This is a question that I have debated endlessly with my friends, but no one has ever come up with a satisfactory answer.  Usually, we just end up playing devil’s advocate and switching sides every so often.

So, my question to you: what is baseline ability?  Countless studies have shown that racial minorities do better on standardized testing when they are told that their scores do not reflect anything about their abilities.  The same studies have shown that the same minorities do poorly when reminded of the racial gap on standardized test scores, but white students do better under those same conditions.  Similarly, girls perform less well on math/science testing when reminded of gender gaps, and once again boys do better than if they are not reminded.

Clearly, there is a condition under which some groups do well and a condition under which they do less well.  So, you can have specific tests for each group that will cause them to do better or worse.  But which should it be?

You can make an argument either way, and really it ends up being pretty arbitrary whether the scores are on average higher or lower.  But there are also ethical problems associated with telling white students that they will perform better than black students, and the same with girls and boys.  I think it would be great if everyone can achieve their highest score, but at what cost?  Discuss!

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