Inclusion By Exclusion: The Twisted Logic Of Educators Achieving Equality

Below is my column in Tthe Hill Newspaper on the recent proposal by a diversity panel appointed by Mayor Bill De Blasio to eliminate much of the Gifted and Talented programs in the school system. It is part of a broader trend of achieving equality by eliminating opportunities or recognitions.

Here is the column:

Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio may have a new claim for the campaign trail. He has been challenged to list his accomplishments, particularly after reports came out this week that the number of people leaving New York City has doubled in the last year. However, he might rightfully claim that he wiped out racial disparity in the gifted and talented programs in New York City. De Blasio gave the problem to his school diversity advisory group two years ago, which just came back with a simple solution to eliminate the gifted and talented programs in most schools and poof! You will have racial equality.

Despite more than one million students, the group apparently decided that decades of efforts to achieve diversity in these programs have failed. Black and Latino students make up 65 percent of the kindergarten population of New York City public schools but only 18 percent of the students were offered slots in gifted and talented programs. On the high school level, the disparity is even greater. At the most competitive of its eight elite high schools, only seven of the 895 qualifying students were black. Some 587 were Asian, 194 were white, 45 were unspecified, 33 were Latino, 20 were multiracial, and nine were Native American.

Notably, the termination of the gifted and talented programs would not include those high schools. To most people, such solutions smack of their own form of discrimination. Those white and Asian students still have a great need for such programs, as do those nearly 20 percent of minority students. This achieves equality only by cleaving off the top of academic programs. De Blasio is not alone in achieving inclusion through exclusion. Indeed, even the sight of top intellectuals can prove too much for some.

A few years ago, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow went to Rockefeller University in New York City to bestow an award for women scientists. Maddow apparently saw an alarming sight, a wall covered with alumni winners of the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Award, intellectual giants of science like Francis Peyton Rous, who discovered the role of viruses in the transmission of certain cancers. The problem was that they were all white men, and Maddow reportedly exclaimed, “What is up with the dude wall?”

The “dude wall” is now gone. As Dr. Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has explained, “100 percent of them are men. It is probably 30 headshots of 30 men. So it is imposing. I think every institution needs to go out into the hallway and ask, what kind of message are we sending?”

For most of us, the obvious message is that these individuals achieved the highest honors in their fields, and the significance is neither their race nor their gender but their intellect. But Vosshall said the sight of so many white men has bothered her for years, and she was part of a committee that removed the portraits. For its part, Rockefeller University insists it did not “remove” but “redesigned” for greater “inclusion.” It claims that there was no more room on the “dude wall,” so it created a photo display allowing for a more inclusive group of winners of various prizes.

Rockefeller University is not alone in this endeavor. Dr. Betsy Nabel, the president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, decided to sanitize the Bornstein Amphitheater of white men. Nabel declared that all the portraits of the leading figures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital made minority students uncomfortable and ordered their removal. Those portraits included Dr. Harvey Cushing, the father of neurosurgery, and the first chief of pathology, Dr. William Councilman.

At Yale University, Pierson College head Stephen Davis removed all of the portraits of school “masters” because they happened to be white men and declared that the wall would remain blank so that “everyone has a sense of belonging and ownership.” He reversed his decision following a public backlash against this action and insisted that he was misunderstood in his effort to allow a broader dialogue on race and diversity in academia.

There is more to this issue than simple interior decorating. In academia, we honor intellectual advances and measure those without reference to race or gender. All those portraits represent the greatest among us as intellectuals. To see only their race and gender is not just backlash against intellectual achievement but can be itself a form of racial and gender bias. This brings us back to the New York City diversity group. Somewhere in the public school system there is the next Rous or Cushing. The question is whether that child will have a chance to excel without administrators fretting about his or her race or how it looks for the local politicians.

The problem is that highly gifted students need to be able to progress at a faster pace with more challenging material. Otherwise, they can become bored and even regress in their development. For teachers, one of the most difficult challenges is dealing with overcrowded classrooms in which students learn at different paces. The result is often having to teach the majority of the class and leaving those at the top to educate themselves or just drift along. That is why we have gifted and talented programs.

With this change, all students may fare worse. Gifted students are likely to push down the scores and rankings of other students. Currently, students in other programs can still excel and achieve high class rankings to seek college positions. Many emerge, at their own pace, as top students at elite universities. Now, however, these students are likely to find themselves less competitive. Alternatively, some gifted students may simply leave, and calls for vouchers may increase. This will achieve the desegregation interests of the panel by reducing the diversity of the system overall.

Whether it is removing programs or portraits, these efforts are based on a twisted sense of equality. Rather than look at students as individuals with special talents, these educators want to end their programs because of their race. Rather than look at Nobel Prize winners as the geniuses who helped to shape and advance our knowledge of the world, they are seen as irredeemably white or Asian or male. It appears some would prefer a blank wall or an empty building as the ultimate expression of equality.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

151 thoughts on “Inclusion By Exclusion: The Twisted Logic Of Educators Achieving Equality”

  1. OT:
    Flynn Accuses Prosecutors of Hiding Exculpatory Evidence, Demands They Be Removed
    September 1, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019 Share

    Attorneys for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Aug. 30 accused prosecutors of hiding exculpatory evidence in a lawsuit against Flynn. Flynn’s team asked the judge to find the prosecutors in contempt of a standing court order, which would lead to the prosecutors’ dismissal from the case.

    “They continued to hide that exculpatory information for months—in direct contravention of this Court’s Order—and they continue to suppress exculpatory information to this day,” Attorney Sidney Powell wrote in a motion to compel the production of the exculpatory evidence.

    The attorneys accused the government of singling out Flynn for prosecution “motivated by a discriminatory purpose” and suggested that the evidence used against the former national security adviser may have been illegally obtained.

    The defense attorney further asked the court to order that the prosecutors preserve all evidence, including the communications of the staff at the now-closed office of special counsel Robert Mueller.

    The filing is the first major legal volley by the defense team led by Powell, a vocal critic of prosecutorial misconduct within the Justice Department (DOJ). Flynn fired his former legal team in June.

    In an indication of what’s to come in the first case brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller, the introductory paragraph of the Aug. 30 filing by Flynn cites an article titled “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” and references a statistic that shows that more than 20,000 people are in prison for crimes they pleaded guilty to but didn’t commit.


  2. If “special” programs cannot exist for intellectually gifted students, then all of the “special” programs for handicapped and disabled students need to go too. Can the school district guarantee ethnic equality is those programs? If equality is the goal, why should one small subset of the school population take away resources from all the others?

  3. Happy Labor Day weekend Chicago, 7 dead, 34 wounded. Where’s the outrage. No massive media coverage.

  4. Inclusion By Exclusion: The Twisted Logic Of Educators Achieving Equality

    These NYC nincompoops want to eat our seed corn and salt our fields in a defective attempt at Achieving Equality while using school children as political fodder.

    Shaping young minds is way too important a matter to leave in the hands of politicians.

  5. The Left have turned Americans against each other, students against students, all in 1950s / 60s McCarthy ways

    Many sexual assault ‘perpetrators’ deserve a government apology

    David Whitley / Orlando Sentinel

    A male University of Central Florida student spotted a female acquaintance walking through campus one day. He gave her a hug.

    He thought it was harmless. She did not and alerted UCF’s Title IX office.

    “He was brought up on sexual assault charges,” said attorney Andrew Miltenberg, who represented the student.

    I thought of the case when a bill was recently filed in the Florida Legislature. It would call on the state to apologize for the Johns Committee.

    You’ve probably never heard of the Johns Committee, but it was a McCarthy-like commission that targeted civil rights leaders and gays in 1950s and 1960s, many of them at state universities.

    Apologizing for the past is in vogue now, and those persecuted by the Johns Committee deserve an apology. So what about current-day victims of state-sponsored smears?

    I’m talking about college students who were thrown into the kangaroo court system governing sexual assault.

    It began in 2011 with a “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama Administration’s Department of Education to universities that receive federal funding. That includes those in Florida’s State University System.

    The letter recommended new guidelines. If they weren’t followed, colleges risked losing federal dollars.

    The motive was good. They wanted to make it less horrifying for victims of sexual assault to come forward. But the guidelines gave little thought to the accused.

    Not convicted, though you wouldn’t know it.

    In many cases, students didn’t know they’d been charged until they were handed their convictions. They were not allowed to face their accusers, cross-examine witnesses or present evidence.

    Title IX hearings can’t send you to jail, but sexual assault is a life-altering charge. Criminal courts require proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The campus requirement was “preponderance of evidence,” the lowest burden of proof.

    Schools were required to investigate “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Like a completely clothed male hugging a completely clothed female in front of people during the middle of the day.

    The unidentified male student spent six months fighting for his future.

    “If you’re suspended for sexual misconduct, you’re essentially branded a rapist or sexual predator,” Miltenberg said.

    The student eventually was found not guilty, which made him luckier than hundreds of others. A student in Oregon had no idea why he was told to immediately move off campus.

    He ended up losing his job and dropping out of classes. All because a female student said “he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before a thousand miles away,” according to the Harvard Law Review.

    Travesties like that mounted, but the U.S. Department of Education pressed ahead. Federal documents began referring to accusers as “victims” and the accused as “perpetrators.”

    A school could appoint a single staff member to act as detective, prosecutor, judge and jury. It became such a legal joke that 28 Harvard law professors signed an open letter about the “Dear Colleague” letter, saying its guidelines were “so unfair as to be truly shocking.”

    What’s shocking is the ongoing resistance to changing the system. The Trump Administration rescinded the “Dear Colleague” guidelines in 2017 and has been working with Congress to come up with new ones.

    Among the recommendations are allowing representatives of the accused question the accuser. It’s a vital part of due process, which is the foundation of our legal system.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reforms show “utter contempt for survivor justice by making schools unwelcoming and unsafe.”

    Nobody wants that, of course. What we all want is a system that’s fair to both the accused and the accuser.

    The Dear Colleague Star Chambers obviously failed to deliver. That’s why its victims have filed more than 500 lawsuits seeking to have their names cleared.

    Colleges have settled many cases before going to trial. They are writing big checks, but the problems aren’t going away.

    In fact, the overzealous crusade has made things worse. Not just for the accused, but also for the accusers.

    Miltenberg and other lawyers are seeking class-action status for lawsuits, which means every case could be overturned in that jurisdiction or state-college system.

    Theoretically, the cases could be re-tried. Women who really were sexually assaulted will have to relive their ordeals if they want justice.

    There’s a word that was all but missing in the Title IX directives.

    That led to a lot of innocent people being convicted. But a lot of guilty ones were, too.

    The sad irony is all the verdicts could now be thrown out. So the Dear Colleague zealots not only owe a lot of “perpetrators” an apology, they should also apologize to a lot of authentic victims.

    That’s what happens when you are seeking convictions, not the truth.

  6. New York. Do not raise a kid there. Do not send one to college there. Fly over and flush.

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