Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hey, Let's Do Away With Science Class

What do people who are convinced that a just society is one in which there are no disparities between citizens do when faced with such disparities? Consider the plans of a public high school in Berkeley. Distraught over the fact that the achievement of the school's black students is low compared to that of other racial groups and dismayed by the fact that advanced science classes are populated mostly by whites, the Berkeley wiseheads have decided that the best solution is to eliminate challenging science classes.

I know this sounds like something you'd see in a Monty Python skit, but apparently it's true. Thomas Lifson fills us in via a piece at American Thinker:

The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.

According to the muddled thinking on display at the Berkeley school the best way to help blacks is to limit opportunities for everyone. If one group is performing above average and another below average well, then, there must be institutional racism afoot. Let's make everyone the same by eliminating those courses dominated by whites and in which blacks struggle. If some excel while others languish the righteous approach is to bring everyone down to the level of the least able.

Liberal egalitarianism is rarely so blunt or obvious. Lifson continues:

Aside from the repulsive racism of this move, the broader issue to be considered is whether society is better-served by cutting down the achievers and investing in the stragglers -- or whether everyone benefits from the achievements of those who apply themselves enough to excel. I have no hesitation in saying that I am in the latter camp. How does it benefit anyone to have an America made up of mediocre minds?

I wonder what's next. Are the Berkeley docents going to propose eliminating those sports teams dominated by blacks? Are they going to eliminate math classes in which whites and Asians excel relative to blacks? Are they going to cancel AP courses in general which tend to be disproportionately white and Asian? Perhaps they might carry the logic of their proposal to its conclusion and eliminate school altogether since statistics show black academic achievement in our society lagging well behind that of other groups no matter what the curriculum might be.

The argument might run thus: School just sets blacks up for failure; the failure of one group while others succeed is damaging to the unsuccessful group's self-esteem; therefore let's just do away with academics altogether. This chain of reasoning, would no doubt make perfect sense in certain progressive precincts.

Perhaps you are appalled by the sheer lunacy of what the Berkelians propose but, in fact, it's the sort of thing to which liberal assumptions about race and class frequently lead us.