The superintendent of schools, Jack D. Dale, apparently seeking a politically correct silver lining, said the study's results could lead to "new understanding about social and cultural differences in students." Here's a radical idea: How about one standard for everyone without regard to race, sex, ethnicity, or any other group membership? Ironically, this study, intended to help solve problems in the minority populations of Fairfax County (which includes substantial numbers of east Asians, south Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans) will be perceived as evidence of racism by professional offense takers. Counting by race, no matter how benevolent the motive, is toxic.
The schools unavoidably teach ethics and morality whether the curriculum explicitly calls for it or not. The attention lavished on Martin Luther King sends an unambiguous message about human equality and dignity. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance instills patriotism. Excessive focus on racism, sexism, and other fashionable isms undermines patriotism. Excusing late papers teaches irresponsibility. Punishing a kindergartner who plants a kiss on a classmate as a "sexual harasser" teaches an appreciation for the absurd. There is no point in urging that ethics and morals are not the proper province of the schools because they will inevitably intrude in a thousands ways.
Like so many other big public systems (and Fairfax is among the country's finest), the system clogs kids brains with so many politically correct messages that more traditional moral lessons are crowded out. My sons have been force-fed Manichean tales about noble Native Americans oppressed by whites and religious fanatics scheming against righteous descendants of slaves.
Far better to drop the newer books and teach only the classics. Let them read "Oliver Twist," "The Red Badge of Courage," and "Little Women." They are great stories and the ethics are implicit -- which is always better if you wish to avoid cynicism.
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