Thomas Sowell

A recent flap in a Berkeley high school reveals what a farce "fairness" can be. Because this is ultra-liberal Berkeley, perhaps we should not be surprised that a proposal has been made to eliminate four jobs as science teachers and use the money saved for programs to help low achievers.

In Berkeley, as in many other communities across the country, black and Latino students are not performing as well as Asian and white students. In fact, the racial gap in academic achievement at Berkeley High School is the highest in California-- no doubt a special source of embarrassment in politically correct Berkeley.

According to the principal, "Our community at Berkeley High School has failed the African-Americans." Therefore "We need to bring everybody up-- that's what this plan is about."

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Surely no one, not even in Berkeley, seriously believes that you will "bring everybody up" by eliminating science teachers. This is a proposal to redistribute money from science to social work, by providing every student with advisors on note-taking, time management and other learning skills.

The point is to close educational gaps among groups, or at least go on record as trying. As with most equalization crusades, whether in education or in the economy, it is about equalizing downward, by lowering those at the top. "Fairness" strikes again!

This is not just a crazy idea by one principal in Berkeley. It is a crazy idea taught in schools of education across the country. A professor of education at the University of San Francisco has weighed in on the controversy at Berkeley, supporting the idea of "projects designed to narrow the achievement gap."

In keeping with the rhetoric of the prevailing ideology, our education professor refers to "privileged" parents and "privileged" children who want to "forestall any progress toward equity."

In the language of the politically correct, achievement is equated with privilege. Such verbal sleight of hand evades the question whether individuals' own priorities and efforts affect outcomes, whether in education or in other endeavors. No need to look at empirical evidence when a clever phrase can take that whole question off the table.

This verbal sleight of hand is not confined to education. A study of incomes of various groups in Toronto concluded that Canadians of Japanese ancestry were the most "privileged" group in that city. That is, people of Japanese ancestry there had higher incomes than members of other minorities and higher than that of the white majority in Toronto.


Thomas Sowell

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

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