The University of Hull, a school on the north-central eastern shore of England, raised a bit of a kerfuffle with a policy declaration that “[s]tudents studying at the University of Hull will not be marked down for poor spelling, grammar and punctuation in exams because it would be ‘elitist’.” This plan is born, it is reported, because “insisting on good written English discriminates against ethnic minorities and those who went to “underperforming” schools.”

It is beyond doubt that those for whom English is a second language have additional challenges in academia, and it is beyond doubt that those who came from “underperforming” schools have a greater probability of being less prepared than those who came from top-tier secondary schools. Requiring a high level of proficiency in written English is, they tell us, “homogenous, North European, white, male, and elite,” but given that most of Northern Europe doesn’t have English as a primary language, and given that just over half of Northern Europe (and the world, for that matter) is not male, this reasoning reeks of social-justice pretzel logic far more than reasoned thought. But, set that aside.

What is the point of reducing standards in the awarding of degrees? At some point, most individuals will leave academia and have to perform in the marketplace. Are we to believe that the failure to teach “good written English” will not adversely affect these individuals in their career endeavors?

Or are we being told that the reduction of expectations is to be extended beyond the education years? Is this disparity in expectation to be part of the broad career landscape? Is the message that ‘ethnic minorities’ and those who went to shitty schools (not all who did are ‘ethnic minority’, by the way) need to be granted preferential treatment ad infinitum by all others in society?

This is the worst sort of racist condescension. Rather than demanding excellence, as has been the norm for premier education throughout history, this particular university is telling some students “we expect less of you.” It is, when you cut through the highfalutin rhetoric and lofty proclamations, the underlying truth of the typical rich white social justice type.

It’s also perpetuating the divisive and destructive narratives that being white-European is by default a Bad Thing and that being a minority locks one in subordinate cultural status forever. And, it is a cop-out response to the failure of progressivist philosophy in primary and secondary education. Rather than fixing those underperforming schools (made so by their policies), they apply a social justice band-aid, and continue to under-serve those they purport to champion.

Meanwhile, I wonder if the students who actually were there to achieve were consulted?

Pressure makes diamonds, and people rise up to challenges. One need only look at the performance of the Success Academy charter schools in New York City to understand that being an ‘ethnic minority’ does not doom one to also-ran status, nor does it require the easing of academic standards.

Hull is not an elite university (global rank: #822), but it does not appear to be a degree mill either. If it wants to be the latter, this is a quick way to get there, but it won’t serve its students if it goes that path. If it wants to produce graduates well-prepared for success in the world, it should not be promulgating a message of mediocrity. Pressure makes diamonds, while pablum makes mush.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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