Lowering the bar in Vancouver public schools

The Globe and Mail ran an article today reporting that Vancouver public schools have eliminated their math and science honors programs (apparently the English honors programs were already removed years ago). This latest round of cuts has been portrayed by the school district as a move towards furthering equity and inclusion within Vancouver’s public schools.

Parents are understandably upset.

But, don’t worry, says the school district, your child can still enroll in “mini-schools” in order to pursue excellence in a particular area of learning.

Sure, but there is a catch —

Ah yes, because nothing is more equitable and inclusive than an application process run behind closed doors by school administrators. In all seriousness though, which is more equitable — students regardless of socio-economic background gaining entrance to honors programs through achieving good marks or having to go through the dog and pony show of an application process contending for limited spots?

But any objections to these new changes are, of course, racist.

Dr. Katz seems to be expressing a personal opinion, not extrapolating from any data set or peer reviewed research. It’s unfortunate that her opinions enjoy privileged access to public school policy. I wonder if she experiences any consequences based on the quality of the consultation she provides to the school district.

I can’t shake the feeling that Dr. Katz has blinded herself to the reality of school life. Does she understand how truly awful children are to each other? What if the concerns of parents for their gifted children might actually stem from some accurate observations of child group psychology?
Children are deeply confused about their identity and desperate to fit in. Gifted children will find themselves the objects of scorn by their hormone riddled and fear driven peers who see them as different and possibly dangerous. This naturally leads to a gifted child self-censoring, growing bored and disaffected, and ultimately missing out on realizing their personal potential. Instead, gifted children should be put together so that they can feel normal and accepted for who they are, and even be spurred on through mutually beneficial peer relationships.
And this will be the result of the Vancouver school district’s reforms — those who can afford to “tutor” their children to get them into honors classes in public school will simply pull their children and pay for private school education instead. Ultimately, this will only disadvantage children from poor backgrounds because it eliminates publicly supported educational channels for them to access the elite classes through sheer hard work and intelligence.

And as if we had any doubt that this was about lowering the bar rather than treating each person equitably, we see this single lined buried in the article:

Why do we call those on the lower end of the learning spectrum those with special needs? Are not the extraordinary students in possession of special needs as well? Special is simply deviation from the norm, regardless of the vector of that deviation. We can define equity as giving to each according to their need. If gifted students have different needs than average students, why should they not also receive what they need to thrive?

This ideology is nakedly anti-excellence. It’s like crabs in a bucket pulling each other back down as they all try to escape. This is inclusion through dilution. Rather than celebrating each student’s identity, only recognized identities are to be celebrated, and the voices of any group not included in this list must be silenced. Their difference must be erased. Their needs must be denied. Their concerns are illegitimate, and must be grounded in bigotry.

We don’t need to claim that gifted children are among the most oppressed people groups in the world. That would be a ridiculous claim. But that doesn’t mean that gifted children are not oppressed in ways that are real and painful, nor does it mean that their specific needs are not needs at all. Society wins when we encourage our brightest young minds by getting them mentorship and special training. We all reap the rewards. But apparently we would rather trade the possibility of innovation for the comfort of enjoying slavery through universal mediocrity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s