Academe is not much less predictable than the movements of the planets.
Don’t ever bet that higher education can’t go any lower. You’re bound to lose. Two recent and sorry examples prove the point. With a nod to Mae West, one foreign and one domestic.
One Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California’s community college system, wants to eliminate the algebra requirement for graduation because too many Californians fail it, therefore not getting a degree, or taking too long to finish as they finally master the Xs and Ys only after multiple tries.
Almost half of California’s community college students fail the course on the first try, and fewer than half finish the two-year community college curriculum in six years. This signals to Oakley that the algebra requirement is burdensome and must be done away with.
Because more, as we have learned to say, people of color, fail algebra, Oakley called eliminating its requirement (be sitting down for this) a “civil rights issue.” That’s right. We shall overcome equations. If conservatives had our own version of Saturday Night Live, this would make a great skit.
“This is also something that plagues all Americans — particularly low income Americans,” Oakley told the Daily Caller. “If you think about all the underemployed and unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy, which is unforgiving of those students who don’t have a credential, the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.”
Oakley is not alone among community college officials across the fruited plain who wish to de-emphasize math requirements for degrees. Their reasoning goes in this wise: most students are not pursuing science or other STEM careers and won’t need advanced math in their work. So why trouble them with math courses they have trouble passing? I won’t dismiss this argument out of hand, but I wonder if those making it are factoring in the cost of a general population that is quantitatively feeble-minded. Also, it doesn’t seem to trouble the Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s of the world that if academic credentials are emptied of anything with any rigor involved, that paper diploma may be worth even less than the paper it’s printed on to potential employers.
Across the Atlantic, King’s College in London has announced plans to take down some of the portraits of the college’s founders, located these many years in the college’s main entrance hall, because they are (be prepared to shudder) white. All those bearded white guys, the college’s deep thinkers tell us, might “intimidate” King’s College students who are not themselves white. That non-white students are so delicate as to be thrown off their studies by photographs of old white guys with unfashionable beards is laughable, not to mention an insult to the non-white students. But insulting and laughable are often the order of the day on the contemporary campus.
Those who made King’s College possible, and therefore the billets of current white and non-white students, are being given their unconditional releases for a “wall of diversity” (translation of “diversity” from progressive to English: absence of white guys). The new portraits include scholars who, while they had nothing to do with founding the college, have the decisive recommendation that they are not white. These worthies are from something referred to in university circles as BME, which mean black and ethnic minority. Many of you didn’t know this, as it’s nearly a full-time job keeping up with new progressive acronyms.
In most cases when something this dopey takes place on campus there’s a noisy and, dare I say it, privileged, left-wing student group behind it (though not always — college administrators can be pretty loopy on their own). That’s the case here. The King’s College group mounted a campaign called “Why is My Curriculum White?” where they press against the school’s white founders the usual charges that they are racist, sexist, homophobic, fascist, and, well, readers can fill out the list on their own.
As usual, college administrators give in to those throwing the tantrums. If anyone is intimated at King’s College it’s not BME students but the college’s testosterone-free administrators. So the founders are cast into outer darkness, or at least sent to the college’s attic, in favor of portraits of the identity-group-of-the-month. Not a single white or non-white King’s College student will learn one thing more as a result of this historical vandalism and bullying, least of all the enfants terrible who insisted on it. They’re doubtless now deciding what their next dopey demands will be. We can hope no one ever tells these short-rounds that all of England’s kings have been white. If this gets out, they’ll be banging on for the college to change its name.