Eliminating Talent By Force
In that same book I quoted in an earlier post, From Under The Rubble (which you can read online for free by following the link), there’s an essay on socialism by Igor Shafarevich. In it, he quotes Marx saying that communism aims to “eliminate talent by force.” Equality must be achieved above all things.
Reading the Shafarevich, I thought of the removal and/or relocation of photographs of white males from medical schools, on ideological grounds (I wrote about it here on Monday.) It won’t stop there. That’s just the first step. They begin by removing the images of certain figures, and will eventually get around to removing people like them from the schools, all in the name of equality.
Something like this might be about to happen in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group has recommended that the city eliminated gifted and talented programs for elementary schools, and stop using academic criteria for admission to middle schools. Why? Diversity, of course. Too many of the kids who get into the better schools and programs are white and Asian, not enough are black and Hispanic, according to progressive dogma. Christine Rosen writes:
All the city’s selective schools are already open to anyone regardless of race. But because the majority of students who gain admission to schools that screen applicants are white and Asian, the panel reasoned, merit-based admissions procedures must be racist. Indeed, the advisory panel describes merit-based testing and other screening procedures used in New York City’s public schools as “exclusionary admissions practices,” not because they found any evidence of racial bias in the screening procedures but simply because the outcome of screening does not perfectly reflect the demographic make-up of the city. According to the New York Times, the panel argued that a screening system based on academic ability “is not equitable, even if it is effective for some.”
The Progressive Caucus of the city council agrees. In a letter to the diversity panel, it urged “caps on the allowable concentrations of high-achieving and low-achieving students in the same schools.” New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza, who would implement the panel’s recommendations if the mayor approves them, already thinks too many students are labeled “gifted.”
In other words, the progressives’ answer to the problem of racial gaps in educational achievement is a Harrison Bergeron-like downward social leveling that would ensure that excellence and competition are eliminated in favor of mediocrity and “diversity.” Since more than half of the city’s public school students can’t pass the state math and English exams, and only 28 percent of the city’s black students passed the math exam (compared to 67 percent of white students and 74 percent of Asian-American students), the leveling effect will likely be significant.
Punishing excellence by demanding that everyone conform to the lowest common denominator is a recipe for educational failure and societal stagnation. By this logic, schools will eventually have to eliminate grades and other forms of ranking, since outcomes will never match progressives’ diversity requirements.
This is identity politics in action. It will punish, or eliminate, talent by force. It’s the old socialist claim — that hierarchy is always and everywhere the result of injustice — applied to racial politics.
For years, New York City has essentially maintained two parallel public school systems.
A group of selective schools and programs geared to students labeled gifted and talented is filled mostly with white and Asian children. The rest of the system is open to all students and is predominantly black and Hispanic.
Now, a high-level panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio is recommending that the city do away with most of these selective programs in an effort to desegregate the system, which has 1.1 million students and is by far the largest in the country.
The panel’s report, obtained by The New York Times, amounts to a repudiation of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s education agenda, which reoriented the system toward school choice for families, including more gifted and screened schools, to combat decades of low performance.
Some of those policies deepened inequality even as student achievement rose. Mr. de Blasio has been sharply critical of his predecessor’s philosophy on education, but must now decide whether to dismantle some of the structures that Mr. Bloomberg helped to build.
You can have excellence, or you can have equality, but you can’t have both. De Blasio seems to be aiming for equality by denying the concept of “good schools”:
Though Mr. de Blasio has vowed to create a school system where the idea of “good schools” and “bad schools” becomes obsolete, dozens of schools are extremely low-performing, and many more are struggling.
As the city has tried for decades to improve its underperforming schools, it has long relied on accelerated academic offerings and screened schools, including the specialized high schools, to entice white families to stay in public schools.
But at the same time, white, Asian and middle-class families have sometimes exacerbated segregation by avoiding neighborhood schools, and instead choosing gifted programs or other selective schools. In gentrifying neighborhoods, some white parents have rallied for more gifted classes, which has in some cases led to segregated classrooms within diverse schools.
Progressives don’t allow one to ask why white, Asian, and middle-class families are avoiding those schools, or that gifted classes lead to segregated classrooms within diverse schools. The progressive mind can only imagine that these outcomes are racist, and therefore must be eliminated so New York City can build a pedagogical heaven on earth.
One more note:
Still, the so-called School Diversity Advisory Group acknowledged that the city would have to take pains to prevent middle-class families from fleeing the system.
If those students decamp to private schools or to the suburbs, “it will become even more difficult to create high-quality integrated schools,” in New York, the report said. The panel wrote that “high-achievement students deserve to be challenged,” but in different ways.
The panel blamed the failure of G&T programs in schools serving poor neighborhoods on economic privilege:
The reforms of the early 2000s brought over 20 new G&T programs meant to cater to underserved communities, in further hopes of expanded enrichment opportunities for a more diverse group of children. Three years later, most of these new programs were unable to fill a single spot in their incoming classes, because the majority of students in these neighborhoods and districts were low-income and not able to invest in equitable test-prep resources. Since the mid-2000s the number of G&T programs has nearly halved, with most surviving offerings operating in affluent white neighborhoods.
There’s no doubt that well-off parents have the resources to help their children prepare for tests. But the panel does not consider the role of culture — within the family, and the students’ communities — in affecting the outcomes. It’s widely known that Asian families put a premium on education, and that that means Asian kids generally study more and work harder to achieve. Why should they be punished for that?
NYC is a left-wing town, as we all know, but it’s also the case that middle-class progressives get real protective of their own children, and may find some rationale to fight this proposal, at the expense of their own stated principles. But perhaps not. Because left-wing identity politics demonizes achievement by people of the “wrong” ethnicity, it might not be possible to fight this — not if the price of resisting it is bearing the cost of being publicly condemned as racist.
It’s down to the Asians to lead the resistance, if there is any resistance at all.
UPDATE: Reader Another Dave comments:
I live in NYC and have kids in the public school system. Asians are already pushing back hard, and have attended several public forums en masse to jeer at and heckle Carranza, and openly call him a bigot, which he clearly is.
Both DiBlasio and Carranza are loathsome midwits, and deserve whatever vitriol is directed at them.
The NYPost has covered most of this in detail, but a number of Asian community groups have formed activist committees, and are making as much noise as humanly possible, and then some.
I could go into much greater detail about my own experiences with the public school system here on the UES, but it would take up too much space and potentially bore everyone.
I socialize with several people, all of the black and Latin, who have worked in education in NYC for decades, and have had whatever remained of their progressive rose colored glasses shattered by dealing directly with poor black and Hispanic communities. Suffice it to say, poor black and Hispanic communities, outside of some individual exceptions, simply don’t place a premium on scholastic excellence and academic rigor.
Again, there are exceptions, and there are certainly students with parents from Africa or the Caribbean who do not fit into this category, but generally speaking, no matter what the racial ideologues and the woke activists say, poor and working class blacks and Hispanics just don’t have the same regard for academic achievement. The parents will tell you to your face that they do, and then you see how they raise their kids and how they approach homework and test prep, and it just doesn’t compare to what Asian and white parents do with and for their kids. It’s two different worlds.
Black and Hispanic parents obviously love their kids, and do what they think is right, but they simply lack the same degree of focus and stick-to-it-iveness, and yes, even intellectual horsepower, that Asian and white parents have.
This is an important story, because it reveals just how far racial activists intend on going to achieve parity. They will detonate the entire system to do so, and this doesn’t really bother them in the least. To them, the disparities prove the system is not just broken, but evil, and must be overturned. Asian and white excellence is a continual slap in the face, and it cannot be allowed to stand, no matter the consequences.
The mayor, his attack dog Carranza, and all of the racist black and Hispanic activists have a deep, emotional commitment to their utopian vision, and reason will not be allowed to prevail, up to and including chasing the highest performing whites and Asians right out of the entire system and into private education.
This is a microcosm of a larger societal drama, and all of Rod’s self deceptive liberal commenters would do well to acquaint themselves with the details, because this is where our entire society is headed if we don’t put the brakes on.
UPDATE.3: Reader Joshua Xanadu comments:
Rod – Asians ARE leading the resistance against de Blasio and his anti-Asian education commissar Richard Carrenza, but white writers — both progressive and conservative — are ignoring coverage of Asian responses, although for the different reasons. The former because Asian Americans have always complicated their oppression/victim narrative, while the latter because they probably just don’t communicate with any Asians. If you want to know what we’re thinking and doing, follow Asians Against Affirmative Action on FB or @AsianAmProject on Twitter. Interview writers like Kenny Xu or Ying Ma, or an activist like Swan Lee (@swanlee99), who started Asian American Coalition for Education. If Asians are mentioned at all, it will be under some assumptions that Asians overachieve because they are wealthy and have paid test-prep advantages (they’re NOT… actually Asians in NYC attending public schools are the poorest demographic, with immigrants parents in menial labor while growing up in families who don’t speak English). Moreover, the underlying stereotype of Asians as robotic test-takers is also not far behind — itself used to denigrate the sacrifice and hard work of individuals who happen to be Asians.
I like to see the actual demographic breakdown on Asians vs. Whites in the NYC gifted student program, but I suspect it’s actually vastly represented by Asians, which is true for the demographics of magnet high schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech. White students are a much smaller minority, so that the impact of Bill de Blasio/Carranza regime is to specifically discriminate and reduce Asian Americans. If you are against these diversity fascists, I’d advise you not to confuse the matter by talking about white students as well — that only plays into the SJW narrative.