Merit is fairest way for admission to specialized schools

New York City is merely the latest venue for the debate over which students should be admitted to specialized schools (“NYC education groups hold opposing rallies over the fate of controversial admission rules,” New York Daily News, Oct. 23).  Across the country, the trend is toward placing greater emphasis on diversity than on ability.

I’ve never understood how we help students to gain admission to schools for which they are not suited.  We talk so much these days about building self-esteem in young people.  But when they realize they are over their heads and drop out, their egos are severely bruised.

I think all students are best served when they are enrolled in schools commensurate with their wherewithal.  If that does not produce the desired diverse mix of students, so be it.  Tracking is not racially-based.  It is an acknowledgement that students differ widely in their aptitude.

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4 Replies to “Merit is fairest way for admission to specialized schools”

  1. The rational reforms to increase minority representation in the academically-demanding schools would focus on the aspects of the minority students’ lives that are preventing them from succeeding academically. That would include improving maternal prenatal nutrition, improving child nutrition, improving child health generally, teaching low-SES parents how to parent the way that high-SES parents parent (particularly teaching them how to provide high-quality/high-quantity adult-child verbal interaction), providing high-quality child-care/pre-school starting at the earliest possible age (again, particularly emphasizing high-quality/high-quantity adult-child verbal interaction at the child-care/pre-school). In other words, implement reforms so that when the low-SES/inner-city/minority kid hits kindergarten, he/she arrives with the same vocabulary, cognitive skills, and neural development as the high-SES kids.

    Of course, that all either costs $ or couid be challenged as racist.


  2. Labor Lawyer: What if after directing all efforts to the factors in the lives of minority children that prevent them from succeeding academically, little changes? Do we lower standards in order to increase their enrollment in specialized schools? IQ is not totally determined by environment. Much of it is inborn. There is nothing wrong with matching the aptitude of young people with the schools in which they enroll. Our competitors abroad are far more realistic than we are in differentiation.


  3. No — we maintain the standards.

    To those arguing for lowering the standards at the academically-high-achieving high schools to achieve racial proportionality, I argue that the same analysis requires lowering the standards for high school varsity football and basketball teams to achieve racial proportionality — that is, increase the number of Asian and Hispanic students on these teams and increase their playing time while decreasing the number of Black students on these teams and decreasing their playing time. Could it be that Blacks are genetically superior — on average — to Asians and Hispanics re the characteristics required to succeed as a football or basketball player?

    One of those “inconvenient truths” that are always bouncing around in the background during the affirmative action debate.


  4. Labor Lawyer: I agree. There is no racial diversity in professional basketball. Yet no one is upset about that. But when it comes to admission to college, there is a completely different standard.


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