Michael Matteo: Education and woke rationalizations

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Concerned parents of school children might ask the following question: What in the hell is going on with education in America? 

The answer is quite simple.  It has been seized by woke progressives who are determined to allow their political agenda to destroy children’s opportunities for learning and reaching their potential.  The WOKE battle cry is DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), however, given what these individuals are attempting the acronym might be better DIE because it kills everything it touches.  

In this era (or perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it an “error”) of WOKE ideology, rooted in fantasy (we are what we think we are, biology aside), embracing victim status (I can’t succeed because of past injustices to people like me) and the notion of equality of outcomes (If you have more than me, you need to give me what you have, so we can be materially equal) no institution is safe, and this includes the educational system.  

Woke educators have become groomers, and this is not only about sexual topics; they are grooming a generation of blamers, victims and whiners. “I failed the test because of systemic racism.”  “Life isn’t fair because you have more than I do, so you need to give me what you have.”  “I’m marginalized, so what are you going to do about it?” 

In school systems throughout the country, liberal bureaucrats have pushed for the elimination of merit in favor of diversity. This is evident in college admissions. Ivy League Universities have admitted that their quest for diversity results in them using subjective factors like student personality scores, over objective factors like GPAs or SAT/ACT scores.  Perhaps this is why 1/3 of college students drop out in their 1st year. 

Yet, college admissions officers in universities that tout diversity over merit stand firm in their defense of how they admit students. The Supreme Court will hear a case against Harvard which has admitted to discriminating against Asian students to have a more diverse-looking campus. Sherri A. Charleston, Harvard’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer defended the policy by saying, “What we are defending, in our case, is the ability of Harvard College and Harvard University — and really all of higher education — to be able to consider the whole student in its practices.” 

In other words, students who have worked hard and demonstrated tangible results to earn their way into Harvard, will not be admitted because they don’t fit the racial mosaic that some social justice warrior in an admissions position believes is “diverse” enough.  

This mentality has trickled down into high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools where the CRT debate rages on.  When they aren’t talking about sexualizing 1st graders, school boards throughout the country have become obsessed with their other favorite topic: race. Race has become a prime factor in just about all educational decisions made by school boards throughout the country. Many have either enacted or are considering enacting race-based grading, which is under the guise of what they term, “transformative education” and transformative educational professional development and grading seminars are coming soon to a teacher training session near you.” 

According to Margaret Sullivan who is the associate director at the Education Advisory Board in Chicago, “By training teachers to remove the non-academic factors from their grading practices and recognize when personal biases manifest, districts can proactively signal a clear commitment toward DEIJ (a new letter has been added to their acronym, J for justice).  How many extra points will teachers give to marginalized students on tests and quizzes?  The trans, multi-racial, drag queen kid doesn’t even have to come to class based upon WOKE grading, as he automatically gets a pass due to his victim status. One of the main purposes of education is to give students skills, so they can be productive employees. Will owners of companies look at “non-work” performance factors when they hire an employee who can’t do a job?

As we look at race-based grading, elimination of honors programs, and this notion of equity of educational outcomes, the big picture is that students are being “educated” to live in a fantasy world where their race matters more than their competence. Equity of outcomes is not practical because every person is born into different economic situations and possesses different abilities and resources. To deny someone an opportunity because they are “too smart” because they need to “share” their good grades, good study habits or achievement with someone else is the antithesis of the kind of freedoms that have made America a global leader. To vilify merit or ignore it, in favor of some grandiose, mutated idea that diversity and equity are noble goals is to deny someone the opportunity to excel and reach their full potential.

Here are a few instances where educational decision-makers have either enacted policies or have considered enacting them to basically pursue a policy of mediocrity in schools around the country:

In New York City, which has the largest school system in the country, a panel appointed in 2019 by then-mayor, Bill de Blasio, proposed to eliminate the city’s gifted and talented schools and programs due to these programs being unfair and students not fluent in English were underrepresented in “the most rigorous academic programs.” This was met with several lawsuits by outraged parents who reacted to the notion that courses for students with superior abilities in particular subjects were more about opportunity than inequality.

In San Diego, a progressive principal named Michelle Irwin took it upon herself to cut many of the school’s honors classes at San Diego’s largest high school and her explanation for it was “equity.” In an e-mail to parents, she said she wanted to remove the stigma from non-honors courses and cited racial disparities in honors course enrollment.

In San Francisco, Lowell High school moved from a merit-based admissions policy to a lottery system.  

In Massachusetts, Principal David Fabrizio of Ipswich Middle School canceled his school’s Honors Night because he believe that it would cause students who were not receiving awards to feel self-conscious and disappointed in themselves.  

In Seattle in 2019, there was an attempt to infuse a “math ethnic studies” into all K-12 math classes to teach how math has been used to oppress marginalized people and communities of color, and students were asked to “identify how math dictates economic oppression.” I must have been absent that day because I don’t think that learning the multiplication tables or how to calculate change involves any form of economic oppression.  

These are just a few examples, and woke educators all over the country use buzz words to disguise their intentions. Words like “deleveling,” and “reboundering” and numerous creative names for boards to institute these policies. Since when did excellence, and achievement become things to avoid and not emulate?  

In sports, there is only one Super Bowl champion, one World Series winner and one NBA champion. Should these champions feel bad because they won? Whatever happened to the idea of acceptance of defeat and using it to try harder next time?

Competition is the foundation for progress in a free society. If you can build the better car, create the best product or get the best grades, you will be successful, and society benefits from it. The idea that standards must be lowered to avoid hurt feelings, and brilliance must be sacrificed so everyone can be comfortably mediocre is not the prescription for success, and anyone promoting this agenda should not be making educational decisions.


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