Diversity is a worthy goal in determining who is admitted to schools, but instead it has become an obsession with unintended consequences (“Seven NYC Students Didn’t Get Seats in Elite Schools, So They Asked State for Help,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 22). I have reference now to the suit filed on behalf of seven New York City students who were denied admission to the city’s specialized high schools.
They rightly argue that the city’s Discovery program offering free summer tutoring to low-income students who just miss the test-score cutoff is responsible. By reserving seats for Discovery students, the school system has engaged in discrimination against them. If all the students in this group were black and Hispanic, then perhaps a case could be made for what the city has done. But the plaintiffs happen to be black, Hispanic, Asian, and white. And they are mostly from middle-income families.
Moreover, the 1971 law on which admission to the city’s specialized high schools is based makes it abundantly clear that the Discovery program may not “in any manner interfere with the academic level” of the eight schools. But three former principals said that Discovery admits many students whose test scores are too low for them to keep up. That alone should be the basis for denying them admission. How in the world are such students helped if they lack the wherewithal to compete in classes with rigorous instruction?
The truth is that diversity erroneously assumes all races are monoliths. That’s hardly so. Blacks and Hispanics are as different as whites and Asians. Yet we persist in the fiction that they all share the same abilities, attitudes, needs, and interests. It’s little wonder that outcomes too often are not what is expected. Changing the admissions system to engineer the “correct” racial balance of students will undermine standards.
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