NYC Scrapping Gifted and Talented Program Is a Triumph of Redefining Language –

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, as has been done for many years, that his gifted and talented program will be ending.

The move is more symbolic than seismic—in a K-12 system with an estimated (though obfuscated) 900,000 or so students, only around 2,000 kindergartners will be materially affected by the change next fall, and the likely incoming mayor, Eric Adams, has said that he prefers expanding, not euthanizing, the G&T program. Any large-scale educational change should not be made based on 4-year-olds taking tests. This has always seemed to me bizarre.

But at a time when public-school gifted programs across the continent are being dismantled in the name of “equity,” the decision accelerates the progressive policy trend of working backward from concentrations of educational status—whether gifted programs, specialized high schools, or even just institutions with a positive reputation—then measuring the racial composition of students and declaring the results evidence of “segregation” if there are too few black and Latino participants.

Today’s subhed stated that “the highly selective program which has become an egregious symbol of segregation New York City’s public schools” would be replaced by incoming students. New York TimesEliza Shapiro, activist education reporter. And don’t blame the headline writer—the piece is shot through with such loaded, contestable language, from the opening words: “Mayor Bill de Blasio will overhaul New York City’s highly selective, racially segregated gifted and talented education classes.” Read more

The gradual elimination of the existing program will remove a major component of what many consider to be the city’s two-tiered education system, in which one relatively small, largely white and Asian American group of students gain access to the highest-performing schools, while many Black and Latino children remain in schools that are struggling.…

Researchers and parents have argued that gifted tracks can lead to segregation, and the program will not teach children in the gifted track.

New York, which is more reliant on selective admissions than any other large system in America, is home to one of the most racially segregated school systems in the country….

Although the mayor had long promised that he would tackle inequalities in the city’s schools, there have been criticisms of him for failing to take more drastic action until his term ends.

So on.

Although I have been swimming in this language so many times that it almost rolls off my back for so long, today’s movement and journalistic coverage of it mark a notable triumph for the deliberate, persistent redefinition language to serve activist ends.

It was quite shocking to me that for years the mayor of New York refused to call his school system “segregationist”. It’s not true. “De Blasio Will Not Call New York Schools “Segregated,” ran one New York Timesheadline Shapiro complained via Twitter that the mayor had “saved the past 5 years trying to avoid the use of the term’segregation’.” February 2019It is. Is it possible that the mere utterance by one individual of one word could have such a significant impact on our lives?

They were right. When de Blasio finally cracked in March 2019—”this old system…has perpetuated Massive segregation—not just segregation, massive segregation,” he told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer—it heralded a sharp turn in the mayor’s support for the far-left educational approach to racial equity.

De Blasio made public his hate for charter schools in the aftermath of an unsuccessful presidential bid. A spokeswoman for Richard Carranza accused him of leading a “racially charged campaign” and demanded that schools be open to all.

Finally, I endorse the deliberate conjugation of two meanings of the word by the activists segregationDe Blasio made it possible for disproportionate racial groups within institutions to be viewed as interchangeable with government-enforced, race based denials of access. This allowed de Blasio to not only give legitimacy to disreputable political tactics of branding policy skeptics racist but also he showed a noticeable passion for their cause.

Is it possible that the agenda will succeed in its terms, integrating schools and not just for the larger goal of improving education outcomes for individual students? One initially worrying sign from the point of view of professed school-desegregationists is that the early adopters of de Blasio’s equity agenda were bleeding enrollment even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapidly declining populations do not lead to greater integration. They also suffer from a loss of funding and support. The fact that charter school options are being closed down by those pushing for equity-based policies is a problem. This can be especially true for poor schools and families who live in areas with low quality schools.

However, the biggest threat for people who believe racism is synonymous with unfair racial outcomes and therefore are unable to see the danger in the future is the fact that we will all start to treat them as serious. This is because the most significant racial-disparity story of public education in the past year and half was the impact that school closings have had on the poor and minority communities. Teachers unions and the groups most vocally advocating school desegregation or anti-charter animus were most supportive of those closures.

It is important to not close off avenues that are popular with a few but give all students access to as many quality educational options as possible. It’s easier said than done. However, it is not possible to achieve universal success through a one-size-fits all system.

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