November 27, 2005

Voting With Our Feet, Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:09 pm

Not all “voting with feet” is healthy.

The old White Flight, which primarily occurred in the wake of the 1960s race riots, was from the central cities to the suburbs, and, based on who you ask, was a response either to increasing crime (understandable) or to a desire not to live in a neighborhood with any African-American families (not understandable). The truth is that it was a bit of both, but also involved other factors.

The New White Flight, written up about a week ago in The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription), appears to be a flight from academic excellence:

By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation’s top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.

But locally, they’re also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.

Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.

The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

Thomas Sowell does not appear to be too concerned:

The phrase “white flight” is completely misleading. All over the world and throughout history, groups have collected together with people like themselves, whether by race, income, education, religion, or any number of other characteristics. There is nothing unique when white people do it.

….. Cliques form in all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. Chess players, jazz fans, and gamblers tend to hang out with others who share their interests.

The fact that people sort themselves out in many ways is not usually a big problem — except to those people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. Government programs to unsort people who have sorted themselves out have produced one social disaster after another.

I don’t disagree with Mr. Sowell, but he missed an opportunity to question why parents of whatever race would choose to take their kids out of academically competitive situations when their kids can probably handle it. Sports and extracurriculars are just that–EXTRAS. The primary reason to be in school is to learn. I believe parents who avoid competitive school districts are shortchanging their children. By bringing their reduced expectations to the places they move to, they’re probably hurting those school districts too.
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Other “vote with our feet” posts:
- Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid
- Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)
- Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns
- Part 6: Losing the Very Rich

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2 Comments

  1. That’s probably not it, I’d guess that this is a case of parents wanting a chance to get their kids to rank higher among their high school peers for college placement.

    hard to do with all those asians around.

    Comment by dave — November 27, 2005 @ 8:40 pm

  2. You may have a point in that the CA Board of Regents has been actively working to try to ignore SAT and ACT scores. I don’t know how successful that has been, but it would be a logical response to move to where the competition isn’t that tough if so.

    But I’m not sure the parents are thinking that far. I think it’s more “I don’t want little Suzy or Billy to be under so much stress and to have to work so hard when it gets in the way of their sports, etc.”

    Comment by TBlumer — November 29, 2005 @ 1:13 am

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