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TUSD seems to be focusing on 'social justice' rather than academic standards

Dr. Ben Chavis, a Native American from North Carolina who earned both a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in education from the University of Arizona, took over a failing charter school in Oakland, Calif. He instituted high academic standards and was a tough disciplinarian who passed out detentions freely. Dr. Chavis' American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) has been consistently rated as one the top five of the roughly 1,300 junior high schools in California.

Back in the Old Pueblo, I heard Michael Block in a radio interview discuss one of his motivations for starting the BASIS charter school here in Tucson and Scottsdale. BASIS, you may recall, has been consistently rated one of the best high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. Anyway, he had two daughters who moved from Europe to the United States and entered a Scottsdale public school. According to Block, they were treated very well, accepted and welcomed, but they were not learning anything academically. Therefore, he started his own school with high academic standards, and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, Tucson Unified School District is preoccupied with "diversity" and "social justice."

TUSD's "Post Unitary Status Plan" (a PDF copy is available online), adopted in July 2009, contains the following: "Each school's plan should specifically address the academic needs of African-American and Hispanic students who are not performing at grade level and or meeting the standards as assessed by Terra Nova and AIMS. Each plan should also address the issue of underrepresentation in Honors, AP and Gifted programs."

Yikes! Let me break it down for you.

Each school's plan should specifically address the academic needs of African-American and Hispanic students who are not performing at grade level and or meeting the standards as assessed by Terra Nova and AIMS. This is a good idea, but how about the Anglos, Asians and Native Americans who are failing? Is that not a problem, too? Now, before you question why I included Asians, let's just say that it is possible that an Asian kid might be failing in some school somewhere. (Hey, all I'm saying is that it could happen.) Anyway, "equality" is repeated throughout the document as an important principle. Are some kids more equal than others?

Each plan should also address the issue of underrepresentation in Honors, AP and Gifted programs. It's always been my understanding that these programs are not legislatures with every group having equal representation. Participation is based on individual merit, which makes over- or under-representation meaningless. Believing that demographic patterns for those in special programs must match the demographic patterns of the school as a whole is like saying that each time the dice are tossed, they must add up to seven. The fact is that sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't, because they are unrelated. When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he supported colorblind admissions standards for the state college system. Some tried to frighten him by saying that if there were no affirmative-action admission standards, the student body would be 80 percent Asian, to which he replied, "So what?"

If you want to see how deeply destructive this document gets, go to the "discipline" section, where you will find the following: "As appropriate, the Department of Student Equity will interact with each school to review suspension data (in-school and out-of-school). School data that show disparities in suspension/expulsion rates will be examined in detail for root causes. Special attention will be dedicated to data regarding African American and Hispanic students." And, "The Equity Team will ensure that disciplinary policies focus on improving students' future behavior, rather than inflicting punishment, and that they represent a commitment to social justice for all students."

Finally, the ultimate attack on the individual: Not even punishment for breaking the rules relates to behavior. In fact, punishment itself is passé.

So now we teach children that they are not responsible for what they do. Bad actions do not lead to bad consequences. Everyone is equal, except that some are more equal than others. We are no longer committed to justice for all; rather, we are committed to social justice for all. I don't know what "social justice" is, but it is not "justice"—hence the addition of "social."

I understand that TUSD really wants that desegregation money, but if you have to do this to the children, is it really worth it?

More by Jonathan Hoffman

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