Progressive activists have found a cause even more unpopular than “Defund the police”

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Progressive activists have found a cause even more unpopular than Defund the police, David Frum notes, and are pushing it with even greater vigor:

Eighty-three percent of American adults believe that testing is appropriate to determine whether students may enroll in special or honors programs, according to one of the country’s longest-running continuous polls of attitudes toward education.

Yet across the U.S., blue-state educational authorities have turned hostile to academic testing in almost all of its forms. In recent months, honors programs have been eliminated in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Seattle. On Long Island, New York, and in Pennsylvania and Virginia, curricula are being rethought to eliminate tracking that separates more- and less-adept student populations. New York City’s specialist public high schools are under fierce pressure to revise or eliminate academic standards for admission. Boston’s exam schools will apply different admissions standards in different zip codes. San Francisco’s famous Lowell High School has switched from academically selective admission to a lottery system. At least a thousand colleges and universities have halted use of the SAT, either permanently or as an experiment. But the experiments are rapidly hardening into permanent changes, notably at the University of California, but also in Washington State and Colorado. SAT subject tests have been junked altogether.

Special programs don’t poll as well when the questions stipulate that many Black and Hispanic students would not qualify for admittance. But the programs’ numbers rebound if respondents are assured that students will have equal access to test prep. The New York Post reported earlier this year on an education-reform organization’s findings that almost 80 percent of New Yorkers would want to preserve selective testing at the city’s elite high schools if it were combined with free access to test-preparation coaching for disadvantaged groups.


The supervisors who led the effort to end academically selective admissions at Lowell now face not only a recall campaign, but also a lawsuit from groups including the Asian American Legal Foundation. Accusations of bigotry have flowed both ways. In March, supporters of the old admissions system surfaced tweets by one of the school’s pro-lottery supervisors that accused Asian Americans of anti-Blackness. Black students at Lowell complain of racist incidents; an Asian American Lowell alum told of being bullied at another, less selective high school.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    The future belongs to the Russo-Chinese combine. They deserve it; they earned it.

  2. Sam Vara says:

    Just issue everyone with a degree when they are born.

    Then there will be no need for academics and they can get jobs labouring in the hot sun for low wages.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    Rule of thumb: If even David Frum can see it, it’s a real problem

  4. Heinlein’s Friday: “…an undemocratic condition is anathema to the California Dream, so, with great speed, an initiative was qualified for the next election, the measure passed, and all California high-school graduates and/or California citizens attaining eighteen years were henceforth awarded bachelor’s degrees. A grandfather clause backdated this benefit eight years. This measure worked beautifully; the holder of a bachelor’s degree no longer had any undemocratic advantage. At the next election the grandfather clause was expanded to cover the last twenty years and there is a strong movement to extend this boon to all citizens. Vox Populi, Vox Dei. I can’t see anything wrong with it. This benevolent measure costs nothing and makes everyone (but a few soreheads) happier.”

  5. Albion says:

    My inclination is, so what? This is nothing of a surprise.

    Ten years or so ago I taught at a college: half the students shouldn’t have been there as they had no aptitude for studying and even less grasp of how to gather information and apply it. Finally, a couple of “students” declared that if they refused to do the work for them to get a final pass — which was the holy grail of having students there according to the college bosses, because no one was allowed to leave with a fail —we the tutors ought to do their final papers.

    They were right: why should they do any work? Someone will do it for them, and in a bright, shiny welfare-orientated state someone would give them money anyway.

    The odd thing was that even among those 50 percent who could not begin to grasp the subject there were some who glibly talked of going on to university. Having failed to do any work at college they probably knew they wouldn’t have to do any work at uni either.

    Final analysis: it was all worthless and not worth the effort, so let it burn.

  6. VXXC says:

    If you see a schoolhouse, know that you are doomed.

  7. Mike-SMO says:

    There is no consensus that ability to “do the test” is equivalent to “do the job”. In a modern world, rules, laws, procedures, and manuals involve the ability to comprehend written and/or graphic material. It isn’t just the test, however, so many believe that they will be able to succeed once the written tests are eliminated. Maybe on a farm or in a mine. Show and they can learn, if they want to.

    The “functional illiterates” that I got to work with had fantastic memories but were unable to learn about new equipment or procedures from printed material. Unfortunately, much of the modern world is based on documents and written material. The skills needed “on the job” are the skills needed to do well on the paper test. Some of the “functional illiterates” were never going to get beyond the shop floor since any such advancement would absolutely require an ability to work from printed material. The “test” isn’t just the “test”.

    More descendants of the original slave founder population who were selected because they were hostile, uncooperative, un-productive and not adaptable. Those characteristics do not work well in an environment where learning to deal with printed symbols (Readin’, Ritin’, Rithmetic) are involved. Those things are not “White”. Those things are at the core of modern society, occupations, and advanced education. Every modern society depends on working with printed or written symbols. The “test” merely determines if you can perform the skills necessary for the position, or job. Many people can’t write or interpret a logical sentence, so they better work on some othere skill or talent.

  8. VXXC says:

    If you can see a schoolhouse, know that you are doomed.

    As for the “tests” we failed, we failed all the tests, because we were conditioned to the system — by school. It was and is the schools that are our doom.

    Burn them, and have hope again.

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