Virginia school district replaces unequal sharing of blessings with equal sharing of miseries

In October, Fairfax County Public Schools signed a nine-month, $455,000 contract with an “equity” consultant, whose strategy plan for the Virginia school district promised “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”

In short order, the district got exactly what it paid for. As a local ABC affiliate reported on Sunday, seven Fairfax County high schools “have now admitted” that they failed to inform students of their National Merit Scholarship recognition “in time for important college scholarship and admissions deadlines.” Whether by negligence or explicit intent, school administrators in the district denied their most academically exceptional students the status and recognition provided by the prestigious scholarship — just as those students were filing their college applications.

That’s certainly one kind of equality. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Fairfax County schools appear to have replaced the unequal sharing of blessings with the equal sharing of miseries.

When these revelations first emerged from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — whose student body happens to be more than 66 percent Asian — Fairfax County superintendent Michelle Reid maintained that it was “a unique situation due to human error.” Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares wasn’t so sure. Miyares, a Republican, launched an investigation into Thomas Jefferson High earlier this month, asking his Office of Civil Rights to look into whether the district committed “unlawful discrimination in violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act.” As new revelations emerged, that investigation expanded to all of the county’s schools.

Final judgment should be suspended until all the facts come to light. But it’d be quite a coincidence if the same “human error” occurred on seven separate occasions — particularly when the effect of that “error” conveniently tracks with what Fairfax’s consultant would consider “equal outcomes for every student.” Last year, Superintendent Reid herself boasted that she had “made it my life’s work to ensure equitable opportunities and equal outcomes for each and every student.”

“Equity,” as an ideological premise, is a friend of mediocrity and an enemy of excellence. It is characterized by what the British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott described as “a revulsion from distinctness” — “intolerant not only of superiority but of difference.” If Miyares’s suspicions are proved correct, this would hardly be the first time that the ideology’s singular obsession with egalitarian outcomes has punished talent. Across the country, colleges have dropped SAT and ACT test requirements, high schools have eliminated Advanced Placement courses and honors programs, and public-school systems have implemented prohibitions on failing grades — all due to a discomfort with the “inequitable” outcomes that such measures produce.

Governor Glenn Youngkin, who rode parental dissatisfaction with radical educators to the Virginia governor’s mansion in 2021, is blaming the district’s “maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs,” rather than innocent mistakes, for the scandal. “At the heart of the American dream is excelling, is advancing, is stretching and recognizing that we have students of different capabilities,” he said.

The governor is correct. And insofar as equity has supplanted equal rights under the law in many of the nation’s institutions, this “maniacal focus on equal outcomes” poses a serious threat to the culture of striving, achievement, and excellence that has made America the most powerful, prosperous, and free country in human history. Not to mention being grossly unfair to talented, hard-working students whose achievements should be recognized, not hidden away in the service of ideological perversity.

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