Here, Andrew Wolf writes about the "progressive" campaign to eliminate programs for the gifted and talented.
Everyone in Gotham should be proud of 17-year-old David Bauer, the Hunter College High School senior who won the top prize in the national Intel Science Search competition. This is an achievement not just for David, but also for his family. After all, they had to work particularly hard to make sure that their son received the proper education in our public schools.
This was no small task. The families of bright children have to engage in what has become a sad New York ritual: school shopping for a gifted and talented program. There are few programs remaining after nearly a half century of increasing "progressive" influence on our schools. These programs for academically advanced children are now "elitist" and damage the self-esteem of those who do not qualify. The answer is to drive all children into some egalitarian middle ground.
Barbarians on a rampage.
David is now a neighbor of mine in Riverdale, so when the Intel semifinalists were announced some weeks ago, and I heard that David was a Riverdale resident, I was excited by the prospect that perhaps he was a product of the local schools. But I couldn't say that I was surprised to learn that he moved here relatively recently, and that David didn't go to any of Riverdale's schools. The reason is that over the past decade, gifted and talented programs here had, by design, been gutted. The results have been disastrous.
Why? We have given over the school system to the adherents of "progressive education." Because they believe that all children are basically the same, they maintain that all children are gifted and talented.
So as David's mom was shopping around from school to school, finding the gifted programs in Manhattan, parents in Riverdale were seeing the district science fair scuttled, honors programs destroyed, homogeneous class groupings eliminated, and even a ban on spelling bees, all in a desperate attempt to drive all students to the same level of mediocrity. They succeeded. Admissions to specialized high schools, the key indicator of the success of academically advanced students, dropped by more than 80% in just a decade.
Some readers may be interested in this account by Heather Mac Donald detailing the "progressive" war against excellence in NYC. Apparently, high standards are "elitist":
Why, then, hasn't success-crazed New York trumpeted these schools with as much fanfare as it expends on the Yankees or the New York Stock Exchange? Simple: they embody one of the most odious concepts in contemporary education—elitism. Because they have preserved, by a lucky historical fluke, a century-old admissions system based solely on merit, they are a horrible embarrassment to New York's educational and public- sector establishment, wedded as it is to the philosophy of the lowest common denominator.
Left to its own devices, that establishment would long since have subjected the three exam schools to the same levelling forces by which it has ground down the rest of the education system. Instead, it is forced to erode them more slowly, by mindless bureaucratic regulation and the irritating friction of teachers' union rules. The recent history of the exam schools—the bitter battles fought to preserve their excellence—perfectly mirrors the decline of educational elitism in New York, to the great detriment of its entire civic culture.