Below is my column in the Hill on the litigation over the new admissions policy at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. The school board ended the use of an admissions test in favor of a “holistic approach” to achieve greater diversity at the school. Notably, this week, the board defended its policy before the Supreme Court by insisting that it was not “race balancing” and that the new policy is entirely “race neutral.” However, the board replaced a race-blind, merit-based system for the express purpose of achieving greater diversity. Indeed, one board member declared “in looking at what has happened to George Floyd . . . we must recognize the unacceptable numbers of such things as the unacceptable numbers of African Americans that have been accepted to TJ.”
The Virginia Attorney General (and various other states) have filed to challenge those assertions in a potentially important case that would allow the Court to consider allegedly discriminatory admissions practices and polices not just on the college but the high school levels.
Here is the column:
A small, exclusive public high school in Northern Virginia is emerging this month as a major battleground over free speech and academic integrity. It began with a decision to drop admissions standards to achieve greater diversity, and now there is a fair possibility that this small high school will be the subject of a Supreme Court challenge with far-reaching legal, educational and social implications.
Known as “TJ,” the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Va., is routinely ranked as one of the nation’s best public high schools, a feeder school for top universities around the world. It is the source of pride for many of us in the county, a school that was reserved for brilliant students who are able to take extremely advanced courses and perform university-level research.
A couple of years ago, activists objected that TJ was overwhelmingly Asian and white. While admission was based objectively on scholastic performance (including an entrance exam), a group formed to promote dropping such threshold standards to attain greater diversity. They succeeded, and the Fairfax School Board killed the entrance exam, adopting a “holistic review” approach that includes a “student portrait sheet” and consideration of a student’s background as “experience factors.”
Some of the TJ parents opposing the change challenged it in court, and federal judge Claude Hilton ruled in favor of those parents that the new admissions policy was racial discrimination targeting Asian American students. That ruling was stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which allowed the school board to continue its new admissions policy. However, the case has attracted the attention of the Supreme Court, which is considering two major college admissions cases, which also allege racial discrimination against Asian students. Chief Justice John Roberts has asked the school district to respond to the discrimination claims and explain why the Court should not add the case to its docket.
The TJ case is important not just to constitutional but educational standards in America. For years, meritocracy itself has been under attack as racist. Even science and mathematics have been declared to be “inherently racist” or “colonized.”
At the same time, school districts are closing gifted and talented programs over their alleged lack of diversity — leaving top-performing students with fewer options in the public school systems. These moves achieve a bizarre equity by eliminating merit-based distinctions and opportunities.
And there is a growing movement to end the use of standardized testing to achieve greater diversity. Last month Cal State dropped standardized testing “to level the playing field” for minority students.
Last year, University of California President Janet Napolitano also caved to this movement. California voters have repeatedly refused to allow the state to engage in affirmative action in admissions. Napolitano then moved to just do away with standardized testing for admissions, which would make admission challenges more difficult while enhancing diversity numbers. She assembled a handpicked Standardized Testing Task Force in 2019 to study the issue, but that task force found the opposite: Standardized testing is the most accurate single indicator of college performance, including for minority students. In other words, it helped students find institutions where they were most likely to thrive. Napolitano thanked the task force and then overrode those conclusions by ending the use of the standardized college tests.
Even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seemed to yield to this movement during the pandemic by dropping the use of standardized testing requirements. However, this week, MIT reversed that decision and reinstated the use of the tests as key to preserving its elite status as an educational institution.
MIT has decided to hold firm on the academic standards that made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world; TJ achieved that distinction among high schools by maintaining the same elite entry standards. Now, however, it appears TJ will be “leveled down” to achieve “equity.”
As more advanced programs are eliminated, gifted students will find their own advancement stymied or slowed. Left unchallenged, some will lose interest while others are less likely to achieve the same levels of distinction.
Liberal activists aren’t the only ones celebrating this trend in American education. Foreign competitors like China can only rejoice at seeing the United States decapitate its top academic programs. Our enemies must hope that meritocracy will be replaced by mediocrity in science and other fields as the world economy becomes more and more competitive.
The real loss will be felt by students of all races.
It is possible to achieve diversity in these programs, but it is not as easy — or as fast — as just leveling down entry standards. We can focus on underperforming public schools to better prepare minority students. However, with continuing dismal performances of public educators in major cities, that’s not a welcome approach to many in the education or politics professions. It’s easier to reduce entry standards than it is to elevate performance rates. Indeed, Oregon recently achieved equity in graduation rates by simply suspending the need to be proficient in reading, math, and writing. Done: Instant equity.
The Court’s consideration of admissions challenges at Harvard and the University of North Carolina may bring greater clarity for higher education. However, the same challenged admissions practices are now being implemented in high schools, which serve as the feeders for college admissions. The Court needs to establish its own “holistic approach” and establish a clear and coherent standard for admissions throughout our educational system.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
313 thoughts on “Showdown at TJ: How a Virginia High School Became The Latest Battleground Over Racial Discrimination”
The people pushing this insanity and those that buy into this bizarreness have completely lost their minds. Our enemies must be shaking their heads in disbelief. This must be a gift from heaven as far as they are concerned.
Once we threw away the compass of right and wrong, that had been passed down to us from the wisdom of our ancestors, self indulgence and rationalism have become the rule. (paraphrased from a statement made by Arthur Goldberg)
I would add that it is not rationalism that is the rule. it is irrational thinking and actions that have become the rule. I feel like I am living in the middle of a demented Stephen King horror novel. The Zombie Apocalypse. If they are not entirely insane then it would stand to reason that there is a purpose and a mission. I can only surmise that their goal is the destruction of the fabric of this nation. They hate this nation so badly they are working at breakneck speed to destabilize our fundamental tenets, the middle class and any citizen who can think for themselves. How can they “build back better” unless they destroy what is already there?
Those of us who question these hypocritical, deranged and unhinged crackpots are targeted to be silenced. This is not the Republican or Democratic Party as it stood for so many years. This is a radical, leftwing faction bent on destruction and self indulgence. Power, raw power and control is their game.
If a corporate leader wants to get things done in Washington, they no longer have to hire a lobbyist and send the politician on a Colorado ski trip or a week in the Caribbean. No, they have to cow to the radical politicians and do their bidding and play ball if they want to a ticket to the game. Wokeness is the new capital. The woke corporation or educational institution has to play ball, to do things for the powerful so that they can conduct business. Hence, the educational institution implements a policy that is not even remotely connected with educational research.
Creed dictates conduct. So what is their creed?
One thing to consider in these discussions is that the standardized tests for admission to college and law school really have little in common with the actual classes, writing assignments, and tests at theses institutions once you have been accepted.
I believe studies have shown that the standardised tests are the best measures we have of future academic performance.
“[S]tandardized tests for admission to college and law school really have little in common with the actual classes, writing assignments, and tests . . .”
Actually, they have a lot in common. They’re a good indicator of how a student will perform in those “actual classes, writing assignments, and tests.”
Based on my personal experience from a while ago, the tests were not a good predictor of performance and the actual classes were just so different and large parts of the test seemed irrelevant to my future studies. For example, why test me so much on math on the SAT when I want to be a history major. Even the reading comprehension section on the tests seemed so different than the use of that skill in college or law school classes.
I do appreciate comments and references provided by several people right above. I submitted the citation to “The Mismeasure of Man” in good faith being unaware of those additional details. Thank you!
No surprise; we all knew it. Media 7 times more likely to mention race if a criminal is white.
Now do it with Christians and Muslims.
There are American people of Asian ancestry who are suing because they have been discriminated against in high school and college admissions because they are smart. They are going to win their law suits. The law declaring that some pigs are more equal than other pigs will finally meet it’s shallow grave. May it rest in torment.
Yes, People of Yellow were disparately subject to affirmative discrimination under Diversity (e.g. racism), Inequity, and Exclusion (DIE). #HateLovesAbortion
If it helps, Janet Napolitano was the lead research attorney for Lewis & Roca, before Clinton appted her
Please stop calling this sort of thing “censorship.” That term is passé and has evil associations with Nazis and Communists. The new term as recognized by Globalist Authorities for these activities and practiced by woke corporations—the good guys—is “content moderation.” Please use it. Thanks.
Won’t take long for the leftists to tell us the Holocaust was just ‘Jewish Moderation’
The dumbing down of America.
Has anyone here ever met a Nigerian who wasn’t smart – and educated?
Or wasn’t a Prince.
Or had a fortune he would share if you would just….
“BEAUTY IS TRUTH, TRUTH BEAUTY, THAT IS ALL YE KNOW ON EARTH, AND ALL YE NEED TO KNOW”
The farther anything or anyone moves from the truth (either absolute or practical), the more corrupt the thing or person becomes regardless of motive, intention or well-meaning. That’s the lesson the ancient Greeks taught us eons ago.
TJ’s governing board apparently needs a remedial lesson in truth, the overarching importance of merit and and the imortality of legacy all covered by Keats in his classic work “Ode on a Grecian Urn:
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
America is not a charity.
America is not a charitable program.
America is a vehicle for the free unfettered “pursuit of happiness” by individuals, not the collective.
Public education is not mandated by the Constitution and must be privatized.
No governmental level has any power to deny individuals their right to and freedom of education.
No governmental level has any power to compel an opinion or a choice, or to deny the right to and freedom of discrimination in all things.
Governmental “overreach” must be struck down by the judicial branch.
There is no intrinsic value to a diverse entity.
There is distinct and greater value in merit.
Diversity and merit will never be equal.
Diversity can only be achieved by diminishing merit.
The attacks on meritocracy are inherently racist.
What’s the greatest irony is that this shift actually does more harm to those that it purports to help.
IIRC there was a study where the best students from inner city schools were given scholarships to the more competitive academic universities. (e.g. Harvard, etc …)
The study found that while some could handle the harder coursework and had the discipline to succeed, many did not and didn’t perform as well. They compared this to those getting scholarships to less challenging schools. (e.g. State run Universities.)
They found that not only did the students have a hard time adjusting, grades were worse… they also suffered from lower self esteem. The issue wasn’t that they were black, but that they weren’t prepared for the challenges that they would face at those Universities.
So taking a student who isn’t prepared to handle the workload and course work at these schools… doesn’t help them, it actually harms them. All for what?
The better thing would be to improve their lower schools so that they could take on these challenges.
Meritocracy is color blind and asexual. To say otherwise is ignorant.
Improve the lower schools and you’ll see a more diverse population in these upper schools.
There is in the literature the concept of “mismatching.” This happens when students who would thrive at a high quality but not super-elite college end up failing or choosing less challenging courses of study because they have been “beneficiaries” of affirmative action to promote someone’s idea of diversity. The ripple effect of this through the entire range of higher education is enormous.
The obvious next steps are to dumb down the courses and eliminate grades. The other option is to major in gender studies, ethnic studies or education. The bulk of the AFT and NEA members, all too many of whom support “equity” and “diversity” are graduates of a school of education. Just lift the curtain and compare the SAT/ACT scores of students in these areas with those in more rigorous majors. QED
The Boston Globe did a Spotlight series on what happened to 100 of the Valedictorians at the Non-Exams High Schools in Boston. It is illuminating in that the programs, instructional material, teachers, etc in the non-exam schools are below par so that even though these kids earned good grades and were at the top of their class they did not have, for the majority, the tools needed to succeed in the colleges/universities they went to.
If you want to focus on making everything equal maybe the educational system and the school boards start by making sure that all the tools are available to all students in equal measure; quality teachers, books, lab equipment, content, etc. Most of these kids are behind the suburban schools and the exam schools before they even start because of the lack of quality of the tools.
This is often driven by property taxes, your high property tax areas usually have the most resources put toward the local school system. Maybe property taxes should be put into a big ‘regional pot’ rather than a local pot and spread to all schools equally. Or maybe each state should mandate that all schools receive the same instructional materials, quality teachers, etc., and not have it rely on local boards.
Karan, I know I am being repetitive and repeating what I have said before. Proper education is a necessity for this country’s future existence. The left is wasting the talent of minorities and those in the lower socio-economic class. It is also destroying the skills of the rest. Thomas Sowell’s latest book on Charter Schools shows us a way of reversing this trend and has demonstrated success that is hard to imagine.
An interview of Sowell and Charter Schools is at Uncommon knowledge, and that interview explains a good deal of the fantastic results.
IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL MOTHER NATURE
“Dr. Watson was correct on all accounts: (1) Intelligence tests do reveal large differences between European and sub-Saharan African nations, (2) the evidence does link these differences to universally valued outcomes, both within and between nations, and (3) there is data to suggest these differences are influenced by genetic factors.”
“On February 28, 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.”
James Watson tells the inconvenient truth: faces the consequences
– Jason Malloy
PMID: 18440722 DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2008.03.041
Recent comments by the eminent biologist James Watson concerning intelligence test data from sub-Saharan Africa resulted in professional sanctions as well as numerous public condemnations from the media and the scientific community. They justified these sanctions to the public through an abuse of trust, by suggesting that intelligence testing is a meaningless and discredited science, that there is no data to support Dr. Watson’s comments, that genetic causes of group differences in intelligence are falsified logically and empirically, and that such differences are already accounted for by known environment factors. None of these arguments are correct, much less beyond legitimate scientific debate. Dr. Watson was correct on all accounts: (1) Intelligence tests do reveal large differences between European and sub-Saharan African nations, (2) the evidence does link these differences to universally valued outcomes, both within and between nations, and (3) there is data to suggest these differences are influenced by genetic factors. The media and the larger scientific community punished Dr. Watson for violating a social and political taboo, but fashioned their case to the public in terms of scientific ethics. This necessitated lying to the public about numerous scientific issues to make Watson appear negligent in his statements; a gross abuse of valuable and fragile public trust in scientific authority. Lies and a threatening, coercive atmosphere to free inquiry and exchange are damaging to science as an institution and to scientists as individuals, while voicing unfashionable hypotheses is not damaging to science. The ability to openly voice and argue ideas in good faith that are strange and frightening to some is, in fact, integral to science. Those that have participated in undermining this openness and fairness have therefore damaged science, even while claiming to protect it with the same behavior.
“Recent comments by the eminent biologist James Watson concerning intelligence test data from sub-Saharan Africa resulted in professional sanctions as well as numerous public condemnations from the media and the scientific community. They justified these sanctions to the public through an abuse of trust.
By suggesting that intelligence testing is a meaningless and discredited science, that there is no data to support Dr. Watson’s comments, that genetic causes of group differences in intelligence are falsified logically and empirically, and that such differences are already accounted for by known environment factors. None of these arguments are correct, much less beyond legitimate scientific debate.
Dr. Watson was correct on all accounts: (1) Intelligence tests do reveal large differences between European and sub-Saharan African nations, (2) the evidence does link these differences to universally valued outcomes, both within and between nations, and (3) there is data to suggest these differences are influenced by genetic factors.
The media and the larger scientific community punished Dr. Watson for violating a social and political taboo, but fashioned their case to the public in terms of scientific ethics. This necessitated lying to the public about numerous scientific issues to make Watson appear negligent in his statements; a gross abuse of valuable and fragile public trust in scientific authority.
Lies and a threatening, coercive atmosphere to free inquiry and exchange are damaging to science as an institution and to scientists as individuals, while voicing unfashionable hypotheses is not damaging to science. The ability to openly voice and argue ideas in good faith that are strange and frightening to some is, in fact, integral to science. Those that have participated in undermining this openness and fairness have therefore damaged science, even while claiming to protect it with the same behavior.”
(There. I fixed it for you. This way makes it much easier to read. So, When you go to cut & paste you should format it correctly. Or dare I say, perfectly???? With all that being said, I agree with you. )
Someone needs to educate the “educators” at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Their charge is to educate, not force the impossible mixture of oil and water, commingle the definitions of normal and abnormal, or promote variations on those themes.
Their mission is not to scour the landscape for artificial emulsifiers to compel unnatural amalgamation while cloaking the physically axiomatic capacities, or the lack thereof.
Their mission is to train unprogramed intellects how to think, not what to think.
The only solution is the original intent – freedom and free markets.
Public education is merely a communist day-care and redistribution of wealth program which must be privatized and made coherent.
Individual “people” must privately purchase the appropriate education for their children.
“The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Hardcover” by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray has been referenced earlier on this blog.
In order to have a more encompassing view on measuring performance as implied in the current discussion I would suggest:
“Critique of The Bell Curve”, an appendix in “The Mismeasure of Man”, pp. 367-390, by Stephen Jay Gould (https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Man-Revised-Expanded/dp/0393314251).
The definitive refutation to the argument of The Bell Curve.
When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.
And yet the idea of innate limits―of biology as destiny―dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book’s claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, “a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological ‘explanations’ of our present social woes.”
“a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological ‘explanations’ of our present social woes.”
As usual, that is not the what the Bell Curve does.
Gould’s work and conclusions have been widely criticized and generally debunked. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/science/14skull.html
NY Times? Really?
Anything that rag prints is so toxic that it isnt fit for birdcages
If anyone quotes the New York times they don’t deserve to be in here on these boards posting comments. They are as out of wack with reality as, the NYT. Furthermore just like the people that work at the New York Times, the people that read that newspaper run their entire life on one emotion. “Frothy-Emotional-Appeal.” Only. Period. So it would behoove you to leave and never come back.
“The definitive refutation to the argument of The Bell Curve.”
If you were actually familiar with the citation you have provided, you would know the book was not about the Bell Curve though it is mentioned.
I think I heard Gould on TV when the topic of the Bell Curve came up. He might have been opposite Charles Murray, who listened, startled at some of Gould’s comments. He asked Gould where he got those ideas from and to provide the page numbers because it was evident that Gould (if it was he) hadn’t read The Bell Curve. I don’t think you have either.
If you would like to discuss the Bell Curve chapter by chapter, I will be glad to engage. It was an excellent book that, among other things, advocated early learning for children in disadvantaged communities.
“in looking at what has happened to George Floyd…”
– Hysterical, Incoherent And “Woke” School Board Member
George Floyd happened to George Floyd.
The defective school board member must be replaced.
The police officer involved may require supplemental training.
NO PERPETRATOR DIED FROM NECK RESTRAINTS IN FIVE YEARS
“Minneapolis Police Department officers have used neck restraints to subdue at least 237 people since 2015, according to an NBC News report published on Monday.”
“The report, which analyzed Minneapolis police records dating back roughly five years, also found that officers’ use of the disarming restraint tactic caused subjects to lose consciousness in 44 of those instances.”
“The unconscious neck restraint shall only be applied . . . 1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or; 2. For life saving purposes, or; 3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective,”
– Minneapolis Police Department Policy Manual
Is “suicide by cop” illegal?
Diversity of individuals, minority of one? No, diversity dogma (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry). That said, the most expensive education product in the world, with progressive results. One step forward, two steps backward.
If you want to go to Soldan High School in St. Louis then you should live in it’s map district.
Same with every other public school in St. Louis city. If you want to go to a charter school then tell em all they want to know and give over your grades and test score.
Nuff said jello head.
“Our enemies must hope that meritocracy will be replaced by mediocrity in science and other fields as the world economy becomes more and more competitive.” What a wise and succinct statement, Professor Turley!
-And this is how America could go down– as an educationally and politically incorrect “has been.”
Please, we must replace Woke-ism with Wise-ism.
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