Let’s Not Make Anyone Uncomfortable

Bill Neinast


The degree of coarseness of sandpaper and files affects how quickly a hard surface can be reduced in shape and size.  As society’s spiral into coarseness was lamented here last week, an examination of the effects of that coarseness on life in general is in order.  

This coarsening of how people converse with others does affect other human activities.  One of those is the reduction of common sense.  How else can the following be explained?

The gifted student program at PS 139, a New York City elementary school, is being dropped because school officials think it lacks diversity.  As of January 24, Students of Academic Rigor, or SOAR, would not accept applications for incoming kindergarteners.

The school principal explained that, “Our Kindergarten classes will be heterogeneously grouped to reflect the diversity of our student body and the community we live in.”  Does this mean that there are no young Condoleezza Rices, Ben Carsons, Colin Powells, Ted Cruzs, or Marco Rubios in the area?

One mother said that the program did have a lot of white students, but worried that gifted students now would not be challenged enough. She added, “Where are they going to put the higher-level students? Sometimes, there are different levels, and teachers can’t handle all the levels in one class.” 

The school principal responded, “At PS 193, we believe that all children can learn and achieve high standards. We also know that we want all children at PS 193 to have equal access to high quality, challenging curriculum, and to have ample opportunities to master complex material and build academic and personal self-confidence. We also want our classes to reflect the diversity of our community. We believe we can have both: classrooms characterized by rigor and diversity.”

Compare that with another screwy decision by the administrators of the Fort Collins High School in Colorado.  The decision there was to deny a request for a spirit week day honoring America because it might offend non-Americans.   As one member of the student council reported, “They [the administrators] said they didn’t want to offend anyone from other countries or immigrants. They just really did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Would a week honoring the state of Colorado be allowed in Fort Collins, or would that offend Texans and citizens of other states?

Texas is not immune from such stupidity either.  Just a few months ago, organizers of a winter party at Nichols Elementary School in Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, were directed to avoid all mentions of Christmas at the event.  The news releases on this stroke of brilliance did not discuss whether Hanukkah or Ramadan could be mentioned.

All of this almost pales into insignificance when compared with the endless reports of zero tolerance policy abuses.  These include the school suspension of a student for eating a pop tart in a shape that looked like a hand gun to his teacher.  In another case, two boys were suspended from school for playing cops and robbers by pointing their fingers at each other and saying “Pop!”  Even worse was the suspension of two boys for playing cops and robbers with toy guns in the front yard of one of the boy’s home because it was too close to the school bus stop.

Actions like these are as coarse to some as the practice or belief that everyone has to use the same vulgar language to be understood by others. Particularly galling is the locale of the examples.  Each occurred in a public school.

The function of a school is to educate.  Education includes the ability to think, reason, and make rational decisions.  Textbooks are not the only medium for imparting this knowledge.  Parents, teachers, and other authority figures are role models for the decision making process.

The adults are not only role models, they are the best teaching medium.  When they cannot or will not recognize that births are not fair, how can children be expected to recognize or appreciate the differences among us.

Einstein was born with a brain but probably could not pass a football.  Johnny Football can throw and run a football better than anyone on college campuses, but probably cannot fathom the Einstein Theory of Relativity.  Should two kindergarteners with as wide a difference in abilities as Einstein and Johnny Football be expected to benefit equally from one form of education?

The obsession with “fairness” and fear of having even one person feel uncomfortable is dragging this country down to the lowest common denominator.

So here’s the perspective.

A New York school is dropping its program for academically gifted students.  The unstated reason is that the program makes students who are not so well qualified uncomfortable.  

If that reasoning is to be applied equitably, will all athletic programs at the school in which some students cannot perform on an equal footing with the star players be shelved?


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