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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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