05 April 2017

When academic success is news

Pretty regularly, American news media runs a story with some version of this headline:

Accepted into every Ivy League school

That’s obviously a big achievement for a high school student. But I have noticed this:

The students making the headlines are almost always minorities.

News coverage focuses on the unexpected. That news coverage so consistently focuses on minority students means that their success was not expected. Success is not normalized for them. Their success is some sort of bizarre, noteworthy exception.

Even while I appreciate the importance of visibility of success for minorities, the underlying message being sent – “We didn’t expect this kind of success from you” – is kind of crappy.

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