Remember back when students could be recognized for being the best at something, whether it happened to be academics or athletics? On these special occasions, you might have dared to acknowledge such achievement at an all-school assembly, or at the very least inform parents of their student’s success.
Those days are gone in the Old Dominion. Instead, recognition of individual high achievement has been replaced by a “participation trophy for all” subculture, where equity reigns supreme.
And if you thought this war on merit was limited to one rogue administrator or school district, you would be mistaken.
To date, 17 high schools, all in Northern Virginia, have admitted to failing to notify hundreds of students of their various earned National Merit awards. With an investigation now underway by Attorney General Jason Miyares, R-Va., both the number of schools and students impacted by this ideological crusade might grow.
While most students will not likely be hindered by this major oversight when it comes to applying for college admission, it speaks to the more troubling effort spearheaded by these school administrations to achieve equal outcomes among their respective student populations at whatever expense.
Not to mention it’s a smack in the face to the hard work of those students who weren’t properly acknowledged. To be recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a student must score in the top 1% of their state on the PSAT during their junior year of high school and have near perfect grades.
Although the students in this instance were not actual National Merit Scholars, all were entitled to receive Letters of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program. This exclusive honor is reserved for roughly 34,000 students across the country, many of which have phenomenal test scores and grades, just shy of the top 1%.
One of the schools impacted by this controversy is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, consistently ranked one of the best schools in America.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as the school’s leadership enacted an equity agenda several years back, which among other things promotes “equal outcomes for every student.”
Brandon Kosatka, director of student services at Thomas Jefferson, noted that administrators “want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements.” Not to be out-woked, principal Ann Bonitatibus told reporters she didn’t want to “hurt the feelings” of those students not receiving an award.
Hurt feelings? We’re talking about high school students. Not small children. If a student can’t handle the fact that a peer scored better on a standardized exam, we’ve got bigger fish to fry than hurt feelings.
But Ms. Bonitatibus’ original sentiment entirely misses the point. Rather than cause emotional distress and trauma, recognizing such high achievement might encourage other students to aim for similar results.
Although I’ll admit I would have certainly taken advantage of Thomas Jefferson’s “fairness doctrine” in gym class as a once out-of-shape, uncoordinated teenager!
The idea that everyone can achieve equal outcomes in the classroom, or in life for that matter, is unrealistic and impractical. At least Virginia’s chief executive gets it.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., claimed the entire situation was the result of a “maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs,” and has since called for legislation that would require schools to inform both students and parents about National Merit Scholarships and similar awards.
It’s a start. But policymakers have their work cut out for them.
America already lags behind many nations in reading, math and science, and with quixotic policies like those at Thomas Jefferson and other schools in Virginia, it’s no wonder why our pupils are falling further behind.
Abandoning merit does achieve equity. In a perverse sense, it puts all students at a distinct disadvantage, high achievers and C students alike.
Whether those students decide to enter the workforce after graduation or head off to college, all are behind because they haven’t been pushed to achieve their potential out of some misguided quest for academic parity.
In Virginia these days, it’s academic achievement be damned for the sake of the greater good. Just what that greater good is, I’m still trying to figure out.
Jacob Lane is a Republican strategist and school choice activist. He has worked for GOP campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, as well as with various PACs and non-profits. Read Jacob Lane's Reports — More Here.
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