There was a time in the Golden State when education truly powered the California dream.
Any effort to block access to education — whether it was by social-economic barriers that brought about the Serrano-Priest decision to strive to make sure poor school districts had the basic resources of wealthier schools districts or due to physical/mental limitations — was fought with creating opportunities.
The assumption was every child should have the ability not to just access education but to literally be the best they could be. That, of course, entailed them wanting to succeed and being willing to work on whatever it took to do so.
That apparently was back in the Dark Ages of California education.
In the “enlightened era” we are now in where one plus one no longer has a steadfast answer of two in order to be 100 percent politically correct, there is a movement in Sacramento to dumb down education.
It comes from the California Department of Education that is tinkering with the state’s mathematics framework. And it’s not to lift up students to better comprehend, sharpen, and master math skills but to hold students back.
The CDE wants to eliminate achievement gaps by limiting access to advanced math classes such as calculus and algebra for middle schoolers and even younger high school students in order to reduce achievement gaps.
Simply put the bureaucrats in Sacramento that impose their will on 1,000 public school districts in California want to “dumb down” some students in order that others can have parity when it comes to education achievement goals such as standardized tests.
This means STEM education — the pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that understanding basic calculus and algebra opens the door for — is going to be trimmed back when it comes to preparing students for success in STEM fields in college.
The STEM acronym is more than just a catchy four-letter word. It is what powered our ability in California to lead the nation — and arguably the world — in aerospace, technology, agriculture, and other disciplines where STEM disciplines play a crucial role.
What this means is not lost on nearly 1,700 Californians who are STEM professionals including those in higher education. In two different open letters – including one issued recently – they warn of the damaging consequences.
The most obvious is that fewer students would be exposed to STEM at an early age and therefore less likely to pursue careers in related disciplines that have a bigger payday than in many other pursuits. And even if they did want to access a STEM-based career they would be either ill-prepared or less prepared to do so in college once they leave the public K-12 school system. The best case scenario is it prolongs the time it takes them to master advanced concepts to secure degrees due to the need for remedial STEM work. In the worst case they can’t keep up and/or can ill afford investing additional years in college and simply opt out of the STEM career track.
The less obvious outcome of the CDE initiative that’s highly likely to occur is the de facto privatization of advanced mathematic skills at the K-12 level. That means those with the economic means that want their child to have access to a strong foundational STEM education would hire tutors or access supplemental education in the private sector.
Lower income families could not afford such an option.
As a result one of the tenets of why we fund public education to lift all boats would be sunk by state bureaucrats deliberately drilling holes in the bottoms of the boats of the very disadvantaged they seek to assist via closing the achievement gap by reducing STEM learning opportunities in public schools. This is not just an issue for parents. Failing to have a well-educated STEM workforce will have dire consequences for society and our collective economic well-being.
For now, the CDE has stayed its directive to implement the scaling back of STEM until May of 2022 when it will review the curriculum modification before it is finalized.
This is not an isolated in incident in California education circles where limiting learning opportunities in a bid to obtain “achievement parity” is essentially working to dumb down schools by denying education opportunities to individual students to reach their greatest potential.
The San Francisco Board of Education alarmed that merit based admission to the district’s academically demanding Lowell High School wasn’t enrolling enough of the “right” minorities switched to a lottery system.
Despite the fact Lowell had an 82 percent minority enrollment it wasn’t acceptable to the school board as most of the students were Asian Americans.
Instead of addressing why other minorities weren’t achieving as well in large numbers in the district’s elementary schools to reach their individual education potential, the school board opted to level the playing field. They yanked ranked measurement of academic achievement to gain admission to Lowell and replaced it with a random selection process that made accessing the rigorous high school not much different than winning a bingo game after paying a minimum price of admission by reaching the lowest possible threshold of elementary school level achievement to be able to compete for the prize.
Perhaps we’ve come to accept such disdain for individual student success at all levels from a school board that spent the pandemic drawing up a politically correct hit list of names that weren’t woke enough to continue gracing SF public schools such as Abraham Lincoln High and Dianne Feinstein Elementary School while forcing all students to distance learn longer by far than any large district in the state.
But such drivel coming from Sacramento that clearly undercuts the potential of the K-12 education outcome for all California students by limiting access to STEM learning opportunities should make you start questioning the direction the PC crowd wants to take public education.
Those in charge of overseeing the education of 6.1 million young people are more worried about handing every student a participation trophy than making sure they can achieve success.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.