by James A. Bacon
A horrendous percentage of Virginia public school children may be functionally illiterate, but fear not, Governor Ralph Northam has a new plan to help them. He announced the formation of a task force to identify “best practices” for implementing culturally and religiously inclusive school calendars and school meals.
“When our school environments reflect the history, values, cultures and traditions of the communities they serve, our students are better placed to learn and thrive,” Northam said in a press release.
Yes, you read that right. Northam justifies the initiative on the practical grounds that it will help children “learn and grow”.
I’m sure the kids can’t wait to eat pizza, tater tots and nachos that have been melted kosher and halal. But will they learn After? In other words, is there research indicating that current nutritional standards prevent children from mastering the three Rs? No, there isn’t – at least none were mentioned in the Governor’s press release.
The major non-Christian religions in Virginia are Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Of the four, three (Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) are practiced mainly by immigrants from Asia. All other things being equal, one could predict that the deleterious effects of abstaining from eating taboo foods and skipping school on holy days would fall on Americans classified as Asian.
But as we all know, Asians as a group outperform whites, Hispanics, and blacks in their Learning Standards (SOL) test scores. The success rate in English is 89% for Asians, which is higher than the rate of 85% for whites, 67% for Hispanics and 61% for blacks. If culturally insensitive schedules and school food interfere with school performance, Asian children seem to have no problem rising to the challenge.
The is a case for making reasonable accommodations for religious minorities, but it’s a values-based case. The needs of religious minorities should not dictate school policies, which are built around the needs of the majority, but they should be respected and allowances made when opinions are sincerely shared. (Sorry, no accommodation for Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster members). This is exactly what the Fairfax County School Board did, and I think many others have done it too. These issues are best addressed at the classroom, school, and school district level.
The way for schools to become engines of “social justice”, as Northam supposedly wants, is to do what they were created to do – teach children to read, write, calculate, communicate and think clearly. The system is obviously failing tens of thousands of children. Instead of addressing the real problem, Northam and Education Secretary Atif Qarni are implementing a left-wing “diversity, equity and inclusion” agenda that drives out wisp racism.
Let teachers, principals, and school boards determine religious accommodations, governor, and focus on “best practices” for teaching children to read.