Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Achievement gap achieved household status a decade ago

I've been having some fun using the NYT archives to look at the usage history of phrases that seem to me to have been used regularly for as long as I can remember but that are, to those a generation older than, relatively new to the media lexicon. The phrase "achievement gap" falls into that category. The following graph shows the occurence of articles containing the phrase "achievement gap" as a fraction of the total number of articles written during the same period of time.

Prior to 1966, it had never been printed in the Grey Lady. There were a handul of references to it during the late sixties through the seventies (used in the same context that it is today). During the Reagan administration, it was mentioned only four times over eight years, and was a rarity until 1999, when I'd guess it popped up ahead of the 2000 general election. In 2001, as No Child Left Behind was being hammered out into legislation with bipartisan support, it became the recognizable phrase it is today. Without context, most people today are able to associate the phrase "achievement gap" with better scholastic performance among whites than among blacks (or more broadly, of ice people compared to sun people).

The achievement gap has remained incorrigible for a century and has been and continues to be so stable over time that La Griffe du Lion has referred to it as the fundamental law of sociology. And it's here to stay, indefinitely. We can thank, among many other politicians and educrats, the late Ted Kennedy and former President George Bush for the handy phrase now being as entrenched as the actual gap it refers to is.


Razib said...

my exp. is that most people don't know the detailed score gap though.

Underachiever said...

"And it's here to stay, indefinitely. "

Or at least until genetic engineering comes along.

rxnm said...

This suggests that the gap is not stable, but I'm not conversant with most of this research.