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Home/Rod Dreher/Excellence Out, Envy Equity In

Excellence Out, Envy Equity In

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (Morning Joe screenshot)

There are people of all races and classes who hate excellence and achievement. They often want to compensate for their own grievance over inadequacy by denying those who are more gifted or talented the opportunity to make the most of their capabilities. This is envy, which is a vice, so they concoct a cover story to disguise their ugliness. In the case of New York City, whose mayor, Bill de Blasio, just announced his intention to end of its gifted school programs, they’re calling it “equity”. From the NYT:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he planned to overhaul New York City’s gifted and talented education system, a sea change for the nation’s largest public school system that may amount to the mayor’s most significant act in the waning months of his tenure.

The mayor’s action attempts to address what the city has known for decades: Its highly selective gifted and talented program has led to a racially segregated learning environment for thousands of elementary school students citywide. The program will no longer exist for incoming kindergarten students next fall, and within a few years, it will be eliminated completely, the mayor said.

Students who are currently enrolled in gifted classes will become the final cohort in the existing system, which will be replaced by a program that offers accelerated learning to all students in the later years of elementary school.

But Mr. de Blasio, who is term limited, will leave City Hall at the end of December. His almost-certain successor, Eric Adams, will choose what parts of the plan he wants to implement — or whether to put it in place at all.

More:

Barring any major reversal, the gradual elimination of the existing program will remove a major component of what many consider to be the city’s two-tiered education system, in which one relatively small, largely white and Asian American group of students gain access to the highest-performing schools, while many Black and Latino children remain in schools that are struggling.

Gifted and talented programs are in high demand, largely because they help propel students into selective middle and high schools, effectively putting children on a parallel track from their general education peers. Many parents, including Black and Latino parents, have sought out gifted classes as an alternative to the city’s struggling district schools, and have come to rely on them as a way to set their children up for future success.

But other parents and researchers argue that the programs worsen segregation and weaken instruction for children who are not in the gifted track.

New York, which is more reliant on selective admissions than any other large system in America, is home to one of the most racially segregated school systems in the country.

The move represents one of Mr. de Blasio’s most dramatic actions to address that, though it also puts New York more in line with how other cities are approaching their own segregated gifted classes.

About 75 percent of the roughly 16,000 students in gifted elementary school classes in New York are white or Asian American. Those groups make up about 25 percent of the overall school system, which serves roughly 1 million students. For years, those students got into kindergarten gifted programs by taking a standardized test.

The mayor’s earlier push to eliminate the admissions exam for the city’s most elite high schools, including Stuyvesant High School, failed after he announced the plan without first seeking feedback from the many thousands of Asian American parents whose children would be most affected. Those families spent months forcefully pushing back against the plan, and their opposition ultimately helped defeat it in the State Legislature.

The mayor’s other significant action on integration, a plan announced late last year to remove some admissions requirements at competitive middle and high schools, was rolled out without significant public comment.

While changes to admissions to the city’s specialized high schools are subject to legislative approval, Mr. de Blasio has full power over all other schools, including gifted programs.

Look at this graf:

In recent years, a growing number of activists pushing for integration measures have focused on the city’s gifted program, which provides a particularly stark example of how children are often separated by race and class within a diverse school system.

Wait a minute. The school system doesn’t separate students by race and class in those gifted programs. Students are separated on their ability to do advanced work. If admissions testing is blind, but this results in a disproportionate number of Asians and whites, how is that unjust? All these students, of all races, who would have benefited from gifted programs are now going to be denied them because the fact that black and Latino students don’t test in to those programs in proportionally pleasing numbers.

For the sake of satisfying the political goals of the levelers, and protecting the feelings of people envious of those children capable of performing at a higher level, gifted students must be made to suffer. And broader society, which stood to benefit from its more capable students being challenged and educated to the limits of their potential, then going out into the world to create, will now pay a price.

Look for an exodus of Asian and white parents from the city as they move to cities and suburbs that aren’t punishing kids for being good at school.

As longtime readers know, I was in the first class of a residential public high school for gifted and talented kids. It opened in 1983, and made an enormous difference in my life. We had white kids, black kids, and Asian kids. I don’t recall that we had many Latino kids, because in those days, Louisiana didn’t have a significant Latino population. We had rich kids, poor kids, and middle class kids. We had kids from big cities and from small towns. The one nod to any kind of equity was a quota they laid down to make sure there were slots open to gifted kids from each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. Was this unfair to some kids from more populated parishes? Yes. But I can see why they had to do it: to make sure the new school had a broad base of political support from state lawmakers. I don’t know if the school still has geographical quotas.

I can’t possibly express what a godsend that school was. This was obviously the case academically. I had spent my entire school career to that point being bored in my non-STEM classes, because I was really good at English, history, and the rest. Suddenly, when I went to this school, I was finally challenged in the classroom, and I not only performed at a high level, but I discovered that school could be a real joy.

The part that meant even more to me was that I was freed from an environment in which I was bullied. Smart kids often become targets for bullies. That wasn’t quite the reason the bullies came after me — part of it, but not the whole of it — but I talked to kids. in the new residential school who had had it much worse in their schools. I can well imagine that many of those gifted kids in New York City appreciated gifted programs for this reason too.

But we can’t have nice things, because of envy and identity politics.

Some version of this is happening all over, especially in colleges. Just this morning, walking to my gate at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, I saw a sign advertising George Mason University as Virginia’s “most inclusive” college. If this is true, it can only mean that the school has sacrificed academic standards to pursue Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. How could it not? You can either be maximally inclusive — as defined not by equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome — or you can be maximally excellent. But you can’t be both. Most institutions, for whatever reasons, need to find some balance between the two, but it’s hard for me to see what the appeal is of a university that says, basically, “We’ll take anybody.” Which is more or less what “inclusivity” means.

I am not good at math and science, and really suffered in my new school because of my lack. If I had been sent down from that school for underperforming in math and science, it would not have been unjust, and I certainly would not have wanted students who were exceptionally good at math and science to be held back because of my own deficiencies. Why should I? We can’t all be equally gifted in all things. That’s not how human beings are. That’s not how society is. What Bill de Blasio and the DEI levelers are doing is contemptible and unnatural, and it’s not going to do a damn thing to help black and Latino kids who are struggling in school. But you know how these wokesters are: they’ll be satisfied if the people they hate — the ones that make them feel bad simply by existing, and succeeding — are made to suffer. That’s enough for them.

We are destroying this country and what made it great, all because our institutions are administered by an intellectually corrupt elite in the grips of a malignant, semi-Marxist ideology.

Last point: one of the most egalitarian countries on the planet is the Netherlands. I’m not sure how they do it now, but when I was in high school, I learned from my Dutch friends that their country had a rigorous testing system that sorted kids by track as they neared high school age. If you tested into MAVO, that meant you would probably end up in trade school or something like it. HAVO was the next level up. The most elite level was Gymnasium. Everybody got to work at his or her own level. Was this unjust to kids who were late bloomers, or who tested poorly? Yes. But overall, the Dutch found this to be the best of all possible systems. What nobody did was complain that the MAVO kids were not sharing the same classroom as the Gymnasium kids. The Dutch are quite practical, and saw no reason why those kids capable of working at the highest level should be required to share a classroom with kids who could not, because that would mean the entire class would have to be taught to the level of the weakest students.

UPDATE: A reader comments:

As the parent of an academically gifted son and a resident of NYC, this hits close to home.

I don’t have much more to add beyond what you wrote, other than to say the incessant gaslighting and outright lying by propaganda mills like the NYT and NPR is beyond exhausting.

My son is in the advanced placement program at his middle school, which he tested into, but of course they no longer use the terms advanced placement because that supposedly makes kids from the ghetto feel bad about themselves.

Because of the interminable lockdowns and remote learning last year, the curriculum for this year is literally a year behind, on purpose. He volunteered, like many other high performing kids, to take the state exams last year, though they were not required, as they always had been, because of remote learning. Parents still haven’t been given the results of those tests as I write this.

My son is still performing above grade level, but is bored out of his mind. To add insult to injury, they have shoehorned a number of “problem” kids into his classes, because that’s a more equitable arrangement, supposedly.
By foisting unruly kids on the highest achievers, our comically incompetent city administrators get to pretend they are “doing something” in the name of DIE.

My son has noted that although none of the outrageous behavior is directed at him, several of these misbehaving kids, all of them black and brown, are making it difficult for him to remain focused during class. He is very frustrated with this, and doesn’t understand why the teachers won’t discipline the worst offenders. The teachers basically let the kids get away with anything short of violence with never ending warnings that never result in action. All of the kids see what is going on and it’s very demoralizing for them.

My son also notes that this type of mismanagement has never happened in years past. Problem kids who acted out were disciplined immediately.

Well, not anymore! it’s a new era, and thousands of parents who want to put their trust in public institutions are realizing it’s a losing game.

It’s a genuine shame, as until very recently, public education in NYC provided real opportunities to gifted and highly motivated children.

Now, the kids get kicked to the curb so that corrupt liberal pols and their equally ignorant progressive constituents can pat each other on the back for tearing down one of the best public ed systems in the U.S., all in the name of fighting non existent segregation.

Another reader:

Here in Ontario, for the same boneheaded misguided reasons, the province is doing away with so-called “streaming.” I can say, as someone hailing from a lower-class background, if it hadn’t been for the academic streaming in my school system, I would never have been the first in my extended family (I have 44 first cousins) to get a university education. (I was so bored before I was “streamed” up, that a few teachers actually thought I had a learning disability.) Because I’d never met anyone other than my teachers and doctor who’d been to university, I had no idea how to get onto an academic track. Without so-called streaming, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to go to a guidance counsellor and ask how to get into university: I would have been too ashamed of being looked at as “white trash”.

These measures only hurt the actual people–poor and working-class students and their families–who benefit from merit-based education initiatives. The elites may not consciously desire this end, but it certainly benefits them because, Lord knows, their kids all go to private schools and receive expensive private tutoring to ensure they can take their place in the neoliberal world order. Having the gifted kids (from the lower AND middle classes) shut out of a first-class education suits the elites because it means less competition for their dumb-ass kids.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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