The top academic schools in Philadelphia are about to become more "equal," and I don't know how to feel about that. One woman I know said, "Good. Now well-connected people won't have an advantage in getting their kids in." Who knows, maybe she's right.
The school superintendent thinks our high achieving "magnet schools" are not racially and economically diverse enough, so she and those of a like mind want to fix that by taking admissions decisions away from the principals and their committees and making them more "centralized." Centralization seems to be the way everything is going in this land of ours. The rabble presumably don't know what's good for them and must be helped by some centralized invisible power that does.
Let me spell out the offense. Masterman, the top-performing school, has a student body that is only 28 percent black, while the district's other schools average 60 percent black. Forty-four percent of Masterman's students are white, as compared to a city population of 13 percent whites. You see the problem. Or do you?
There is something in the air we breathe these days that hates unfairness---by which is meant the idea that anyone should have anything that everyone else doesn't have: "It's not fair that I can't be in accelerated high school classes just because I do not have the intelligence or the report card you do." This sentiment is very like: "It's not fair that I can't get a mortgage from your bank to buy a house just because I don't have enough money saved or a promising job by which I can reasonably be expected to make monthly payments."
The chief of Philadelphia school operations says he wants all neighborhoods and ZIP codes to be fairly represented in our schools. Currently, Philadelphia's 19 "special-admission" high schools admit students on the basis of grades, test scores, behavior, attendance, and personal interviews. Their respective admissions personnel pore over applications with a sensitivity that may escape the computerized system that the superintendent favors.
One Masterman parent quoted by The Philadelphia Inquirer said, "This admission policy threatens the very existence of special-admission schools." Um, I think that's the idea, lady. It all has to do with a certain notion of democracy that has spread abroad in recent decades and that thrives on the oxygen of sloppy thinking. Somewhere along the line, the cultural understanding of the term "democracy" shifted from a political system of voting to the belief that all men are equal in every way. Anyone who dares to suggest there might be differences among individuals is vilified.
As a state drives out its middle-class tax base by overtaxing, a city risks a brain and tax drain by insisting on a ham-handed scientific, computerized "equality" that threatens to water down standards. In the movie Doctor Zhivago, the Communists, driven by class envy to confiscate the doctor's beautiful house, handed it over to squatters who saw to it that no one would ever enjoy it again. That's the end point of that brand of "equality."
The way I look at it, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Let the merit-based schools admit their students on the basis of merit. There is no sin in that, and it is neither here nor there in the more important scheme of eternal things. I myself would probably not have been admitted to Masterman high school, and that's fine with me. Everyone has his own gift from the Lord.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.