Blog · Educational Equity

The NYC Department of Education Wants to Reserve Seats in Elite High Schools By Race. Here’s Why That’s Wrong.

Joseph S. Lento is a licensed Teacher of Orchestral Music and School District Administration.  In 2014 President Obama named him a National Teacher of Arts and Humanities. Joseph has commendations from Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 1999 he was named NYC Public Schools Bronx County High Schools Teacher of the Year.

Make no mistake that there is a crisis in our urban school systems. They are overcrowded, mismanaged, disengaged, and — by the way — not perfect.

Education is not perfect because human beings are not perfect. When we do things that work, we want them to work for everyone.

This is a noble endeavor but not always attainable. This is not an admission to failure or mediocrity but, simply, the reality of differences that make for a vibrant society.

Educators are firm believers that all students can (with the right resources) achieve equally and the movement afoot to do so is the centerpiece of the NYC Public Schools System and other large urban school systems.

While this is ideal in principle, its foundation is extremely flawed and built to fail everyone.

The facts of the plan are simple. The NYC Public Schools System’s appointed and elected officials want to reserve seats in its eight specialized high schools not by accomplishments but by race.

They also want to do away with charter schools for all the wrong reasons.

This plan is nothing less than’ Addition by Division. Its will erode high standards and cause racial tensions amongst its citizens, as it already has.

Sadly, the primary victims are children who are thrust into learning environments they previously were denied access to and therefore could not possibly be prepared to undertake.

This will lead to a diminution of the high standards being sought for them. Once in place, this plan of educational equality will be more of the same inequality.

Leaders understand full well that putting students into environments for which they have not been prepared erodes the very equity they seek to engineer.

The problem is not that minority students do not have access to these specialized and high functioning schools but rather that, prior to high school, the schools they attend are not equipped to prepare them for high-end creative and academic rigor. That is where the inequality exists.

  • A child cannot be given a seat in the school of Performing Arts playing the trumpet if she didn’t have the opportunity to play the trumpet until the eighth grade!
  • A student cannot be given a seat at the Bronx High School of Science if their previous school lacked the environment to prepare that student for the rigors of that prestigious school.

These simple examples are exactly what is at the heart of this disastrous, divisive plan to create equity in the NYC Public Schools System.

This movement to Divide by Subtraction is not a solution to educational inequities but instead highlights the subpar resources in science, art, music, technology and mathematics that elementary and middle schools in large urban settings lack.

To fill this void, the charter school movement came into being and the NYC Public Schools System is at odds with that movement too, but for self-serving reasons.

While I am not a supporter of public funds for private sector endeavors, these schools do offer an alternative for children and their families who want a better learning environment than the ones being offered by the NYC Public Schools System, which wants to take these slightly better educational opportunities away from children.

So, here are the wars being waged against children by the NYC Public Schools System and similar large urban school districts:

1- The removal of seats in specialized high schools for students who have demonstrated high levels of mathematical, artistic, scientific and musical abilities in favor of children who have been denied the opportunity to develop their natural abilities in those areas.

2- The capping of charter schools that offer slightly better educational opportunities than traditional public schools.

The fight against charter schools by the NYC Public Schools System has nothing to do with working conditions or the rights of children, women and minorities. Instead, it has everything with to do with destroying criticism against its failing system and bloated bureaucracy.

What are the solutions?

  1. Stop dividing educational opportunities for children by race.
  2. Stop destroying the programs that work for children.
  3. Provide full-fledged Instrumental music, art, science, computer technology and mathematics in all schools beginning in third grade.
  4. Teach Universal Intellectual Standards and the Socratic Method in every subject beginning in first grade.
  5. Train teachers to keep their political beliefs to themselves and engage children in the facts of the subject matter, not their subjective views. Teaching is a factual and creative interchange. It is not a political platform.
  6. Set up parental contracts that hold parents accountable for participating in their children’s education.

Unless this war on children by large urban school systems ends now, our children and our future will soon crash and burn.

Addition by division does not compute. Our children deserve much better!!

What do you think?

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