Stereotype Threat

Here’s a little story about Google.

The college has been donated a wireless router. I’s supposed to be setting it up, at some point, when my schedule allows. This morning, since the pressure of term was over, I had an idea while I was half alseep, or was it last night…? If we could run Linux on the router it might be able to host the college web page.

[ The reason I want to host the college page on a router rather than on a PC is that although our Internet connection is constant, our power supply is not. The power goes off now and then at all times of day and night. We have small UPS units that give us about 10min emergency power supply — enough to shut down a pc nicely so as not to leave a mess all over its disk because the cache didnt get writtn properly when (you know, when Windows says “to avoid seeing this message in future, don’t do what you just did.”). The router is a little computer with no hard disk. Its OS and configuration is stored in special kind of memory that doesn’t get clearned out when the power off; if the power goes off and on, it will just reboot and restart. ]

So I started to search on the aforementioned search engine for the model number and make of our router, the words ‘linux’ and ‘hack’ (like you do). I found:-

  • That the thing already runs linux! (I’m trying to find the right firmware image to download so I can get a shell on it)
  • The hope of this guy who works on Haskell (one of my favourite programming languages) and, via his site I learned about…
  • Stereotype Threat

Stereoype Threat is some sort of theory about why black americans do worse than their white colleagues in standardised tests. It also seems to be something of a banner for those who want to eliminate the possibility of a geniune difference in ability between black and white students (or indeed people in general) and explain away the differences in their test performances. The concept has been applied to other groups of whom there exists a well known stereotype for behaviour.

Here at Holy Rosary College, I deal with the education of (black) kenyan female diploma students. OK so I don’t have mixed groups and I don’t get to compare black students with white, women with men, diploma students with those studying for degree programmes in the same cultural context. I compre them, constantly, with my memory of teaching mixed sex, mixed race degree students in the UK. It’s hardly a fair comparison. Despite the fact that I can see the unfairness of that comparison, the performance, attitude and behaviour of my students constantly frustrates and annoys me. To the point where I have started to entertain the idea that maybe they are genuinely less able than …. (fill the blanks yourself). At which point, my liberal Jimeny Cricket kicks me for thinking the unthinkable. Stereotype Threat might get me off the hook. Reading the article and other summaries I found (by searching on Google) I started to wonder if I could turn off the threat of assessment in my class assessments and see if my students would do any better.

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