Diversity and selectivity in teacher prep programs

In an ideal world, teacher preparation programs would be filled only by the very best candidates from diverse backgrounds (“New Data Demonstrate That Teacher Preparation Programs Can Be Both Selective and Diverse,” National Council on Teacher Quality, Feb. 16).  But when push comes to shove, you can be sure that diversity will win out over all else.

We already see that in the inordinate emphasis placed on race.  Teacher preparation programs are not color blind.  The usual rationale is that students of color achieve far greater when their teachers are of the same race.  I think that generalization refers only to Black and Hispanic students.  Asian students consistently outperform all other students regardless of their teachers’ race.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

School name changes are a distraction

Instead of improving classroom instruction, the San Francisco Unified School District until just last night was intent on erasing the names of 44 of its schools (“Who cancels Lincoln? A San Francisco school board official shows the idiocy,” New York Post, Feb. 10).  It justified the decision by engaging in gobbledygook that has nothing at all to do with its primary duty.

I view school name changes as pandering to activists who have their own agenda.  I doubt that students will receive a better education when the purge is over.  But it will appease a handful of extremists. I hope the district’s decision to reconsider renaming is permanent.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

More lowering of standards in admissions

Here we go again: Merit exams are being eliminated for admission to elite high schools because they are considered racist (“San Francisco’s Race Games,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 6).  In this case, it’s Lowell High School, one of the best high schools in California.

The problem is that too few Black and Hispanic students make the cut.  But rather than ask why, reformers want to penalize Asian students who consistently ace the test.  As I see it, you don’t help students by admitting them to schools when they are not prepared to handle the work.

What San Francisco and other cities need to do is to start fixing the schools where students are not achieving.  But I doubt that will happen because it’s much easier to claim racism is involved.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this post.)

Ivies are no guarantee of the best education

Ivy League schools are attractive to students largely because they are a brand (“Why students can’t assume Ivy Leagues offer the best college education,” N.Y. Post, Feb. 6).  And like all brands, there is no assurance that they offer a superior deal.

The truth is that what students study is far more important than where they studied.  Yes, graduating from an Ivy may open the door to a first job, but that’s about all it confers. A humanities major from Harvard, for example, cannot compete with a STEM major from, say, the University of Mississippi.

Nevertheless, students will continue to buy into the myth about the Ivies. (By the way, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.)

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Doctorate cutback is a reality check

At least 140 graduate programs across the country have halted admissions partly in recognition of the difficulty their students will have in finding jobs (“The Crisis of Unemployed Graduates,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 6).  It’s a blessing in disguise, despite pushback from purists in the humanities and social sciences.

I say that because in the seven years it usually takes to get a doctorate, students could be working and saving for their retirement.  Instead, they amass debt only to later find they are unemployed or working only for subsistence wages.  If undergrads are thinking of earning a doctorate in non-STEM fields, they would be well advised to learn those skills most in demand.  The prestige of the university is not nearly as important as the latter.

The situation is a long-overdue reality check that I hope more young people will pay attention to.  Otherwise, they’re going to find themselves deep in debt and disillusionment.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Catholic schools are a bargain

You don’t have to be Catholic to acknowledge that parochial schools continue to provide a quality education, with an emphasis on discipline and civility, despite the pandemic (“Catholic Schools Are Beating Covid,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1).  They do so safely, which is why the refusal of teachers unions to return to the classroom, is all the more outrageous.

There was a time when Catholic schools were the largest non-government educational provider in the nation.  Enrollment is now 1,626,291, according to the National Catholic Education Association, which is down from its high of 5.2 million in the early 1960s.  I’m surprised because tuition is a bargain compared with tony private schools.

If public schools continue to rely on remote learning, more parents may begin to consider placing their children in Catholic schools, which remain safely open.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Woke curriculum is shortchanging students

If public schools persist in their identity politics curriculum, they will eventually lose whatever support they have from taxpayers (“Dad says NYC DOE public schools are ‘brainwashing’ kids with woke agenda,” New York Post, Jan. 30).  Instead of teaching students what they need to succeed in college and beyond, they are indoctrinating them.

I realize that the traditional curriculum was not perfect.  It tended to present only one side of controversial issues.  But what is happening today goes to the opposite side, creating resentment between the races.  Moreover, it invades subjects such as math and science where it does not belong. As a result, students are being deprived of a solid education that will handicap them after graduation.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Segregated schools are not necessarily racist

New York City public schools are one of the most segregated in the country.  Yet few ask why that is so (“New York Schools Are Segregated. Will the Next Mayor Change That?” The New York Times, Jan. 30).  Instead, it is assumed that the reason is bigotry.

The hard truth is that some students of all races and from all socioeconomic backgrounds possess the wherewithal to achieve only modest academic success.  As a result, enrollment based on aptitude reflects that reality.  It has nothing at all to do with racism.

When I was teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I had white students from affluence who were mediocre at best.  Conversely, I had Black and Hispanic students from low-income backgrounds who excelled.  Differentiating among those students by placing them in schools in line with their abilities would invite charges of bigotry.  I say it merely reflects individual differences.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

United Nations International School in the spotlight

It was bound to happen.  Students at the United Nations International School launched an anonymous social media campaign denouncing their teachers as racists and threatening to identify them by name (“Spoiled Rotten,” City Journal, Jan. 28).  Predictably, administrators immediately caved in and hired a director of diversity and inclusion and mandated antiracism training for all faculty.

Even though students posted unverified accusations, that was not enough for administrators who couldn’t move quickly enough to mollify them.  It’s a sad commentary about the state of education in this country.  I wonder what’s going to happen to these spoiled students after they graduate.  Will they persist in seeing racism everywhere?

It’s time for administrators to stand up to students who make outrageous demands.  Doing so would teach them an invaluable lesson.  But I don’t expect that to ever happen.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Teachers’ unions are losing public support

The Chicago Teachers Union rejected President Biden’s plan to reopen schools, claiming that they are not safe due to Covid-19 (“Chicago Teachers Union vs. Biden,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26).  As readers of this column know, I support teachers’ unions.  But in this case, the union is making a big mistake.

I say that because more than 130 private and religious schools and more than 2,000 early learning centers across Chicago have been safely open since the fall.  If they can do so, why can’t the city’s public schools do the same?  It looks like teachers are stalling in order to have all their demands met, no matter how unreasonable they are. There is going to be a backlash that the union brought upon itself.

When the pandemic first appeared, teachers were largely seen as heroes.  But their refusal to return to school now increasingly brands them as villains.  Goodwill is crucial, and teachers’ unions are undermining it by their intransigence.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)