Thomas Sowell

 People like this would apparently be satisfied if Einstein had remained a competent clerk in the Swiss patent office and if Jonas Salk, instead of discovering a cure for polio, had spent his career puttering around in a laboratory and turning out an occasional research paper of moderate interest to his academic colleagues.

 If developing the high potential of some students wounds the "self-esteem" of other students, one obvious answer is for them to go their separate ways in different classrooms or different schools.

 There was a time when students of different ability levels or performance levels were routinely assigned to different classes in the same grade or to different schools -- and no one else collapsed like a house of cards because of wounded self-esteem.

 Let's face it: Most of the teachers in our public schools do not have what it takes to develop high intellectual potential in students. They cannot give students what they don't have themselves.

 Test scores going back more than half a century have repeatedly shown people who are studying to be teachers to be at or near the bottom among college students studying in various fields. It is amazing how often this plain reality gets ignored in discussions of what to do about our public schools.

 Lack of competence is only part of the problem. Too often there is not only a lack of appreciation of outstanding intellectual development but a hostility towards it by teachers who are preoccupied with the "self-esteem" of mediocre students, who may remind them of what they were once like as students.

 Maybe the advancement of science, of the economy, and finding a cure for cancer can wait, while we take care of self-esteem.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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