A couple of weeks ago, we covered New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s “two-pronged plan” to “diversify” NYC’s elite public high schools.  These schools are considered elite not only for exceptional academic rigor but because they accept only those who excel on a standardized test.

De Blasio’s plan requires that these schools reserve 20% of their seats for students from low-income minority middle schools who do not pass the test, let alone excel on it.  Instead, the schools are required to admit these particular students if they manage to almost score the lowest possible passing score.  The second part of his plan is to eliminate the standardized test altogether.

The assumption being the same one that socialists always make in one form or another and that is always proven wrong:  if we force elite schools to accept students who cannot possibly succeed there, the schools will maintain the same standards and remain “elite.”  That never happens.  What does happen is that the standards drop to accommodate the least able students (this is how we get rampant grade inflation and ultimately college graduates who cannot write coherent prose).

Even if we accept that forcing elite public high schools to accept students who cannot earn even the bare minimum score on a standardized test will somehow remain academically rigorous and turn out graduates who are prepared for transition to a good college (these do still exist), we are left with the problem of government forcing schools to accept students on the basis of race and class and to do so at the expense of students who excel on the standardized test.

And therein lies the controversy, de Blasio’s plan unfairly disadvantages Asian-American (and white) students who are better prepared for academic success at that level, who do better on the entrance test, and who will be most likely to excel academically.

Minh-Ha T. Pham‘s op-ed at the New York Times challenges the idea that de Blasio’s plan is “Anti-Asian” and insists that it is instead “anti-racist.”

Unfortunately, some Asian-American parents in New York are protesting this proposal, arguing that it is anti-Asian because it would decrease the number of Asian children in elite schools. They are on the wrong side of this educational fight.

The mayor’s plan isn’t anti-Asian, it’s anti-racist. It would give working-class parents — including Asian-Americans — who can’t afford and shouldn’t have to find ways to afford expensive test prep programs a fairer chance that their child will be admitted into what’s known as a specialized high school. True, taking a test prep course doesn’t guarantee admission to such a school, but it does offer clear benefits and is widely understood to be essential to test-takers.

Nor is the plan a form of affirmative action. Affirmative-action admission policies — like those in place at some universities — require that race be one part of a host of measures considered. Mr. de Blasio’s plan doesn’t stipulate any racial criterion for admission, much less racial quotas (which the Supreme Court outlawed in 1978). The plan will simply give kids from a wider variety of backgrounds access to a public resource: an excellent public high school education. This is a public resource, something all New York City families contribute to with their taxes. Only about 5 percent of all New York City high school students are enrolled in a specialized high school and last year half of these kids came from just 21 middle schools.

A logical solution would be to look at the other NYC middles schools and improve those so that they are better preparing their students for academic excellence.  But that is never the progressive solution, as I noted previously.

Rather than addressing the core issue of minority student preparedness, the progressive answer is always to level the playing field to the lowest common denominator. Their reasoning is implicit: these racial minorities cannot possibly achieve success on their own; we have to enforce “a fair and even playing field” to make up for their overwhelming inadequacies.

As a result of this (implicitly racist) thinking, the progressive line is always: Let’s not waste time and resources lifting up minorities in academic preparedness, let’s instead eliminate standards that require any standard of academic preparedness in favor of “racial equality.”

In order to stamp out the SJW brigade’s favorite straw boogeyman—the “racist system” based on white privilege, Pham proposes that “Asian-Americans must build cross-racial, intra-racial and cross-class solidarities with other groups.”

Asian-Americans, in other words, must embrace losing their hard-earned place at NYC’s highly competitive and prestigious elite public schools in a show of “racial solidarity” with other minorities as they join the war against white privilege.

She concludes her op-ed:

In other words, Asian-American critics of Mr. de Blasio’s plan are arguing to preserve a racist system in which whites, not Asians, are on top. They may gain short-term goals (a seat at a prestigious school) but they lose the long game of acquiring more seats for everyone: middle- class and working-class black, Latinos, American Indians, whites — and yes, other Asian-Americans, especially those from Southeast Asia, whose educational achievement, income and employment rates are significantly below their East and South Asian American counterparts while their incarceration rates are higher. To gain more seats, Asian-Americans must build cross-racial, intra-racial and cross-class solidarities with other groups.

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is an instrument for the uneven distribution of a public resource. It perpetuates and legitimizes the already uneven distribution of other public resources and services. Getting rid of it means that more kids will have a bit more access to the best of what this city has to offer.

Opposing the mayor’s plan isn’t the right fight. The right fight is for the improvement of all of our public schools.

That “fight” for the “improvement of all our public schools” is the worst type of cheap, lazy conclusion.  Pham doesn’t advocate anything of the kind; indeed, she, like de Blasio, steadfastly ignores the idea of improving NYC’s public middle schools to better prepare all students to compete for the limited available slots in the city’s elite public high schools.

The bottom line appears to be that admitting minority students who cannot earn even a minimum passing score on the standardized test, a move that has the largest impact on Asian-Americans who statistically excel on the test, is a good kind of racism.  Apparently, well-intentioned racism that harms one race but helps other minority races is not racist at all and should be welcomed with open-armed self-sacrifice (martyrdom?) by the minority community most harmed.

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