Op-Ed: Fighting for what’s right

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Photo courtesy of Phil Wong

In a recent op-ed printed in this publication, education activist Charles Vavruska was slurred for his advocacy for improved education for all New York City children. We and many parents from the Chinese community have fought alongside him on many educational issues including saving the SHSAT and Gifted and Talented programs.

We have fought the misguided efforts of Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Chancellor Carranza to eliminate the SHSAT. The Specialized High Schools including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech have been providing excellent education for generations of New York City students. The SHSAT, which is the sole admissions criteria to the Specialized High Schools, is objective and merit based.

It has provided opportunity for thousands of children without asking who their parents are, what race they are, or who they know. Working-class, middle-class and immigrant children know that if they work hard and use their God-given ability they have the opportunity to attend some of the best schools in the country.

We have fought to keep and expand Gifted and Talented programs. We believe that every child in our great city should be challenged to their ability. We believe every child should be lifted up and no child should be pushed down. Sadly, these programs are under attack, and we call on all parents to join us to fight to keep and restore these necessary opportunities.

We call on the New York City Council, the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate to pass Council member Holden’s Resolution 417, Assembly Member Colton’s bill A4083A and Senator Addabbo’s bill S3445A. These bills would mandate districtwide tested G&T programs in every district as well as advanced and honors classes in every elementary and middle school. All children need to have the opportunity to attend these programs that are the pipeline to the specialized high schools and success in life. We shouldn’t eliminate these programs or water them down. We should expand them and make them more rigorous.

When former Chancellor Carranza pushed his extreme ideology in our public schools, we protested and called for his removal. We found it offensive that he pushed propaganda that labeled individualism, objectivity, perfectionism and worship of the written word ‘white-supremacy culture.’ Many Chinese-Americans strongly believe in these values and reject the racialization of strong academics and hard work.

As we have seen the city become more and more unsafe in the last year, we believe it is urgent to ensure our children are safe in school. When children were assaulted in schools, we stood with their parents to ensure their voices were heard. This was not “grandstanding” as Carranza called it, but what was necessary to let children learn without they or their parents being in fear. Parents want their children to get a good education but that is not possible if they are not safe.

We have been proud to fight alongside Charles Vavruska on these issues. To slander him for what we have done to improve education is absurd and defies common sense. But in a world where what’s right is portrayed as wrong and what’s wrong is portrayed as right by radical ideologues, it is not entirely surprising.

Phil Wong is president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York and Donghui Zang is president of the New York City Residents Alliance.