“Everybody has won and all must have prizes”: The drive to end merit-based schooling

November 9, 2021 • 12:15 pm

There are two articles you can read that show how quickly merit-based educational assessment is vanishing in the U.S. The first, from the New York Times, discusses California’s downgrading of math instruction, turning it as well into an instrument for teaching social justice. The second, from the Los Angeles Times, describes the move to eliminate grading, or at least the lower grades of D and F so that everyone must have the prize of a “C” (required to get into the Cal State system of colleges).

Click on the screenshot to read the pieces. I’ll give a few quotes from each (indented):


If everything had gone according to plan, California would have approved new guidelines this month for math education in public schools.

But ever since a draft was opened for public comment in February, the recommendations have set off a fierce debate over not only how to teach math, but also how to solve a problem more intractable than Fermat’s last theorem: closing the racial and socioeconomic disparities in achievement that persist at every level of math education.

The California guidelines, which are not binding, could overhaul the way many school districts approach math instruction. The draft rejected the idea of naturally gifted children, recommended against shifting certain students into accelerated courses in middle school and tried to promote high-level math courses that could serve as alternatives to calculus, like data science or statistics.

The draft also suggested that math should not be colorblind and that teachers could use lessons to explore social justice — for example, by looking out for gender stereotypes in word problems, or applying math concepts to topics like immigration or inequality.

No matter how good the intentions, math—indeed, even secondary school itself—is no place to propagandize students with debatable contentions about social justice. The motivation for this, of course, is to achieve “equity” of achievement among races, since blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind in math. (Indeed, as the article notes, “According to data from the Education Department, calculus is not even offered in most schools that serve a large number of Black and Latino students.”)

Everything is up for grabs in California given the number of irate people on both sides. Some claim that school data already show that the “new math” leads to more students and more diverse students taking high-level math courses, while other say the data are cherry-picked. I have no idea.

Complicating matters is that even if the draft becomes policy, school districts can opt out of the state’s recommendations. And they undoubtedly will in areas of affluence or with a high percentage of Asian students, who excel in math. This is not a path to equal opportunity, but a form of creating equity in which everybody is proportionately represented on some low level of grades. I wish all the schools would opt out! There has to be a way to give every kid equal opportunity to learn at their own levels without holding back those who are terrific at math. I don’t know the answer, but the U.S. is already way behind other First World countries in math achievement. This will put us even farther down.

From the L. A. Times:


This issue is a real conundrum, more so than the above, because it’s not as easy to evaluate.  Here are a few suggestions of what teachers are doing to change the grading system—the reason, of course, is racial inequity in grades that must be fixed.

 A few years ago, high school teacher Joshua Moreno got fed up with his grading system, which had become a points game.

Some students accumulated so many points early on that by the end of the term they knew they didn’t need to do more work and could still get an A. Others — often those who had to work or care for family members after school — would fail to turn in their homework and fall so far behind that they would just stop trying.

“It was literally inequitable,” he said. “As a teacher you get frustrated because what you signed up for was for students to learn. And it just ended up being a conversation about points all the time.”

These days, the Alhambra High School English teacher has done away with points entirely. He no longer gives students homework and gives them multiple opportunities to improve essays and classwork. The goal is to base grades on what students are learning, and remove behavior, deadlines and how much work they do from the equation.

But I had always assumed that grades were based on what students were learning: that’s what tests do. You ask students questions based on what you’ve taught them and what they’ve read, and then see if they’ve absorbed the material.  I have no objection at all to basing grades on “what students are learning” so long as you don’t grade them on the basis tht you have different expectations of what different students can learn. (In fact, as you see below, that may be the case.)

As for behavior, well, you have to conduct yourself in a non-disruptive manner in class; and as far as deadlines and quality of papers and work, those are life lessons that carry over into the real world. You don’t get breaks from your employer if you finish a project late.  I always gave students breaks if they had good excuses, or seemed to be trying really hard, but can you give a really good student a lower grade because she’s learning the material with much less effort than others? Truly, I don’t understand how this is supposed to work.

There is also much talk about “equity” in grading, and I don’t know what that means except either “everyone gets the same grade”, which is untenable, or “the proportion of grades among people of different races must be equal”, which, given the disparity in existing grades between whites and Asians on one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the others, means race-based grading. That, too, seems untenable.  But of course this doesn’t negate my own approval of some forms of affirmative action as reparations to groups treated unfairly in the past. Nobody wants a school that is all Asian and white, and nobody wants a school that is all black or all Hispanic.

Again, I don’t know the solution except to improve teaching while allowing everyone to learn to the best of their ability. And that means effort must be judged as well as achievement. Here’s a statement from L.A. Unified’s chief academic officer:

“Just because I did not answer a test question correctly today doesn’t mean I don’t have the capacity to learn it tomorrow and retake a test,” Yoshimoto-Towery said. “Equitable grading practices align with the understanding that as people we learn at different rates and in different ways and we need multiple opportunities to do so.”

Somehow I get the feeling that this refers not to different individuals‘ capacity to learn, but on assumptions about the capacity of members of different races to learn—assumptions that are both racist and patronizing. This is supported by the fact that San Diego’s school board said this:

“Our goal should not simply be to re-create the system in place before March 13, 2020. Rather, we should seek to reopen as a better system, one focused on rooting out systemic racism in our society,” the board declared last summer.

Similar to Los Angeles, the San Diego changes include giving students opportunities to revise work and re-do tests. Teachers are to remove factors such as behavior, punctuality, effort and work habits from academic grades and shift them to a student’s “citizenship” grade, which is often factored into sports and extra-curricular eligibility, said Nicole DeWitt, executive director in the district’s office of leadership and learning.

It seems to me that you can’t solve the problem of unequal achievement by adjusting grades based on race. In the long term, that accomplishes very little. You solve the problem by giving everybody equal opportunities in life from the very beginning of life. Since minorities don’t have that, we should be investing a lot of time and money in providing those opportunities. In the meantime, some affirmative action is necessary to allow more opportunity than before, and because we owe it to people who have been discriminated against and haven’t had equal opportunity.

Censorship of schoolbooks by the Right

September 26, 2021 • 1:30 pm

I’ve been criticized for concentrating on “cancelling” by the Left and ignoring the same activities by the Right. If that’s true, it’s because I think the Left’s activities will help the Republicans in the next elections, while everybody in the liberal media concentrates on the Right. But it is true that we shouldn’t forget that the Right is guilty of some equally stupid attempts at censorship, several of them described in this article in The Daily Beast. Among the things that the Right-wing group “Moms for Liberty” are fighting to ban in schools are predictable ones: mentions of race, the struggle for civil rights, Native Americans, descriptions of segregation in schools, and so on.

But click on the screenshot below to read some new and unpredictable targets of Right-Wing opprobrium, including, for crying out loud, the reproduction of seahorses!

This article describes the battle in Tennessee’s Williamson County School District, in a state where there are already laws against teaching CRT (I object to any such laws).  Here’s some of the offensive stuff:

At the heart of that fight is a conservative group, led by a private-schoolparent, that has a sprawling list of complaints against common classroom books. Many of the books are about race, but other targets include dragons, sad little owls, and hurricanes.

. . .With school back in session, the Williamson County feud has been renewed, Reuters reported this week. And the scope of the proposed book ban is even broader and loonier than MFL’s June letter suggests.

Accompanying that letter is an 11-page spreadsheet with complaints about books on the district’s curriculum, ranging from popular books on civil rights heroes to books about poisonous animals (“text speaks of horned lizard squirting blood out of its eyes”), Johnny Appleseed (“story is sad and dark”), and Greek and Roman mythology (“illustration of the goddess Venus naked coming out of the ocean…story of Tantalus and how he cooks up, serves, and eats his son.”) A book about hurricanes is no good (“1st grade is too young to hear about possible devastating effects of hurricanes”) and a book about owls is designated as a downer. (“It’s a sad book, but turns out ok. Not a book I would want to read for fun,” an adult wrote of the owl book in the spreadsheet.)

You can find what I think are the 11 pages of spreadsheets here and here (enlarge a download), and you can see a pdf presentation of some of the offensive stuff here, along with some videos by The Offended.

But wait—there’s more! Foreign words don’t make the cut, and the parents also join those historians of science who say that the affair of Galileo does not show antiscientific behavior of the Catholic church!

Multiple books that contain Spanish or French Creole words receive warnings from the group for potentially “confusing” children. An article about crackdowns on civil rights demonstrators, meanwhile, is deemed inappropriate for “negative view of Firemen and police.” A fictional book about the Civil War (given to fifth graders) is deemed inappropriate, in part due to depictions of “out of marriage families between white men and black women” and descriptions of “white people as ‘bad’ or ‘evil.’”

At one juncture, the group implores the school district to include more charitable descriptions of the Catholic Church when teaching a book about astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was persecuted by said church for suggesting that Earth revolves around the sun.

“Where is the HERO of the church?” the group’s spreadsheet asks, “to contrast with their mistakes? There are so many opportunities to teach children the truth of our history as a nation. The Church has a huge and lasting influence on American culture. Both good and bad should be represented. The Christian church is responsible for the genesis of Hospitals, Orphanages, Social Work, Charity, to name a few.”

Finally, my favorite bit is the seahorse ban. As I’ve written before, both seahorses and pipefishes reverse the usual course of offspring care. In both groups, males have pouches to contain and incubate the fertilized eggs, and females compete for those eggs to get into those pouches. (This is because females can produce eggs faster than males can incubate broods.) Because here females compete for rare space in male pouches, sexual selection is reversed, and in seahorses and pipefish it is the females rather than the males that is the highly decorated sex (see here and here).

You can imagine the consternation this situation would cause for right-wingers: males get pregnant! Why, it’s almost like transexuality! And so they object:

MFL’s Williamson County chapter also takes issue with a picture book about seahorses, in part because it depicted “mating seahorses with pictures of postions [sic] and discussion of the male carrying the eggs.”

The Daily Beast reviewed the text in question via a children’s story time YouTube channel.

Readers looking for a Kama Sutra of seahorse sex will be disappointed. Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish In The Sea contains nothing more risqué than watercolor illustrations of two seahorses holding tails or touching bellies (never—heavens—at the same time).

The passage that “describes how they have sex” reads: “they twist their tails together and twirl gently around, changing color until they match. Sea horses are faithful to one mate and often pair up for life. Today Sea Horse’s mate is full of ripe eggs. The two of them dance until sunset and then she puts her eggs into his pouch. [JAC: OMG that is HOT!] Barbour sea horses mate every few weeks during the breeding season. Only the male sea horse has a pouch. Only the female sea horse can grow eggs.”

MFL recommends the book be reserved for older children, up to grade eight.

As your reward, here’s a video of a male seahorse giving birth to hundreds of miniatures (warning: sex-role reversal!):


h/t: GInger K.

A two-year old book burning in Canada

September 8, 2021 • 1:00 pm

In a comment on the Boghossian resignation post, reader Mike called this article to our attention as an example of Peak Wokeness. Unsurprisingly, it’s in Canada, which has turned out to be the epicenter of North American Wokeness, but Americans, being parochial, don’t know as much as they should about Canada. Usually what we find out is good stuff, but not in this case.

(Here’s a theory which is mine: Canada may be more susceptible to wokeness because of the citizens’ vaunted—and genuine—politeness. They are perhaps more likely to defer to the demands of those who are loud and persistent.)

Granted, this book-burning event took place in 2019, and the burners—”an Ontario francophone school board” (a SCHOOL BOARD!!!)—admitted it erred, but the news, as you see from the National Post article below, just came out. It’s pretty dire, for book-burning really does conjure up attempts at censorship, more so than a bunch of publishing employees protesting their company’s publishing a book they don’t like. It even conjures up Nazi book burnings, which were so numerous that the practice has its own article on Wikipedia.

It was all motivated in an attempt to reconcile the descendants of “settlers” with the Indigenous People (First People) of Canada. Representatives of the First People gave advice on the titles to be burned, supposedly for “educational purposes”—the education apparently being which books are offensive. From the article:

A book burning held by an Ontario francophone school board as an act of reconciliation with Indigenous people has received sharp condemnation from Canadian political leaders and the board itself now says it regrets its symbolic gesture.

The “flame purification” ceremony, first reported by Radio Canada, was held in 2019 by the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, which oversees elementary and secondary schools in southwestern Ontario. Some 30 books, the national broadcaster reported, were burned for “educational purposes” and then the ashes were used as fertilizer to plant a tree.

“We bury the ashes of racism, discrimination and stereotypes in the hope that we will grow up in an inclusive country where all can live in prosperity and security,” says a video prepared for students about the book burning, Radio Canada reported.In total, more than 4,700 books were removed from library shelves at 30 schools across the school board, and they have since been destroyed or are in the process of being recycled, Radio Canada reported.

Lyne Cossette, the board’s spokesperson, told National Post that the board formed a committee and “many Aboriginal knowledge keepers and elders participated and were consulted at various stages, from the conceptualization to the evaluation of the books, to the tree planting initiative.”

“Symbolically, some books were used as fertilizer,” Cossette wrote in an email.

Some of the books that were burned, and granted, many of them did have racist, bigoted, or offended images. But you’re not supposed to destroy the books, but rather counter them with speech or other books! Even Mein Kampf is still in print. Here’s what was seen as offensive:

A 165-page school board document includes analysis of all the books removed from shelves, Radio Canada reported.

Among them are classic titles, such as Tintin in America, which was withdrawn for its “negative portrayal of indigenous peoples and offending Aboriginal representation in the drawings.”

Also removed were books that allegedly contain cultural appropriation, as well as outdated history books, such as two biographies of Jacques Cartier, a French explorer who mapped the St. Lawrence, and another of explorer Étienne Brûlé.

I’m not sure what kind of cultural appropriation they’re talking about, but perhaps readers can enlighten me.

Cossette did apologize, but not really—it’s an apology of the form “we are sorry that some people were hurt by our book burning”:

“We regret that we did not intervene to ensure a more appropriate plan for the commemorative ceremony and that it was offensive to some members of the community. We sincerely regret the negative impact of this initiative intended as a gesture of reconciliation,” Cossette wrote. When are people going to apologize properly?: “We weren’t thinking properly and we did something wrong. It won’t happen again.”

And Justin Trudeau made a mealymouthed statement designed to placate everyone:

Asked about the book burning, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it’s not up to non-Indigenous people “to tell Indigenous people how they should feel or act to advance reconciliation.”

“On a personal level, I would never agree to the burning of books,” Trudeau said.

Actually, it’s perfectly fine for non-indigenous people to tell indigenous people that they’re making a tactical and political mistake, and I suppose that’s telling them in some sense “how to feel.” That is, you (and right now I) am saying, “You shouldn’t feel that burning books is a good way to reconcile with non-indigenous people, and you should also realize that book-burning never works and is counter to liberal, humanistic principles.”

Well, this is all done and dusted, as the Brits say, but I’d like to hear some Canadians compare their national Wokeness with that of the United States.


UPDATE: From Anne-Marie in Canada, who says, “From Serge Chapleau, la caricature of the day about the book-burning in Ontario.”

Should schools hide children’s issues about gender and transexuality from their parents?

August 31, 2021 • 12:30 pm

There must be tons of people who have Substack sites that I don’t know about. Reader Steve just acquainted me with the site of Abigail Shrier, called “The Truth Fairy.” Shrier, of course, is the person most demonized as transphobic by transgender activists, but unfairly so, for she is not in the least transphobic.

Rather, she became persona non grata because of her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our DaughtersIf you’ve read that book, and I have, you’ll see that it’s about questioning the narrative of teenage girls who desire to transition to the male sex while they’re still very young.  Some of these people, say Shrier, are sincere, while others may succumb to social pressure to transition (this pressure is often very strong) rather than ride out the pervasive angst of teenage years or, if they’re lesbian, go that route. It seems that wanting to change gender is seen as a heroic act, while not doing so, if you have doubts, is denigrated. And saying you’re a lesbian gives you no points.

This valorization of transitioning among teenage girls—and also boys, but Shrier’s book is mostly about girls—is the basis for “gender affirmative” treatment, which is basically a one-way push towards transitioning. Without proper therapy, counseling, or parental discussion, girls may be socially pressured into making irreversible decisions, including getting hormone therapy and surgery. For raising these questions, and suggesting that in some cases “gender affirmation” may not be a healthy way to go, Shrier has become Public Enemy Number 1 to transgender activists, replacing J. K. Rowling. (There will be another.) An ACLU official suggested that her book be banned, and it was briefly removed from at least two book-selling venues, including Target.

In her latest post (click on screenshot below), Shrier takes up another contentious issue, another one that cries out for public discussion.

The issue is “Gender Support Plans” used by many secondary schools, in which a child’s name, desire to change gender, preferred pronouns, and so on are kept on record and used in schools, but hidden from the parents. Here’s one example given by Shrier:

Last week, I spoke with another mother who discovered her 12-year-old daughter’s middle school had changed the girl’s name and gender identity at school. The “Gender Support Plan” the district followed is an increasingly standard document which informs teachers of a child’s new chosen name and gender identity (“trans,” “agender,” “non-binary,” etc.) for all internal communications with the child. The school also provided the girl a year’s worth of counseling in support of her new identity, which in her case was “no gender.” Even the P.E. teachers were in on it. Left in the dark were her parents.

This duplicity is part of the “plan”: All documents sent home to mom and dad scrupulously maintained the daughter’s birth name and sex. But Mom noticed her daughter seemed to be suffering. Although far from alone in declaring a new identity – many girls in the school had adopted new names and gender pronouns – this girl’s grades fell apart. She became taciturn and moody.

When the mother failed to uncover the source of the girl’s distress, she met with teachers, hoping for insight. Instead, she slammed into a Wall of Silence: no teacher was evidently willing to let a worried mom know what the hell was going on. (Finally, one did.)

I’ve heard of such incidents many times. A very important decision by a student is not only supported by the school, but hidden from the parents. That seems to fly in the face of what being a parent is all about. Shouldn’t parents know this stuff at least at the same time as the school, at the very least? And what right does a school have to hide such a momentous change from the parents? It is the school usurping a parent’s right. (Of course, if the student wants to hide a gender change from both the school and the parents, that is also her right. Further, if the child wants to discuss it only with a therapist, that is also fine, as therapeutic sessions are confidential.) But I know of no other case in which schools keep such information from parents. As Shrier says, “For Pete’s sake, the state requires that teachers ask parental consent before they offer a child Tylenol.”

The schools, of course have their reasons, but they don’t seem to be good ones:

Teachers and activists who support this policy typically make two arguments in its favor. The first is that the very fact that a teen would want to keep her new gender identity a secret from parents is proof that home is an “unsafe” place for her; that is, her parents, if they knew, would abuse her. The second is that this gender declaration is a deeply held and personal decision of the child’s. The school, in this scenario, is merely a polite bystander—at most, a kindly chaperone. It’s not the school’s job to ask mom and dad for their approval.

The first is absurd; the second, dishonest. Why would a teen agree to keep a secret from her parents, if not for the presence of abuse? Well, as one sharp Twitter user pointed out in response to the documents I posted, one can think of a few things a teen might want to keep secret from mom: an eating disorder; her decision to join a religious cult; her dabbling in drugs; a decision to send or post nudes; or have sex with a much older boy. Teens tend to keep from mom and dad a wide variety of healthy and unhealthy teenage experimentations—sometimes to avoid parental protest; sometimes, just for the pubertal frisson.

And in virtually none of these cases is the primary motivation to keep secrets from parents necessarily fear of abuse. Sometimes it’s to avoid—groan—another lecture or even a conversation. Other times, teens keep something a secret just to avoid a “No.”

I think Shrier is right here. How many of us can say that we didn’t keep secrets from our parents in secondary school because it might upset them, or lead to “discussion”? When I was in high school everyone was smoking weed or taking hallucinogens, but I would never mention that to my parents. (My dad finally caught me smoking once, and hit the roof!) Why would it be okay for the school to know this but not my parents?

The fact is that growing up is a process in which parents guide their children by their own best lights, and sometimes that involves difficult conversations. But why are parents not as good as teachers and principals at trying to understand and deal with a child’s transitioning? Shrier’s thesis (and that of other people) is that in many cases gender transitioning is a symptom of mental distress rather than a genuine feeling that you need to be transformed into a member of the opposite sex, and that perhaps parents would understand a child’s behavior better than school officials (though not necessarily better than a good therapist). Plus, as Shrier says, once a kid leaves middle school or high school, the teachers move on to a new batch of kids, but the parents have a lifetime interest in the child.

A peculiar power imbalance has arisen between public school teachers and the parents for whom the necessity of work renders them too dependent on these schools to question them.  Parents discover radical materials pushed on their children by accident, like passersby happening on a crime scene. They are treated as interlopers, trespassers; they are made to understand they have no right to be there; information on the ideology pushed on their kids is revealed on a strictly need-to-know basis. When parents do object to classroom gender ideology, they’re treated as morally obtuse or child abusers.

The contempt shown parents would be inexcusable even if teachers stuck to reading, writing and arithmetic. In a time when so many public school teachers are properly described as activists, that arrangement strips children of their families’ protection. And families must indeed protect them from an ideology that would turn students against any adult who suggests that a seventh grader suddenly jonesing for hormones and surgeries slow down. I have more than once wondered whether public schools that would openly pit students against their families, turn them against themselves and each other, aren’t doing more harm than good.

Shrier’s solution? A federal law that would allow parents access to their children’s public-school records.

Actually, there is such a law, but schools can get around it simply by not keeping the records “in a centralized location”.  While grades and courses may be kept centralized, schools are apparently careful to keep records about gender and the like in other places. (I have no idea what a “non centralized location” might be.) This kind of end run around the law is unconscionable.

At the end, Shrier gets a bit apocalyptic about the issue, but remember that it is her main interest as a journalist now, and, importantly, she has children.

This is where the most critical cultural battle will be fought. Not with reckless doctors, for whom lawsuits are coming. Not even with the therapists—in many cases, a luxury, parents can walk away from. It will be fought with America’s activist teachers. Will we allow the activists among them unaccountable access to the next generation of America’s children?

If conservatives and liberals hope to save this country, this is where they will place their energies: campaigning for federal legislation to grant parents full access to all curricula. And no, granting parents’ review over sex-education materials alone wouldn’t solve this problem, since the SOGI (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity) curriculum, for instance, is often inserted into other areas of the curriculum or disguised as “anti-bullying” education. We need legislation that grants parents a right to opt out of any instruction regarding gender and sexuality and stops schools from changing a child’s name, gender marker, or pronouns without the approval of a parent or legal guardian. This has nothing to do with “outing” students and everything to do with whether a school should be permitted to hoodwink the primary locus of love and responsibility in her life.

I’ve thought about this for a while, and I can see no reason for schools to keep this secret from parents unless there is a genuine danger to the child if she tells her parents. And how would you know that without telling the parents? If things become so bad that a parent becomes abusive about the issue, the child needs to be moved out of the home and given proper care (no not necessarily a regimen of “gender affirmation”).  But I can’t imagine that most parents wouldn’t be sufficiently concerned about the issue to try to help their child or get help for their child (the right kind of help: not “rah rah, cut off your breasts and take hormones” kind of help but help from an empathic and thoughtful therapist).

Do any readers feel that schools have a right to keep this information secret from a child’s parents?


UPDATE:  Bari Weiss announced in her newsletter that she will have a discussion (“cocktail hour”) with Shrier this week, so if you subscribe look for a link.

I’m excited that on Thursday at 8pm EST/5pm PST we’re going to host an event for subscribers only.

h/t: Steve

Oregon quietly eliminates all standards in reading, writing, and math for getting a high-school diploma

August 11, 2021 • 9:30 am

According to the two articles below (and others from sources that are more on the Right), Governor Kate Brown of Oregon has quietly signed a bill that eliminates the need for students to demonstrate minimal proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics to graduate from high school—for the next five years. Up to now, demonstration of that that proficiency has been required by administering “about five different tests or by completing an in-depth classroom project judged by their own teachers. ” Those requirements are going out the window, so I guess you can graduate if you’re both effectively innumerate and illiterate. The two sources I used in this post are below:

The Oregonian:

. . . and yahoo! news:

Not only did the governor sign the law (more heavily supported by Democrats and more heavily criticized by Republicans), but she refused to comment on it, nor did she give the signing any publicity like a press release or signing ceremony), though other bills passed at the same time were entered into the legislative database and sent out as email notifications to those following the bills.  This bill—Senate Bill 744—was not. From the Oregonian:

Gov. Kate Brown had demurred earlier this summer regarding whether she supported the plan passed by the Legislature to drop the requirement that students demonstrate they have achieved those essential skills. But on July 14, the governor signed Senate Bill 744 into law.

Through a spokesperson, the governor declined again Friday to comment on the law and why she supported suspending the proficiency requirements.

Brown’s decision was not public until recently, because her office did not hold a signing ceremony or issue a press release and the fact that the governor signed the bill was not entered into the legislative database until July 29, a departure from the normal practice of updating the public database the same day a bill is signed.

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked the governor’s office when Brown’s staff notified the Legislature that she had signed the bill. Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, said the governor’s staff notified legislative staff the same day the governor signed the bill.

It’s not hard to get the impression that the governor and her minions are hiding this bill, but of course the press got wind of it (probably from Republicans who voted against it).  And they have good reason to keep this bill quiet, as it completely eliminates any educational standards

Now you might also guess why the bill was passed. In fact, you don’t have to guess, as the governor’s own staff told us:

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked the governor’s office when Brown’s staff notified the Legislature that she had signed the bill. Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, said the governor’s staff notified legislative staff the same day the governor signed the bill.

Boyle said in an emailed statement that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

“Leaders from those communities have advocated time and again for equitable graduation standards, along with expanded learning opportunities and supports,” Boyle wrote.

You can see Senate bill 744 here.  It mandates a committee from the state Department of Education that will report to the Senate by September 1, 2022, devising new learning standards, and part of the report must include the following. Note that “proficiency in essential learning skills” is not required to receive a diploma up to graduation in 2024 (section 3). As I noted, that’s been extended to 2027.

However, The Oregonian notes that this requirement will actually extend three more years, until the class of 2027 graduates—five years from this fall’s incoming class (my emphasis).

Proponents said the state needed to pause Oregon’s high school graduation requirements, in place since 2009 but already suspended during the pandemic, until at least the class of 2024 graduates in order for leaders to reexamine its graduation requirements. Recommendations for new standards are due to the Legislature and Oregon Board of Education by September 2022.

However, since Oregon education officials have long insisted they would not impose new graduation requirements on students who have already begun high school, new requirements would not take effect until the class of 2027 at the very earliest. That means at least five more classes could be expected to graduate without needing to demonstrate proficiency in math and writing.

As yahoo! news reports, the measure did receive some bipartisan support, passing the state House by 38-13 and the state Senate 16-13. The bill was signed on July 14, but it’s being reported now because the news has apparently just leaked out.

What is going on here? It’s pretty clear that the elimination of proficiency in essential skills is—like the elimination of many standardized tests in high school and for college entrance—part of the dismantling of the meritocracy that goes along with the desire to create academic “equity”. I would guess that the black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students weren’t performing as well as Asian or white students in graduating, and, as Ibram Kendi tells us, inequities of this sort are prima facie evidence of racism. To eliminate the racism, you eliminate the inequities: in this case by eliminating any need for students to be literate and numerate.

This, of course, will create five years in which Oregon high-school graduates can get a high-school diploma without demonstrating the merest proficiency in the skills needed to survive as a citizen in this country. But the playing field has been leveled; all adhere to the same standards—or lack of standards. In this case, a high-school diploma, which previously indicated that the possessor had at least rudimentary reading, writing, and math skills, now means absolutely nothing, and employers will have to discount it.

It’ll be interesting to see what standards the Oregon Department of Education comes up with next year. Will those standards depend on the background of the student? What will be the “alternative methods for students to demonstrate proficiency in skills or academic content areas that are not related to career and technical education”?

Sometimes I despair that, over the coming decades, all standards will be eliminated in the name of equity—save those standards, like flying airplanes or being a surgeon—that must be maintained lest people die.  It seems to me far better to tackle the problem at the root: doing the hard work of providing equal opportunity for all Americans from the moment of birth, rather than doing this kind of invidious touch-up that does nothing to solve the problem of inequality and, in fact, damages public education.

As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats, but the Oregon tide is a falling one, and will mire all boats in the mud.

Once again, should teaching CRT be banned? Richard Hanania says it won’t work, but offers another solution that liberals won’t like

July 14, 2021 • 10:30 am

About a week ago, I posted a piece about Critical Race Theory (CRT) called “Should teaching CRT be banned?” As you know, and will see below, legislatures, all of them Republican, are in process of banning what they see as critical tenets of CRT.

My own view was that it shouldn’t be banned as I was wary about government mandating what should or should not be taught in schools. (Creationism and its variant of intelligent design are exceptions; the courts have interpreted both as forms of religion, and teaching them in public schools is thus violates the First Amendment.)  In saying that teaching CRT shouldn’t be banned but that teaching it, at least in its divisive form, was still bad, I agreed with Andrew Sullivan. There were, I thought, legal recourses against the most divisive aspects of CRT—the bits that set races against each other.  Lawsuits, I thought, could eliminate that kind of pedagogy.

I’ve had to rethink all this after I read the new article below by Richard Hanania on his Substack site (click on screenshot). In particular, I didn’t realize that governments have a perfect right to dictate what and what cannot be taught (so long as it doesn’t violate the Constitution), that they do this all the time, that mandating what can be taught also tells you what cannot be taught, and, adds Hanania, it doesn’t matter anyway because teachers, who are mostly liberals, will manage to teach what they want regardless of the law.

I can’t find much about Hanania’s politics. He seems to be a conservative but it’s not obvious, and at any rate it doesn’t matter when we’re weighing his arguments:

First Hanania presents a map showing where anti-CRT-teaching bills have been passed or are in the legislature (some states apparently are labeled for bills “with other discussions about racism”):

Then he makes his points, which I’ve characterized in bold (Hanania’s quotes are indented; mine are flush left):

Legislatures have a right to tell schools what and what not to teach, and they do it constantly:

Legislators tell schools what to teach and not to teach all the time. It’s sort of a basic function of government. Illinois just mandated “Asian American History” and California requires teaching of “LGBT History,” cementing the idea that American history should be understood through the lens of groups of people defined by their sexual preferences or racial characteristics (or, in the case of “Asian American History,” a made-up census category). As of 2019, California mandated “LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed,” which includes teaching kids about newly discovered genders and sexual identities. A Vox article tells the story.

Andrew Sullivan and I are thus confused in saying that CRT shouldn’t be banned but is still wrong to teach.

Some, like Andrew Sullivan, take the position that CRT is a pernicious and false doctrine, but that legislators should nonetheless do nothing about it. I’m struck by the discrepancy between his discussion of what’s being taught and his ultimate recommendations. Here’s how Sullivan describes CRT, implying that it is psychologically damaging to children and even potentially abusive.

The goal of education of children this young is to cement the notion at the most formative age that America is at its core an oppressive racist system uniquely designed to exploit, harm, abuse, and even kill the non-white. This can be conveyed in easy terms, by training kids to see themselves first and foremost as racial avatars, and by inculcating in them a sense of their destiny as members of the oppressed or oppressor classes in the zero-sum struggle for power that is American society in 2021.

Liberals want to teach Critical Race Theory because they think it is true, while others want to ban teaching it because they think it’s false. I can understand both positions. In contrast, the position “this is all pernicious lies but nobody should do anything about it” is puzzling to me.

Okay, I’ll accept that. Decisions by legislatures or school boards about whether to teach CRT should be made on the basis of whether it’s imparting facts that are right or wrong. But there’s the rub, for classic academic CRT is not what’s being taught in these schools, but interpretations of CRT filtered through the likes of Ibram Kendi and Robin Di Angelo. Anything racially divisive I see as wrong, but to call attention to the odious history of bigotry in our country should surely be done. Both are parts of “garden variety” school CRT.

Mandating teaching a subject or viewpoint explicitly prohibits teaching the other viewpoint. 

Notice that by mandating one thing, you ban another. A classroom that is required to teach gender is fluid and homosexuality should be accepted is banning traditional sexual morality. One that teaches that every major racial census category has its own history decides which groups are singled out for official identities (“Hispanic” and “AAPI,” but not “Jewish” or “Italian”), and denigrates the idea that American history should be taught from a more unified perspective.

The idea that government schools teach some things, but not others, and that a government school curriculum is set by government, has never been controversial. It’s only causing such debate now because instead of Democrats mandating that you teach identity politics and gender fluidity, it’s Republicans wanting to teach their own ideas.

Now maybe you think Critical Race Theory is true. In which case, you should oppose these bans. If you think it’s a false and harmful doctrine, then banning it is pretty much the job of government.

But of course this all depends on what aspect of CRT is being taught, and you’ll never know unless someone monitors the classroom.

Lawsuits aren’t a solution. As Hanania notes:

This highlights what is so strange about David French and other writers arguing that if CRT discriminates against whites, that’s already illegal under the Civil Rights Act, and people can just sue. As I have pointed out, the Civil Rights Act has been interpreted to not only allow anti-white discrimination, but actually mandate it in the form of affirmative action. As it turns out, people interested in enforcing civil rights law think discrimination against blacks is a major problem society has to constantly be on guard against, while discrimination against whites isn’t really a thing.

And of course to stop CRT teaching with lawsuits is a piecemeal effort, state by state, that may ultimately wind up in the Supreme Court; and you know what that means.

But it doesn’t matter, for what does matter is who is teaching the kids. And who is teaching the kids are, of course liberals who will impart aspects of CRT to students if they can. Although secondary-school teachers aren’t as liberal as college professors, they definitely lean Left:

A 2017 survey of school teachers and education bureaucrats showed that they voted for Hillary over Trump, 50% to 29%. That’s actually not as lopsided as I would have guessed, but there’s evidence that Democratic teachers are more committed to politics than Republican teachers, just as liberals care more about politics more generally. In 2020, educators who donated money to a presidential campaign were six times more likely to support Biden than Trump. So while Democrats may have “only” a 21-point lead in voting preferences among educators, when it comes to those who care more about politics, it’s more like an 85%-15% advantage. And teachers are probably conservative compared to the kinds of people who write textbooks, design curriculums, and work in education departments.

With those kinds of numbers, there’s really nothing conservatives can do to make the schools friendlier to their ideas and values. A CRT ban might mean a teacher won’t say “Ok, kids, today we’re going to learn about Critical Race Theory!,” but they’ll still teach variations of the same ideas.

The solution? Send your kid to private schools, or homeschool them, as such schooling is either generally more conservative or, at home, you can teach your kids what you want. It’s this solution that makes me think that Hanania is a conservative. He notes, though that private school enrollment has dropped in grades 1-8 and 9-12, as it’s expensive, but homeschooling has nearly doubled in the last two decades:

On the conservatism of private schools:

That being said, are private schools really any less liberal than public schools? Maybe not at the most elite level, as Bari Weiss has shown. Yet every indication is that private schools are in general more conservative. According to a 2015 study, “of the 5.8 million students enrolled in private elementary and secondary schools, 36 percent were enrolled in Catholic schools, 13 percent were enrolled in conservative Christian schools, 10 percent were enrolled in affiliated religious schools, 16 percent were enrolled in unaffiliated religious schools, and 24 percent were enrolled in nonsectarian schools.” Combining Catholic and “conservative Christian” schools, this indicates that at least half of private schools teach a sexual morality that would be illegal if promoted by a public educator, at least in California and other blue states.

In the end, Hanania’s solution, if you’re worried about CRT being taught more widely, is to put private schools on a more equal footing with public ones, perhaps using school vouchers to avoid the expense. That, of course, is not a solution I recommend, as I’m a big fan of public schools. And his solution is sure to sicken other liberals. But at least, says Hanania, it is a kind of solution, and nobody has offered any thing else that’s likely to stem the teaching of CRT. Hanania ends this way:

“Banning Critical Race Theory” sounds like a new, vigorous, and exciting idea, while “more school choice” seems like the same old conservative spiel.

But those who hope to change the public schools have no plan to make an overwhelmingly left-wing, and increasingly radicalized, profession reflect their preferences and values.

Trust me, I like finding new and original ideas to promote, and hate to come out for such a conventional and boring suggestion like “more school choice,” although I at least take comfort in the fact that I took an unconventional path to get to that conclusion. Nonetheless, please try not to judge the idea based on how edgy it sounds, but based on a clear understanding of how the world actually works.

My solution? Oppose the teaching on the grounds that much of it is false and it also has a pernicious effect on schoolchildren


Teacher fights for job after repeating student’s use of racial slur when reporting the student for using that racial slur

July 2, 2021 • 11:30 am

Of all the people who got in trouble for using racial slurs (usually the “n-word”)—and that includes NYT reporter Donald McNeil, who was fired for asking a student if someone else used the word—this case is the most bizarre and unconscionable.  It happened in the Kansas City, Missouri area of Lee’s Summit, and was reported on June 24 by KMBC News. Click on the screenshot to read:

It is the peculiar circumstances of the word’s use that make this case both unique and completely unnecessary. The details are simple:

1). Teacher and coach Joe Oswald, who’s been teaching for 20 years, heard a female student using a racial slur (another teacher heard it as well). The slur isn’t specified, but I’m guessing it was the n-word.

2). Oswald took the student to the principal’s office and wrote up a disciplinary report on the student using the specified “green slip”. After Oswald wrote the report, he read it back to the student twice, also as specified, to ensure that the student heard what she was being accused of (and, I suppose, to contest any errors).

3). Another student overheard Oswald reading the report back to the offender and also heard the use of the slur. Apparently that student reported Oswald to school authorities for using a racial slur himself—twice.

4). The student was suspended. But now Oswald is in big trouble as well.

5). A nine-hour public hearing ensued, and the school is now trying to decide whether Oswald should be “retrained”, disciplined, or fired. As KMBC reports,

The student who said the racial slur was given an in-school suspension. The school’s human resources director recommended Oswald get training. Superintendent Dr. David Buck has recommended termination.

The district said Oswald should never have said the racial slur.

“The reason we are here tonight is pretty simple. A teacher has engaged in conduct that the administration believes is wholly inconsistent with that vision and those commitments, and more specifically, with your board of education policy,” the school district’s attorney said.

“He said it was never OK to use that word. It was condescending, derogatory — a word that should never be used. He was upset that she had used the word. He was trying to be accurate. He’d been told to write down exactly what was said and that’s what he had done,” said Dr. David Carlson, executive director of human resources.

. . . . The school board will not render a decision immediately. The court recorder has until July 6 to give both sides a transcript of Wednesday’s hearing. The board then has seven days to meet in closed session and must publish their ruling within 72 hours.

This is absurd.  Oswald did what he was told to do. Or should he have simply written the word and not spoken it? What’s the difference, anyway?

In a case like this, absolute accuracy of reporting is crucial, and that’s why Oswald read the report back to the student—twice.

Despite NYT executive editor Dean Baquet’s assertion that “intent doesn’t matter” when using racial slurs, and that the feelings of the listener are sufficient to allow punishment of the “offender”, racial slurs are regularly used in court testimony. And surely in this case intent DID matter, because without reading the word verbatim, the student could contest the report. The word was used not just didactically, but also quasi-legally, in a school hearing for punishment.

Now the teacher may be punished as well as the student. I hope to Ceiling Cat that Oswald not only isn’t fired, but doesn’t get any punishment. The school should really apologize him for putting him through this misery.  Instead, he has to agonize for two weeks:

The school board will not render a decision immediately. The court recorder has until July 6 to give both sides a transcript of Wednesday’s hearing. The board then has seven days to meet in closed session and must publish their ruling within 72 hours.

Such is the country we live in. What a world! What a world!

h/t: Carbon Copy

Vancouver school board ditches honors math and science courses (English, too), fibs about why

June 20, 2021 • 10:45 am

From News1130 (a Vancouver, BC radio station) via reader Jeff, we have yet another case of academics trying to dismantle the meritocracy. It is no coincidence that ranking and tracking of students, whether it be by eliminating standardized testing or eliminating advanced placement (AP) classes, is all happening at an increasing rate. The reason to anyone with brains is transparently clear: this kind of ranking and sorting leads to inequities—differential representation of ethnic groups compared to their proportion in the population.  In the U.S. (and I suspect in Canada), there’s an average achievement gap between Asians (at the top), whites (middle) and blacks and Hispanics (lowest). I suspect this is due to cultural differences that will take years to remedy, but which must be remedied. But in the meantime, it’s inimical to eliminate opportunities available to all groups.

If you ranked or sorted students solely by achievement, then, you would get lower representation of students of color in colleges. That’s one reason why we have affirmative action. But you’d also get the AP classes in high schools filled largely with Asian and white students—another inequity. Abraham Kendi, in his How to be an Antiracist, asserts that inequities are evidence of racism—not just the long-term effects of past racism (as is surely the case in the U.S.), but current and ongoing systemic racism. This claim, while false, is almost untestable if you hold the belief that racism can be so subtle that it’s unconscious but nevertheless still powerful.

The elimination of the meritocracy, while it has some good aspects (I favor limited affirmative action), will have long-term dire effects not only on societal progress, but, as John McWhorter claims, on the self-image of minorities themselves, who don’t get a chance to show high achievement and are told, in effect, that they’re not as good as others. It’s an opportunity eliminated, one that should remain while we work on the root causes of inequality.

Here’s a short piece about the Vancouver School Board eliminating honors science and math programs in the only two schools that offer this option. (Honors English classes have already been eliminated.) Click on the screenshot to read:

While I favor some affirmative action, I do not favor eliminating opportunities, especially ones like these that could act to identify minority students who excel in STEM.  Being forced to take a non-honors course when you’re really interested in and talented at doing science is a good way to kill interest in it.

But the worst part is how schools always lie when they dismantle the meritocracy. Here’s the Big Lie promulgated by the Vancouver School Board:

The school board says the move will not mean less opportunity for students.

“By phasing out these courses, all students will have access to an inclusive model of education, and all students will be able to participate in the curriculum fulsomely. Teachers support the diverse needs of all students in their classes through differentiated instruction — and this includes enrichment,” a spokesperson writes in an email.

“Honours Math and Science do not provide enrichment – they are simply accelerated courses. It is important to note that a student who excels in math or science will still be able to learn at a level that challenges them and allows them to explore their potential.”

The pharse “inclusive model of education” not only gives away the real motivation, but denies students the opportunity to have their education tailored to their talents and desires. Such a system, if it’s to help those with the greatest educational handicaps, must perforce teach everyone geared to the needs of the lowest-achieving students. But in such a case a rising tide doesn’t lift all the boats. (By the way, does the school board know what “fulsomely” really means?)

Another arrant lie is this: ““Honours Math and Science do not provide enrichment – they are simply accelerated courses.”  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds like a tautology: a distinction without a difference. Why doesn’t acceleration provide enrichment? My own honors English and classics courses in college immensely enriched me beyond the non-honors courses I was used to taking.

As one academic claims, whose name indicates he’s Asian, this new policy actually increases inequality, reducing opportunities for talented but poor kids who can’t afford access to the private schools that provide the equivalent of honors courses:

Andy Yan, is the director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, and considers himself a beneficiary of these programs.

“Certainly in my experience the enriched and honours programs actually got us on to the first rung of social and economic mobility. The removal of these programs, I think, is a terrible decision that it doesn’t promote equity,” he says.

In a tweet objecting to the cancellation of the programs, Yan describes himself as an “East Van, blue-collar household, VSB kid. Scrapping this option, in his opinion, means less opportunity for kids whose families can’t pay for private school or extra tutoring.

“If anything it promotes, and increases inequality,” he says.

“Now, those that can afford these program will go to them, and those who can’t now don’t have any of these types of programs.”

Whether or not you favor dismantling the intellectual meritocracy (something also tried without good results in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China), we should at least expect a little honesty from those who support such a move. The profusion of dissimulation about this stuff is starting to really get to me. Not to draw too fine a comparison, but it reminds me a bit of Orwell’s 1984—not in terms of eliminating social classes, but in terms of promulgating obvious lies but asserting that they’re truths.


h/t: Jeff

Another educator risks his job by objecting to mandatory and ideologically narrow diversity training

April 13, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Bari Weiss has a guest writer on her Substack site Common Sense this week: high-school math and philosophy teacher Paul Rossi from Grace Church School in Manhattan, a coeducational private college-prep school that serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade. His topic is the antiracist training he’s required to take, but abhors as harmful, divisive, and above all stifling to students’ ability to think freely and explore ideas. Rossi, still employed at the school, recognizes that by writing this he’s “risking not only my current job but my career as an educator, since most schools, both public and private, are now captive to this backward ideology.” He’s the Jodi Shaw of Grace Church School, and I worry that he’ll suffer the same fate as Shaw: a resignation that’s more or less forced, or, alternatively, outright expulsion if he refuses to sign the school’s agreement that they cooked up for him.

Click on the screenshot to read.

Rossi says he’s more or less forced to “treat students differently on the basis of race” and to discuss their dissents not with other faculty, but with a special “Office of Community Engagement,” which always bats away his objections.  A longish excerpt (read more at Bari’s site) serves to show the problem:

Recently, I raised questions about this ideology at a mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting. (Such racially segregated sessions are now commonplace at my school.) It was a bait-and-switch “self-care” seminar that labelled “objectivity,” “individualism,” “fear of open conflict,” and even “a right to comfort” as characteristics of white supremacy. I doubted that these human attributes — many of them virtues reframed as vices — should be racialized in this way. In the Zoom chat, I also questioned whether one must define oneself in terms of a racial identity at all. My goal was to model for students that they should feel safe to question ideological assertions if they felt moved to do so.

It seemed like my questions broke the ice. Students and even a few teachers offered a broad range of questions and observations. Many students said it was a more productive and substantive discussion than they expected.

However, when my questions were shared outside this forum, violating the school norm of confidentiality, I was informed by the head of the high school that my philosophical challenges had caused “harm” to students, given that these topics were “life and death matters, about people’s flesh and blood and bone.” I was reprimanded for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs.” And I was told that by doing so, I failed to serve the “greater good and the higher truth.”

He further informed me that I had created “dissonance for vulnerable and unformed thinkers” and “neurological disturbance in students’ beings and systems.” The school’s director of studies added that my remarks could even constitute harassment.

A few days later, the head of school ordered all high school advisors to read a public reprimand of my conduct out loud to every student in the school. It was a surreal experience, walking the halls alone and hearing the words emitting from each classroom: “Events from last week compel us to underscore some aspects of our mission and share some thoughts about our community,” the statement began. “At independent schools, with their history of predominantly white populations, racism colludes with other forms of bias (sexism, classism, ableism and so much more) to undermine our stated ideals, and we must work hard to undo this history.”

Students from low-income families experience culture shock at our school. Racist incidents happen. And bias can influence relationships. All true. But addressing such problems with a call to “undo history” lacks any kind of limiting principle and pairs any allegation of bigotry with a priori guilt. My own contract for next year requires me to “participate in restorative practices designed by the Office of Community Engagement” in order to “heal my relationship with the students of color and other students in my classes.” The details of these practices remain unspecified until I agree to sign.

Can you believe that oath he has to swear to? What is this—the Cultural Revolution? Well, yes, a form of it. Rossi also notes that many students have told him that they’re frustrated at the school’s “indoctrination” but are afraid to speak up against it. They’re never allowed to challenge the tenets of Critical Race Theory in class.

What this does, of course, is to stifle discussion and also to force—nay, brainwash—students into a narrow ideological mindset from which departure is heretical. As a private school in Manhattan, Grace is undoubtedly very expensive and has a lot of smart students. Yet their inquisitiveness and their dissent is being squashed flat.

I’ll add one more excerpt which shows how a “Cultural Revolution” is overtaking this school, as it is with many others:

Every student at the school must also sign a “Student Life Agreement,” which requires them to aver that “the world as we understand it can be hard and extremely biased,” that they commit to “recognize and acknowledge their biases when we come to school, and interrupt those biases,” and accept that they will be “held accountable should they fall short of the agreement.” A recent faculty email chain received enthusiastic support for recommending that we “‘officially’ flag students” who appear “resistant” to the “culture we are trying to establish.”

I expect that soon students will be waving copies of “White Fragility” as they denounce their teachers, who will be forced to wear paper dunce hats and signs around they’re necks—if they’re not fired. Rossi describes his suggestion that Glenn Loury be included among his students’ reading assignments, but that the administration nixed it on the grounds that “the moment were are in institutionally and culturally, does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion and debate.” Apparently, discussing Loury would “confuse and enflame students.”

Can you believe that? The students are denied the chance to learn that black thinkers don’t all agree with each other. But again, that’s the Cultural Revolution, Jake.

You’ll be familiar with Rossi’s description of what is happening, as it’s what’s happening in Smith College, the Dalton School in NYC, and almost every other school where mandatory “diversity training” is instituted.  Pushing back can cost you your job, as Jodi Smith and others have learned. But it’s heartening that people are willing to risk this because they’re committed to a kind of liberalism that unites rather than divides.

Oh hell, I want to reproduce Rossi’s ending as well:

One current student paid me a visit a few weeks ago. He tapped faintly on my office door, anxiously looking both ways before entering. He said he had come to offer me words of support for speaking up at the meeting.

I thanked him for his comments, but asked him why he seemed so nervous. He told me he was worried that a particular teacher might notice this visit and “it would mean that I would get in trouble.” He reported to me that this teacher once gave him a lengthy “talking to” for voicing a conservative opinion in class. He then remembered with a sigh of relief that this teacher was absent that day. I looked him in the eyes. I told him he was a brave young man for coming to see me, and that he should be proud of that.

Then I sent him on his way. And I resolved to write this piece.

At the end of this post, Bari gives an email address where you can write to Rossi expressing support, advice, or commiserating with him if you’re in a similar situation: teachingfortruth@gmail.com


h/t: Luana

Unwarranted privilege: America’s elite college-prep schools

March 18, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Caitlin Flanagan, who writes about various aspects of education and culture for The Atlantic (check out her article “Meghan Markle Didn’t Do the Work“), used to teach at a ritzy private school in L.A.: the Harvard-Westlake School. (Have a look at their “notable alumni“!) She draws on her experiences there for her latest article, whose title doesn’t pull any punches. Click on the screenshot to read.

The private schools she’s writing about are “college prep” schools, and not just any college prep school, but those who try to provide students with a moving walkway to elite colleges like Harvard and Princeton—and beyond. Her point is that these schools are obscene in just about every way: in their bloated tuition, in their incessant demands for money beyond tuition, in the cowering of the administration to rich parents and donors, to the arrogance and racism of their students, and to the obsessive concentration on getting into the right school and getting the right grades to do that. (An A-minus on an assignment is apparently enough to bring angry parents bulling their way into the teacher’s office.)  And talk about privilege! Attending one of these places (tuition runs abut $50,000 per year, the same as an Ivy League college), puts you on the fast track:

These schools surround kids who have every possible advantage with a literal embarrassment of riches—and then their graduates hoover up spots in the best colleges. Less than 2 percent of the nation’s students attend so-called independent schools. But 24 percent of Yale’s class of 2024 attended an independent school. At Princeton, that figure is 25 percent. At Brown and Dartmouth, it is higher still: 29 percent.

The numbers are even more astonishing when you consider that they’re not distributed evenly across the country’s more than 1,600 independent schools but are concentrated in the most exclusive ones—and these are our focus here. In the past five years, Dalton has sent about a third of its graduates to the Ivy League. Ditto the Spence School. Harvard-Westlake, in Los Angeles, sent 45 kids to Harvard alone. Noble and Greenough School, in Massachusetts, did even better: 50 kids went on to Harvard.

. . . By the time their kids get to the upper grades, parents want teachers, coaches, and counselors entirely focused on helping them create a transcript that Harvard can’t resist. “This kind of parent has an idea of the outcome they want; in their work life they can get it,” Evans told me. “They’re surrounded by employees; they can delegate things to their staff.” In their eyes, teachers are staff. But the teachers don’t work for them.

And if you go to these places, you have an advantage that persists will beyond college admission:

All of this preparation doesn’t just help private-school kids get into elite colleges; it allows them to dominate once they get there. Over the past decade, O’Connor reported, two-thirds of Princeton’s Rhodes Scholars (excluding international students) came from private schools. So did two-thirds of the winners of the prestigious Sachs Scholarship, which provides two graduating students the opportunity to work, study, or travel abroad. Forty-seven percent of the winners of “class legacy prizes”—academic awards given to students in each class—attended private schools. This is why wealthy parents think it’s life-and-death to get their kids into the right prep school—because they know that the winners keep winning.

Flanagan recounts some horrific stories of parents badgering teachers, lying in wait for them outside their offices, calling them on the phone repeatedly, and so on.  I suppose they see the massive tuition as an entitlement to ensure that their kids get into the right schools. And if you donate money to the schools (“campaigns” for more bucks are incessant), you get better treatment as a parent, and—the worst part—your kid gets treated better as well. As Flanagan says, “Its not unreasonable for a big donor to expect preferential treatment for his or her child. And it’s not unusual for him to get it.”

Flanagan reviews the situation at a few other elite schools, like the toxic meltdown at The Dalton School in New York City that I’ve described before. She also describes convincing evidence of racism directed at the few black students, examples that make these schools even more obscene.

What’s the cure? Well, you could say “get rid of these schools”, but that would mean getting rid of private schools in general. While that’s an ideal, it’s not gonna fly—not so long as parents have money, local schools are crummy, and parents want their children educated in a religious school. But drastic improvements in public schools would help, for many parents send their kids to these schools because public-school education is not a viable alternative:

We have become a country with vanishingly few paths out of poverty, or even out of the working class. We’ve allowed the majority of our public schools to founder, while expensive private schools play an outsize role in determining who gets to claim a coveted spot in the winners’ circle. Many schools for the richest American kids have gates and security guards; the message is you are precious to us. Many schools for the poorest kids have metal detectors and police officers; the message is you are a threat to us.

Public-school education—the specific force that has helped generations of Americans transcend the circumstances of their birth—is profoundly, perhaps irreparably, broken. In my own state of California, only half of public-school students are at grade level in reading, and even fewer are in math. When a crisis goes on long enough, it no longer seems like a crisis. It is merely a fact.

Shouldn’t the schools that serve poor children be the very best schools we have?

You betcha!

Although a reader extolled the article as being very well written, I found it so-so. It’s a bit discursive, leaping from topic to topic, and there some attempts to inject flippancy or breeziness into the text that don’t work. Still, if you want an idea how elite (i.e., rich) Americans are educated, this is a good place to start.