Last year, students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools, marked a map hanging in a hallway with their families’ far-flung places of origin: from Seoul to Beijing to Hyderabad. Twenty years ago, 70 percent of TJ students were white; today, 79 percent are minority, most from Asian immigrant families.
TJ is a testament to American meritocracy’s melting pot—but last week, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced a plan to reduce the number of Asian students at this selective high school. In a four-hour online “work session” alongside the district’s all-Democratic school board, Brabrand laid out an initiative to eliminate TJ’s race-blind, merit-based admissions test and replace it with a “merit lottery” open to all eighth-graders with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in order to increase “equity of opportunity.”
This is not a novel development in American public education. The New York Times has covered activist efforts in New York City to abolish selective high schools on the grounds that sorting students by standardized test scores amounts to “institutional racism.” Asian-American parents objecting to this proposal have been accused by academics of fighting to “keep unjust structures in tact [sic] by denying historical and contemporary systemic anti-Black racial oppression.” For their part, New York’s education bureaucrats have taken aim at the concepts of academic merit and objectivity as manifestations of “white supremacy culture.”
The Left has redefined educational “equity” to mean not just lifting the bottom up but also tearing the top down. Two weeks ago, in a town hall with TJ students, Virginia Education secretary Atif Qarni compared students who study with private tutors to athletes who take illegal “performance enhancement drugs.”
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