Cheering Immaturity

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A graduating senior at Hunter College High School in New York gave a speech that brought a standing ovation from his teachers and got his picture in the New York Times.  I hope it doesn’t go to his head, because what he said was so illogical that it was an indictment of the mush that is being taught at even our elite educational institutions.

Young Justin Hudson, described as “black and Hispanic,” opened by saying how much he appreciated reaching his graduation day at this very select public high school. Then he said, “I don’t deserve any of this. And neither do you.” The reason? He and his classmates were there because of “luck and circumstances.”

Since Hunter College High School selects its applicants from the whole city on the basis of their test scores, “luck” seems a strange way to characterize why some students are admitted and many others are not. If you can’t tell the difference between luck and performance, what has your education given you, except the rhetoric to conceal your confusion from others and perhaps from yourself?

Young Mr. Hudson’s concern, apparently, is about what he referred to as the “demographics” of the school— 41 percent white and 47 percent Asian, with blacks, Hispanics and others obviously far behind. “I refuse to accept” that “the distribution of intelligence in this city” varies by neighborhood, he said.

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance— whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere— involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.

The reason a surgeon can operate on your heart, while someone of equal intelligence who is not a surgeon cannot, is because of what different people actually did with their intelligence. That has always varied, not only from individual to individual but from group to group— and not only in this country, but in countries around the world and across the centuries of human history.

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  • Downie

    This was a fascinating essay from start to finish, of particular interest is the fact that the title in no way relates to the body of the text. Also of interest is how you draw a line from events of twenty years ago and relate it to the high school students of today. You are stating that as a consequence of riots and shoplifting high schools have low test scores?
    Perhaps what Justin was saying is that there is work to be done to improve educational distribution, yes, distribution of results. That would require someone wanting to change the future for the better, not someone who believes what is is what ought to be.
    What speech would you give to inspire people to strive for a better future.
    Not this trite and bitter essay, I am sure.

    • davarino

      You make his point my friend. You must have gone to one of these schools, because you dont even realize what he was trying to say because you dont understand complex sentences. Good luck with your education Downie

    • Lib-Con Homo

      Downie, perhaps your reading comprehension is questionable. The topic of the essay directly addresses the "speakers" commentary. You may disagree that the tests only measure what is there, but the point is that he apparently had sufficient command of language and concept to do well in the testing and diligence to complete the assigned coursework but not the wit to see that not all of his ethnic colleagues exercise their own gifts and talents. Is there a cultural issue? I suspect so. Grew up in a black church (while not black) and whle the faces were darker, the aspirations and expectations of parents were that their kids would do their work, learn and make their own way. Coming of the "black power" movement created more of a gap in concept and practice than there needed to be.

  • suzyq

    Downie, if you truly believe that the title is unrelated to the text then I have a suggestion for you. You might want to sue the schools you attended because they obviously didn't teach you to think from A to B. (And suing is such a liberal thing to do.) Yes, Justin wants distribution of results. But the reality is that results are based on hard work, goals, ambitions, responsibility, intitiative, and a whole host of values and concepts which are not being taught or are opening rejected by foolish young people and these even more foolish "educators."

    The reality is that people want something for nothing and that is exactly what they get with most "educational" institutions. Like you, they don't get an education and some don't really want one. They would rather whine about others "getting" more – but they never bother to ask why others have more. could it be that those others work harder?

    Downie, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

  • Trax

    suzyq…..I am so glad there are people like you!!!!! I can't agree more….Hard work=Payoffs!!!! Academics, sports, and social environment all depend on what we as individuals put forth. All this everyone's participation is equal hasn't done one good thing for the kids in this country. Conflict-Resolution is the most basic principle that should be taught to every child…oh how it has changed! I am part of Generation X and I have 3 young boys, and believe me when I tell you they are brought up with good old fashion way of thinking! So far, it has worked…they work hard for their accomplishments….and then are rewarded with admiration from my husband and I! You can see how proud they are of themselves when they set out goals and accomplish them!!!! Let's get back to the basics in this country!!!!!

  • max power

    lol ….suzyQ, perhaps Downie is a graduate from said school.

    not likely and the moniker is actually his affliction. he has downs

    • wsk

      Shouldn't pick on Down' syndrome. These people are warm, happy and genuine. Not like todays bitter, angry and hypocritical liberals.

      • max power

        I'm not.

  • The_Inquisitor

    The tests are not unfair. LIFE is unfair and the tests measure the results.

    David Riesman

  • Rifleman

    If he really thought he didn't deserve to be there, he wouldn't have stayed there.

  • William_Z

    I think the real problem here is that the president doesn’t understand how business works, and he doesn't understand that Socialism doesn't work.

  • avi

    The one thing that so many of Professor Sowell's seem to forget, those who defend him as well as those who criticize him, is that he is living proof of the values and standards he preaches and lives by. There were no affirmative action programs for him as he became the man and example that he is. There was no "woe is me not my fault syndrome" as he accomplished what so few others white or black or otherwise have. To castigate him is to secretly realize what a destructive and terrible failure the policies and programs of the last 60 years have been both to individuals and the nation as a whole as they have only divided us, which was probably the intent in the first place.

  • ferengi

    This child is the product of the atheist, union controlled, government approved indoctrination called “public education”. His “luck and circumstances” mantra was programmed into him by atheist indoctrinators into Darwinism and Marxism. Of course he had nothing to do with his own performance – his life and everything in it was a result of the random, blind, purposeless, directionless forces of an atheistic/Darwinist universe programmed into him by his indoctrinators. He CANNOT be responsible for his own success because then he would be responsible, individually, for his own success – he would stand out in his peer group – individuality is not tolerated by Marxism and therefore not tolerated by his Marxist programmers. His fatalistic surrender to “luck and circumstances” logically flows from an atheist and materialistic Marxist worldview indoctrination.


  • ferengi


    Differences/inequality in individuals IS the point of reference for evil in the Marxist/atheist worldview. That is why the left and their worldview are incensed and are hateful of individual achievement – individuality is not valuable because the atheist/Marxist has no objective point of reference for the inherent value of individual human life. Only the group is valuable – so the individual must be degraded and subject to the value of the group. If the individual experiences different or unequal outcomes from the group – that is evil in their warped minds.
    This child regurgitated just what his atheist/Marxist programmers and indoctrinators wanted him to- a self loathing, fatalistic existence as a accidental byproduct of random, blind, purposeless, directionless forces that allow him no point of reference for individual value or responsibility.

  • Jean

    I love you, Thomas Sowell.

  • TipofTXTeaParty

    Good article, but isn't it sad and pathetic that so many words and sentences have to be written in order to convey what used to be a common shared value? Do we really have to explain to high school kids that success requires hard work but doesn't necessarily guarantee it?

  • fmobler

    Sowell is right about the basic fact that testing can only test for results, not aspirations. He is also right that Justin has been indoctrinated, not educated. But there is something wrong that Justin unwittingly hits on, and that Sowell ignores in this essay (he hasn't ignored it elsewhere).

    There are disparities of performance that correlate with lots of things that we are pretty sure do not have to do with innate (God-given) ability. Race* distribution at Hunter College School should look weird to us. We should ask what have we gotten from forty years or so of education policy that has been very explicitly aimed at closing this sort of performance gap. It seems utterly obvious to me that primary and secondary education experts have failed, not just to educate according to my old-fashioned ideas about truth and human dignity (like you find grappled with in Western literature, for example), but they have failed to meet their own goals as well. We (including Justin's 'unlucky' non-fellow students) have been fleeced.

    *Race, don't you know, is an artificial construct. I've had that explained to me several times by an anthropology professor friend of mine. Of course, he also thinks affirmative action is an indispensable tool of public policy. Yep.

  • Jim Johnson

    Have you seen the movie "Lean on Me"? I think that was the title. The Principal of a Paterson NJ high school had to fight like a salmon going up stream to reform and reorganize the school.
    He got static and opposition from every corner. But he succeeded.
    That man came to our town and was reviled by the educational Spokes Folks. The spewed hate at him. I mentioned to the principal of my kids school "it seem the more you do the right thing the more they hate you. " She agreed. She had his kind of spunk.

    How many others can have such grit?

  • Lady_Dr

    Thank you Dr. Sowell. I gave up teaching (university) because it was too much of a hassle – not just the students, but the authorities and my colleagues who were so liberal they seemed to me to be mentally inpaired. It is very hard to 'improve standards' when the students are permitted to evaluate the professors – of course they will be harsh will those who don't reward them with a higher grade than deserved. The 'student evaluation' of the professors is a dumb idea which only a liberal could love. And what passes for education is an embarrasment, even, and sometimes especially in elite institutions.

    The dumbing down of education starts in the "Colleges of Education" (aka the 'intellectual sewer' of the universities). George Will once said that the best way to improve education would be to close the 'Colleges of Education' – he was so right.