The academic achievement gap in education in New York City has a face: the goateed visage of Chancellor Richard Carranza. He personifies the damage the ideological radicalization of education schools does to our children.
To be sure, black students and those with Latin American ancestry lagged their white and Asian peers long before Carranza arrived. Cultural factors, such as rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth, partially account for this. Compounding these factors are lousy classroom discipline, unaccountable teaching and other failures that plague inner-city school systems.
But Carranza has no time for all that. He pins most of the blame on “structural racism.” And if racism is solely to blame, then the solution is ideological, not a matter of better family models, teaching or school leadership.
Thus, Carranza would destroy the city’s eight selective high schools by removing colorblind exams. Instead of the much tougher work of uplifting minority children to standards of excellence, he wants to banish excellence itself.
Plus, he is submitting teachers to re-education sessions to stamp out the “white-supremacy culture” he sees lurking behind every subconscious corner.
One of the consciousness-raising exercises that Carranza has forced principals to sit through identifies several “white-supremacy” hallmarks that educators in New York City are to avoid henceforth. Among these are “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word,” “either/or thinking,” “individualism,” “objectivity” and a “sense of urgency.”
With the zeal of a modern-day Thomas Cromwell, Carranza says of the struggle sessions: “It’s good work. It’s hard work.” Its critics, he maintains, need re-education the most.
One has to have years of indoctrination at a teachers’ college to miss the enormity of the insult.
Believing American students with ancestry in Indonesia, Nigeria or Uzbekistan can’t develop a love of poetry, petrochemical engineering or natural law marks a return to Jim Crow thinking. Perfectionism and love of reading are human traits, as evidenced by the fact we have all perfected our way from the Stone Age and now read on hand-held tablets.
All of these traits contribute to academic and lifetime success. Without striving for perfection, a person will accept shoddy work; love of reading will lead to learning; linear thinking makes a person try to work through contradictions.
Sadly, Carranza isn’t an outlier. Many aspiring educators have had leftist agitprop drilled into them at schools of education, and Carranza got his woolly beliefs at the University of Arizona’s College of Education, where he graduated in 1991.
“I remember the lessons I learned about bilingual education, equity and access for all students, lessons I draw upon in my day-to-day work as a superintendent,” he told the school’s alumni publication. “It is fundamentally what shaped me as an educator.”
That’s the problem. In a major report released earlier this year, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal found that the colleges that teach our teachers have become veritable factories of leftist indoctrination.
“Teacher education has become one of the most politicized corners of academia, an institution that is already out of step with the rest of the country politically,” said the report. “Education schools are leading the charge to ‘transform’ the nation, and that transformation is not leading us to a better, freer, more prosperous, more humane society.”
The Martin Center study found that “faculty and authors who are on the fringes of political thought in the general public and who advocate that the purpose of education is to transform society according to their radical visions are the most frequently assigned writers in some of the most prominent schools of education.”
Abandoning respect for the written word would certainly go a long way toward transforming a republic based on written documents and a society grounded on sacred scripture. But Carranza’s job is to shrink the achievement gap in a massive school system that is 41% Hispanic, 26% black and 16% Asian. Developing a love of the written word could only help elevate those lagging behind.
Discrimination is an unfortunate reality everywhere, and it stings those on the receiving end. The success of Chinese Americans and Indian Americans means, however, that racism alone can’t explain the achievement gap. But discrimination is all Carranza sees; none of Carranza’s initiatives will thus improve students’ educational attainment. They will only hold them back further.
This piece originally appeared in The New York Post