Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

High School Exit Exams

The degree to which we educate our young to be productive members of society is dependent upon a variety of factors. It is generally agreed that the California educational system is defective in respect to the large number of youth that matriculate without sufficient skills. Those are subjective valuations based upon objective testing. Whether or not the objective skills tested are germane to the goal is a matter for another discussion. Suffice it to say that a few years ago, Californians passed a law wherein high school students must pass an exit exam in order to receive a high school diploma. Now some people are upset and have sued because their children have not passed the exit exam. A judge is considering the merits of ruling the law unconstitutional because all students don’t receive an “equal” educational opportunity.

The educational system certainly is partially to blame for the problem with so much of the school time dedicated to multicultural and other liberal agenda that detracts from the primary purpose of delivering students with the necessary skills to be competitive and successful in life. If you can’t read, write or speak clearly, you will not be competitive. If you can not think intelligently, you will not be competitive. But, despite the shortcomings of the educational system, it is not the primary reason for student academic failure. The primary responsibility lies with the parents. If the parents deliver a defective product in terms of a prospective student and do not actively engage with the child in the continual learning process, you can’t expect the educational system to overcome the deficit. It is absurd to expect the educational system to make the proverbial “silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

There is a considerable segment of the entitlement crowd that is unfit to be parents. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, my wife witnessed that stark fact first in the elementary school system in Central California and subsequently among the families of Head Start students in Southern Illinois. She had latch key children who came to school with no breakfast or perhaps at most a cold potato. Children that were locked out of their houses when they returned from school while the single parent mother was off plying her trade as a prostitute. In one home visit, the mother advised to ignore the dead dog on the couch and explained that she had not yet had the chance to throw it out. The latter example is extreme, but not that far out. What miracles can you expect of a child from that type of environment no matter what schooling opportunities are offered?

It seems that the key issue for Alameda County Judge Robert Freedman is whether or not all children are provided with access to the same quality of education; read “equality.” Equality is a European foundational concept, and it is not so in the U.S. where our foundational philosophy is liberty. The concept of equality seems laudable, but it is a pipe dream because nothing is ever equal. The most we can hope for is an approximation of equality of opportunity. After that it is up to the individual to make the most of his natural talents, drives and learned abilities.

Judge Freedman noted that the harm to students who do not receive a diploma is serious. That must be because the receipt of a diploma is valuable. But, it’s value is diminished by awarding it to those who do not meet the standard. Therefore, you do a greater harm to the majority who properly earned the diploma by degrading its value. You do the underachiever no favor by awarding an unearned diploma because the act gives false hopes.

Once again, a great social problem is rooted in the failure to recognize the necessity of personal responsibility both on the part of the parents, who shirk parental responsibility, and the student, who is responsible for his own educational progress. The old saying is true, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

If parents don’t instill, by example, the desire to be educated, it is not likely to happen.