‘Fairness’ means excluding poor Asians

Making New York City’s elite exam schools “fair” means excluding lower-income Asian immigrants, writes Dennis Saffran in the New York Post. The beneficiaries are likely to be children of the professional classes.

In 2004, 7-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents — a cook and a factory worker — and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side.

Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.”

When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs.

Ting got into Stuyvesant, earned a diploma and will start at New York University in the fall.

White, black and Latino enrollment in the exam schools has fallen as Asian-American newcomers — disproportionately poor and working-class — “have aced the exam in overwhelming numbers,” writes Saffran. “White enrollment at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech has plummeted . . . dropping from 79 percent, 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 1971 to just 22 percent, 23 percent and 20 percent today.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for “holistic” and subjective admissions criteria, such as extracurriculars and community service, will penalize students like Ting, who works after school in the family laundromat. His family can’t afford a”service” trip to Nicaragua.

“Subjective evaluation measures like interviews and portfolio reviews” open the door to unconscious bias, writes Saffran. Interviewers favor people like themselves.

Sure, the decision makers will do their best to admit a few more black and Latino kids (especially those from the same upper-middle-class backgrounds), but the primary beneficiaries will be affluent white students who didn’t study hard enough to perform really well on the test but seem more “well-rounded” than those who did.

Compared to the exam schools, the city’s “screened” high schools that use “multiple criteria” for admissions admit fewer Asian-American and lower-income students, Saffran writes. Citywide, the exam schools are 13 percent black and Hispanic, 24 percent white and 60 percent Asian. The top screened schools are 27 percent black and Hispanic, 46 percent white and only 26 percent Asian. Half the exam-school students qualify for a lunch subsidy compared to 37 percent at the screened schools.

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  1. I get the sense that in NYC, the American Dream is dying.

  2. palisadesk says:

    Affirmative Action for rich kids. Oh the irony.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    NEVER underestimate the ability of a politically powerful class to protect themselves against other classes.

    The reason that we remember things like the French and Russian Revolutions is because they are such a rarity.

  4. Dealing with the genetic differences between human populations is not going to be very easy for us.

  5. Interesting, this was exactly what they did back in the pre-WWII days to keep Jewish immigrants out of Harvard. Back then the admissions criteria were purely academic; you passed certain tests, you were in. These immigrants were self-disciplined and highly motivated, and when it became clear that the sons of old money could not compete with this new blood (even the expensive preparations of such distinguished schools as Groton and Exeter weren’t enough to help them) the administration created criteria like “character” to help tip the scales. If your father was a rabbi from Warsaw (or was an alumnus of Yale), you didn’t have character. If your Dad was from Martha’s Vineyard or Oyster Bay and was a Harvard alumnus, you had character. Problem solved!

    Those interested in this sort of discrimination (which is good, since it’s in the name of justice and equality, helping poor minorities and not WASPs) might care to see a book entitled “The Chosen: The Hidden History of Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton,” by a UC Berkeley scholar named Jerome Karabel. Now, the Left has always romanticized disempowered minorities and outcast groups and fetishized their sufferings. The cruelties suffered by the Chinese under communism, would qualify them for all sorts of benefits under the regime’s Calculus of Misery and Entitlement, or so you would think.

    The great school reformer John Holt noted that, if your business is helping people, you require a steady supply of helpless people to stay employed. Just as too many vegetarians would ruin the Outback Steakhouse, too many self-sufficient, disciplined people might ruin the professions of those dedicated to helping the helpless, as well as those of the politicians who are paid handsomely to keep those institutions running. Such politicians might have trouble getting votes from people who can take care of themselves.

    Whether you think the reasons for this sort of academic ability are cultural or genetic, or some combination of both, it should be clear that the people running that city have a vested interest in putting a throttle on achievement, and that has been the case for a long time. Back in the sixties, there was an amusing incident where certain persons attempted to install a Montessori kindergarten in a poor, minority-populated neighborhood. It was struck down by local school establishment, who were worried that the superior cognitive training offered would give those little black and hispanic kids an unfair advantage over the white kids! Haha! Maybe these compassionate white, lefties aren’t so nice after all!

    So we see what the intended goal is to be, the sort of equality offered in the old
    USSR. The regime indeed had achieved its goal of perfect equality, with everyone equally poor and miserable, unless you were one of the inner circle. The masters of NYC seem to have similar ends in mind.

  6. Charles says:

    I disagree with the others here and am putting my prediction on record that this will not really change the proportion of white students including wealthy white students.

    It would increase the numbers of black and Hispanic students, almost entirely at the cost of lower numbers of Asian students. The people favoring these policies for political reasons are that obsessed over that result that they would make sure it happens. People arguing in defense of the poor, hardworking Asian students are using the story that this will help white students just as an excuse because it’s what the political culture wants to hear, but it’s not true.