AP Classes, equality of opportunity. conservative, equality of outcome, John Handley High School, Progressive, proportional disparity, proportional outcomes, race, Social justice, social justice warriors
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No one has accused social welfare organizations, or the social justice warriors that staff them, of having a sense of irony, and as the British would say, a sense of humor is right out.
One finds a similar insensibility in education these days, particularly where the social justice narrative takes hold and overpowers the application of professional common sense, as Todd Starnes of Fox reports:
A Virginia high school [John Handley High School in Winchester] sent a disturbing letter to parents and students announcing they would be selecting students for Advanced Placement and honors classes at least partly based on skin color. [skip]
‘Through our collective work, advanced classes such as AP and Honors will have proportional representation,’ read the letter. ‘Proportional representation is 40% White, 35% Hispanic, 12% African American, 10% mixed race.”
The letter went on to explain that public schools across the country ‘continue to see outcomes that are disproportionate by race and social class.’
‘American demographic trends indicate that America will be a majority minority nation in the next 25 years,’ the letter read. ‘Therefore, the new work of American public schools is to develop systems to address disparate outcomes.
I could not find an e-mail address to contact Starnes to try to obtain a complete copy of the letter, however the school’s website is more than sufficiently damning. The School district got in contact with Starnes and tried to explain how a plainly racist policy actually isn’t racist at all:
Our school division does not have, nor has it ever had, any policy that utilizes race for enrollment into honors or AP courses. All students, regardless of race, must meet academic criteria to enroll in advanced level coursework. Over the past years, the School Board has continued its focus on providing advanced level coursework as well as increasing advanced course offerings across a variety of disciplines. The School Board has not contemplated, nor adopted, any policy or practice that utilizes race in determining which students can or cannot take such courses, or any other courses for that matter,’ the spokesperson said.
The district spokesman continued:
We have not received any inquiries from parents regarding the letter that was referenced by the parent. The portion of the letter you cited was from an insert in a back to school mailing from John Handley High School that highlighted division and school level work slated for 2017-2018. This work includes increased efforts to identify students who meet academic criteria and encourage them to enroll in advanced level coursework, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, and disability.
Our School Board prides itself on being available and responsive to community members; that is our role as a School Board. Had I received an inquiry from this parent or any other concerned parent, I would have provided the facts related to the letter to the concerned parent and child. We believe that students must have access to advanced coursework opportunities and we will continue to make them available to all students should they meet the academic criteria required. Our vision is that all students that have met those requirements are encouraged to take these courses, and to that end, we hope to see an increase in overall enrollment in advanced coursework.
The school district, on its website, published a related response to the controversy indicating it has been stung, and stung badly by its July 24, 2017 letter. The response would seem to suggest that the district has indeed received inquiries from parents, and not happy inquiries either.
Before I comment, let’s take a look at another portion of the District’s website, this passage from its plan for the coming school year and future:
Why: Winchester Public Schools, like many division across the country, continue to see outcomes that are disproportionate by race and social class. American demographic trends indicate that America will be an majority minority nation in the next 25 years. Therefore, the new work of American public schools is to develop systems to address disparate outcomes.
How: The WPS equity committee has three subsets – community engagement, culturally responsive practices, and proportional outcomes. Each subcommittee presented strategies for implementation in the upcoming year. Examples include the AMPed UP! (Accelerated Math Progressions for Underrepresented Potential) for rising fifth graders, giving the PSAT to all tenth graders in order to generate the AP Potential report for 11th grade registration, universal screeners for gifted identification in elementary school, and culturally responsive training through a train the trainer approach.
Vision: Through our collective work, advanced classes such as AP and Honors will have proportional representation. Proportional representation is 40% White, 35% Hispanic, 12% African American, 10% mixed race.
In other words, in claiming no race-based admission to AP classes, they’re lying. The district’s own words, to the person of average intelligence–perhaps educated in that very school system–bely its protestations of innocence. They are implementing “proportional outcomes.” This means nothing less than that all academic accomplishments must adhere to the demographics of their student bodies, and they are, in fine social justice warrior fashion, spelling out exactly what that means: “40% White, 35% Hispanic, 12% African American, 10% mixed race.” This is a great concern to them because: “Winchester Public Schools, like many division [sic] across the country, continue to see outcomes that are disproportionate by race and social class.”
It’s very simple: AP classes tend to be peopled by mostly white and Asian students, and mostly kids from middle and upper class families, and this, of course, does not produce “proportional” outcomes.
This touches on the fundamental differences between conservative and progressive philosophies. Conservatives seek to ensure equality of opportunity. AP classes must be open to all, but admission must be based solely on academic merit. Progressives seek to impose equality of outcome, but not actual academic acheivement outcomes. They merely seek to force teachers to accept students unqualified for AP course work, based primarily on their race, and secondarily on their perceived social class. They don’t care whether those kids miserably fail, they just want the right proportions, by race and class, in the AP courses, in effect, virtue signaling bragging rights. Conservatives tend not to know–or care–about the exact proportions of race in their schools. For Progressives, it’s always all about race.
It’s ironic–not that Progressives acknowledge irony–that Progressive philosophy is commonly self-contradictory, which is the case with AP courses. Progressives simultaneously seek to eliminate AP courses, while trying to establish the kind of proportional admission policies about which we speak. Why would progressives want to do away with AP courses? Because they’re discriminatory. Students not in AP classes feel badly because AP students are smarter, more motivated, and more accomplishment oriented. It’s not fair that they get extra attention and academic opportunity. It’s related to the “everyone’s a winner” movement in sports. No one can win because everyone wins.
Now progressives are apparently backing away from eliminating AP courses, and instead demanding everyone be a winner, based on race, and to a lesser degree, social class. That’s a lesser degree because race is easy to quantify and claim; social class tends to be nebulous and potentially transitory. So we have the spectacle of progressives trying to fill the AP courses they previously, even simultaneously tried to destroy with kids not remotely capable of doing true AP work.
Just a quick reminder: AP courses are basically classes that expand on “normal” classes. They use the same curriculum, but add to it, and deal with it in much greater depth. The kids are expected to do more of everything, do it much faster, and to a much higher level of accomplishment. This means much more work than in a normal class. An AP class might read and deal with 20 novels where a normal class would read only five, and many of the kids won’t bother to actually read any. AP kids are very different than “normal” students. They’re highly self-motivated, care very much about their grades and academic accomplishments, are generally outgoing and opinionated–because they know enough to have opinions–and actually want to learn. In fact, they really like learning; the life of the mind matters to them.
AP classes tend to be almost entirely self-selecting. Kids with the interest and ability know precisely what will be required of them, and set up their schedules accordingly. Every kid in a given school knows who the “smart” kids are. There are, in normal classes, some kids that would do well in AP courses, but they don’t take them for a variety of reasons: they’d rather hold down a part time job; they don’t want to do all the extra work; they care more about socializing, etc. The kids don’t care about race; other criteria mean far more to them.
John Handley High School seems to be taking college preparedness to heart. Colleges have long engaged in affirmative action in admissions, and as a result, enormous numbers of people completely unsuited for actual college level work are admitted, as long as the checks clear. This allows colleges to meet diversity goals and put on paper proportional outcomes. Unfortunately, when colleges knowingly admit the unqualified, the actual outcomes are preordained. Students drop out after a short time, carrying enormous student loan debt into the real world where they have no knowledge or skills to help them retire it. And colleges dumb down the curriculum to better accommodate their incapable students lest their malpractice in admitting the unqualified based on criteria other than academic potential and ability become so obvious and damaging no progressive narrative/lie can cover it. Instead of “higher education,” colleges engage in progressive indoctrination, group-think and socialist purification. Of course, once one takes actual academics out of the picture, what’s left? Now we have a high school essentially doing the same thing.
JHHS AP teachers will now find themselves in the same situation as far too many colleges. Forced to accept students that are not only spectacularly unmotivated, but actively disruptive, they will be forced to dumb down the curriculum. They will not do this willingly, but their superiors will force it on them. If too many of the newly enlightened students necessary for proportional outcomes fail, that would be quite embarrassing and would tend to prove a Progressive policy wrong. As we all know, no progressive policy can ever be wrong.
So at JHHS, and every high school with the same mindset, AP classes will become little more than normal classes, but with a different course title. True AP kids will not get the education they need and deserve, and kids that don’t want it and could care less will still do very poorly, and learn little or nothing. But at least the AP classes will be proportional to the demographics of the student body. Underachievers will be able to continue to do and learn nothing, but they’ll have AP courses on their transcripts when they apply to colleges steeped in affirmative action, where they will continue the outstanding success they began at JHHS–proportionally, of course.