The Inequality of Equity

A troubling new trend is gaining ground across this country. While the goal—equal access to quality education—is both laudable and crucial, the means to achievement is disingenuous and fraught with contradiction.

It seems in pursuit of equity in education, some schools are eliminating honors programs. The argument that minority students are underrepresented in proportion to their numbers in the general population is irrefutable yet proponents of eliminating the programs twist these numbers to suit a pre-conceived concept as a solution.

Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report.

“Parents say academic excellence should not be experimented with for the sake of social justice,” said Quoc Tran, the superintendent of 6,900-student Culver City Unified School District. But, he said, “it was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP enrollment and realized Black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something.

Culver City English teachers presented data at a board meeting last year showing Latino students made up 13% of those in 12th-grade Advanced Placement English, compared with 37% of the student body. Asian students were 34% of the advanced class, compared with 10% of students. Black students represented 14% of AP English, versus 15% of the student body.”

Wall Street Journal

Clearly, the underrepresentation of Latino students is an issue worth addressing, but eliminating the classes at the expense of those other segments of the student body seems short-sighted. There would be no difference in arguing for the elimination of these programs if one claimed the overrepresentation of Asian students justified the programs demise. But I bet the cries in opposition would be different.

Advanced classes cultivate high achievers. The programs recognize the differences in learning abilities, drive, and innate intelligence and serves to offer those students a more challenging learning environment. While everyone deserves an equal opportunity, we shouldn’t penalize those who embrace these opportunities because others do not. And, if there is something systemic preventing some from achieving their full potential, we need address the problem not the symptom.

Rather than eliminating the program because some groups are underrepresented, perhaps resources need to be allocated to determine why this is so evident and how to address it. While the data represented in this article only deals with one school district, a more comprehensive study of these programs nationwide seems called for.

And wouldn’t better question to ask be Why this is happening rather than eliminating programs which merely masks the problem?

While everyone deserves an equal opportunity, we shouldn’t penalize those who embrace these opportunities because others do not. And, if there is something systemic preventing some from achieving their full potential, we need address the problem not the symptom.

Joe Broadmeadow

I wonder if the demographic makeup of athletic programs also reflects any disparity. And even if it does not, athletics culls out those of lesser ability. Not everyone can hit a fastball, dunk a basketball, or run for a touchdown.

I’ve heard no discussion about eliminating athletics because certain groups are underrepresented. When it became clear there was discrimination in college athletics against women, schools improved program access and increased funding for women’s athletic programs.

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They didn’t eliminate the programs—and one still had to compete based on your athletic skills—they improved the system.

At the risk of sounding prejudicial, in the district represented in the article Latino students are clearly underrepresented. Wouldn’t it be a more effective and lasting solution to put our efforts into improving the opportunities for these underrepresented students rather than denying it to others?

We often abuse the use of the term racist when dealing with human differences. we deem any problem between one class of people and another racial when the very definition of race would contradict such depiction. Not every decision or difference that arises between different groups or individuals is racially motivated. To define it as such, is to gloss over the fundamental issue and drive us further apart.

One can safely assume that this is one factor in the flight of many students from public to private or charter schools. Many of these schools don’t have to deal with the problems inherent in public education. Cities and states struggle to fund education, but it is difficult to compete in an environment where those who can afford it can buy a better system.

I don’t blame any parent for making that decision. We did it with our daughter, but as a society failing to provide minimal funding for public education is “penny wise and dollar foolish.” And, diminishing the availability of the very programs the offer public education students the opportunity to compete equally with private schools is a choice to embrace equity masquerading as mediocrity.

Public education should be challenging, welcoming, and available to every student willing to take advantage of it. As a country, our very survival depends on it. Otherwise, let’s just give everybody a 4.0 average, a trophy, and a diploma and declare victory.

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