Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Black college students get better grades with white roommate

That living with white work habits rather than more entertainment-oriented black habits might be beneficial for study is no surprise. As we read elsewhere, however, the whites concerned didn't like the experience

A new study of college freshman suggests that African Americans may obtain higher grades if they live with a white roommate. A detailed study of students at a large, predominantly-white university revealed that while living with a white roommate may be more challenging than living with someone of the same race, many Black students appear to benefit from the experience.

For African American students, this could translate into as much as 0.30-point increase in their GPA in their first quarter of college. White students, on the other hand, were affected more by the academic ability of their roommate than by their race. While the study results may seem one-sided, earlier studies by these researchers and others reinforces the value of students' experience with members of different races and ethnic groups.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University found that nearly one in every six interracial roommate relationships failed, meaning at least one roommate moved out, by the end of the first quarter. But African American students who were paired with a white roommate performed better academically than did those with a same-race roommate.

These African American students may be better adjusted to college because they live with someone who can help them learn about the challenges and norms of a different environment, said Natalie Shook, lead author of the study, who started the work as a graduate student at Ohio State. "It's already known that interracial roommate relationships are more difficult than same-race relationships. But despite the problems, we've shown that there are benefits in how well Black students perform academically," said Shook, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She conducted the study with Russell Fazio, a professor of psychology at Ohio State, who has been studying interracial attitudes and relationships for the past 15 years. The pair published the results in the October 2008 issue of the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. The pair collected data on college freshman in more than 2,700 dorm rooms at a large, predominately white university. They studied how successful relationships were for students who specifically requested to live with someone, as well those who were randomly assigned to a roommate. Room assignments were studied alongside the students' SAT or ACT scores, autumn quarter GPA in the fall of 2001 and 2002, and their ethnic background to test for significant differences between students in all room types.

The results showed that randomly assigned roommates were more likely to move to another room, regardless of the students' race. Fifteen percent of randomly paired interracial relationships dissolved, compared to the 8.1 percent and 6.4 percent of randomly assigned same-race white rooms and same-race African American rooms, respectively. But the researchers point out that the number of interracial room dissolutions was much lower than they expected. "The university in the study was experiencing a housing crunch that year, so more students probably may not have been able to change rooms for the first quarter. Some of the previous work showed much higher rates than did our work here. But of the 85 percent of those that did try to work things out, we see real, tangible benefits," Fazio said.

The researchers found that African American students who scored higher on their ACT (24 and above) and SAT (1040 and above) were more likely to be successful in college if they were randomly paired with a white student. Black students who scored lower on their ACT and SAT did not see any improvement in their GPA if they roomed with a white student. The findings suggest that the interaction between a white and an African American student may help orient these minority students to a predominantly white university, Shook said. By living with their white counterparts, the African American students are finding someone with whom they can study and learn from in ways other African American students cannot offer. "Particularly for minority students, there is a lot of added stress to belong and succeed at a predominately white university. This intergroup contact and exposure to diversity may help minority students adjust in ways same-race relationships cannot," Shook said. "And if we can help them adjust more quickly to find their university identity, then hopefully that can also translate into more academic success."

However, white students' grades were virtually unaffected by the race of their roommate. White students earned higher GPAs when assigned to someone who was more successful academically. "It's a predominately white institution, so their roommate is not a means by which they can get integrated into the community. So the race of the roommate proves irrelevant and the day-to-day environment becomes more important. If their roommate is very competent and studious, or less competent, more of a partygoer, that has a larger impact on their success," Fazio said.

Even though the race of their roommate did not affect them academically, the researchers believe that living with an African American benefits whites in another way. Fazio said previous research suggests that many of the automatically activated stereotypes that whites may harbor about African Americans, consciously or subconsciously, dissolve when they interact extensively with someone of another race. This interaction not only helps white students get over their initial fears and prejudices, it also affects comfort level with other minorities in the future. "It is definitely not easy for students at first; it is more stressful and more difficult to live in an interracial situation than in same race situations. But if people stick with it, their racial attitudes improve and it definitely outweighs any initial difficulty. This is just one way we can overcome our misconceptions and biases and learn to appreciate our differences earlier on in life," Shook said.


7 Canadian students suspended for refusing anti-Christian class

Officials are 'veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here'

Seven Christian students in Quebec have been handed suspensions in the last few days - and could face expulsions - for refusing to participate in a new mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture course that, according to a critic, is a "superficial mishmash of trendy theoretical platitudes" with the goal of convincing children that "all religions - including pagan animism and cults - are equally 'true.'"

Canada's National Post has reported on the developing confrontation between educators who have ordered students to take the course and students and their parents who object to what they see as a virtual indoctrination into a social and moral relativism. While seven students already have been targeted for punishment, hundreds more are demanding to be relieved of the obligation to attend the classes, and several parents have begun legal actions over the course.

Diane Gagne's 16-year-old son, Jonathan, is one of those hit with a suspension. He has refused to take part in the two-hour-per-week course because it teaches values that run counter to his religious beliefs. "He told me, 'Mom, I am still standing, and I'm going to keep standing and fight this to the end,'" said Diane Gagne. "We're prepared to go right to expulsion."

Lawyer Jean-Yves Cote is representing the family against the suspension imposed by the public high school in Granby, Quebec, as well as another family with a court challenge to the state demand. Under the course requirements, "it is the state deciding what religious content will be learned, at what age, and that is totally overriding the parents' authority and role," Jean Morse-Chevrier, of the Quebec Association of Catholic Parents, told the newspaper. In 2005, a change in the law eliminated a family's right to choose among "Catholic," "Protestant" or "moral" instruction in classrooms, a change that took effect last summer.

Quebec Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Tremblay told the newspaper school boards have gotten more than 1,400 requests from parents for their children to be exempted from the instruction, which emphasizes feminism over Christianity, and suggests Raelians are centuries ahead of other beliefs. She also confirmed school boards have rejected every request for an exemption. She explained it is not "religious instruction." "It is religious culture," she stated. "We introduce young people to religious culture like we introduce them to musical culture."

Officials at Voice of the Martyrs, who work daily against persecution of Christians worldwide, noted on a blog posting the students are to be applauded for their opposition to state religious teaching. "We believe that the state has no right to mandate religious education, force students to learn the content of other religious and to deliberately seek to undermine the religious convictions of those who refuse to accept a relativistic view of truth. It is the right and responsibility of parents to train their own children according to their own religious beliefs, not those of the state," said the posting. "Religious courses, if offered, should be optional or alternatives provided. But the state must not mandate what religious content will or will not be taught to children, especially against the wishes of their parents."

In the National Post, columnist Barbara Kay took school officials to task for teaching what she described as "a chilling intrusion into what all democratically inspired charters of rights designate as a parental realm of authority." She continued, "ERC was adopted by virtual fiat, its mission to instill 'normative pluralism' in students. 'Normative pluralism' is gussied-up moral relativism, the ideology asserting there is no absolute right or wrong and that there are as many 'truths' as there are whims."

"The program is predicated on the worst worst possible educational model for young children: the philosopher Hegel's 'pedagogy of conflict.' As one of the founders of the ECR course put it, students 'must learn to shake up a too-solid identity' and experience 'divergence and dissonance'. "The curriculum is strewn with politically correct material that openly subverts Judeo-Christian values. In many of the manuals, ideology and religion are conflated. Social engineering is revealed as the heart of the ECR program; in the most recently published activity book, for example, Christianity is given 12 pages, feminism gets 27 pages...."

She continued, "Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches 'are women like any other in daily life;' 'Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us.' And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence."

Cote said the issue could end up before the Supreme Court of Canada soon. He said his second case, in Drummondville, is to be heard before Superior Court in May, and will test if the course infringes guaranteed rights in Canada. Since the course is required for all students, not just public school students, 600 of the students at Montreal's Jesuit Loyola High asked for exemptions and all were rejected. Now the school has started its own court challenge. Principal Paul Donovan told the Post the mandates require relativism. "What it essentially says is that religion is just, 'You like tomato soup and I like pea soup, so don't be all offended because someone likes tomato soup. It's really just a matter of preference,'" he told the Post. "Religion could be Wiccan or Raelian or any of the new movements or atheism or agnosticism."

Sylvain Lamontagne told the Globe Campus education publication the course is religious fast food. "We can't do this to children. It will only confuse them," he said. "Religion isn't a Chinese buffet. You can't just pick one and then another however you want."

Kay cited the course's "gloss" of the Golden Rule: "Christianity's 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Judaism's 'Love thy neighbour as thyself ' and Islam's 'None of you is really a believer if he does not wish for his brother what he wishes for himself.' All are posited in the ERC text as the same acknowledgement of the common humanity of all God's children," she wrote. "But in fact, there is a deep interpretive chasm between Christianity's 'others' and Judaism's 'neighbour' - both of which refer to all people - and Islam's 'brother,' which refers only to fellow Muslims. Here is 'divergence and dissonance' truly worthy of 'le questionnement.' But encouraging real critical thinking is precisely what the ERC course employs duplicity to avoid," she wrote. "Quebec is veering into creepy Orwellian political territory here," she said.

The government requirement for teaching a potpourri of religious concepts as equal is just the latest effort on the part of the Canadian government to put new restrictions on Christians. WND previously has reported on a number of Human Rights Commission cases in the nation that have targeted Christian pastors and others for "hate" crimes for stating their biblically-based opposition to the homosexual lifestyle. Last spring, Pastor Stephen Boisson was ordered by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal to stop expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and pay $5,000 for "damages for pain and suffering" as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt.


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