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The New York Post has been giving Ed Boland a lot of press recently in advance of his soon-to-be-released book, The Battle for Room 314. The promotion began with an article headlined with typical Post subtlety, “My Year of Terror and Abuse Teaching at a NYC High School.” Reporter Maureen Callahan introduces her subject:
In 2008, Ed Boland, a well-off New Yorker who had spent 20 years as an executive at a nonprofit, had a midlife epiphany: He should leave his white-glove world, the galas at the Waldorf and drinks at the Yale Club, and go work with the city’s neediest children.
As I read the foregoing, another headline sprang to mind: Teacher Bludgeoned by Reality. But let’s hear Mr. Boland’s story:
Boland had taught English in China. This was his favored school — advertised as the last, best hope for kids who had fallen far behind — and he was thrilled to be hired. He went home to his then-boyfriend (now-husband) and celebrated over takeout pad Thai and an expensive bottle of red wine.
“I was ready to change lives as a teacher,” he writes.
How wrong he was.
There were 30 kids in his ninth-grade class, some as old as 17. One student, Jamal, was living in a homeless shelter with his mother; most of the other students lived in public housing. There was one white kid in the whole school.
“It was as if Brown v. Board of Education or desegregation had never occurred,” Boland writes.
A wealthy New Yorker who pays Manhattan rent takes a job at one of the worst city schools and is astonished to find a lack of whites? Really? I hope he had something stronger than a bottle of red on hand, because things were about to get ugly.
Two weeks in and Boland was crying in the bathroom. Kids were tossing $110 textbooks out the window. They overturned desks and stormed out of classrooms. There were seventh-grade girls with tattoos and T-shirts that read, “I’m Not Easy But We Can Negotiate.”
It was a nightmare, compounded by the fact that Boland was openly gay. His charges scrawled homophobic slurs on the chalkboard when they weren’t shouting them to his face. Of course, that didn’t stop one girl from complaining to the administration that Boland sexually harassed her. He complimented her “fine mind;” she reported that he called her “mighty fine” and propositioned her.
By the end of the year, Boland despised his students and gave up hope that he could make a difference. He quit, got a book deal, is now a media darling. That hasn’t gone over well with everyone, including a number of other NYC teachers, such as Thomas Martone, who’ve questioned Boland’s judgement and idealism:
It seemed as if Mr. Boland watched “Dangerous Minds” for the first time and decided to play hero to needy kids with no real classroom-management strategies at his disposal.
Upon the completion of his tenure as a teacher, it seems as if he intended to release this memoir as an obvious money grab, then sit around with his buddies and tell them stories about how he (as Matt Damon so eloquently put it in “Good Will Hunting”) “went slummin’, too, once.”
I had to laugh when I read that. It brought to mind MAD Tv’s hysterical spoof of “Nice White Lady” movies.
But seriously, the NYC teacher has a point. What well-off, white, gay male is so deluded as to waltz into a poor urban school with the idea that he can turn kids around within his first year of teaching? Why would you be shocked to find appalling kids, from appalling circumstances? Who is that naive about life and human nature?
Why, a Yale admissions officer, that’s who!
This past weekend the Post published another excerpt from Boland’s book, revealing that he was formerly an admissions officer for Yale University. The article is an illuminating glimpse at how an Ivy League gatekeeper selects our future elites. So what kind of applicant earned a thumbs-up from Boland? Well, here’s one:
A girl wrote a brilliant feminist essay — worthy of Harper’s, really — about gender and socialization, revealing that she was a phantom serial farter in public and yet no one ever suspected because of her gender.
So, now farting is a feminist issue. Is there anything that isn’t a feminist issue? Boland goes on to describe the harried process that is Yale admissions:
Because we had to get through about 300 applications in each two-hour committee session, we developed shortcuts.
You could look down at the names of four or five kids from one school who were terribly smart but not exceptional and say, “Reject the entire high school”; sometimes you could go further and say, “Reject the page,” and send 20 kids on a single page of computer paper packing; or, most famously, “Reject the state,” when it came to sparsely populated places like North Dakota or Wyoming.
Boland’s search for the best and the brightest leads him to a sit-down at the Yale Club with two elderly men that oversee alumni interviews (Boland refers to them as “Statler and Waldorf”). They had a bone to pick with Boland:
“We used to hold our receptions for admitted students here, but your Admissions Office says it’s too stuffy and we’d scare off kids who aren’t from typical Yale backgrounds. Have you ever heard such twaddle in your life?” said Hal, the crankier of the two.
I scanned the room — a gorgeous mausoleum, majestic but imposing as hell, filled with mean-looking old men who appeared ready to lower their Wall Street Journals and scream, “Get off my lawn!” in raspy unison.
I’m with Statler and Waldorf on this one. If Yale students presume to be future politicians, judges, and scholars, they need to deal with a marble column or two. Architecture is not a micro-aggression.
Although off-put at first, Boland warms up to Statler and Waldorf when they advocate for Emmanuela Gutierrez, an impoverished Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Boland fought to get Gutierrez admitted, seeing as she was the child of a single mother and founded her school’s Afro-Latina alliance. Sadly, admissions passed over Gutierrez, and Boland expressed his regret:
Years later, I learned that Emmanuela graduated from Columbia, where she did impressive work organizing Harlem tenants against a local slumlord.
After graduation, she wanted to improve the lot of low-wage earners like her mother, and she became a widely respected union organizer and leader for health-care workers. In 2013, she ran for lieutenant governor of New Jersey on the Democratic ticket. We had missed a true gem.
I think you astute readers can see a trend here. If Boland is representative of most Yale admissions officers, then Yale is self-selecting students with a proclivity for gender, racial, or other victim politics. Happily, this leads me to believe that last year’s student hissy-fits over Halloween costumes weren’t symptomatic of a generation-wide Special Snowflake Syndrome. Rather, Yale has specifically sought out agitators and grievance-mongers for its student body… and now it’s paying the price.
If we’re to tackle this problem and encourage free speech on campus (not to mention prevent successive generations from supporting socialism), there needs to be ideological diversity in the admissions process. Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues at Heterodox Academy are doing important work advocating for thought diversity across college staff. However, increasing the number of professors with conservative or otherwise “unorthodox” viewpoints will be less effective if the great majority of students already have, and have been selected for, a leftist bias.
While I’m sure that feminist fart essay was a winner, I wonder if equal weight is given to an ROTC cadet’s essay on discipline, or on a young entrepreneur’s essay about overcoming the challenges in starting a business. Emmanuela Gutierrez is an impressive person, but so is the young woman who builds houses for the underprivileged through her church group. Two Princeton sociologists determined that listing activities like ROTC, FFA, and 4-H negatively impacts an applicant’s chances for admission at selective schools. It shouldn’t.
Maybe the place to start is by advocating for ideological diversity on admissions committees. How about recruiting some retired vets or conservative scholars to help cull applicants? Yeah, it might put Ed Boland-types out of a job. But they can always find a gig teaching at an inner city school. I hear there are openings.Published in