JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Principal Ann Bonitatibus’ War On Merit
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

In my November Diary here at I led off with the heading ”Dismantling the meritocracy.” I noted how big licensing associations for important professions—the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Bar Association—were de-prioritizing merit in selecting entrants to their professions in favor of race and sex quotas.

That is of course very bad, in fact dangerous. Aspiring doctors and lawyers should be admitted to training schools for those professions on the basis of knowledge and intelligence, as measured by competitive examinations, not because they fill out race and sex quotas. Those quotas are bad enough in college humanities departments; in practical professions like medicine, law, and engineering they might be lethal.

This dismantling of the meritocracy, I’m learning, starts much earlier than medical and law school admissions, at any rate in Fairfax County, Virginia. That’s the location of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, ”TJ” for short, a selective school currently ranked Number One in U.S. News & World Report’s list of ”Best U.S. High Schools.”

There is an exam that high-schoolers can take called the PSAT, the Preliminary SAT. Nationwide about three and a half million high-schoolers, mostly juniors and sophomores, take this exam. Those who score highest qualify for National Merit Award scholarships; and that, says the Fairfax County Times story I’m reading this from, ”opens the door to millions of dollars in college scholarships and 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors” [ FCPS withholds awards, pays $455,000 for equity contractor , by Asra Q. Nomani, Fairfax County Times, December 29, 2022].

Of course a student has to know he’s won this award in time to include the fact in his college application. It’s turned out that TJ administrators—the Principal, Ann Bonitatibus [Email her] and the Director of Student Services, Brandon Kosatka [Email him]—have for five years been withholding notification to the students until after their college applications have been filed.

Why would they do that? Diversity! The main factor here, as with well-nigh every other crookedness and malfeasance in the U.S.A. today, is race. Disproportionately many of those students winning National Merit Awards have been Asian; disproportionately few have been black. Not enough equity!

The Fairfax Times has also discovered that TF’s Principal has engaged a black race hustler named Mutiu Fagbayia Nigerian immigrant—to supply her school with ”equity training” at a cost to the school district of nearly half a million dollars. The goal of the training: ”Equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”

Asra Q. Nomani, who filed the above report in the Fairfax County Times,  has  a fuller report in City Journal on the TJ scandal. She’s not only a (moderate, dissident, feminist) Muslim immigrant herself, and a somewhat conservative pundit who actually voted for Trump in 2016, she’s also a Thomas Jefferson parent, and she just learned, in the course of reporting this story, that her own son was a National Merit Scholar in 2020, so it’s personal:

I learned—two years after the fact—that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of TJ’s Class of 2021, as a Commended Student in a September 10, 2020, letter that National Merit sent to Bonitatibus. But the principal, who lobbied that fall to nix the school’s merit-based admission test to increase “diversity,” never told us about it. Parents from earlier years told me that she also didn’t tell them about any Commended Student awards. One former student said he learned he had won the award through a random email from the school to a school-district email account that students rarely check; the principal neither told his parents nor made a public announcement….

School administrators … have implemented an ”equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of ”NTI” for assignments not turned in. It’s a race to the bottom.

[The War on Merit Takes a Bizarre Turn—Why are administrators at a top-ranked public high school hiding National Merit awards from students and families?, December 21, 2022] 

Indeed it is. It is also, as fans of Alice in Wonderland will recall, a caucus-race. Quote from Chapter 3 of that great children’s classic:

However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out ”The race is over!” and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, ”But who has won?”

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, ”Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Final comment on Thomas Jefferson High School: I couldn’t help noticing the Principal’s last name: Bonitatibus. [Tweet her] (It’s apparently Italian.)

It is of course childish and wrong to make fun of people’s surnames, which none of us can help. However, since Ms. Bonitatibus has cheated some unknown number of students out of their shot at a college scholarship, I’ll make an exception here.

What that surname brings to mind for us bookworms is the second-longest word in the English language, uttered by a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays: ”honorificabilitudinitatibus.”

Whether ”honorificabilitudinitatibus.” actually is in the English language, as opposed to the Latin language, is a nice point. I couldn’t find it in either my OED or Webster’s Third.

You can’t argue with Shakespeare, though; so here it is with an entry in Wikipedia, defined to mean: ”the state of being able to achieve honors.”

High-schoolers in Fairfax County are deemed to be in that state only if they belong to a race and sex approved of by Ms. Bonitatibus.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire’s writings at can do so here.



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