4

Like, for example:

Women/Poor students are held to low standards

I'm confused whether it means, not expected to be as good as other groups, or mistreated, or something else

Extra context:

Too often, students of color and students who face challenging circumstances don’t receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed. They are held to lower standards because of a Belief Gap between what society believes they can achieve and what they truly are capable of when we believe in them.

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    Where did you find that sentence? Did you make it up? A sentence like that could be interpreted in a couple different ways. Rather than try to explain them all, personally, I'd rather explain the phrase in the context you are asking about. – J.R. Feb 7 '17 at 11:06
  • @ J.R. I made those up. Here's the original: Too often, students of color and students who face challenging circumstances don’t receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed. They are held to lower standards because of a Belief Gap between what society believes they can achieve and what they truly are capable of when we believe in them. – Rose Feb 7 '17 at 11:16
14

"Hold some to low(er) standards" means that you expect less from someone (for whatever reason).

Take for example a native speaker and a foreign speaker. If a native speaker gave a presentation and uses poor grammar/pronunciation, it would likely be not well received, and he might get criticized for it.

If a foreign speaker made those mistakes, it would probably be overlooked by the audience with some goodwill. He is held to lower standards with regard to his language skills.

Note that "holding someone to lower standards" can be neutral (as above), but can also be derogative. It can be used to show that you think someone is inferior.

In your concrete case, it means that instead of helping people of color to better themselves it's just accepted that they are inferior and no help is offered.

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  • If I am listening to a lecture and paying for it, I want the language used to be grammatical and the word choices to be accurate. So I'd hold everyone to the same standard. IF however, you are a guest lecturer and the foremost expert in your field and English is not your first language, I'd lower my expectations for pronunciation, but not for grammar. I'd expect that expert to have had help translating, if that were necessary. I would understand problems during a Q&A, and yes -- cut the speaker some slack that I would not give an native speaker. – WRX Feb 7 '17 at 15:03
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    @WillowRex This was only an example. it doesn't need to be a lecture, it can be a conference/seminar or what ever. Furthermore, I don't see how getting help with the translation of his material helps avoiding mistakes during free speech. – Polygnome Feb 7 '17 at 15:13
  • I agreed with you in my comment. "during Q&A" -- means during the free speech/ question and answer portion. – WRX Feb 7 '17 at 15:14
8

Years ago when the authorities first started testing IQ in younger school children, it was 'proven' that lower income people had lower IQs. In the beginning that was taken at face value until some smart-enough person figured out that the children were equally as bright, but had different life experiences. You can't be asked what a washing machine does/is, if you don't have one available to you.

Humans do tend to think in generalities. I taught Special Needs kids. The most common assumption about a Down Syndrome person was/is that they are stupid. So people talk down to them and lower their expectations for things like behaviour or paying for merchandise. I can tell you that in my own experience DS people are smart enough to know you/we don't understand and that they can get a free ice cream, a seat on the bus or get you to tie their shoes -- simply because of how they look. Sure, they have a challenge that makes learning different and no, they aren't geniuses, but they can be as bright as an 8 year old. Plenty of 8 year olds look after their siblings, cook and work.

So, when some people hold other people to lower expectations, they hold back a lot of possible experiences and opportunities from those other people based on their own false assumptions.

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1

I think that this is a risky idiom. Read without context, it simply means that someone is considered to have done adequate work having done lesser work, or have behaved adequately when they otherwise would have not had they been someone else.

The phrase, "held to a lower standard", however, is a play on "held to a higher standard", which is often used as a kind of compliment. For example:

As a teacher, you are held to a higher standard of ethical public behavior than most other people. For example, even if most people break the law and smoke marijuana, you, as a teacher, should not.

So, the phrase "held to a lower standard" is a play on words, a kind of joke, and even an insult.

Additionally, the somewhat unstated ethos in the United States is that everyone should be treated equally, and that equal standards should be applied whenever possible. Thus, any exception to this is suspect, and requires explanation.

Moreover, many people would say that, if a person didn't have an "equal opportunity" (another politically loaded idiom), that the responsibility to help equalize the situation falls, not only on the individual, but society at large.

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