A couple of years ago, one of my
Mexican American high school
teaching aides asked me what “errand” meant.
We grizzled veterans of California
K-12 education are a hard-boiled lot who are not easily
fazed by our student`s academic shortcomings.
But “Loni” was a graduating
senior accepted with a
full ride to the well-regarded
University of California at Davis. When she didn`t
know the definition of
a 4th grade level vocabulary word, I had
grave concerns about her college future.
I was reminded of “Loni” when
the California State University released its shocking—no
other word comes close—data on this year`s freshmen.
Half of all CSU students need
remedial instruction in English and one-third are not
proficient in math. These dismal results fall far short
of CSU`s previously stated goal to raise proficiency to a
minimum of 78% and 74% respectively for incoming
entrance requirement for the 23 California State
University campuses is to have graduated high school
while maintaining a 3.0 average.
In other words, those CSU freshmen
requiring remedial instruction are from the top third of
the California high school crop. (The very best go to the
University of California system—like “Loni.”)
These sorry facts reinforce my own
sad but true assessment of
California high schools: they are holding pens. Stick
it out for four years, don`t make
trouble and you`ll get a diploma. Should you learn
anything along the way—most likely through osmosis—more
power to you.
If you wonder how this sad situation
came to pass, the answer is simple. For the last two
decades, the focus in California K-12 schools is not on
learning. The paramount issue, as seen through
Sacramento`s bureaucratic eyes, is
English language development for the 1.5 million
non-English speaking students—25% of the total 6
million student body. Other key concerns are diversity,
ethnic awareness and
No wonder little Johnnie doesn`t
know his decimals.
Contemplating the ineptitude of this
year`s freshman class, Jo Volkert, an associate vice
president for enrollment at San Francisco State said,
“It is a reflection of the kids we get coming in—what
their preparation is in high school and what their
backgrounds are. I really do believe it reflects our
population, a lot of immigrants, people whose first
language isn`t English.”
About 40% of CSU students come from
immigrant families where English is not spoken at home.
The CSU system already spends over
$10 million to teach subjects that should have been
mastered in primary school. In an era of higher
university fees and deep budget cuts imposed by the
state, spending so much as a dime on remedial education
is an insult to qualified students.
CSU now plans to initiate a training
program for high school teachers to teach reading to
ninth graders. Can you believe it? The university wants
to groom teachers to teach high school kids—recently
non-English speaking immigrants, most likely— how to
Wouldn`t it be more prudent to say, “Sorry, you are
not college material at this time?” That was the
decision CSU trustees made in 1995 when it announced it
would end remedial instruction by 1999. But a few months
later, the board caved into political correctness
pressure from students and faculty. The deadline was
extended for seven more years.
Tutoring isn`t the only
pie-in-the-sky program that CSU has cooked up. Later this
spring, it will introduce its
“Early Assessment Program” for 11th
graders who want to find out where they stand in terms of
This represents more wasted time,
money and effort. High schools have perfectly capable
counselors who can tell students where they stand
Here is the most amazing thing:
although CSU came up woefully short on its proficiency
goals this year, the university expresses optimism that
by 2007, 90% of incoming freshmen will be up to standards
English and math.
Allison Jones, CSU`s vice chancellor
for the oddly named Department Of
Access And Retention, said: “It is a big jump but
we do think we will see great improvement largely because
students will use the senior year of high school to try
to strengthen their results.“[CSU
remedial plan falling shy of goal, San
Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2004]
Dream on! Not one shred of evidence
exists that would lead any sane person to that
Unless… the powers that be in
California realize that a college education is not an
entitlement. The state university system should not be
obligated to enroll every student with an
inflated grade average especially if that student
cannot multiply decimals.
The high numbers of
under-performing, non-English speaking
illegal alien students destroyed California`s once
great K-12 public schools. Six months ago, the California
Board of Education
scrapped—for the second time—its
plans for a high-school exit exam. Who, the board
must have wondered, could pass it?
Now the immigrant influx has the
university system under siege. California may be
approaching a point where university and high school
diplomas will be equally worthless.
As evidence, consider that I ran
into “Loni” a few weeks ago. She told me she`s
sailing through UC Davis. “It`s easier than high
school,” she laughed.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.