The Anti-Defamation League, under its current CEO and National Director Jonathon Greenblatt, certainly is not your father’s ADL. It’s not even the ADL of Mr. Greenblatt’s predecessor, Abraham Foxman, who held the reins from 1987 to 2015. Under Mr. Greenblatt’s leadership, the organization might well be re-named “the Woke ADL”. Whether this represents a positive development is dubious.
The most widely-publicized manifestation of the Woke ADL is its adoption of “cancel culture”—specifically, it’s demand that Fox News fire Tucker Carlson for his alleged peddling of antisemitic white supremacist ideology. Fox News has rejected both that allegation and that demand.
Not everyone is cheering the ADL’s attack on Mr. Carlson. The Coalition for Jewish Values, a Baltimore-based group of more than 1,500 “traditional, observant rabbis” who comment on American public policy, has protested the ADL’s criticism of Mr. Carlson. The CJV asserts that the ADL has become “markedly partisan” under Mr. Greenblatt’s leadership and has leveled “grossly misplaced charges of antisemitism,” including the one against Mr. Carlson.
Although the Fox News/ADL controversy has gotten loads of publicity, I think there is a more disturbing, although little-noticed, example of just how far off course today’s ADL has wandered. It has to do with Boston’s new admission procedures for its elite or “exam” public high schools.
Mr. Greenblatt’s ADL is supporting a Boston plan that effectively discriminates against Asian and White applicants in order to further a goal of racial diversity. Of course, the plan is carefully packaged so as to make no explicit reference to race, but the stated goal of increased “diversity” can be achieved only by rejecting Asian and White applicants who would be accepted under any fair, non-discriminatory plan.
Here are the facts. Over the last 20 years, the Boston Exam Schools — Boston’s three public high schools for gifted students — have admitted students based on their grade point average (GPA) and their performance on a standardized entrance examination. Those were the only two criteria considered in the admissions process.
For the class that begins school in the Fall of this year, however, the Boston School Committee (the city’s board of education) decided that, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the entrance examination should not be administered. Instead, the BSC announced a plan that would consider only GPAs, which on its face seems fair. But, for at least 80 percent of available seats, GPAs would be considered zip code by zip code, and not on a citywide basis. The net result of deviating from a citywide comparison of GPAs would be that fewer Asian and White applicants are accepted and more Black and Latino applicants are accepted.
Boston’s new admissions policy of course carefully avoids any mention of race. But, in the process of formulating that policy, the zip code plan was recommended because it creates a student body that “better reflects the racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of all students (K-12) in the city of Boston.” (Emphasis added.) The zip code proposal was unanimously adopted by the BSC.
Asian and White parents joined together to sue the BSC in federal court, alleging a denial of equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment, and violations of federal and state civil rights acts. Their complaint presents convincing evidence that a key factor in the adoption of the zip code plan was the BSC’s belief that it would correct a situation in which Black and Latino students were “under-represented” in the Exam Schools.
The Woke ADL, which was in no way a party to the case, nevertheless decided to file a friend of the court brief in support of the BSC’s zip code plan. Here is the nub of its position:
For far too long, there has been inequitable access to these highly-selective Exam Schools, particularly for students of color and students residing in some of Boston’s lowest-income zip codes—even though the Boston Exam Schools are public schools. The reasons for this are manifold, including longstanding systemic racism in Boston, grade inflation in certain schools that serve as “feeders” to the Exam Schools, and wealthier families’ prolific use of private tutors to prepare for entrance exams, which gives certain students an unfair advantage over those whose families cannot afford these aids. (Footnotes omitted.)
You will notice that, in the list of reasons for the supposed “inequitable access” to the Exam Schools, there is no reference whatsoever to the possibility that certain students might study harder than others. No reference whatsoever to the possibility that certain cultures — not groups defined by race, but by culture — might place greater emphasis on the importance of education than other cultures.
Does anyone truly believe that children who are descendants of people native to the Indian subcontinent or to China or Japan are all members of a single “Asian” race? What these children have in common is not their race; rather, it is that they are raised in cultures that emphasize the importance of a good education. The ADL apparently never heard of any cultural group that placed a greater emphasis on education than another cultural group.
This is today’s Woke ADL: an organization that, decades ago, would have rightly objected vociferously if elite public schools adopted admissions policies to ensure that there wouldn’t be “too many” bookish, excessively-intense Jewish students, now applauds when Boston adopts a plan designed to ensure that there won’t be “too many” Asians or Whites in its elite public schools. I suppose that, in Mr. Greenblatt’s mind, this is progress.