Several readers have pointed me to this development at Berkeley High School:
Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.
The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High’s School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley’s dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.
There’s a small issue here, and that’s the allocation of resources efficient to solve proximate problems. In other words, California is currently under fiscal strain, as are localities. Secondary education is always under strain in this country. Berkeley High School has always had issues with disparities between whites & Asians and blacks & Latinos (though this is no exceptional dynamic). Here’s the demographic data for Berkeley High School:
The 2006-2008 American Community Survey says that Berkeley’s overall population is:
Non-Hispanic white – 57.4%
Black – 9.3%
Hispanic – 10.7%
Asian – 18.1%
One issue is UC Berkeley students who are being counted in the ACS are probably inflating the proportion of Asians. The modal age bracket in Berkeley is 20-24. The modal bracket is in the 35-50 range in both Oakland to the south, and Albany to the north. But it is striking that Non-Hispanic whites are so underrepresented and blacks so overrepresented. There is only one public high school in Berkeley. It is likely correct that blacks in Berkeley are more fertile than the whites, but I don’t think the disparity is striking enough to account for the demographics of Berkeley High School. Rather, many whites must be sending their children to private schools.
This action will reinforce this tendency; the type of engaged parents which a public school benefits from won’t consider sending their child to one which has to slash science laboratories to focus on remedial education. So Berkeley High School is simply accelerating its long death spiral.
More generally, the bizarre racialist logic used to justify the slashing of the science curriculum, that science implicitly benefits whites, is objectionable (at least to me, and likely to readers of this weblog). Our civilization is grounded fundamentally in science. Additionally, Berkeley High School is just a few blocks from UC Berkeley, where there are plenty of non-whites who do science. 42% of the undergraduates at UC Berkeley are Asian, as opposed to 31% who are white. The word “Asian” of course is not found in the story above, because it doesn’t fit the whites-against-the-rest narrative. From what I can tell a substantial proportion of the citizenry of Berkeley and similar communities remain stuck in a 1960s time-warp when it comes to ethnic relations. Back then this was an America in black & white.
Here’s the most recent ACS on California:
42.3% White (not including White Hispanic)
36.6% Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
6.7% Black or African American
1.2% American Indian
Berkeley is much whiter and blacker than California as a whole. As I noted above, the transient presence of Cal students probably inflates the Asian American proportion, but these students are not going to be long term members of the community. The city’s peculiar and anachronistic demographics may explain the unselfconsciousness of Berkeley’s racialist politics.