New York City has the largest public school system in the nation. Therefore, education issues affecting all of America acquire a greater intensity in “The Big Apple.” It is also a bell-weather for educational “reform” in the rest of the nation.
The influence of this summer’s unrest, “critical race theory” and the redefinition of racism is finding its way into the New York City schools. Radical egalitarianism is on a collision course with educational excellence.
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A recent article from the Fordham Institute illustrates this radicalism by quoting a Brooklyn school district council president, Ayanna Behin. “Racism is foundational in all of our institutions, in our government, our economy, our health-care system, our legal system and our education system. It’s our recommendation that we prioritize the end of racial segregation in our schools.”
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This statement denouncing racism in education does not reflect the New York City public schools since they have no history of deliberate racial segregation. What might be termed segregation is really the existence of local neighborhoods that are ethnic enclaves. Ever since the city’s beginnings in the seventeenth century, immigrants of all races tended to live near family members and others from their countries of birth.
For generations, school policy was straightforward. Students went to the schools nearest their homes. In the seventies, when mass forced bussing failed, school officials looked for a way to persuade people to voluntarily switch to schools where their ethnic group was in the minority.
The Success of “Magnet Schools”
The best method to attract diverse groups was through “magnet schools.” The school system places desirable programs in strategic places to bring together students from a wide variety of racial and ethnic groups. Perhaps the most famous magnet school in New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts. Other schools focus on mathematics, sciences, engineering and other fields. Admission is highly competitive, and students must travel to different parts of the city to attend them. Many other cities adopted the magnet school model.
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To assist students who aspire to attend these schools, New York City set up “selective middle schools.” At these institutions, “gifted and talented” students can take more difficult classes than those offered by “normal” middle schools.
Over the decades, this “system within a system” expanded organically and proved popular among all sectors of the city’s population.
Success is Proof of “Systemic Racism”
The effectiveness of these schools made them a target for “anti-racists.” It appears that, despite their success, these schools draw insufficient numbers of African-American and Hispanics. No rule excludes such students. The egalitarian advocates can point to no specific policy or decisions to merit such an accusation. Nevertheless, the anti-racist critics claim minority underrepresentation is proof positive of “systemic racism.”
The New York Times put out a five-part podcast that presents the radical side of the issue. The title names those that they blame for the process – Nice White Parents. The podcast claims white parents have perpetuated “systemic racism” by trying to get the best possible education for their children. The anti-racist activists turn this success into a mark of shame.
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Such thinking is ridiculous. Most parents don’t care about the race or ethnicity of the other students in their children’s classes. They want their children to get the best education that the schools can provide.
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However, leftists know that radical social change can be done by fanning artificial differences. The documentary film, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, presents the career of Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals. Mr. Alinsky placed great importance on creating a villain in the public mind. Mr. Alinsky’s “social organizers” planted animosity between African-Americans and Hispanics on the one hand and their Italian neighbors on the other. By emphasizing this artificially created animosity, the African-Americans and Hispanics could gain local power while driving the Italians out of the neighborhood.
Those divisive tactics are used in Nice White Parents. All good parents want the best possible education for their children. Any parent who does not care about their child’s education is delinquent. However, the left is adept at turning a natural and virtuous trait into a justification for attack and vilification.
When “people of color” advocate for their children, it is a virtue. When white people do the same thing, it manifests the “white power structure.” This thinking is typical of social Marxists. Thus, these actions end up creating racism that pretends to be “anti-racist.”
Egalitarianism Harms Everyone
Dismantling the “magnet school” system in New York City won’t help anyone. It will prevent students of all races from excelling.
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Unfortunately, the government of the City of New York and its school system is firmly in the hands of the radicals. They may well succeed. With success in the nation’s largest school system, the extremists will take their tactics into other cities and make this kind of attack part of the orthodoxy of American education.
Egalitarian thinking hates the idea of excellence since it creates natural inequalities. Thus, any institution focused on excellence will be painted as a bastion of racism. Even when schools help people of all races, they must be dismantled. Such a perspective turns vices into virtues and vice versa.
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