Thursday, September 24, 2020

Dumbing Down the Student Body

Asra Nomani and Glenn Miller are the parents of children who attend America’s greatest public high school. That would be: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.

They have put pen to paper to write on Quillette that a group of alumni from TJ, as it is called, are now up in arms because the student body is insufficiently diverse. Their solution: dumb down the admissions process, introduce more holistic criteria-- like skin color, and downplay the importance of standardized tests.

This is not unique. In New York City, where we have great high schools like Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science, the idiot schools chancellor, one Richard Carranza is hard at work trying to figure out how to dumb down the student body-- to make it more diverse.

Like TJ, the New York City schools place the greatest emphasis on a standardized test score. And like TJ, the student body is around 70% Asian, 20% white and the rest, minority.

One will pass over the obvious point, namely that this makes the student body around 80% people of color. Naturally, the Asian children who succeed are not classed as people of color because they are not claiming that they are the victims of racism. As for people of color, one does not quite understand why blacks are people of color-- given that black is not a color. It is the absence of color.

But, let’s not overcomplicate the issue. It’s really about shifting the blame for the underperformance of certain minority groups. And telling the children in said groups that they cannot compete on a level playing field.

As for why it seems so necessary to shift the blame, the proponents of this aberration must believe that it is therapeutic, because it increases self-esteem. Despite what they all tell you, increasing self-esteem by doling out unearned praise is the problem not the solution. The solution involves allowing these children and their parents to feel as though they have failed, and thus to experience shame. Then, they can correct their habits and reform their culture. We have seen it work in Success Academies in New York. We have seen it work in KIPP Academies. We have seen it work in Mikaela Academies in Great Britain. We have read about it in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. 

Authors Nomani and Miller explain what is happening:

Since early June, a small but vocal group of TJ alumni have worked with activist school-board members, state education officials, politicians, and even TJ’s principal, to undermine the school’s selective admissions process. Their language consistently channels fashionable academic doctrines such as critical race theory (popularly known as CRT), which presuppose that all of society’s institutions are embedded with implicit forms of white supremacy.

It is part of the war against merit. As you know meritocracy is under constant attack these days. Apparently, the results of fair competition do not fulfill the ideal of diversity. Ergo, there is something wrong with diversity. That there might be something wrong with the nitwits who believe that an absence of diversity necessarily involves bigotry-- has never crossed their minds.

Anyway, America has used diversity quotas and affirmative action programs to undermine meritocracy-- for decades now. The resulting failure has produced an absurd movement to double down on failure, to get rid of all merit based admissions. That is, to ignore test scores.

One notes that the notion of standardized testing as a way to open doors in administration and universities began in China around a millennium ago. As someone once noted, if the daughter of the president of China does poorly on her college entrance exams, she will not be admitted into the best university. And yet, almost assuredly she will be admitted to Harvard. Go figure.

Anyway, the war against racism is a war against merit and against standardized tests. For your information, the highly estimable Heather Mac Donald has long since pointed out that said tests accurately predict success in high school, in college and in life.

In Virginia the proposal involves replacing an evaluation of aptitude with a random selection process. 

The result is a proposal to replace the existing race-blind, merit-based TJ admissions system of standardized tests, grade rankings, essays, and teacher recommendations with a process based on random selection from among applicants who have a core class GPA of 3.5 or greater (and are currently enrolled in algebra). Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Scott Brabrand has branded this proposed new system a “merit lottery.”

Currently enrolled in algebra does not say how well said child is doing in algebra. If you have a class where a large number of pupils have barely mastered algebra, you cannot teach calculus. Dumbing down the class will either lead to tracking or to depriving the best students of an education that will allow them to excel in school and in life. Otherwise, you do what Stanford did, you split the physics major into a standard physics major and a social justice physics major-- where you can learn about why you cannot do physics.

The new system will drop the number of Asian students, but will benefit low scoring whites. All in the name of fighting white supremacy. You imagine that this is a joke. If so, you are overestimating the intelligence of the people who are proposing these programs. Many of them were admitted to fulfill quotas, and now have fancy titles, but they still do not know how to think.

According to their calculations, the share of Asian students will actually be cut by more than half—to 33 percent, and will eventually drop even further. The share of black and Hispanic students would increase only marginally. And, ironically, white students would be the plan’s greatest beneficiaries, increasing from 18 percent to at least 45 percent of the student population. 

But the school principle at TJ, by name of Ann Bonitatibus, wants to devote more class time to indoctrination in critical race theory. No kidding:

The principal also suggested that the school’s racial demographics should more closely “reflect the racial composition” in the FCPS system as a whole—an ominous sign for Asians, who comprise only about 19 percent of students in the overall FCPS. Furthermore, Bonitatibus suggested that the school’s rigorous STEM curriculum be leavened with social-justice content regarding “diverse cultures and perspectives,” quoting an alumnus to the effect that “STEM alone is not enough.” Zhou said it all reminded her of China’s Cultural Revolution.

However do you expect these children to compete against their counterparts in Asia or even in Europe?


trigger warning said...

A "merit lottery"? That's an oxymoron.

Sam L. said...

I await the Asian-Americans starting up their own schools, where excellence is achieved.

Sam L. said...

"As for people of color, one does not quite understand why blacks are people of color-- given that black is not a color. It is the absence of color."
Hmmmm; I've always seen black as a color and white as NOT A COLOR. Ghostly white, I am.

whitney said...

It's always been a misnomer. The whole world is filled with people with brownish skin, black or brown eyes and black hair except for one group of people who have pink skin, green and blue eyes and yellow and red hair. It's like they're in Technicolor in a black and white world. White people are the true colored people

Giordano Bruno said...

Answer one question honestly. If American blacks were not around, would any of this be happening? Would the nation be bending over backwards to allow these idiots to distort every nook and cranny of our Civilization to accommodate one group? Trillions spent, and we still have glaring underperformance and endless emotional drama all day, every day. If it were just everybody except the native-born blacks (most African born blacks are another cat entirely) to sort this out, would we be turning ourselves into pretzels?

I say no with a very high degree of confidence. We'd have friction, but not 'destroy ourselves in lies' friction. I think native-born blacks owe all of us a huge apology for investing so much in their advancement the past 40 years and getting so little for it. At least Bernie Madoff didn't call his bilked investors racists after losing all their money.

I think maybe we have that conversation on race after all.

How's Liberia doing? Happy? Wealthy? Prosperous? Nah

Giordano Bruno said...

If it were just the academic gaps, and even if they proved immutable, I would be open to finding a way to provide both education and a career/occupation that pays well enough for a life of dignity for people on the lower end of the cognitive spectrum in a knowledge economy. Irrespective of race and ethnicity. Even if it meant subsidies. Human worth is not defined by the ability to code. Lot's of useful work to be done. People are more than IQ.

But when I add up the crime, disease, disruptive and violent behavior, tribalism, preposterous sense of entitlement, victim cults, a 75% illegitimacy rate, a profoundly stupid cultural landscape, sullen and paranoid political behavior, and now an open hatred of 'anyone not black'? And they seem proud of this? Sorry, I'm done. I choose 'or else.'

I will require written apologies in good faith to return to the table.