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The Woke Left’s War on Merit Hits Fierce Resistance in Virginia Schools

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2023
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by Shane Harris
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AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris

Schools

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) in Fairfax County, Virginia – consistently ranked the number one high school in the country – is once again at the center of a controversy over so-called “equity” policies. And like the admissions scandal that rocked the school last year, it is Asian American students and families who are suffering the most from this latest salvo in the left’s war on merit.

Just before Christmas, Asra Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and the mother of a TJ student, penned a piece for City Journal exposing how TJ had been “withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families.” Each year, a select few U.S. high school juniors are awarded recognition as National Merit Scholars according to their performance on the PSAT. The commendation is highly valued by college admissions offices and can help students earn scholarship money to continue their education.

The scandal has now grown to envelop more than a dozen other area high schools, raising questions about the legality of the schools’ actions and stirring parent outrage over apparent discrimination against high-achieving students.

As Nomani’s investigation revealed, TJ had purposefully not shared news of the award with students and their families as part of the school’s “equity” agenda, which promotes “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” Because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation only notifies schools, and not parents, when a student earns the award, TJ administrators prevented hundreds of award recipients over five years from receiving the honor and credit they deserved. Because those students were not able to include the award on college admissions applications or compete for scholarships only available to award recipients, many likely missed out on potentially life-changing opportunities.

Brandon Kosatka, the director of student services at TJ, defended the decision by saying that “we want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” adding that he and school principal Ann Bonitatibus did not want to “hurt the feelings” of students who did not get the award.

This prompted Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to launch a civil rights probe into the incident earlier this month. “To the extent that withholding of any of these awards at Thomas Jefferson High School was based on race, national origin or any other protected status under the Virginia Human Rights Act, that is unlawful,” Miyares said during a news conference. “If the law was broken, my office will both protect and vindicate the civil rights of Thomas Jefferson students and their [families].”

In a shocking new development in the case, since Miyares announced the investigation, 16 other Northern Virginia high schools have as of Thursday also confessed to withholding or delaying notification of National Merit awards to students. Although most of the schools blamed “accidental administrative oversight,” such a pattern raises immediate suspicion that the actual motive at these other Virginia schools was similar to the one explicitly stated by TJ administrators.

Following this latest round of revelations, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin also weighed in on the matter, calling for legislation requiring schools to inform parents about academic awards and telling one local news outlet that schools “have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs.” Youngkin added that promoting “equal outcomes” will inevitably lead to tearing down high achievers, slamming school administrators for “systematically withhold[ing] accolades and a path to college admission and scholarships from high-performing students.”

TJ administrators had also come under fire last year for replacing the school’s merit-based entrance exam with a racial quota system, prompting a lawsuit from a group of parents in the district. A federal judge ruled in February that the new policy unfairly discriminates against Asian American students, as the quota system had caused their representation at TJ to fall dramatically from 73.05% to 54.36%. However, a subsequent appeal has allowed the new policy to remain in place while the court battle rages on.

As Nomani pointed out, Asian Americans were again disproportionately affected by this latest scandal: 77% of TJ’s National Merit Semifinalists over the past five years were of Asian descent.

For conservatives, the scandal only further underscores the disastrous consequences of the radical left’s takeover of the American education system. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on the TJ story, William McGurn points out that, particularly when it comes to Asian Americans, proponents of “equity” policies are in fact creating the very racial caste system they claim to be trying to tear down. “What makes Asian-American achievement so resented by our equity warriors is that it exposes as false the narrative about an irredeemably racist America where minorities can’t succeed,” McGurn writes. “This progressive disdain for Asian-Americans is amplified by a resentment of moms and dads who believe they should have a say in their kids’ educations.”

Meanwhile, the United States is falling further behind many other developed countries in student performance. Pandemic-related school closures have placed an entire generation of young people behind where they should be in subjects like reading and math. Now more than ever, schools would be wise to celebrate their high achievers as an example for other students to follow, rather than discounting and hiding their accomplishments in service of a wrong-headed ideological agenda.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.

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Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Apply to all schools nationwide

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

Nothing new under the sun Everybody gets a medal everybody is a winner excellence or schlep it’s all the same

Donald King
Donald King
1 year ago

“we want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” – This statement is totally asinine! In other words they’re saying that high achievers who have the ability to think, reason, learn, and apply themselves are being kicked to the curb and denied entrance in favor of those who cannot or willfully do not apply themselves. Not very many leaders, doctors, scientists, or engineers are going to result from the wasted class time hours invested in these people.
Set up special teaching programs for those lesser talented if you want, but don’t punish those who are the cream of the crop among the young who are applying themselves towards achieving the greatness that America allows in their chosen fields.

Ann S
Ann S
1 year ago

This started when everyone got a trophy in sports. From T ball teams to High School
Football. This dumbing down of our American youths under the guise of equity is nothing new. Only now it has been exposed.
Are they going to do anything?
No, Brandon has no regrets for his classified documents. If he can do it what makes you think the school boards in Virginia or anywhere will change.
Governor Youngkin is proposing a law to make it mandatory to inform these students of their Merit points. Really? They will find a way not having to do that.
Because they are above the law, they are democrats after all. In the world of democrats they are king.

legal present
legal present
1 year ago

Sue their socks off, this is not only immoral, it is outrageous. Leftists keep pushing race, well, Asians are a race, or is it ONLY certain races??? Again, make them pay, and FORCE oversight at every school that practiced this.

Martin Plecki
Martin Plecki
1 year ago

In the past it was common practice to trust people until they prove untrustworthy. Now, for politicians especially Democrat, teachers and doctors it’s advisable to be very skeptical from the start.

Enuf Said
Enuf Said
1 year ago

Equity- It appears these schools do NOT know the meaning. This is nothing more than discrimination against these kids. The USA is now amuck with this leftist mentality and UNLESS the parents and school boards stand up AGAINST these socialist type allowances- it will GET WORSE. What is amusing is these same type people ASSume no one should get awards and everybody should share in EVERYTHING alike- THEN, they turn around and do the exact opposite. Remember Obozo- Don’t do as I do, do as I SAY.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 year ago

I graduated high school in 1954. ( Yes ,brick bldug., not a log cabin.) Several of the class recvieved scolarships. Fine. No one felt slighted or had hurt feelings about that. Get these lefties out of education. Kyle L.

Mary
Mary
1 year ago

Woke racism will lead to slavery. Is that their intent? We fund schools so it is time to defund them. School choice is the way to go.

Kenneth A. Johnson
Kenneth A. Johnson
1 year ago

Both Brandon Kosatka and Principal Ann Bonitatibus are missing the point! When they say that they “want to recognize students for who they are and not focus on their achievements.”
A students achievements ARE who they are at that age! Grades in classes, on tests, or achievements in sporting events or on scholastic clubs ARE the defining characteristics of each individual at any school! And they serve in large part to assist colleges and universities in making their admissions decisions for students.
Back in the 60’s when I was in high school, our public school system began assigning pass/fail grades rather than letter grades – in order to “level the playing field.” It took one year of doing this before parents and students realized, that some of the colleges and universities were passing over students from our school, in favor of students from schools with strict GPA grading systems. The outcry was so severe, and so fast, that the pass/fail system was scrapped immediately.
What the Virginia school systems are doing is bowing to woke-ness. But what they have accomplished is the furthering of American MEDIOCRITY at a time when our country must be advocating for excellence! ESPECIALLY IN OUR YOUNGER GENERATIONS!

Texas Resister 64
Texas Resister 64
1 year ago

Northern Virginia is a huge DC suburb. It is also the reason VA elections are purple instead of red. Is this not a kind of karma adjustment–what goes down also goes around?

Carol
Carol
1 year ago

The left wants everyone’s feelings protected so how does that work? We get lower caliber doctors, attorneys, CPAs, engineers, and other professionals that folks rely on for advice, safety, and saving lives and now have to deal with some kid who can’t have his feelings hurt so he/she gets pushed ahead but doesn’t know the material? How many lives must be ruined or die before this feelings crap gets dumped by the way side? Why do these leftist constantly worry about feelings instead of helping all rise to their potential? Cuz these leftist don’t want the best, only victimhood cuz then the leftist control the victims and can mold them into whatever the leftist want to create immature, narcissistic, incompetent sheep voting for leftist to remain in power! The left doesn’t care how many get hurt as long as they get what they want! It’s all EVIL!!!!

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 year ago

To demand equity of outcomes instead of equality of opportunities is 100% unfair, unethical, dehumanizing, and communistic. The administrators who denied their students the right to be recognized for individual excellence are totally disqualified for their jobs, and should be fired plain and simple. These destructive goons should also be fined and thrown in jail. They are no better than common criminals, because they have callously robbed hard-working students of their earned opportunities for a better and brighter future.

Rick Lunn
Rick Lunn
1 year ago

Only in the U.S.! Most civilized countries are teaching thier kids math, science etc. What do our kids get? “Are you a male or female!”

Karen comisk
Karen comisk
1 year ago

Where in any of this is “effort” factored in?

Glen
Glen
1 year ago

This reminds me of how the civil service system works and why mediocre employees would gain promotions; not based on merit or test scores, but by seniority. it penalizes those who worked hard, studied and excelled on promotional exams to earn the highest scores only to see a guy who barely passed get the promotion because he was hired a few days or months before you. Those promoted in this fashion were being set up to fail, possibly to get someone hurt or killed because they did not fully understand what they were supposed to be doing. You ended up with the junior guy with the superior scores being expected to “prop up” the senior guy. Giving all students a participation trophy or “equal outcome” is not preparing them to face real-world competition. If students do not compete to better themselves, they will quit trying because they know they will all get by in the end but will be abject failures in the working world.

Philip Hammersley
Philip Hammersley
1 year ago

This nonsense mirrors the “no-keeping-score” sports which started some years ago! Everyone KNOWS who the achievers are and trying to hide it to soothe someone’s “feelings” is STUPID and CORRUPT!

Rich
Rich
1 year ago

This statement from the article says it all, “Brandon Kosatka, the director of student services at TJ, defended the decision by saying that ‘we want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,’ adding that he and school principal Ann Bonitatibus did not want to ‘hurt the feelings’ of students who did not get the award.”

Achievements are part of the individual!

I hope these districts get sued.

J. Farley
J. Farley
1 year ago

Here is the problem I see with this kind of stupidity, here we have some very smart Children, i don’t care what Race they are, I don’t care How rich or poor their Parents are. herein Lies the problem, maybe with the recognition they can get a scholarship, or at least get into a better College. What if some of these children might be the next Doctor to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, or Pancreatic Cancer, if you think about it there are a multitude of thing that might be cured, or a better procedure developed for treatment. Every one of these scum-sucken, morons should be fired and never allowed to work in Government and must disclosure their involvement in this, when applying for any job, so if a liberal business owner wants to hire them, they know what they are getting.

Pete from St Pete
Pete from St Pete
1 year ago

As a chronic under achiever in high school I didn’t wake up until I saw lesser students gain acceptance to colleges that turned me down. Not demonstrating recognition for brighter, harder working students does not help slackers who are too lazy to apply themselves.

spenser maldrum
spenser maldrum
1 year ago

This is a RICO case! ….for some of these students, becoming a finalist National Merit (and not knowing) could mean ten$ of thousand$ of forfeited free or reduced tuition. When my son was pursuing this route about 6 years ago, there were a handful of schools (U of Alabama for one) that was offering FREE tuition for 5 years. it is literally organized theft (RICO anyone) what these schools have done.

Laura
Laura
1 year ago

This equity stuff is taking away any incentive to excel for anyone. It’s not fair that those who do excel should not be rewarded for their performance. As for hurting people’s feelings, grow up! And this is not good for the future of our country. We need smart young people to enable this country to remain competitive. As I’ve said before, equity is communism.

Gwyn Makara
Gwyn Makara
1 year ago

Beyond incredible activity, to withhold such merits from students is lying! I’m sure those who “benefited” from illicit “awards” can’t understand why they “won” such an award nor understand that they didn’t succeed in life! What an injustice!

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

Said it from the start. WOKE is for losers and the braindead that live in
FANTASY WORLD.
Only the STUPID are WOKE.

Subvet1900
Subvet1900
1 year ago

Preaching to the choir here to conservative Republicans. Need to get this news onto the left leaning outlets

Freedom USA
Freedom USA
1 year ago

Big government should stay out of the decision making process of schools. It never ends well.

teresa Ann d'alessandro
teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 year ago

thought we weren’t supposed to use color for getting into or out of places???? why then, if you are black or hispanic it’s a breeze for you to get into schools based on your color??? it should be about intellect.. if a person doesn’t have it, then you shouldn’t waste time and money that’ is unfair

Denise
Denise
1 year ago

Why the surprise? This present regime and some past regimes need to keep the sheep stupid. George Bush Sr. in his presidential acceptance speech opined; “We must usher in the New World Order.” Watched that speech. Since that time, I’ve become more acquainted with that term than I’d like. We the People must wake up to the reality that there are a whole lotta people in our nation determined to reduce it to a dictatorship…”homogenize” the sheep to fit the status quo. AOC made a remark some time ago that “Americans who don’t accept their rule (in so many words) should be sentenced to “re-education camps.” Yeah, heard and saw that one as well. The average “school” is a pathetic joke…deliberately. Lessons we as children were taught, at least in the 50’s and early 60’s still actually had practical applications and actual American history of our Founders and it’s the one that’s taken the biggest hit. They can’t have these recent and new generations know what this nation was founded on and the men who “pledged their lives, honors and fortunes” to establish the most unique free nation ever to exist in this world from the beginning. They fled from oppression in their homelands. I have no doubt they’re spinning in their graves at an America they can no longer even recognize.
More and more Americans are waking up, but it needs to go full out to stop the dismantling of our One and Only United States of America.

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
1 year ago

I attended a Fairfax county high school in the 60’s. Yea, I’m old.
We had a fine school wit.h great kids. It was a privilege. I remember
raising my schools flag on the Annandale High School flag poke and greasing it
the night we played Annandale in a big basketball game.
Its terrible to hear that this once fine school system, like all others, has
been taken over by the left

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
1 year ago

The woke fairyland is leading us to hell.

James P.
James P.
1 year ago

Absolutely despicable. Liberalism is a terminal mental disorder.

PIDL
PIDL
1 year ago

This is wrong in so many ways. Sure looks like institutionalized RACISM to me!!!!!! Smart kids, no matter what race are often looked down on by the less intelligent, called nerds, geeks, etc. Now the high school administrators are doing it? And they are picking out a race of people to persecute, too.

In the long run the schools are hurting themselves and their students. If merit is of no consequence, why would anybody go to this school and work hard?

Beyond the fact that they are actually working at not motivating students, they are dumbing down America!.

These people are SICK!!!!!!

We, as Americans, need to find out who is really behind all of this manipulation and take them down!!!

Save ag
Save ag
1 year ago

If buy a plane ticket I hope the engineers and pilot are people who received merit awards in school. Not participation awards.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 year ago

What do you expect when we have a President who told us he was top in his college class, had a full scholarship, and held three advanced degrees? And does anyone believe noodle armed Joe could kick Corn Pops Arse?

Mike L
Mike L
1 year ago

What if the Virginia high schools did the same for sports?
No more state playoffs, no more high school state champion
No more records for most yards rushing, passing, points scored, etc.
No more keeping score in sports.
That way colleges would not be able to select any “student athletes” from Virginia.

Seams Virginia is going backwards with educated students.

Toni Goodrich
Toni Goodrich
1 year ago

Striving for excellence should not be punished. It needs to be applauded. Achieving National Merit recognition takes hard work and deserves to be celebrated.

Smili'in Jack
Smili'in Jack
1 year ago

This should be investigated as any crime would be. Those who are responsible for this should be charged with a crime and also be individually sued civilly and so should the school. They also should have their teachers license revoked and lose their pensions and other benefits.

TOMASD
TOMASD
1 year ago

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face….. If they are so worried about “equity for all”, perhaps the principal should make the same salary as the janitorial staff.?.? Idiots!!!!!!!!!!

Word of Truth
Word of Truth
1 year ago

Notification should be sent to parents as well since many schools are not honest enough to do it.

Word of Truth
Word of Truth
1 year ago

What this amounts to is two criminals at the school stealing scholarship opportunities from students who have earned them.

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
1 year ago

I thought that a student turned in his own application and fees to take the SAT and thus is guaranteed that he receives the results directly to his home. When did we begin to sent
test results to the schools ?

Deep Bass
Deep Bass
1 year ago

It would seem the lowest common denominator has finally risen to the top and is now running the school board. That IS the plan. Participation trophies galore!

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