Reading between the Lines in the Washington Post on Anti-Asian Discrimination in Schools | National Review

Reading between the Lines in the Washington Post on Anti-Asian Discrimination in Schools | National Review

School buses line up outside Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Los Angeles, Calif., U.S., August 30, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Northern Virginia resident Alex Godofsky tweets:

Utterly fascinating, indeed.

“TJ” here refers to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the Fairfax County, Va., magnet school that’s one of the best high schools in the country. Godofsky’s screenshot is from this story in the Washington Post. You’ll note that one major racial group goes unmentioned explicitly in that paragraph: Asians. Of course, Asians are mentioned implicitly by process of elimination. All percentages must add to 100. If the percentage of black students increased, the percentage of Hispanic students increased, and the percentage of white students stayed the same, then the percentage of Asian students must have declined. You don’t have to have gone to TJ to figure that one out.

It’s barely even concealed anymore that “more diverse” means “fewer Asians” in the context of academics. TJ’s new application process sounds a lot like the “holistic” process at Harvard that rated Asian students lower based on their personalities. From the Post story:

TJ adopted a “holistic review” process that asks admissions officers to weigh four “experience factors” including whether English is an applicant’s first language, whether the applicant has a disability, whether the applicant’s family qualifies for free or reduced-price meals at school and if the applicant attends a middle school that has historically sent a small number of students to TJ. Only qualified eighth-graders — those who possess a 3.5 GPA while taking certain high-level math and honors courses — can go through the “holistic” review, and must also submit a math or science problem-solving essay as well as a “Student Portrait Sheet.”

Later on, the Post story does say what the effects were on Asians:

The proportion of Asian American students offered admission, though, shrank under the new system, falling from the roughly 70 percent typical in recent years to slightly more than 50 percent of the current freshman class. Critics, including a large and active parent and alumni advocacy group known as the Coalition for TJ, have pointed to this drop as evidence of their charge that Fairfax officials are working to diminish the number of Asian students at the school. Fairfax and TJ have denied these claims.

But you’ll notice that the claim that the new policy is discriminatory against Asians is framed as coming from “critics,” and the official denial is immediately mentioned. In other contexts, a change in the racial distribution of a population based on a policy change is treated as prima facie evidence of discrimination. But for some reason, on this issue, it’s more complicated than that.

Truth is, it’s usually more complicated than that in any context. Figuring out the best way to determine academic excellence is a complicated question. Standardized tests aren’t perfect. I’d say they’re probably the least bad way to determine admission. Others would disagree. That’s a sensible conversation to have.

But if you’re going to have a magnet school, it needs to be about academic excellence, not “diversity” or “representation.” The Post story is about a new bill in the House of Delegates that would prohibit Virginia magnet schools from “discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” It also prohibits “engaging in proxy discrimination,” which is likely a reference to the “holistic” process that uses roundabout methods to determine minority status.

The story says that an aide to incoming governor Glenn Youngkin declined to comment on the bill, though Youngkin did make an issue of TJ’s admissions standards during the campaign. If he wants to sign legislation to change magnet-school admissions, he may have to wait until after 2023 when the Virginia Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats, is next up for election. But it’s good news that after years of left-wing dominance on the education issue, conservatives are paying attention and winning over voters who just want some sanity in our public schools.

Dominic Pino is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.