Hizzoner’s gripe is that selection by tests results in a student body that is, as New York Times reporter Eliza Shapiro slyly put it, “widely criticized for exacerbating segregation.” Of course, what de Blasio, Shapiro and the anonymous critics she repeatedly references are complaining about is not actually segregation, which means imposed separation by race. It is the fact that the racial percentages of the gifted students differ from those of the city as a whole. Specifically, this program includes much larger shares of Asian students compared to black and Hispanic ones.
In practice, de Blasio’s proposal is unlikely to be effective. Likely next mayor Eric Adams wants to expand, rather than contract, G&T programs.
There’s an argument that testing at age 5 is just too early. But the proposal is an example of a destructive mindset at work far beyond the five boroughs of New York. San Francisco abolished the long-standing exam-based entry program for Lowell High School last February. Fairfax County in Northern Virginia has proposed ending exam-based entry to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, often rated No. 1 in the country by US News & World Report.
The complaint in each case is one that could be described as racist: too many Asians. It echoes the complaint of Ivy League colleges a century ago: too many Jews. Both cases involve large numbers of sons and daughters of low-income immigrants showing the intellectual capacity and personal discipline to work their way up in society, to the great benefit of the nation as a whole.
A century ago, public schools and colleges in New York and other great cities provided such an avenue upward. Now, progressives like de Blasio want to close that avenue for thousands of talented young people.
That’s an act of destruction akin to tearing down statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Keeping it open and opening up more such avenues is part of the work of restoring the best American traditions.
The de Blasio mindset is opposed to those traditions. It assumes that any underrepresentation of black and Hispanic people is “segregation” and “racist.” It wants to advance corrosive creeds such as critical race theory and to close off upward mobility to the racially unworthy.
Interestingly, there’s polling showing that such assumptions are shared more by white college graduates than by black or Hispanic people. And in New York’s Democratic primary, Adams trailed among college-educated white voters but won black voters by a huge margin.
Another assumption behind the de Blasio impulse is that the liberals in charge of educational systems and teacher unions, who are hostile to gifted and talented programs, have special expertise to which ordinary citizens must bow.
That assumption was on display in the Virginia governor debate, when Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, seeking a second nonconsecutive term, said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin has been running ads with McAuliffe’s statement — not surprisingly, since a Virginia poll on who should “have more influence in the school’s curriculum” shows 52 percent of voters saying parents and only 33 percent saying school boards. Youngkin has also been critical of the abolition of exam-based entry at Thomas Jefferson HS and the critical-race-theory curriculum in nearby exurban Loudoun County.
Vehement protests at school-board meetings there may have prompted the astonishing proposal by Attorney General Merrick Garland directing the FBI to monitor what the National Association of School Boards described as “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism” at such meetings. Garland issued the order without evidence that local law enforcement was unable to deal with any problems, and despite the fact that his son-in-law has a profitable business selling materials on “systemic racism” to local school boards.
De Blasio will be out of office soon, but the de Blasio mindset, bent on advancing bogus theories of systemic racism and opposed to upward mobility, seems to be lingering on.
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