"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Dumbing Down Of America - When Diversity Displaces Merit

The administrators of a merit-based high school in San Francisco capitulated to political pressure, and dropped high performance on its rigorous entrance exam as the only criterion for admission.  Too many white and Asian students were passing the test with high marks and being admitted to the school. A few Latinos and a smattering of black students were simply not enough in the city’s multicultural society.  In order to encourage diversity the school would drop the entrance exam and rely on a lottery.  Anyone could apply and anyone could get in.

Within a year of the adoption of this new merit-blind system, the academic performance of the school dropped precipitously and it fell well out of top ten high schools in the country, a position shared with Stuyvesant, Jefferson, and other merit-based institutions in the country.  It quickly rescinded its lottery policy and returned to its former exam system.  As might be expected, the school returned to a predominantly Asian student body and the average academic performance returned to previous levels.

Both Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson have been under similar pressure to revise their admission criteria, to drop the entrance exam-only policy, and to be more inclusive in their admissions procedure.  They have refused, saying that they have always valued merit as the only criteria for entrance to schools of advanced learning, for what would it gain anyone to graduate from a school where anyone can be admitted?  Merit acknowledged intelligence, discipline, hard work, parental support, community norms, and ambition, the keys to success in any quarter of America.  If Stuyvesant turned to a lottery or affirmative action system, colleges would no longer favor the school’s graduates who now would be no different from those of P.S. 142.

America’s free enterprise system has always put merit and achievement above all else as means to success; and have never shied away from the principle of competition which underlies it.  This same valuation of education, learning, and knowledge as inherently valuable and means to an important end – success in a highly prejudiced world -  led to the emergence of Jewish talent from the ghetto.  It is no accident that the Jewish-American community is known and recognized for its special contribution to the arts, music, science, academics, and medicine.

Image result for images jews studying torah

Asian immigrants to New York a generation later were no different in valuing education, discipline, intellectual rigor, and ambition.  Asian children regardless of income level rose above initial poverty to succeed in school and society.  Merit was what led to social mobility and assured integration into the American mainstream.  Ethnic and racial differences disappear within the context of merit.  Jewish and Asian Americans who have proved themselves in school, college, and university are accepted as the cardiac surgeons who save lives, the maestros who ennoble, the scientists who discover, and the philosophers who give all perspective.

Of what earthly purpose is the lowering of academic standards to promote an ill-defined, poorly thought-out idea of ‘inclusion’.  How does a black teenager, ill-equipped to survive even the first semester of college, forced to leave school at the end of the year deeply in debt, shamed by her performance, and touted self-esteem eroded, benefit?  The colleges and universities are the only beneficiaries.  They take high school students whose grades have been inflated for courses of little academic worth, spend a fraction of the Pell Grants and interest-free loans enabled by government on remedial programs, and fill the slots of dropouts with more unqualified, deceived young people.

How does a graduate of a university which is more than happy to take grant and loan money for her four full academic years, feel when she tries to enter the job market?  Her courses – now far removed from the academically rigorous offerings of previous years and designed to let students explore their racial, ethnic, and gender identities rather than learn organic chemistry, history, and philosophy – give her no employment credibility, and her high grades mean little.

Teachers and professors have been intimidated if not threatened for the assignment of poor grades, clearly a case of racism or transphobia say their accusers.  Their careers in jeopardy, they quickly grade on a curve, raising the marks of clearly inferior students to the top of the list.  Who gains from that pernicious policy?

Image result for images race demonstrations yale

Affirmative action, grade inflation, watering down course offerings, and ignoring poor performance have for decades tarred the most able minority students whose legitimate academic reputation has been sullied and thrown into question.  ‘White racism’, shout progressives who see whites’ suspicion of black credentials as Jim Crow prejudice and nothing more. 

Merit, the achievement of opportunity through performance of difficult tasks requiring intelligence, intellect, creativity, and discipline should be the only criterion for admission to school.  What to make of the debilitating theory of ‘multiple intelligences’, one which values coloring within the lines as much as mastering calculus.  Children are not criticized for their poor performance in math and reading, but given a pass.  Their ability in drawing, athletics, and music more than compensate for a lack of computational or literary skills.  Yet it is those skills and the disciplined logic which underlies them which are sought after by employers.   The productivity of any enterprise is based on disciplined analytical skills, the ability to sift through information for the most relevant and salient, and the talent to make sense of it all. 

Image result for images Calculus Equations. Size: 272 x 106. Source: fineartamerica.com

Competition – the process by which merit is rewarded – is today suspect.  Something primitive and beneath the collaborative, consensual abilities of today’s evolved human beings.  Something damaging to the collectivism necessary for social progress, something greedy and self-centered.  Rather than urge a child to measure up to her more able peers, she is hustled to an easier class, a more congenial subject.  She is never given the opportunity to test herself against others, to strive for achievement of not excellence.  She is sold a bill of goods.

It is not surprising that those who have succeeded thanks to merit are angry at the free passes given out today.  Educational debt forgiveness is but the latest example of the angering policies of liberal government.  Those students who worked hard to get to university and who paid their way, borrowed, and saved to get through are now being told that they were fools for such parsimony and financial discipline.  Free rides come at a political price.  For every American who might think that debt forgiveness is a helping hand to the poor, there is another who feels cheated.

The tide is turning, the radical progressive woke agenda is now challenged more loudly and publicly, and middle America has had enough.  Conservative victories in the coming midterm elections (11/2022) will be the first signs of a final, long overdue shift in political philosophy.

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