The education establishment keeps acting as if minority students aren’t capable of high achievement. Unfortunately, that soft bigotry of low expectations is leading to some potentially disastrous policy decisions.
Patrick Henry High School in San Diego recently announced it is dropping numerous advanced classes, including in English, history and biology. Principal Michelle Irwin wrote that the move is “to support the district goal of decreasing stratification while increasing student access to course offerings.”
Of course, “increasing student access to course offerings” is an Orwellian way to describe eliminating previously offered classes.
This counterproductive trend is not unique to San Diego. Progressives in more than a handful of jurisdictions have launched an attack on gifted and talented courses, honors courses and even AP testing.
At Patrick Henry High, Ms. Irwin and other defenders of the policy argued that there was little difference between honors and regular courses because the curriculum is the same. But the makeup of a class can make a substantial difference in how much learning takes place.
The driving force behind the move seems to be the fact that the demographics in the honors classes don’t align perfectly with the school as a whole. A FAQ provided by the school decried the “inequities” between the two types of classes. “Our goal is to have students from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds represented in our courses,” the document reads.
That is a noble goal, but there is no evidence that the school denied access to courses based on a student’s ethnicity or family income. But putting roadblocks in front of high achievers is a natural outgrowth of the progressive obsession with equity, which places equal outcomes above equal opportunity. The left is consumed with the idea that it’s evidence of racism if racial demographics in every activity don’t mirror the larger population.
But assuming that one variable in a multi-variable equation will end up perfectly proportional is folly, as economist Thomas Sowell outlined in his invaluable book on this topic, “Discrimination and Disparities.”
The message the school is sending minority students is that they can’t succeed in higher-level classes and that high standards must be diluted to accommodate them. That’s not true. In 11th-grade honors literature at Patrick Henry, more than 25 percent of the students are African-American and Latino. Vietnamese students are the racial group that’s most overrepresented proportionally at the high school.
If schools demand less of students, that’s what they’ll get. Lofty expectations and high standards help students reach their full potential, and schools shouldn’t be limiting those opportunities in a misguided pursuit of “equity.”