Love, American Style

Love, American Style

Two months ago, the National Education Association (NEA), the country’s largest teachers’ union, tweeted the following, which we thought was remarkable:

We had been saving that tweet, expecting to use it in a long, boring story about the educational zeitgeist in this country and the profound damage done to it – and to the nation more broadly – by the narcissism and contemptuousness of our “premier” educational reformer, John Dewey.

Lucky for you, then, we found a different, timelier way to use it.

Last month, we learned – courtesy of City Journal – that one of the most prestigious high schools in one of the most prestigious school districts in the country was purposefully hiding academic merit awards from students and parents, thereby denying those students college admissions and scholarship opportunities.  Moreover, many of the students who were denied their awards are racial minorities Asian:

For years, two administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) have been withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college-admission prospects and earn scholarships. This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”…

An intrepid Thomas Jefferson parent, Shawna Yashar, a lawyer, uncovered the withholding of National Merit awards. Since starting as a freshman at the school in September 2019, her son, who is part Arab American, studied statistical analysis, literature reviews, and college-level science late into the night. This workload was necessary to keep him up to speed with the advanced studies at TJ, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as America’s top school.

Last fall, along with about 1.5 million U.S. high school juniors, the Yashar teen took the PSAT, which determines whether a student qualifies as a prestigious National Merit scholar. When it came time to submit his college applications this fall, he didn’t have a National Merit honor to report—but it wasn’t because he hadn’t earned the award….

School officials had decided to withhold announcement of the award. Indeed, it turns out that the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years. Recognition by National Merit opens the door to millions of dollars in college scholarships and 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors.

The good news is that this was, according to Fairfax County Public Schools, an isolated incident, a decision made at one school by one set of administrators.  The bad news is that Fairfax County Public Schools was lying:

While Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid claims the principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology withheld National Merit awards from students in a “one-time human error,” parents at two local high schools got a Friday and Saturday night surprise.

The revelations are emerging after school district principals scrambled to a meeting Wednesday afternoon with the superintendent, after Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced a civil rights investigation into the controversy. Just like at TJHSST, the new revelations appear to impact many Asian American students – one focus of the investigation.

In an email, obtained by the Fairfax County Times, Langley High School Principal Kim Greer pressed send on a mea culpa at 9:29:30 p.m. on Friday night, confusing, agitating and angering parents and students already on edge during the tumultuous college admissions season.

Greer told parents that she was “delighted” to let them know that “your student was designated a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.” She then immediately followed up by saying, “I must apologize that certificates were not distributed to these Langley High School students in the usual way this past fall.”

Tonight, another email shared with the Fairfax County Times went out to parents at 8:39 p.m. This time, Tony DiBari, the “Proud Principal” at Westfield High School in Chantilly, told parents that “it has come to light that Westfield High School students designated as Commended Students this past fall were also not notified by the school.”

As news spread in the community about the new revelations, parents are livid, particularly in light of a new contract that Fairfax County Public Schools signed this fall with a sole-source contractor who preaches an “equity” strategy of “equal outcomes for every student,” urging school district officials to “have the courage and the willingness to be purposefully unequal when it comes to opportunities and access.”…

According to an email statement from a spokeswoman with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, based in Illinois, around Sept. 10, 2022, the organization sent principals packages with the names of National Merit Semifinalists and Commended Students. The packages included Letters of Commendation for Commended Students. The letter included this note in bold: “Please present the letters of commendation as soon as possible since it is the students’ only notification.”

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “That’s a funny way for public school teachers and administrators to show their love for their students.  That actually seems to be the OPPOSITE of doing what will enable them to thrive.”

And while we understand your perspective, it is, nevertheless, wrong.  You…you…you…people just don’t get it.  You don’t understand real love:

In a call with Yashar [the parent noted above], [Brandon] Kosatka [director of student services at Thomas Jefferson High School] admitted that the decision to withhold the information from parents and inform the students in a low-key way was intentional. “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” he told her, claiming that he and the principal didn’t want to “hurt” the feelings of students who didn’t get the award.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is love.

As always, we joke – mostly because we don’t know what else to do.  American education has been garbage for at least 40 years.  The “learning loss” from COVID shutdowns and half-assed distance learning have compounded this.  And now, even the top schools in the top public school district in the country – the one that serves exceptionally affluent Fairfax County – are allowing/mandating that academic achievement be downplayed or even delegitimized in the name of “equal outcomes.”  This is NOT a partisan issue.  This is not even a political issue.  This is an honest-to-Gaia civilizational survival issue.  In pursuit of its blinkered ideological agendas, the nation’s education establishment is hellbent on destroying any functional education that still exists in this country.

It’s not enough, at this point, to suggest that you homeschool your kids or send them to private religious schools.  That’ll save them, sure, and, for that reason, we encourage it.  But that’s not going to save the country.  Exactly, forty years later, and now, more than ever, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.