Friday, November 18, 2011

If You Hear the "College and Careers" Mantra, Expect a Blurred Vision

I've just been watching a new video posted on Facebook by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) about their Stepping Up To Algebra program and an accompanying summer school program to prepare incoming 9th graders for high school biology. The video is, I believe, indicative of the prevailing philosophy of SVEF and its sister organizations such as California STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  

These people have good hearts, and we should wish all educators well, but the mantra repeated at the end of the film as well as earlier, stressing getting "all our students ready for college and careers" (they stress "all"; I am also drawing attention to the "and"), is typical of the double vision, denial of reality, and lack of focus that is plaguing education in California and elsewhere. It is out of touch with reality: our existing institutions of higher education are overcrowded, with current students unable to get the classes they need and our tax base unable to support so much tertiary education; doubling our supply of college students is a hopeless, foolish notion. And its lack of focus is resulting in masses of students badly prepared for both college and careers.

One wonders if Muhammed Chaudrhy, President and CEO, has ever had the experience of working closely with a student, getting him to pass the high school exit exam after numerous failures, and then meeting that same student six months after graduation to find that he is unemployed and out of school. "What are you doing these days?" "Nothing" (as he has just gotten off a bus bringing in protesters for some sort of demonstration--that's what passes for work in much of America today). What a pitiful waste of energy! This young person could have been gaining valuable training for a career, but instead was forced to devote many hours to the intricacies of eliminating multiple choice options and learning really basic skills, perhaps in algebra that should have been learned in 7th (not 8th) grade, that will do him essentially no good at all in the new life that is just getting started, and started badly, in a state so disastrously led. 

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