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Out-of-Control Multiculturalism at Berkeley High School

Dropping science labs because non-white students get lower grades is only part of the problem.

by
William M. Briggs

Bio

January 15, 2010 - 12:51 am

Berkeley High School (BHS) might drop its science labs from its curriculum.

The reason? Too many white kids — or not enough non-white kids, depending on your perspective — were taking these classes. According to an article in the East Bay Express, whacking the labs is intended to address BHS’s “dismal racial achievement gap.” The decision to make this change by the School Governance Council was “virtually unanimous.”

BHS science teachers were said to be “horrified” by the proposal. One pleaded, vainly, that the labs had a good share of non-whites: “17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino.”

This breakdown of students proves the lamentable “gap” spoken of by Berkeley commandants isn’t in enrollment, but in grades. The white kids are doing better in excess of what is acceptable — or the non-white kids are doing worse, depending on your perspective — such that the heart-warming state of equality is absent.

If equality of outcome with respect to grades is BHS’s goal, then eliminating the lab courses does ensure that all students will be equally poor in science. And when the administrators bring their report cards home, the paperwork will show an increase in “equality.”

The only problem with this pedagogical prestidigitation, like with all magic tricks, is that it can only be used once, or maybe twice. Resort to it too often, and the audience will see the rabbit up your sleeve.

But if BHS could get it away with it again, the next thing to go would be the other science and then the math classes, courses which are nothing better than inequality factories.

You might think that axing all those courses would leave a big whole in kids’ days, but do not despair, because there are plenty of alternatives in BHS’s books.

Like the required “History of the Americas” course, where emphasis is on “the formation of students’ own opinions of events.” This is a sister course to “Globalization,” where the kids “shall draft a more effective decision-making mechanism of world government,” mainly by re-creating the “process[es] within the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council.”

These subjects are merely preliminary to “Politics and Power” (“students largely run this course”) and “Contemporary La Raza History,” which “covers the spectrum of experiences of our Raza.” By which, presumably, they do not necessary mean my Raza, but a specific other Raza.

Seats will rarely remain empty in “Popular Culture in 20th Century America”:

This course examines “texts” as diverse as mural paintings, street theater, rap music, women’s art, immigrant stories, and MTV to analyze their role in shaping American society. Popular Culture is designed to teach students skills in critically examining the historical role of popular culture in defining racial issues, the regulation of sexuality, and consumer society. It also explores popular forms of resistance to the dominant culture.

If no room is left in the “Eco-Literacy and Social Justice Seminar,” kids might opt for the fall-back “Social Justice Seminar,” where the question “What can I do to bring about social change for a more just society?” is answered.

“World Literature,” offered by the School — yes, they have a whole school for this — for Social Justice and Ecology, “builds on the skills and knowledge acquired in the Freshperson [sic] Seminar.” This course “pushes students to become thoughtful, creative, empathic, and deeply analytical members of a global society.”

The Newcomer Program for English Learners offers “Literature of Diversity.” Sports requirements can be met with “Funk Aerobic Exercise” and “Ultimate Frisbee.”

BHS will surely keep all offerings from its African American Department. There, students can open their minds with “African American Journalism” or “Advanced African American Journalism.” From their course descriptions, these appear to be identical in substance with non-African American Journalism courses (which BHS also offers). Just as the course “African American Economics” doesn’t differ from non-African American Economics.

Anyway, African American Journalism probably fills up fast, so students should also consider “Black Gold, Black Soul, Black Dynamite,” a class devoted to the “exciting study of the black speechmakers in African American history.”

“Black Psychology” — whose major objective “is to impart a clear knowledge of what African-Centered thought is” — could be that easy “A” a lot of kids seek because it “is not a lecture course.” Major “emphasis is on classroom discussion.” What is cooler than sitting around and grieving?

Boys (“pre-men”?) will be particularly interested in “Black Male/Female Relationships,” where razor-sharp discussions of “black male emasculation” and the “the matriarchal syndrome” can be found. It’s not as frightening as it sounds — the practical side of the class covers “pimp psychology.”

Finally, “Kiswahili,” which has about 5 million world-wide speakers, can be taken in place of the more usual French or Spanish.

You would be forgiven if you forgot that these are Berkeley High School courses, and not offerings from Berkeley “Leftist Bias? What Bias?” University. The good news is that for students graduating from BHS, the transition from high school to university will be seamless.

They won’t need to take a lab-based science course there, either.

William M. Briggs is a statistical consultant in New York and San Francisco. He is an American Meteorological Society member and serves on their Probability & Statistics Committee. His specialty is on the philosophy of evidence, forecast evaluation, and marketing.
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