Diversity uber alles

With respect to enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Jay Mathews of the WaPo opined “Top high school should look for character as well as brains.” He also wrote “Four percent underserved minorities is not good enough.”

Reading it, I first saw “undeserved,” but a single letter apart from the newspeak “underserved.” Now, no one should ever argue that being skilled in math and science should allow for defects in character. But it’s clear that Mathews believes that TJ, and other top high schools, should “look for character in lieu of brains.” Especially if that character is attached to someone who is of an approved minority. Asians clearly need not apply.

The purpose of TJ is not to ensure that each minority be represented in proportion to their presence in the population. It is to offer a curriculum enriched in science and math to those who are most able to benefit.

Who is most able? Clearly those who do best on standardized tests for math and science ability, with the obvious proviso that such tests be race- and ethnicity neutral. As an aside, and as a Bronx Science graduate (yes, it’s mostly Asian now; I’m perhaps the only white Baptist graduate ever), it’s hard to envision a math or science test at that level that would be racially biased, but I digress…

Mathew touts diversity as an end in itself, but the harsh reality is that a call for “more diversity” is a call for lowering standards for admission. If we lower standards to admit certain pupils, then it cheapens the result for all at TJ.

I don’t care if all of the TJ students are Asian, or, for that matter, if they are white, black or Hispanic. Just so long as they are all qualified and are treated the same way, starting with admission requirements.

Merely being a member of a particular group should never be a qualification, here in America.

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