Jefferson vs. the Nashville Schools

by Patrick J Buchanan – January 28, 2004

At the Catholic school we attended long ago, the school year was divided into eight marking periods. At the end of each, a report card was handed out. Each student was graded in each of half a dozen subjects. The grades ranged from A+ to C- for passing, to D for failure. Enough D’s, and you were off to the D.C. public schools.

At the end of each semester, a huge honor roll appeared in the main hall. On it were boldly inscribed the names of all students who had maintained an A average. Parents, students and teachers all congregated to read the honor roll. It was not long before everyone in the parish knew who the best students were in every grade.

In Nashville, the honor rolls are coming down.

“Law Erases Student Honor Rolls,” ran the headline over the Associated Press story in the Washington Times. Sub-head: “Nashville Schools Want to Protect Underachievers.”

Seems a few Nashville parents whined to school officials that their kids could be subject to ridicule for never having appeared on an honor roll. Therefore, the rolls must go, they demanded. Lawyers agreed, pointing out that state privacy laws forbid releasing any academic information, positive or negative, without permission.

“As a result, all Nashville schools have stopped posting honor rolls, and some are also considering a ban on hanging good work in the hallways – all at the advice of school lawyers.”

Following this logic, every measure of academic distinction and excellence, which shows some students are brighter or more accomplished than their classmates, must go. And that is exactly where Nashville and Tennessee are headed.

“Some schools have since put a stop to academic pep rallies,” the AP reports, “Others think they may have to cancel spelling bees. And now schools across the state may follow Nashville’s lead.”

And so the corrosive ideological and cultural war against excellence and distinction in the pursuits of the mind continues in America.

Egalitarians cannot tolerate the idea that some children are born with far greater natural ability in academics, just as some are with greater natural ability in sports, music, dramatics and art. Unable to accept the truth, these ideologues must eradicate all evidence, from geography and spelling bees to tests and exams, that expose their dogmas as fabrications and lies. They must destroy any and all records that prove that when it comes to intelligence, all men are not created equal.

Nor did Jefferson say they were. His words in the Declaration of Independence deal with equality of rights under law, not natural ability. Jefferson was not a fool. As he wrote Adams in 1813: “I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talent.”

Indeed, the purpose of tests and examinations is to tell us who has the superior mind, who is working, who is achieving, so the best can be advanced and a natural hierarchy of excellence may be established. For without hierarchies, a society is finished. Without hierarchy, armies, companies and countries perish.

Parents who demand that honor rolls be removed, lest their children be exposed as dullards, are deceiving themselves and cheating their children. Schools are laboratories of life. They are the mirrors of life.

If children do not have leaders to set the pace, if they are not shown where they are deficient, if they are not motivated by competition, what do parents think they will discover when they get out of school?

While difficult for parents to admit, all children are not born with equal mental capacity to excel in a classroom, any more than they are born with equal ability to excel on an athletic field. Though reviled and hated by egalitarians, IQ tests do not lie. And that is why they are forbidden.

In sports, we accept distinction and excellence. We demand it. There are few objections to high-school teams “cutting” some kids, leaving others on the bench, playing others. When parents rage at coaches for not playing their sons or daughters, it is because they think their sons or daughters are better than those on the field, not because they do not want the best on the field.

Americans were once a ferociously competitive people. We wanted to be the best. And we were, from the Olympic Games to the Nobel Prizes. Other nations, however, know how we got to be the best. And, especially in Asia, they are emulating the way we were, not the way we are – because they wish to displace us.

And if the Nashville mindset prevails in America, they soon will.