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As a public school teacher I have always had some reservation about students being asked to list their "race" or "ethnicity" on certain school forms.  An exchange teacher from Chile, who worked at my school a few years ago, was shocked that children, or anyone, was asked to respond to questions such as those.  If the question is going to be required, however, it makes sense to have a range of responses that fit.  

In a local paper that I read on line, I found an article that states that when students/parents fill out student data forms, they MUST select one of the following categories in reference to race or ethnicity:  "African American or Black," "American Indian or Alaska Native," "Asian," "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander" and "White."  There is no option for "other", and the question cannot be left blank.

"I’m speechless," says (Vanessa) Aquino, a bilingual reading tutor who has four children at Clarendon-Portsmouth K-8 School in North Portland. "I just don’t like it."

If a parent or student leaves that section blank, an "observer" will be assigned to designate the box.  This might be a school principal, or even a school secretary.  The observer is supposed to look at the student and "guess" where his or her ethnicity fits on the federal form.

"That sounds weird," says Clarendon-Portsmouth Principal Antonio Lopez, who otherwise supports the new federal definition. "Who’s the judge of this?" he asks. "You can’t go just by observing. It’s ... unscientific."

Maybe a few more, worse things than just unscientific, I'm thinking.

The 2010 Census form has not eliminated these designations - in fact it includes Hispanic, Latino, Spanish - and has several more specific options under this category.

Either get rid of the whole ethnic designation thing, or make it meaningful to people who have to fill this stuff out.  

Originally posted to early voter on Sat Apr 17, 2010 at 12:58 PM PDT.

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