Letter: Flawed Diagnosis, Wrong Prescription

— To the Editor:

Your editorial ["Separate and Unequal?," Connection, July 26-August 1, 2012], is a perfect example of flawed diagnosis leading to the wrong prescription—or "same old—same old." Your focus is on entry into Thomas Jefferson Math and Science Magnet School and you claim that low numbers of Hispanic, Black and poor students is basically unfair. You say that we need “[to be] addressing these issues from Kindergarten up" and the "benefit" of more "diversity." You also compare the acceptance rate at TJ to those of Cornell and Swarthmore. Wrong focus. Wrong diagnosis. Schools in Fairfax and the surrounding feeder counties are extremely diverse. Teachers often have few students who speak English as a primary language. Students are from Africa, Latin America, The Middle East—Europe, Far East and Asia, and more. So, what defines the students who succeed? Find models. Look at Asian students, students from Ethiopia, India, and more. See what they are doing and apply it. It is not just money or GT programs. Those students are motivated and helped by parents and communities. The students are encouraged to succeed and required to participate in their own learning. They are taught responsibility. It is not government programs or quotas. We have tried that prescription for generations. Teachers will tell you, it is parents who are willing to help their children to do their homework and keep up with their assignments. If students miss basic math concepts early on, they will have difficulty throughout middle school, high school and even remedial classes in college. They need parents who will learn English and join with other parents and with teachers to prepare their own children. That in itself is a valuable life lesson for children to learn. As you said, few students get into TJ—and, by the way—those many who are not accepted do go on to many great colleges. TJ has experimented with "prescriptions" but it is far better to maintain high standards and encourage students (and parents) to reach those standards.

TJ Fields Jr.