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

Friday, July 28, 2023

Remedial Education - Why Affirmative Action Is Wrong

 The Dean of the English Department of a well-known black land grant college explained how she, a white woman from  privileged, Ivy League background - family history dating back to Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, and St. Bart's - managed to shepherd young black students through English literature. 

"I show them pictures", she said, "explanatory, mnemonic devices to help them navigate the new world of literature".  Linguistic context is not enough, she explained - figuring out or guessing the meaning of new words through action and circumstance.  A student, she went on, coming from a deprived, reading-poor environment, cannot possibly know the term 'hansom cab', assuming at best that it is a misspelling of handsome; so visual aides are vehicles of transition from the inner city to the world of Nineteenth Century London. 

Now, most students with a modicum of learning experience can easily fill in the blanks, extrapolate from the setting, the action, the intent and volition of the characters and assume what the term means - a conveyance, one drawn by horses, transport for the well-to-do. 

If these students need such basic remedial education - third-grade prompts at best - then why are they attending university at all? "There are many intelligences" the Dean said, "and we should not try to put round pegs into square holes". 

In other words, as the primary school meme goes, some students color well within the lines, others play trumpet, and others can do math.  No child should be penalized for unfamiliarity with other intelligence's expression. 

Where this notion came from is uncertain.  It certainly has its origins in progressivism and its cri de coeur, inclusivity.  No one is fundamentally different, but 'differently abled'; and educational programs should be designed to encourage that diversity.  The children subjected to this politically devised curriculum suffer its consequences - they may graduate from primary school able to color within the lines, carry a tune, or run fast, but unable to negotiate the complex world they will soon enter.

They are handicapped when they enter school, living with single-mothers, brought up by uneducated grandmothers, and without the intellectual discipline of their white peers.  Once in school, they are promoted, marched forward, still behind in basic intellectual skills, and then, thanks to free money and affirmative action, attend college.
There are many avenues for the less well-equipped for college - community college, technical apprenticeship, online education - given the range of opportunities for all students in America, there is no reason for anyone to attend college beyond their means.  Courses like the one at the Dean's institution are demeaning, insulting, and a waste of time and money.  

If a student cannot make sense out of Dickens without knowing the meaning of 'hansom cab', he doesn't belong at the college level.  Even if he is other-endowed, how can he manage history, sociology, philosophy, or civics?  He does not belong in a place of higher learning until he has mastered the fundamental skills of critical thinking, logical analysis, and literary convention. 

Affirmative action fifty years ago had a point - a way of breaking the stranglehold of white unions, industries, and professions.  A leg up for talented individuals who had no access to white jobs and education.  Now, it is different.  Times have changed, and there is plenty of room to move, and maneuver.  Yet affirmative action has remained in place on the grounds that diversity ipso facto is beneficial to everyone.  

Yet black students are encouraged to belong to black fraternities, enjoy likeminded camaraderie, and stick to their own kind.  Neither whites nor blacks fraternize with the intimacy intended.  At the same time, because of courses that are either remedial or designed to make minority students feel comfortable - black studies, black history, black literature - black students are deprived of any real learning and the opportunity for real advancement.