women work full time.  Period.  Full stop.  The argument is that Hispanic families have a greater reliance on mothers than have white families and Hispanic families tend to be larger and an increased number of Hispanic mothers are working full time.  It is the convergence of these three 'facts' (along with Latino mothers having a tendency to be less educated than white mothers) that leads to the disparity in academic success.

This Hispanic-Dominant-Mama hypothesis might be complete bunk, but if Ms. Shaidle wishes to demonstrate that it's complete bunk, she needs to do more than attack just one facet (and, arguably, the weakest facet) of this complex argument.

Naturally, if there is anything resembling a nature vs. nurture debate, I have to post this:

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