There are few things in this world that anger me more than racism. I woke up this morning to find an article entitled The Quest sitting on my kitchen table.
Having gone to TJ for four years I know what it was like. For those of you who have never heard of TJ here is a short description.
A team of business leaders and educators founded TJ in 1985 to train high-achieving students in science, math and technology. By almost any measure, the school has been a wild success. Last year, the average SAT score at TJ was a staggering 1482 out of 1600. According to a spokeswoman for the College Board, which administers the test, that is probably the highest average of any public or private school in the country, although such a statistic is not officially tracked. For 14 of the past 15 years, TJ has boasted more National Merit Scholarship semifinalists than any other high school in the nation. In May, the school won its fourth consecutive National Science Bowl, a competition put on by the Department of Energy involving 1,800 schools.
Don’t get me wrong, if the article’s focus was Quest I would be all for it. Quest is an enrichment program available to student’s who have not had the opportunities that other students have had available. (I think the Quest program should start earlier but it has the right idea). I believe in the equality of opportunity and I don’t believe we as a society are anywhere close to achieving it, however programs like Quest are our best hope of creating equal opportunity.
I don’t feel that the main focus of the article was about Quest, despite its title. I feel like the main thrust of the article was the recent changes to TJ’s admission policy. To really understand what is going on here you have to know how the admission process used to work:
For a long time, the admissions process at TJ varied little. In the fall, hundreds of eighth-grade applicants took a multiple-choice test. The results were combined with grade-point averages to form scores. Students with the 800 highest scores passed to the next round. Then a series of committees would evaluate the applicants using additional information, including essays and teacher recommendations, finally selecting more than 400 students for admission.
This is what truly pisses me off:
Meanwhile, black and Hispanic students continued to make up a tiny fraction of TJ's student body. Determined to change that, the Fairfax County School Board voted last September to overhaul TJ's admissions policy. Gone was the old formula for passing 800 students to the second round. Under the new formula, an undetermined number of students could advance, based on a sliding scale of GPA and test score. ...The school board made one other big change: The selection committees could consider applicants' race and ethnicity when deciding whether to offer admission.
By the way who decided that the asian population was no longer a minority? The last time I checked the population statistics they were still a minority of the US population.And this is why it pisses me off:
Kiara Savage [, a young black student,] was riding home on the school bus one day, not long after receiving her letter from TJ, when she overheard another student talking about the school. "They made the admissions process easier so black people and Hispanic people can get into the school," she recalled hearing the boy say. She tapped him on the shoulder. Excuse me, she said. TJ is a very prestigious school. The people who run it would not lower the standards just so they could add 50 more African Americans to their school. Trying not to lose her cool, she reminded herself of her 4.0 GPA, the countless hours she'd spent on the basketball court and soccer field, her two years of extracurricular math and science courses. She'd thrived on hard work -- and for all those reasons, she explained to the boy, she deserved every nod that came her way.
I can not even imagine how demeaning this situation would be. It creates hostility, reinforces stereotypes and degrades people’s self-worth.
The scariest part is up until now the little boy’s statement would be shown to be completely unfounded. Yet things have changed and if you reread the new admission guidelines, “The selection committees could consider applicants’ race and ethnicity when deciding whether to offer admission” it appears that the young boy’s comments may not be far off mark.
Thanks to the change in admissions policy now every “minority” now has to live through this sort of questioning of whether race played a role in their being admitted to TJ. I thought, much like Kiara, that “the people who run [TJHSST] would not lower the standards”.
And as if to add insult to injury,
As it turned out, the new admissions policy hadn't made a dramatic impact on the racial and ethnic mix at TJ. "I was pleased to see that we had 12 \[African American students\] accepted," Lodal \[\(TJ's principal\)\] said, one more than the previous year. "I would have been happier if we'd had 20."
20? Why don’t you go to the store and buy a coloring box? **People should NEVER be divided into groups based on a sole characteristic as meaningless as skin color. ** This sort of quote in a magazine published by the Washington Post is simply unexcusable. It does a diservice to TJ and all of the students who go there. That is the true shame, not that TJ is “10 miles from the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King gave his speech, and [has] … so few black students.”
I can’t not even begin to describe the anger that I feel.