Politicizing medical education

Medical school is no longer where future doctors learn the hard sciences (“Medical Education Goes Woke,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 27).  Instead, they are being forced to develop “diversity, equity and inclusion competencies.”

I don’t know about you, but I hope doctors first and foremost know about disease and how to successfully treat it.  That should go for minorities in particular who have received worse care in the past.

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Student debt is not inevitable

Of the 45 million Americans who hold student debt, one in five is over 50 years old (“The Aging Student Debtors Of America,” The New Yorker, Jul. 27).  I wonder if they regret the choices they made.

I’ve long believed that pursuing a vocational curriculum in high school and an apprenticeship are a far better option for most young people.  They would avoid going into debt and would learn a skill making them immediately employable.  Anyone doubting that has not needed a plumber on a Sunday evening.

The truth is that college is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn. It is not an absolute determinant. Unless a young person wants to become a doctor or a lawyer, for example, I see no advantage becoming a wage slave to pay off a student loan.

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Merit pay is unfair

North Carolina is instituting merit pay for all public-school teachers in place of experience-based pay (“The Merit Pay Zombie Rises Again in North Carolina,” the progressive.org, Jul. 28). I understand why merit pay has such great intuitive appeal.  After all, why shouldn’t teachers be compensated for what their students learn.

The problem is that so much of a teacher’s effectiveness is the direct result of the students the teacher happens to be assigned.  If a teacher is given a class of Talmudic scholars, he or she is going to post outstanding results regardless of what is taught.  In contrast, if a teacher is given a class of future felons, he or she is going to flop.

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Arming teachers will backfire

Some 29 states now allow teachers to carry a gun on school grounds (“Trained, Armed and Ready. To Teach Kindergarten.” The New York Times, Jul. 31).  I understand the intent, but I maintain that it will create more problems than it solves.

I wonder how teachers with only 24 hours of training and eight hours of annual recertification will react when confronted by a shooter.  Let’s not forget that teachers’ No. 1 job is teaching their subject.  Asking them also to act as police is too heavy a responsibility.

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Homework has value

There’s a movement afoot to eliminate homework (“The Movement to End Homework Is Wrong,” The New York Times, Jul. 31).  It is said to exacerbate inequalities in students because it is linked to the socioeconomic status of students.

But there will always be differences in the backgrounds of students in public schools.  That’s no reason to abolish homework as long as it is not merely busywork.  If homework is properly assigned, it reinforces learning. So rather than intensify differences in the socioeconomic backgrounds of students, homework can actually make them more alike.

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College class size is often misleading

Colleges like to report student-faculty ratios as evidence of instructional quality (“Beyond Student-Faculty Ratios,” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,” Jul. 29).  But such data need to be taken with a grain of salt.

First, the data are based on an honor system.  There is no transparency. But in my opinion the greatest flaw is that even ideal ratios are no assurance of what students have learned.  Let’s not ever forget that teaching is the least important factor in granting tenure.

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Test-optional policies and affirmative action

Colleges are using test-optional admission as an end run around illegal affirmative action (“How colleges use SAT-optional applications to covertly impose affirmative action, New York Post, Jul. 22). It will no doubt increase the number of Black and Hispanic students on campus, but it is blatantly unfair.

Nevertheless, it will continue to be used because colleges are obsessed with racial diversity.  The Supreme Court made it clear in the Bakke case that quotas are illegal.  I see little difference between racial consideration and outright quotas because there will always be a certain percentage in the mind of admission officers.

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Urban public schools are losing students

The nation’s two largest school districts, New York City and Los Angeles, are hemorrhaging students at an alarming rate (“Why NYC’s public schools are losing kids – and how to get them back,” New York Daily News, Jul. 24). It’s easy to attribute the decline to the pandemic, which resulted in the closing of their doors.  But I submit there is a more fundamental problem.

The truth is that parents don’t believe traditional public schools offer a quality education.  That’s why they have enrolled their children in charter schools, private schools or in home schools. The curriculum that once was solidly grounded in the basics has been weakened by the obsession with racial issues.  I don’t see matters getting any better.

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College is not always a good investment

Anyone doubting that a bachelor’s degree is financially not what it claims to be needs to read what those interviewed by The New York Times said in its survey (“We’re Not Asking for the Moon,” Jul. 17). Onerous student debt has made it nearly impossible for young people to live on a scale even remotely close to what their parents had achieved at their age.

As readers of this column know, I believe that we’ve been wildly oversold on the importance of a bachelor’s degree. I wonder how majoring in, say, gender studies is financially worthwhile.  I urge more high school students to seriously consider a vocational curriculum combined with an apprenticeship. No student debt and a well-paying job.

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New York City test for teachers lacks validity

When white test takers passed at significantly higher rates than Black and Hispanic test takers on the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, the test was found to be  culturally biased (“Black, Latino Teachers Collecting $835 Million in Discrimination Lawsuit,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 14).  I maintain that it is impossible to design any assessment instrument that is totally devoid of such bias when it is taken by a diverse group.

Instead, I submit that the test does not permit valid inferences to be drawn about effectiveness in the classroom. That’s because so much depends on the students that any teacher happens to be given.  If a teacher is handed a group of Talmudic scholars, for example, he or she will shine in spite of their qualifications.  The only way to know beforehand if a teacher will likely be effective is to use performance assessment. 

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