[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

Another local newspaper chain recently ran a piece by state Sen. Scott Surovell, suggesting that admissions policies for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology and other Virginia “governor’s schools” need to be revamped.

His position is not much of a surprise: Surovell’s district includes areas of Fairfax County that are underrepresented, for whatever reason, in that acclaimed school’s student body. So he’s not exactly a neutral observer.

Gov. Northam recently set up a task force to consider changes in governor’s-school admissions. No doubt a lot of blah-blah-blah will result. Surovell sits on it.

The line that made us nearly laugh out loud from his piece went thusly: “Let me be clear: We are not considering a racial-quota system. That is unconstitutional.”

Of course you’re not … no one would even consider such a thing, would they? Nah!

Now, it is a fair statement that there is what you would call a “pipeline” that gives students a leg up to get into such schools, and it starts from the very beginning of the educational experience. So if you want to address the problem of disparities at TJ, you probably should start with addressing disparities that begin a birth.

To his credit, Surovell notes that. But of course, that would require heavy lifting; politicians prefer easier approaches. And for politicians, it’s seldom important to actually do something; the important thing is to be SEEN as doing something. Task forces are perfect for that.

The ultimate reason there has been no significant change to student-admissions policies at TJ since its founding 35 years ago is pretty easy to discern: It can be a meritocracy, letting the chips fall where they may, or it can be the playground of those who want to tinker with the standards until they achieve the desired results. There isn’t much of a middle ground.

So far, meritocracy has won out. But we live in weird new times, and who can wager what that will bring? Given the current “we’ll hide under the bed until there’s a vaccine or at least until Joe Biden is elected president” mantra among those running Northern Virginia public education these days, who really even wants to attempt to predict the future?

Then again, every time this has been tried before, parents of fully qualified students – three-quarters of those admitted are of Asian descent – who fear being elbowed out by a “woke” admissions policy have risen up to demolish those attempting to implement it.

We wouldn’t bet against their doing it again, even with some state leaders trying to move in the opposite direction.

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(2) comments


[tongue]TJ admissions are based on who takes the most and best cram courses. Let the wealthy alumni of this school take it private, something they can well afford to do.


This editorial is spot on. Honors, awards, admissions should be based upon meritocracy, nothing more and nothing less. I’ve said this many times. If politicians honestly wanted to make a difference, they would investigate root causes and assist in addressing those. Instead, the majority we have in the assembly now are primarily concerned with optics so that they can be re-elected or look to be elected to higher office.

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