Ok, I admit it. Soon after my high school graduation, I failed the English Placement Exam. That meant that I had to take English 1A, euphemistically known as “Bonehead English,” my first quarter at Foothill Community College in Los Altos Hills, California. This was in the late 1970s when our hippy-dippy tenured high school teachers thought it was quite oppressive to require students to read great literature and write term papers. If at the time I was asked what Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities” was all about, I might have hesitatingly guessed, “the rivalry between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, right?”
Was my self-esteem crushed? Was I a victim? My parents didn’t raise the kids that way. I was behind and had the catch up. It was a fact. Deal with it. Read lots of books and write much more. Work harder. Luckily, my Bonehead English instructor drove us to put pen to paper every day until our hands hurt. If our pens weren’t busily scribbling words and sentences, the globe just might veer off its axis. There were no excuses or safe spaces. It was like the scene in the movie “Patton,” in which the iconic General stands on top of a tank barking orders and waving his arms to the soldiers of the Third Army to “move it, keep moving!” All praise to those who set high academic standards and expectations and to great teachers. Two years later, I was accepted to attend UC Berkeley.
Two weeks ago, I read with dismay that Timothy P. White, Chancellor of California State University (CSU) issued Executive Order 1110, which drops the requirement that more than 25,000 freshmen take the English Placement Test and the Entry-Level Mathematics Test and to take noncredit remedial courses if the tests reveal that they are not academically ready for college-level work. The Executive Order requires that for the incoming class of 2018 that CSU come up with a new “multiple-measures approach,” including high school grades, of accessing college readiness of freshmen and that the 23 CSU Campus Presidents and faculty come up with new “supportive course models” to integrate remedial instruction into their general education classes. While the California Master Plan for Higher Education requires CSU to admit students from the top one-third of high school graduates, 40% of CSU freshmen (59% of African-American, 47% of Latino) each year are not considered academically prepared for college-level work and must take remedial classes.
Loren J. Blanchard, a CSU Executive Vice Chancellor told a Los Angeles Times reporter that students who are required to take remedial classes “represents strike one before they ever set foot on any of our campuses.” Jeff Gold, an Assistant Vice Chancellor said that the new policy sends a message to students that “You will be moving toward your degree right away and, by the way, you belong here.”
I can’t tell you what the difference is between a Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor or Associate Vice Chancellor. But they all make lucrative six-figure salaries, work to erode transparency and accountability of taxpayer dollars spent to run our government-run colleges, lower academic expectations for poor kids trying to achieve the American Dream and are snowflake enablers.
These officials have wrongly accepted the Faustian Bargain that in order to boost the four-year graduation rate at CSU from the current 19% to 40% by 2025, they are willing to dumb-down the value of the CSU degree by eliminating the placement exams and dedicated remedial courses. The failure of some high schools to prepare student for college and the need for reform will be ignored. Instead using a clear-cut assessment tool like the placement exams, the new vague “multiple measures approach,” which will include grade-inflated high school marks, will fail to identify students who need remedial help. Unprepared students will get lost in the new “supportive course models” as they are thrown into classed with the prepared students. Two bad results are inevitable. Either socially promoted high school graduates will be socially promoted through CSU or unprepared and unsuspecting students will fail and waste their tuition dollars and be burdened with student loans.
The iGEN students (born between 1995-2012) are spending on average over six hours a day on social media. Many of them are not acquiring verbal, writing and reading skills. And yet CSU officials won’t tell students the truth in the interest of promoting “belonging.” I blame adults for enabling snowflakes, not the kids themselves. It’s bureaucratically selfish for CSU officials to intentionally not tell young people the truth on what it takes to succeed in this great land of opportunity. Focus plus grit equals success in America.
Published in the Auburn Journal on September 9, 2017.