Our School Systems Need To Strive For Excellence, Not Equity


One of the key words being floated in educational circles recently is “equity,” not really to be confused with “equality,” except that it calls for an equality of outcomes. In other words, everyone should get an A. It doesn’t matter whether the child is as smart as fictional Sheldon Cooper of “The Big Bang Theory” or not able to read. They get the same grade and get passed on.

Aside from the outdated idea that it is unjust to give the same grade to those who actually learn and those who do almost nothing, it shows the corruption of the people at the top of the educational system.

Let us begin with the real problem. If the idea was that all students would actually deserve a grade of A, it would mean moving towards a different “e” word, “excellence.” The simple answer is that, frankly, educators do not know how to do it. Teacher training focuses more on learning things like the history, psychology and philosophy of education, tempered by well-meaning classes on reasons students do not do well… focusing on disabilities. There is almost nothing taught on how to overcome those problems. Actually, when I became certified as a teacher over a half century ago, there was simply one class on how to teach, followed by student teaching. I might add that the education professor had last taught in the early 1930s and knew almost nothing.

So teachers start off with, if they are smart, a knowledge of the subject matter to be taught, a modicum of background on how to organize to teach, and, hopefully, the kind of personality that gets through to their students. And many teachers are disappointed to discover that the best planned lessons go nowhere. But the brighter kids learn anyway.

But the top people want equity. What it means now, however, is that since not all kids can succeed, we have to lower the bar in order to make things a success. And we see them doing it all the time. The University of Nebraska had discussed ending the requirement of algebra for graduation from college. I needed it to graduate from high school.

There is an old Kurt Vonnegut story “Harrison Bergeron” where the government put actual obstacles on the most capable so they would not do too much better than the rest. Fast runners would be shackled to heavy weights; bright people would wear devices that would blast sound into them interrupting their thoughts, etc. No one would be allowed to rise above others. He thought it was an interesting metaphorical warning. Now our school leadership is carrying it out.

It was found that 73 percent of students in Los Angeles schools received A, B and C grades, despite the fact that only 19 percent met “grade-level testing standards.” In Baltimore a year ago, a mother was shocked to find out that her son, although passing only one class in three years, was in the top half of his class academically.

In recent days, some news stories have proclaimed that more than a dozen Virginia schools withheld the fact that some of their students were National Merit Scholars. Listing that on a college application would be a great boost for a student, but in the name of equity, meaning not wanting those who didn’t do as well to feel bad, the students and their parents were not informed.

These stories are becoming more common, a reason for the rapid growth in charter, private and religious schools, not to mention home schools. Time off for students because of the pandemic pushed more of the public school students into the problematic category, while in many places, private schools kept going.

Teachers are not the ones pushing the schemes. Teachers get most of their job-related pleasure from seeing students learning and succeeding — certainly not from their paychecks. The educational leadership seems intent on destruction.

We don’t need equity in our schools. We need excellence. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on specialists who will teach that learning very little is fine as long as everyone doesn’t learn much, our children are being cheated.

We need more training, not for equity, but for excellence. Teachers need to learn how to pull weaker students up and to really encourage the ones who do well. That would fulfill the promise of this country far more than lowering standards.

I would say who would object, but clearly the educational establishment does.