Yeah, let’s do away with reality; it’s so unfair
Two unrelated news stories on the subject of education have appeared at the same time, and though they are from two very different places, both are reflections of a common mindset -- that of "well-intentioned" social engineering. Both are utopian plans that guarantee dystopian outcomes. Both are very scary.
The first story to surface concerns Florida, where students will now be held to different standards according to their race and ethnicity, with Asians at the top of the scale and African-Americans at the bottom. Though at first sight this may seem like a racist attempt to foster inequality, its intent is just the opposite: this is an illogical attempt to level the playing field through a manipulation of rules and standards. Paradoxically, those who came up with this plan see it as anti-racist, even though it is one of the most blatantly racist plans ever to be proposed in the United States. Since this new plan will measure "success" differently according to race, those students from traditionally low-achieving races and ethnic groups will be deemed successful if they underperform. It's the equivalent of awarding the gold medal to the athlete who came in last, simply because his race should be held to lower standards. Imagine changing the rules in any sport or the Olympics along such lines. Fortunately, opposition to such a system is already brewing.
Florida schools require less from blacks and Hispanics under new education standards
Asian students should be the smartest, and teachers will expect the least from blacks. That’s the case in Florida, at least, where the Board of Education has agreed to pass a revised plan that outlines new academic goals for students based on race.
The Florida Board of Education passed the plan last week and hopes to have students across the state meeting the newly created goals by 2018. And while educators are hoping to have higher test scores coming in across the board, race and ethnicity play a deciding factor in what’s expected from Sunshine State students in the years to come.
Under the approved strategic revision, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of whites, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks will be expected to read at or above their applicable reading grade levels in future tests. For math scores, they expect 92 percent of Asians, 80 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks to excel, suggesting that some races warrant a lower bar than others.
Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, opposes the revision, telling the Sun Sentinel, "All children should be held to high standards and for them to say that for African-Americans the goal is below other students is unacceptable.”
Cheryl Etters, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education, defends the approved plan, however, and says the decision was made so as to set "realistic and attainable" goals.
“Of course we want every student to be successful," Etters tells the Sentinel. "But we do have to take into account their starting point."
According to test scores taken from the 2011-2012 state FCAT reading exam, 69 percent of white students scored at or above grade level, while only 38 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics scored similarly.
Continue reading here.
Then, from across the ocean, in France, we get news of President Hollande's newest proposal: banning homework in French schools. The reasoning is just as twisted as that behind the Florida proposal: this is a way of leveling the playing field. Students from stable homes where parents set rules for homework will no longer have an advantage. Though it targets the high achievers, the results would be as devastating as those of the Florida plan: basically, it lowers the bar on everyone. Fortunately, in this case, there is stiff opposition too.
From the Wall Street Journal:
France to Ban Homework. Really.
In the name of social justice and equality, François Hollande wants all learning done in school.
François Hollande has a bold new plan to tackle social injustice and inequality in France: ban homework. Introducing his proposals for education reform last week at the Sorbonne, the French president declared that work "must be done in the [school] facility rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality."
Banning out-of-school assignments would put France on the cutting edge of pedagogical fashion, though it wouldn't be entirely unprecedented. An elementary school in Maryland recently replaced homework with a standing order for 30 minutes a day of after-school reading. A German high school is also test-running a new homework ban, after an earlier reform lengthened the school day and crowded out time for extra-curriculars such as sports or music.
These small-scale experiments aim to give students more freedom to excel on their own initiative. Mr. Hollande wants just the opposite. As Education Minister Vincent Peillon told Le Monde, the state needs to "support all students in their personal work, rather than abandon them to their private resources, including financial, as is too often the case today." The problem, in other words, isn't with homework per se. It's that some homes are more conducive to homework than others.
Here we begin to wonder: Are the French losing their mind? Fortunately not. More than two-thirds of the country would oppose the ban, according to an Ifop poll, so there's hope that even in the land of égalité there's some recognition that state power cannot equalize everything. It's also reassuring to know that a majority of French adults believe there's something to be said for instructing children in the need for personal initiative and responsibility, regardless of excuses or circumstances.
Mr. Hollande, however, remains out of step. At the Sorbonne, he stressed that school is where "the child becomes the citizen of the future." Perhaps his ideas about homework say something about the kind of citizens of the future he wishes to see.