by Christopher Paslay
Instead of working with minority students to improve skills, civil rights advocates want to lower the bar for everyone.
The crusade to make all students equal by infringing upon the rights of high achieving students has made its way to New York City. According to a September 27, 2012, piece in the New York Times:
A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory. . . .
Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, a far smaller percentage have scored high enough to receive offers from one of the schools. According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.
How is the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) racially discriminatory, exactly? According to the NYC Department of Education website:
The SHSAT is a timed multiple-choice test with two sections, verbal and math, that must be completed in a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes. In the first section, students demonstrate their verbal reasoning and reading comprehension by ordering sentences to form a coherent paragraph, answering questions of logical reasoning, and analyzing and interpreting texts. In the second section, students demonstrate their math skills by answering computational and word questions that require arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry . . .
In other words, the SHSAT is discriminatory because the reading portion requires students to write in coherent paragraphs, use logical reasoning to answer questions, and analyze text. What bias! On the math portion, students must know arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry, or put another way, they must know how to do math. How racially insensitive!
Damon T. Hewitt, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said of NYC’s elite high schools, “I refuse to believe there are only 19 brilliant African-Americans in the city; it simply cannot be the case. It is a shameful practice and it must be changed.”
I agree with Hewitt, it is shameful. It’s shameful that all cultural groups, according to ETS’s report “Parsing the Achievement Gap II,” don’t place a high emphasis on educational achievement; it’s shameful that all cultures, according to ETS, don’t value reading; it’s a shame that all cultures don’t always respect authority; maintain a two-parent nuclear family; actively participate in homework and school; regulate internet and television watching; emphasize nutrition and exercise; and stay mentally active over holidays and summer months.
Asian students, who are a racial minority in NYC but take up the majority of seats in the eight elite high schools, do take their studies seriously. According to the New York Times:
[Asians] cited their parents’ observance of ancient belief systems like Confucianism, a set of moral principles that emphasizes scholarship and reverence for elders, as well as their rejection of child-rearing philosophies more common in the United States that emphasize confidence and general well-being.
Several students said their parents did not shy away from corporal punishment as a means of motivating them. And they said that rigorous testing was generally an accepted practice in their home countries, with the tests viewed not so much as measures of intelligence, but of industriousness.
Industriousness. AKA: Hard work.
So how do people like NAACP lawyer Damon T. Hewitt, who claim to have the best interest of minorities in mind, respond to the situation at NYC’s eight elite high schools? Does he preach having young black and Latino children (and their parents) roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty with the business of making education a number one priority? Of learning arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry? Of answering questions using logic and writing in coherent paragraphs? Of eating right, and exercising right, and doing homework, and reading books, and staying mentally active over the summer and holidays?
No, Hewitt does none of these things. He calls the SHSAT’s discriminatory and files a complaint with the US Department of Education. In Hewitt’s mind (and in the minds of social justice advocates who preach a toxic brand of educational socialism), equal opportunity isn’t good enough; they demand equal achievement. Performance–and more importantly, preparation–doesn’t matter. Racial balance is the ultimate goal, even if it’s achieved by infringing upon the rights of high achievers. Never mind the sacrifice of elite students who’ve paid their dues and earned their admittance through years of hard work. Forget hard work and results. Hard work, like being on time, is simply a matter of cultural perspective.
Obsession with race and the misguided ideology of social justice is once again killing academic excellence in America’s public schools.