Pharyngula

California crazy

Two distressing news stories out of that wealthy western state:

  • Berkeley High School has a serious problem: it’s a good, relatively well-funded school, but black and latino students aren’t doing as well as white students. Their solution: kill those expensive science labs and redirect the money to remedial classes. Science classes with no labs? Inconceivable! That’s what a body of earnest, well-meaning, and apparently scientifically illiterate parents and teachers have decided to do.

    You cannot learn about science without doing science. It’s like deciding to continue to teach theater and music, but without that troubling and time-consuming business of performing. Or like having a football program that never plays any games (I know, that one is pure fantasy…discontinuing a football team is much, much harder than simply shutting down teaching labs).

    I’m also surprised at the casual bigotry in the proposal. Demolishing their science program won’t hurt black and Latino students? Right. When I taught at Temple University, the biology labs were full of ambitious black students scrambling to pick up those essential, basic lab skills that they needed to be doctors and nurses someday…skills that were not taught in the impoverished urban schools of North Philadelphia. Is Berkeley training their minority students to be part of the cutting edge of science and technology and medicine, or are they more interested in turning out service workers for Taco Bell?

  • Here’s another tricky situation: the California Science Center is being sued for turning away the showing of an intelligent design creationism movie. It’s a tough case, because public institutions should be interested in presenting arguments for issues in science — even if it is a controversial story, the answer to abuses of free speech is more free speech.

    However, there are other parts of this story that mean I can’t just jerk the ol’ free speech knee. One key point is that what the movie was presenting was not a scientific controversy at all—seriously, any movie that tries to present the Cambrian as a serious problem that makes evolution impossible is celluloid trash. Because the venue can be leased should not imply that the CSC is open to anyone showing home movies, or to the latest porn impresario from the San Fernando Valley using it for the premiere of his latest flick. I would think a science center would have a vested interest in protecting its reputation for showing science.

    And of course, the creationists know about that reputation. That’s why they try to book prestigious places of science, like the Smithsonian, your local museum, or as we see all the time at the University of Minnesota, the physics auditorium, to show off their bogosity in the reflected luster of science. The reverse is also true: scientists don’t rush to unveil their latest discovery at the nearby church.

    The science center also had clear grounds for canceling the showing: the creationists tried to imply in promotions that the movie showing was a Smithsonian-endorsed event, which it was not — they were merely a gang of bozos who had the cash to lease the room. The center also had a clause in their agreement to prevent that kind of credibility-theft, requiring promotional materials to be screened before release.

    It’s all part of a growing problem: creationists know that their institutions have no scientific credibility at all, and they desperately want to borrow some authority for their lies from real science.

Comments

  1. #1 tsg
    December 31, 2009

    The right to free speech does not entitle one to an audience.

  2. #2 Strangest brew
    December 31, 2009

    ‘creationists know that their institutions have no scientific credibility at all, and they desperately want to borrow some authority for their lies from real science.’

    that is why they invent bogus degrees attainable by paying a fee and completing a thesis of around 3000 words not based in reality in any way shape or form.

    AiG is the acceptable source of any contentions thus levied.

    Not so much money for old rope more money for jeebus masturbation in public.

  3. #3 Strangest brew
    December 31, 2009

    ‘creationists know that their institutions have no scientific credibility at all, and they desperately want to borrow some authority for their lies from real science.’

    that is why they invent bogus degrees attainable by paying a fee and completing a thesis of around 3000 words not based in reality in any way shape or form.

    AiG is the acceptable source of any contentions thus levied.

    Not so much money for old rope more money for jeebus masturbation in public.

  4. #4 Lynna, OM
    December 31, 2009

    “Borrowing authority” should become a new meme. It perfectly describes the tactic used by people that push an agenda detached from reality. If they had something useful to offer they wouldn’t have to borrow authority.

  5. #5 steve
    December 31, 2009

    My brother taught at a school that didn’t have a chemistry lab for one year. The principal told him they couldn’t afford the expense of a working chem lab. Sometime after that, the principal then proposed a measure to buy laptops for each student in the school. They can’t afford a vital part of a chemistry curriculum, but they can afford computers for 1100 students. Yeah, my brother was not amused. Then they told him they wanted him to get a lab up and running. He called around and got the info together on what needed to be done. It was too expensive, the boss told him. He quit and took a job at a proper school with proper facilities.

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    December 31, 2009

    I think they’re just aiming for more “persecution” blather. They’re whining that they were shut out because they’re presenting stupidity (not how they put it, of course) instead of because they were contractually dishonest.

    No, sorry, IDiots, your dishonesty is the issue every time you open your mouths. The idea that it was the dishonesty of the movie rather than the dishonesty of your promotional materials is moronic, especially since both instances of dishonesty are part of a whole.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  7. #7 PaleGreenPants
    December 31, 2009

    I read about Berkely the other day. Same day I saw a thing on CSPAN about narrowing the achievement gap. Seems they’re using the lawnmower method for this. Cutting down all the tall grass, so the short grass doesn’t look as short.

  8. #8 littlejohn
    December 31, 2009

    I think Berkeley High is in a tough spot. They have to compromise. If one is forced to choose between helping a large number of students in danger of not finishing high school because of limited English and arithmetic skills, or a relatively small number of college-bound science majors, whom do you help? I don’t think the answer is obvious, if “both” is not an option.

  9. #9 John Koehler
    December 31, 2009

    With apologies to H.G. Wells.

    No one would have believed in the first years of the 21st century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences more arrogant than any one man’s……No one gave a thought to the social media websites and the political stage as sources of human danger…… Yet across the gulf of DC and cyberspace, minds that to our minds are on par with those of the beasts that perish, anti-intellectuals, small and cool and unsympathetic, regarded Darwin?s theory with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

  10. #10 Kathy Orlinsky
    December 31, 2009

    I think the Science Center should show the move, but have it presented by an evolutionary biologist who could pause it every few minutes to explain why it’s wrong.

    Actually, that would be great, I’d go to a showing like that.

  11. #11 PaleGreenPants
    December 31, 2009

    @10

    The the disco people would want the chance to rebut legitimate science programming. That would be bad….or maybe not. Maybe it would start a dialogue … a dialogue that no one but the people firmly on one side or the other would attend.

  12. #12 StomachMonkey
    December 31, 2009

    Bigotry is a serious accusation and you seem to throw it out rather cavalierly any time an issue of race comes up. Minority students are underperforming so more resources are shifted to remedial classes. That’s not an indication that the school board thinks minorities can’t be scientists. It’s an indication that until the basics are mastered, struggling students will never be anything *more* than Taco Bell workers.

  13. #13 PaleGreenPants
    December 31, 2009

    I sure hope this restructure is on a school-wide level and not only HS. Grammar and Basic math should be a given for a High School Student.

  14. #14 Zifnab
    December 31, 2009

    Ultimately, someone needs to get a serious suit together and go after some of these yahoos for fraud. A nice big eight figure lawsuit on behalf of a collection of institutions or individuals claiming that they have been sold a fallacious bill of goods.

    The IDers always get to be on the offensive, wasting public time and public money refuting bogus claims. Where’s the nice big fat countersuit, claiming deceptive business practice, slander, libel, or what have you?

    It would be nice to see the Creationist museum or the Discovery Institute lose all its funding for peddling refutable lies.

  15. #15 abb3w
    December 31, 2009

    I believe you used the word “borrow” by mistake, when you really meant “steal”.

  16. #16 Kyle
    December 31, 2009

    I just can’t comprehend how people that know their “science” is bunk would continue to push it with every means possible. What is the motivation to believe in something that is provably false?

  17. #17 PaleGreenPants
    December 31, 2009

    @16

    They’re desperately hoping that it’s true that God exists despite the evidence. It’s the faith of hope.

  18. #18 raven
    December 31, 2009

    The Dishonesty Institute was trying to steal the prestige of real science.

    From what I’ve read, they severely violated the contract terms under which they rented the facility. Among other things, they used a front organization called the Right Wingnut Kooks for jesus or some such to actually rent the facility.

    Most likely this lawsuit is just another PR ploy. More advertising.

    The Dishonesty Institute spends 4 million USD per year in xian Dominionist money on nothing but propaganda.

  19. #19 Erp
    December 31, 2009

    I think the high school decision also cuts off the option of UC for any of the students since the University of California requires two years of lab science. Now admittedly some students might be able to get the lab science elsewhere or get in via examination but still.

  20. #20 Argentum
    December 31, 2009

    I agree with #15, although I think “hijacking authority” is probably the most accurate description of what the IDiots are doing.

  21. #21 ButchKitties
    December 31, 2009

    @PaleGreenPants

    That happened to me in middle school. It was decided that having honors classes (where students still had lunch/gym with their own grade but did the coursework for the grade ahead) made students feel “left out” so the program was dissolved. I had to effectively repeat sixth grade because I was a good student.

  22. #22 PaleGreenPants
    December 31, 2009

    @21

    My son is in a ‘gifted’ program at school. He’s in second grade writing reports and making paintings and the like. Takes an hour a day out of his normal class. He really enjoys it and I think it’s beneficial to him. I sure hope it continues.

  23. #23 Gus Snarp
    December 31, 2009

    The situation in Berkley is truly sad and difficult. Frankly, I’m not sure this post is the least bit helpful. On the other hand, there is always this attitude that achievement problems can be solved by high schools. Sorry folks, the gap was created much earlier, and must be fixed much earlier. Minority students need more help in middle school, in elementary school, and need better access to quality pre-school programs.

  24. #24 Legion
    December 31, 2009

    PZ:

    Science classes with no labs? Inconceivable!

    Reminds us of this…

    Dolores Umbridge:

    It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.

    – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  25. #25 WordSpinner
    December 31, 2009

    I think Erp is right–most top schools, not just the UCs, require 2 years of science with lab. So if Berkley does this, they could cut all of their students out of a significant percentage of colleges and universities, which will screw over more than just the science students–that will harm everyone looking to go into those schools, which I presume include some minority students. Also, I don’t think you can test out of lab requirements. They are, after all, about hands-on experience, not just book learning.

    While it’s important to help those most in need of it, the school shouldn’t do that by limiting the aspirations of everyone who goes to the school.

  26. #26 reyfox
    December 31, 2009

    “My son is in a ‘gifted’ program at school. He’s in second grade writing reports and making paintings and the like. Takes an hour a day out of his normal class.”

    I was too, but they still expected me to do all the work that the other kids in my class did when I was off in the gifted class. From this I learned the valuable lesson that being smart got you “rewarded” with more work.

  27. #27 Bob O'H
    December 31, 2009

    The science center also had clear grounds for canceling the showing: the creationists tried to imply in promotions that the movie showing was a Smithsonian-endorsed event, which it was not

    There’s a problem in here – the problem publicity was released by the Disco Institute, but the event was organised by the AFA. Not sure where this goes – I guess they have to show collusion between the 2 organisations.

  28. #28 jeremy
    December 31, 2009

    OMG ButchKitties, that was me in 7th year in Australia…probably ended up in finance instead of pure math as a result. I *still* have math envy and feel like a scientific illiterate as a result. Definitely not complaining about my lot in life, but I think I’d have been more value to society as the latter.

    What the hell I’m doing on NYE responding to ButchKitties is another question altogether. What have I become?

    Go large everyone!

    Jeremy

  29. #29 becca
    December 31, 2009

    The high school thing is a tough case- it seems to me that they *must* find a way to do both (even if that involves shipping the science students to another school for that class or the like).

    Nonetheless, my snarky side has to ask, if you cannot learn science without doing science, shouldn’t we be getting these kids into real research labs and avoiding teaching the junk that goes on in most high school labs? Because whatever “fill in the blank on this lab report as you do these utterly predictable activities” is, it *isn’t* science.

  30. #30 jeremy
    December 31, 2009

    OMG ButchKitties, that was me in 7th year in Australia…probably ended up in finance instead of pure math as a result. I *still* have math envy and feel like a scientific illiterate as a result. Definitely not complaining about my lot in life, but I think I’d have been more value to society as the latter.

    What the hell I’m doing on NYE responding to ButchKitties is another question altogether. What have I become?

    Go large everyone!

    Jeremy

  31. #31 Ollie
    December 31, 2009

    I have to wonder what would be happening if minorities weren’t over-represented in the group of under-achieving students. This sounds like some sort of odd (and probably well-intentioned) reverse-racism ploy. They don’t want to look like they’re discriminating against minority children, so they make sure to set the bar low enough to be cleared by anybody.

    Does nobody understand that by setting the bar so low, you’re making sure nobody gets a real education? If you have to flunk people out of school, so be it. I’d rather have 100 people with real high school degrees and 100 who have flunked out (working at Taco Bell, somebody’s gotta make my Chalupas) than have 200 students with degrees but no knowledge.

  32. #32 John Fabiani
    December 31, 2009

    I went to Woodrow Wilson high school in San Francisco. We have SFPD patrolling the hallways. Several murders. I never had ONE science class, with or without a lab. This is what intercity youth enjoy.

  33. #33 John Fabiani
    December 31, 2009

    some sort of odd (and probably well-intentioned) reverse-racism ploy.

    What is “reverse” racism? I wasn’t aware racism had a direction. Do white people get a special type when they are targets? Is not regular racism good enough of a term?

  34. #34 CW
    December 31, 2009

    @23

    “Frankly, I’m not sure this post is the least bit helpful. On the other hand, there is always this attitude”

    This post being whatever you’re about to say, or the initial blog post?

    “On the other hand, there is always this attitude that achievement problems can be solved by high schools. Sorry folks, the gap was created much earlier, and must be fixed much earlier.”

    Sorry guy, but your view is simplistic to the point of being cartoonish. While ideally students DO “need more help in middle school, in elementary school, and need better access to quality pre-school programs”, removing ANY link in the advancement process is going to negatively affect them.

    Nobody here is suggesting that the lab funds should be taken away from basic maths and childrens’ literacy programs. You’ve created that out of whole cloth, so way to win the argument with yourself.

  35. #35 Gus Snarp
    December 31, 2009

    This story is generating an awful lot of hype, not all of it accurate. This “lawnmower approach” or “lowering the bar” business isn’t what this story is about. The article says nothing about changing standards, just about shifting resources to hopefully help people who need more help rather than to people who are doing just fine. I think this approach is flawed, but I’m not doing the budget and facing the problems that this high school is. As I said above, the problem, and its solution, lies much earlier in the educational process. That doesn’t mean that we can simply abandon these kids just because we didn’t get to them soon enough. Also, we are all jumping to conclusions based on this statement from the article: “Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them”. Frankly, we don’t know what this means. It doesn’t say all science labs. If these are just advanced specialized science labs then, while it’s not good for the students who qualified for them, it’s not the end of the world either. Maybe it is all science labs, in which case it’s a more serious concern, but until someone can provide more detailed information, we probably shouldn’t start slinging terms like bigotry and racism around when we don’t even know what’s going on. This is just an example of bad journalism and it is no different than the bad journalism that allows people to believe that somehow evolution isn’t fully supported by the scientific evidence.

  36. #36 littlejohn
    December 31, 2009

    My high school had labs, and it was the prestige high school in Charleston, WV (which is sort of like being the prettiest one on The View).
    My labs were crap. The science teachers knew less science than I did; my bio teacher had his degree in phys ed and coached the cross-country team. My physics teacher was a new grad who was a complete ignoramus. I corrected him constantly. They had to actually bring in a non-licensed woman to teach chem. She was nice, but I couldn’t follow her. It was just a math class. Labs aren’t always worth anything.

  37. #37 StomachMonkey
    December 31, 2009

    @36– G.W. or Catholic? I’m guessing the former since it sounds like a public school. Your grads do just fine, I know several who went on to the Ivy Leagues. Try going to public school out in the coal fields like I did.

    Nice to meet another southern WVian on here though :)

  38. #38 Seifer
    December 31, 2009

    This is one of my button issues.

    I am a high school math teacher. I can say we have a bunch of parents that, for whatever reason, don’t give a shit about education. This don’t give a shit attitude is passed on to their kids. Whenever parent-teacher conferences come around, the majority of the parents I see have students that already have C+’s and up. I am really interested in doing a correlative study between how involved that parents are in their kids education, and the grades and discipline issues the kid has in school. I am willing to bet it is very strong.

    Don’t misunderstand me. The ability is there with these kids but the motivation isn’t. As educators, there is very little that we can extrinsically do on our end when we have a culture of parents that are uneducated, don’t care about education, and make no effort to impart any intrinsic motivation.

    But thanks to NCLB, we have to try something. The pressure from the government to remove our funding, and our jobs, is gigantic if our students don’t make AYP. We cannot let these kids go down the drain, so what is happening more and more is that we are lowering the bar and taking resources away from advanced education programs. In my state, Michigan, we removed about 50 of the standards from Algebra II because the State made Algebra II a requirement for graduation and too many students were failing. So instead of putting our resources into our brightest and hardest working students, we take it away from them and give it to the students that do not care to learn. This is clearly a terrible policy.

    For me it is frustrating. I teach high school Geometry and Algebra II. I have so many students that don’t know how to work with fractions, decimals, graphing, etc. And I am expected to teach them Geometry? I said earlier that the ability is there, then why did I say that the kids lack fundamental understanding. This isn’t a contradiction. Most of my students have to potential to be intelligent and educated. However, the reinforcements from home were not there when they were in middle school learning those fundamental concepts, so the kids didn’t really learn them.

    So why did they pass those middle school classes even though they didn’t learn? Because the middle school teachers would most likely lose their jobs if they failed the kids that should have failed. So for me, teaching a lot of these kids math is like trying to teach someone to write an essay who isn’t quite sure how subject-verb agreement works. And they are so used not understanding math but magically passing the class somehow. It kills me how many chances we give them not to fail, but by the time they reach us the motivation is so far gone they just don’t care.

    Now I’m not saying that there aren’t bad teachers out there that kill their students desire to learn. I had a few like that when I went to high school. But that didn’t stop me because I was motivated and had parents that were too. I’m not saying that motivated parents are the sole determinant in a kid passing, but it greatly increases the odds. So until we educators start getting some support from home, whatever we try to do will have minimal effect.

    And don’t even get me started on how little our students understand evolution…

  39. #39 wlrube
    December 31, 2009

    As far as the Berkeley High situation goes, it’s all (or at least mostly) about test scores. I remember a similar situation at my urban, public middle school, where kids with low enough test scores were forced to drop their art/music elective and take a remedial reading or math class that was basically standardized test prep. Of course the “egalitarian” thing to do in that situation would be to emulate B-High and cut those electives for everybody, because not doing so would apparently be elitist and racist. Thus making all the students with their electives axed hate school even more than they already did, lowering test scores more than any remedial class could ever raise them, but since when did public policymakers ever know or care about good education policy?

  40. #40 wlrube
    December 31, 2009

    Well I guess my previous post at #39 is kind of redundant given Seifer’s entirely correct post at #38. PZ, you have it so easy working in higher education, you have no idea. I went through 13 years of San Francisco public schools and I’m now at a prestigious private liberal arts college, and the number of problems in my previous schools that simply vanish into thin air once every student is already highly motivated and paying tens of thousands of dollars to be there is incredible.

  41. #41 tsg
    December 31, 2009

    There’s a problem in here – the problem publicity was released by the Disco Institute, but the event was organised by the AFA. Not sure where this goes – I guess they have to show collusion between the 2 organisations.

    If I were their lawyer, I would argue that the Disco ‘Tute advertising the AFA event constitutes collusion.

  42. #42 william e emba
    December 31, 2009

    High school labs, especially chemistry, are facing another challenge: lawsuits and the insurance to cover them.

    There was an article this summer in Harper’s, I think it was the August issue, that what is wrong with teaching in the US is too much math and science. Utterly ignorant trash.

  43. #43 dmutidjian
    December 31, 2009

    Wow… finally a subject that I am more or less, qualified to comment on. That is to say, I went to and graduated from BHS (class of 1976.) I have been in contact with some of my former teachers. one of my former teachers was the main AP Biology instructor at BHS.

    In one sense I am not at all surprised to see this kind of action from the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) and particularly the school board. There is a particular style of politics in Berkeley that makes these kinds of decisions by the board pretty likely.

    BHS is a pretty big high school by any standard. About 3,300 students and about 170 teachers. When I was at BHS it was about 75% Asian/White and 25% Black/Hispanic. Most of the A/W students were from middle class income families. Many of them were the sons and daughters of UC-Berkeley professors. Many of our teachers were the wives and husbands of UCB professors. Not to sound too John Kw*kish but it was a very good school.

    Though most all of the shop/trade programs seem to have disappeared from the curriculum it appears that BHS still has a very strong math and science curriculum in addition to the humanities.
    See their course catalog here:
    http://www.bhs.berkeleypta.org/catalog/2009-10coursecatalog.pdf
    It would rival many colleges for breadth and depth.

    I think more info needs to come out on exactly what they are planning. It could be a case of sloppy journalism on the behalf of the EBG writer.

    -DU-

  44. #44 kherbert
    December 31, 2009

    Point 1 – You are not going to help students failing science by eliminating labs. They need to increase labs and make sure science is hands on from Kinder – 12 as much as possible.

    Point 2 – Students in pull out for G&T are NOT to be held accountable for material taught while they are gone. My binder is at school so I can’t remember it this is state or federal law, but I think it is federal law.

  45. #45 LiLo
    December 31, 2009

    I am glad to have retired from teaching in California. The financial constraints that have come from our budget problems, and the constant pressure to increase student performance have collided in a most unfortunate way. I, like others who have commented here, cannot understand why those kids are passed on to the high school when they cannot read or do basic mathematics. Actually, I understand the pressure to move the under-preforming students on in our community because our schools are K-8 operations and having 15-year-olds hanging around with 6th graders is a formula for big trouble. However, the kids who haven’t made standards don’t belong in high school either. Currently, the attempt to save these kids costs the rest of the population to suffer greatly. Berkeley High School is not alone in making obviously stupid decisions in response to the requirements to have all their students achieve some level of competence. Our whole state is in a bind and it will not get better anytime soon.
    Most of our colleges offer extensive remedial courses without credit to their students in order to get their students up to speed in order to do college level work. Perhaps the state could pay for high schools to do the same thing. (But there is no money and there won’t be for a long time.)
    Science education isn’t the only thing in danger here. It is just the litmus test for the entire system. If we can’t keep science labs, English classes are not far behind, and we can forget about the arts. However, the bright spot is that we will never loose athletics here in the sunshine state. After all, some things are just more important than others.

  46. #46 MadScientist
    December 31, 2009

    “Remedial classes” are a socially accepted but next to useless thing. It is apparent that whoever is making the decisions is too damned lazy to think. Why are the students not doing as well as others? “Because dey niggas an’ spics” – that’s what remedial classes imply. It’s a “one size fits none” solution. The only way to improve things is to talk to the students to try to understand why they’re not doing as well and address problems at an individual level. It’s a tough thing to do given budgets, but it’s the only thing worth doing. Remedial classes may even be a bad thing for those students who aren’t doing well because they’re flipping burgers for a clown trying to help keep their family fed and housed; this is a managerial solution, not a real one.

  47. #47 MadScientist
    December 31, 2009

    Holy crap, that Berkeley High thing is a whole lot dumber than I thought. The “solution” is to provide a poorer education to the whiteys so at least all the students are equally dumb and useless rather than helping other students improve. And those non-whiteys who are doing well and in the whitey classes will lose all chances. The parents will have to move their kids to another school – or at least get rid of the idiots running the school – hey, I wonder how much money they’d free up by simply firing the idiots.

  48. #48 MarkusR
    December 31, 2009

    If people were willing to fund schools they wouldn’t need to cut programs.

  49. #49 fiddler
    December 31, 2009

    apparently, science is nothing more than atheistc dogma…at least according to the person that sent me this:
    http://www.the-reality-check.com/Dogma.html

  50. #50 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkD9oPuO_ZXJ3kp7Woq8jiLZTGNrn19t9w
    December 31, 2009

    John Koehler – heck with apologizing to Wells, I am stealing that redone quote. lol

    Gus Snarp – My highschool had physics, which was a “new” addition, chemistry and computer science **labs**. There was, as far as I can figure, since I never saw more than one room set up with microscopes and equipment, which was the chem lab, **no** lab for biology. That is *4* possible classes that *should* have a lab, of which one didn’t. I admit to have a really hard time trying to work out what else you even *have* a lab for, unless some dipshit is classing automechanics and drafting as “sciences”, which where the other other people that had anything vaguely resembling a “lab”. As such, I also have a damn hard time figuring how the ones you *must* have are not in the list of ones being considered for cancellation. And the chem labs where a joke already in the late 80s, compared to the 50s, due to morons whining about, “How dare you subject my little jimmy to something that can *actually* be dangerous!!”. I can’t imagine what they do now to make them “safe”, model the reactions on a computer or use Legos?

    Seriously, its not hard to imagine them cutting “important” ones, but its damn hard to imagine believable ones that a high school might have, which they could cut, especially five. I mean, gosh.. I am so glad they had the advanced virology lab, the quantum physics lab, and the volcanic geology lab over in building C they could get rid of, so they don’t have to cut anything “important”.

    Oh, no wait.. Come to think of it, my high school also had a “typing” lab too, and home economics. Getting rid of all those type writers and ovens would reduce the electrical bills too, right? I am sure *that* is what Berkley is talking about, something like that, right, right…?

  51. #51 Calladus
    December 31, 2009

    You know, I always enjoyed the labs in my Sex Ed class!
    :)

  52. #52 nomuse
    December 31, 2009

    Howdy to the other BHS grad. Class of ’79 for me. We had labs at the time…I have fond memories of “Boom-Boom” Harvey, who livened up lab demonstrations with lab-made high explosives, and who let the students sample nitrous oxide on the last day of class.

    But BHS has been feeling the crunch since Prop 79. The year I left, they cut back so significantly on performance the drama program essentially died. Gone was one of the greatest high school scene shop classes ever (twenty years later, working professional theater crafts, I was still surprising people with little techniques I’d “learned back in high school.”)

    Oh, and to the math teacher….that’s what mine did. I must have taken Algebra I three times; each time, the majority of the class wasn’t ready for it and we spent the entire semester doing remedial arithmetic. Pity I didn’t have a clue then that I could ask to test out!

  53. #53 Monado, FCD
    December 31, 2009

    My small town had the first public French secondary school in Ontario. It was built next to an English-language secondary school, and all the students who took Franšais instead of French (French as a Second Language) were informed that they were going to the French school next year. They had no science labs, so their science classes trotted across the intervening field and used ours. It worked fine. In primary school, Grades 7 and 8 went across town to take Home Economics (girls) and Woodworking, etc. Shop (boys) one afternoon a week.

    If Berkeley High School can make arrangements with another school to use its lab, perhaps they can have their remedial classes and science too.

  54. #54 Janet Holmes
    December 31, 2009

    This is why, an atheist spends 20K a year (per kid) to send her kids to a private religious school! They have fabulous facilities and the religion teacher is an atheist! They did stop the kids from forming a Skeptic Club though … they felt that was going too far. I have suggested they try again with a different name next year.
    My kids are all atheists too.

  55. #55 Ryan
    December 31, 2009

    Sadly my physics class had no lab, they said it was too expensive. They did do some catapult experiment one day but I missed that due to extracurricular activities. Incidentally a physics lab course was one of the few courses I didn’t get an A in when I went to college.

  56. #56 eddie
    January 1, 2010

    What’s more important; kids’ education or bonuses for bankers?

  57. #57 Richard Eis
    January 1, 2010

    Its not a tough case for free speech if the cretinists broke the agreement. Arguing that the agreement clause was just a false pretext is pretty hypocritical when they are only presenting the video there for gaining science points. They are cheapening the meaning of “free speech”.

    As for the school, it shows that your education system is in a bit of a financial meltdown… and appears to have been for some time.

    You are going to need more burger joints.

  58. #58 Jillian
    January 1, 2010

    If Dr. Myers were to do a writeup on the greed, graft and naked theft that are currently destroying America’s public education, it would be the best New Year’s present ever for me.

    I teach in one of the top five largest school districts in America. I also teach at one of the most desperately failing schools in the district, which is located in one of the most desperately impoverished neighborhoods in the city. What I have seen in the last few years of teaching is enough to make me more alarmed for our young people and our country than anything ever has before.

    These “remedial programs” are a scam. Most people realize this – but I think many are missing the actual thrust of the scam. It’s not an education scam – it’s a financial scam.

    No Child Left Behind puts ENORMOUS pressure on school administrators to improve performance – their jobs are quite literally on the line. Luckily for them, “improving performance” actually means “improving performance on a series of multiple choice tests”. Also luckily for them, there are a number of companies out there now selling pre-packaged “remedial” curricula offering “research-based” (another NCLB buzzword) methods that are GUARANTEED to bring up students’ test scores. GUARANTEED, I tell you!!

    The heads of these companies, frequently enough, are politically connected. Donations are made to school board candidates. Phone calls are made to legislators at the state level. And the next thing you know, companies have signed multi-million dollar contracts to sell their bill of goods to America’s schoolchildren.

    Now,these sorts of programs might often be difficult to peddle onto suburban, politically savvy, locally connected parents (remember, we’re not talking national politics here; just state and local – your next door neighbor might have no influence on his Senator, but be well connected to the city commissioners and local school board). However, selling these products to failing inner city schools is easier than taking candy from a baby – and far more profitable.

    Monty Python once did a sketch about a confused Robin Hood who robbed from the poor and gave to the rich (“What a stupid bitch!”). The sad thing is that this is exactly what is happening here. Schools are funded predominantly by property taxes, which usually hit poorer communities harder (yes, renters pay property taxes too – it’s called “rent”). This money is now being given to big ol’ corporations in exchange for their remedial curricula which rarely accomplish much at all. We really are robbing from the poor and giving to the rich. It’s just depressing as hell that nobody seems to see it.

  59. #59 taylormorgan
    January 6, 2010

    Haven’t read through all comments but I’d like to add that I attended a private Catholic High School for grades 11 and part of 12 ( in Australia generally all high schools consist of students from grades 7-12 which is elementary leavers mostly 12-13 yrs old to final grade 17-18 yr olds). The Catholic College I attended was only a senior school for grades 11 and 12 .

    My point essentially is , I attended public schools for all my years as a student before this one. My previous high school had some amazing english teachers. My Catholic school had the finest science and legal studies teachers I could imagine.
    I feel assurance knowing that even though this was a religious private college they employed actual scientists as teachers.
    My biology teacher did bring up the subject of ID and it’s being taught as a scientific theory. It was listed as one of our elective topics to build a case for or against among 25 or so other topics . He believed that you cannot be a scientist and also religious in plain terms .
    My chemistry/physics teacher was a former employee at ANSTOW our Aussie Nuclear facility and nuclear physicist among other things.

    I would never have expected to have such exemplary science educators at such a school . The same can’t be said of all the teachers of other subjects at this school but I did note that the deputy principle and teacher of mandatory studies of religion was most likely Atheist.
    Australian religious private schools are forced by legislature to provide religious studies or activities otherwise they will not be given funding by the government , the studies of religion syllabus spends only slightly more time Christianity than it does , Islamic study , Judaism and also Indigenous Australian The Dreaming .

    Essentially you must learn about key figures , core principles and rituals and texts from what I remember.
    We would very occasionally have some sort of service which I and 1 other student declined to participate in . I was disappointed to see this student accept the ritual the next year not because he was less Atheist than before but just so he didn’t draw attention to himself.

    I agree was Gus Sharp , there is a serious lack of education going on in the educational institutions of elementary age and junior high as you call it.

    I read texts of all kinds to educate myself and I like to think I’m extremely literate but as you can probably see I still am unsure of the proper way to punctuate and be completely grammatically correct as we really weren’t taught it , not enough anyway. I always delighted in learning those sort of things that seem trivial to the general student population yet I just don’t have the skills because they weren’t taught.

    It’s a bit like this : in a standard english class we were debating the morality of issues in Shakespearean texts in 10th grade as this is part of the syllabus . A girl puts up her hand and asks , “What does mistrust mean?”. That really makes my point . We haven’t been taught the basics yet we are supposed to grasp the higher stuff.

    My first aspiration in tertiary education is to study English . Not literary works just the language and linguists itself because I feel positively uncultured .

  60. #60 Pedsonc
    March 15, 2010

    I can’t understand what you don’t understand about leveling the playing field for those poor Afro American and Latino/Latina students…. For God sakes man, you live in the People’s Republik of Kalifornia (PROK). It has been a communist stronghold since very scary Gerry Brown was in office as Governor. In the PROK, one must punish success at all levels. So get use to it, since it will only get worse with time.