Berkeley High School May Dump Science Labs For Favoring White Kids?

from the um...? dept

Via Chris Anderson comes this rather odd news about plans for Berkeley High School to cut science labs as part of the school’s measures to “address Berkeley’s dismal racial achievement gap.” Apparently white students at the school do “far better than the state average while black and Latino students [do] worse.” Fair enough. That’s something worth looking into, but taking away science labs? According to one of the people who helped put forth the proposal, “science labs were largely classes for white students.” So, just do away with them? Why not explore why that is? Or see if there’s something more proactive to be done about it? Of course, it’s not even true that it’s just white kids taking science labs:

Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. “The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing,” said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School’s science department, at last week’s school board meeting.

Sincular-Mertens, who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and that her four environmental science classes are 17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino. “As teachers, we are greatly saddened at the thought of losing the opportunity to help all of our students master the skills they need to find satisfaction and success in their education,” she told the board.

It seems like there must be more to this story than what’s being reported. The concept of cutting science labs because more white students take them just seems too preposterous to make sense.

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Comments on “Berkeley High School May Dump Science Labs For Favoring White Kids?”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

“It seems like there must be more to this story than what’s being reported.”

Boy, I hope so… this is just surreal. Then again, that’s what I thought when I found out a school in Mississippi was holding it’s first mixed-race prom ever last year. I suppose when it comes to American and hamfisted race relations, nothing is impossible…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Passive Agressive Racism

“Apparently white students at the school do “far better than the state average while black and Latino students [do] worse.””

It seems to me that it’s the ultimate form of racism to think that the option that makes the most sense is to do away with classes in which the white kids are outperforming the minorities. Isn’t that the same as just throwing up your hands and saying, “well, we HAVE to ditch the classes because the minority kids CAN’T perform at the same level.”

The truth is that it’s a hell of a lot easier and less politically incorrect to do away with classes than to hold minority parents and communities to task for not raising their damn children.

I’m of the belief that there is little to no difference between the races in terms of ability to learn and achieve in different fields (unlike, say, specific physical aspects of athletics, where there appears to be some genuine general physiological differences, like with high-twitch vs. low-twitch muscle fibers). But it’s hard to address African American culture as a whole and say things like, “Hey, some of things we as a people see your subculture do are FUCKED up. Do better, or go away.”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Passive Agressive Racism

I was on board with your at first there DH, but then you spiraled off into the sort of stuff I think you might want to consider a bit more… for one thing, a lot of people consider it a pretty “ultimate” form of racism to lump all African Americans together as a single “subculture”…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Passive Agressive Racism

“a lot of people consider it a pretty “ultimate” form of racism to lump all African Americans together as a single “subculture”…”

Ah, too true I’m sure, but then I wasn’t specific enough. The African American subcultures I was speaking of were those of local designation. For example, I consider the African American comunity here in Chicago to be a subculture in and of itself, related to but separate from the African American community of, say, Green Bay, where I can assure you that culture, attitudes, and family life are vastly different.

This commenting thing is tough sometimes 😉

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Passive Agressive Racism

This commenting thing is tough sometimes 😉

Tell me about it…

And I see better what you mean now. Nonetheless, there is some danger in too readily defining subcultures along racial lines. Of course, it would also be foolish to pretend race has no impact on cultural groups – but in a case like this one, those racial assumptions are part of the problem. As in, I read this particular story as the school board more or less saying “there are no black nerds!”

Well, screw that. There are plenty of nerds of all sorts, and “non-nerds” that are interested in science, and everything else – the real goal has to be to weaken and eventually eliminate those distinctions. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that minorities underperform in the sciences is largely caused by the fact that the standard media portrayal of a “scientist” is still a plain, slightly awkward white guy in a lab coat.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Passive Agressive Racism

“I can’t help but wonder if the fact that minorities underperform in the sciences is largely caused by the fact that the standard media portrayal of a “scientist” is still a plain, slightly awkward white guy in a lab coat.”

Yikes, here’s where I tend to get myself into “trouble”. Media bias, culture bias, and all the rest may or may not exist at one level or another….but so what? I grew up in a truly racially diverse area of Chicago, and because of my father’s interest in the sport, one of my regular activites was playing basketball. You want to tell me what the sterotypical media portrayal of a baller is?

But the point is that portrayal didn’t make any difference. My father taught me to value basketball, so I did. He also taught me to value books and creativity, particularly writing, so guess what one of things I do is?

I’m all for fighting the stupid ways government, media, and others actively USE race to divide us for their gain, but here in Chicago it is very easy to see the distinctions in family culture and hero worship that fall along racial lines. And I mean REALLY easy. I’m sure it occurs to some degree in other subcultures as well, but at some point black famalies are going to have to pick up the latest Snoop Dogg and Li’l Kim albums and simply say, “He’s a druggie idiot, she’s a whore, and YOU are going to fucking be better than that, so here’s a book on Thorogood Marshall…”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Passive Agressive Racism

Right! And with any luck, they’ll start to idolize a quality white role model like Chad Kroeger or Kid Rock!

Hehe no I’m just teasing… I totally get what you are saying (and it is indeed very difficult to discuss these topics without saying things that are easily taken the wrong way)

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Passive Agressive Racism

I’ve lived in Waterloo, an hour from you, and now about 15 minutes from Oakland. After observing Toronto and Oakland, I confirm that:

“I must have a completely different view of race relations”

Is correct. Man, is it ever.

BTW, for those of you unaware of our local geography, although Berkeley sounds posh, and certainly parts of it are, it borders on Oakland, and is indistinguishable in those border areas. As a result, Berkeley high might have one of the wildest mixes of students since busing was started in the 1950s.

Also, the Berkeley governing bodies are known to be so extreme in their views (fringe hippy), that wacky decisions are expected. Dropping science lab seems to fit that mold.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Passive Agressive Racism

What is sad is that there are a bunch of black role models.
Of course Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being a predominant example, but there are many more.
Hell, regardless of how you feel about his politics, President Obama would be a good role model.

There are plenty of options, the only problem is that kids, not parents, decide their own role models, and Snoop Dogg, Kid Rock, et al are much more pervasive and easier to idolize. More rappers need to learn that they have a responsibility to the kids (black, white, etc) in the projects and inner city slums that idolize them and start making music that isn’t about drugs, violence, and sex. As well as more overt moves to help these kids. The rich should be first to open their checkbooks to help the situation poor children of this nation are in. (this also goes for all kinds of rich, regardless of sex or race or whatever)

But no. there is too much money in the current system.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Passive Agressive Racism

“But no. there is too much money in the current system.”

And that’s really the point.

People use racism for personal gain, on both sides of the issue, including both hate and advocacy groups.

People use ignorance and poverty of others to make money, keeping others ignorant and poor.

But people have at least some control over themselves and their famalies, so we need to start there….

Godric says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Passive Agressive Racism

“The rich should be first to open their checkbooks to help the situation poor children of this nation are in.”

I have tried that before. All the money I shelled out was wasted on crap. I tried to help a bunch of families out by giving them low income housing in a decent neighborhood, and give them the type of lifestyle they should aspire for in the future.

Unfortunately all of the families wasted the money that was given to them for expenses on crap they didn’t need. On top of that I was contacted repeatedly about the mayhem the families caused in the new neighborhoods. I was forced to remove them and sell the homes (at a huge loss). I will never open my checkbook to assist the poor again. I do donate about a million a year to the local food banks and what not, so I still help indirectly, but that is all I will do.

The adage is true: you can take them out of the projects, but you can’t take the projects out of them. Sorry if this not what you want to hear, but it is the truth.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Passive Agressive Racism

Oh, so it’s “the truth” that there is no solution to this problem, and that the rich must forever remain rich and privileged while the poor continue to suffer and the divide continues to grow?

Well, I’m so glad Mr. Godric the Millionaire could drop in and set everything straight for us. The poor are just worthless, project-raised slumdogs who don’t deserve assistance because they didn’t immediately know how to manage the money you threw at them… Of course – I don’t know how I didn’t realize it before.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Passive Agressive Racism

Marcus, you tore into Godric’s comment as a “let them have cake” moment.

To be fair, that’s not my read of what he wrote.

I think he’s suggesting that a grown adult, raised a certain way, tends to continue living that way. We ALL do it. Educated Indian women live in the US for decades, but still wear only Saris, Americans on holidays eat at McDs, my Korean friends eat only Korean food, etc. It’s just a kind of social momentum. If that’s what Godric is getting at, I’d add my life’s observations to support his.

He never suggests that, given different role models and opportunities, that people’s offspring can’t learn different cultural norms. Individual people can change, but to change a large group is much slower. Real change takes a generation or two if at all. I’d at least give Godric a chance to clarify before lighting the flames.

And BTW, what’s wrong with a *little* bragging. I know it rubs people the wrong way, but can’t we give him that? Is it so wrong to be proud.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Passive Agressive Racism

who said anything about the families? I meant the children. Besides, throwing money at it wasn’t the solution either. Taking time out to teach people better money management than to just throw them a bone is much more useful and might actually make them more productive.

Thanks for being a jackass.

Godric says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Passive Agressive Racism

ok… Let me clear up a few things. I did not just throw money at them. I put them in touch with my financial consultant at my expense. They were to attend classes that taught them how to ‘fish’ so to speak. the problem is that they would show up once or twice and then stop going. a couple even had the balls to ask for a refund to be given to them.

Another thing, I set up trusts for the children so they would be able to attend college if they met a basic criteria. It was up to them to meet my simple standards. 1. stay in school and graduate. 2. From the point I made contact with them, they were to not engage and be arrested for criminal acts. It is not terribly difficult.

And for the record, I made my money the hard way. I worked for it. Tooth and nail sometimes. I gained money, I lost money. I came from a family in poverty, so do not, for one second, think that I cannot relate to their situation. I made choices that put me where I am today; not all of them were good. I served as an enlisted soldier for several years. I fought in Somalia, Bosnia, and served on the DMZ in South Korea. I have worked hard for every penny I have. I expect nothing less from anyone else.

Now… for the meat and potato’s. You obviously thing I live in a lavish mansion with a $15,000 power bill per month. Under your assumptions, I have villas in France and Spain and summer homes in the Keys and Hamptons. Is that about right?

I happen to live in a house I built with the help of some friends and we all built it mostly by ourselves. The value of the property is less than $400,000. I do not have any other homes. I have 2 cars that total less than $50,000 in value. So, do not think I am the same as the others out there.

Now, I feel bad for how things are, but I cannot fix everyone. There are a lot of socio economic issues to overcome in order to get things done. One is trust. the people that I tried to help did not trust me and tried to extract every dollar from my program that they could. Had they trusted my advice and taken the guidance as it is, things could have worked out well. So excuse me for trying to care.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Passive Agressive Racism

Look, I’m not saying there is nothing valid in what you are saying, but like it or not, you sound like an arrogant rich asshole who is more interested in bragging about his station in life than actually contributing to the discussion. Maybe I’m wrong and that’s not you, but if that’s the case you should learn to talk without slipping in references to the millions you give to charity and the dollar values of all your assets.

See, now you’re trying to sound all humble by saying your property isn’t worth that much… except, you’ve already claimed that you give a million a year to charity, so isn’t talking about how un-extravagant you are in your own life just more bragging?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Passive Agressive Racism

The rappers aren’t just magically idolized no matter what they say, though… The elevation of rap has been driven largely by the attractive rags-to-riches narrative that pervades the genre: it was specifically that story of attaining power and respect on the streets then using that power to leave the streets that attracted so many people to rap music in the first place. To Americans living in poverty, especially African-Americans, rap music presented some of the first success stories that seemed accessible and realistic. It also had a nice side of justice: if the system shuts you out, win by subverting the system.

But even since the 90s and the triumph of hip-hop, there has been significant progress on race issues in America, culminating with the very clear symbol of Obama’s presidency – so I agree that now there is opportunity for the message of rap music to evolve. In fact on some sides it has – despite all of Jay-Z’s continued blustering, his lyrics in songs like Allure cast an extremely insightful eye on the question of idolizing crime and similar questionable aspects of the genre – while also pointing out some of the hypocrisy inherent in such criticism…

But the allure of the game,
keeps calling my name,
All the lawyers in the world:
I feel your pain
To all the Christie’s in every cities
and Tiffany Lanes:
We’re all hustlers in love with the same thing…”

VB-Pirate (profile) says:

Re: Passive Agressive Racism

Can’t agree with you more. Education starts at birth. I know many black folks that have done well and a FAR smarter than I am. I don’t see them screaming “close the labs”. If it hadn’t been for the labs, they would be just like the rest of the underachievers for which they are trying to level the playing field. If the underachievers can’t hack the curriculum then put them on the short bus and put them in special education classes where they belong. But “DON’T” inhibit those students who are capable of achieving great things because the underachievers can’t hack the curriculum.

Analyst (profile) says:

Next comes the handicapping

Is this school really choosing to genericize and homogenize to the lowest common denominator?

Science is the foundation of technical mastery and is critical to the strength of a society.

I hope I am speaking to the choir when I say that I lament for the minds that will suffer for a lack of education, and for the businesses, families and communities that will never see those undeveloped talents take hold and bear fruit.

senshikaze (profile) says:

I have had this argument in general many times.
Like I stated in response to Marcus, I am from Mississippi, so I can see the worse of the what the current system is doing to not only our children (of all races), but our future. The system is built to move everyone to the lowest common denominator. The lowest common denominator happens to (usually) be poor black children from the projects. It is not their fault most of the time, and many do make it out on top, but the fact that alot do not means that the entire system is “dumbed” down to match this. Kids who will excel will be lost in the general noise and the kids who need the most help won’t receive it.

Really and truthfully, I think a system like the charter schools system needs to be implemented. Have a few schools all over the state that are for the over achievers and the truly smart children. Stop pulling down the bright kids and the kids who want to achieve more than their parents down with “political correctness” that is sending us ever closer to the Dole. Stop striving for low, but equal, and force all kids to try to keep up. It may not seem fair to some, but it is way past time for us to stop caring about stupid little trite things like political correctness. Our kids are our only hope and need to be taught to excel, not to become another lowest common denominator. anytime you can do to have kids be forced to make more out of their life, the better.

zellamayzao says:

Re: Re:

I am friends with a teacher in a public school in my town. His class is made up of mostly lower income children and he says the same thing. We should do away with public schools. This is a public school teacher saying this its that bad. The school district is making sure everyone starts out on the same low level instead of making kids strive to reach their potential and excel.

He thinks if all the schools were private than it would give the kids who really want to be in school and really want to succeed a better chance at doing so because teachers would have an easier time reaching the students who want to be reached. You can lead a kid to school but you cant force him (or her) to learn. Plus private schools would breed competition in the school systems attracting the best teachers and brightest students making it profitable to teach. Schools could make more money and be able to provide the best learning tools available to students who are paying to be there.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

im not entirely sure an all private school system would be ideal either. The problem with that is you do have problems with schools being too expensive. even kids who want to go and parents who want to send their child one couldn’t because of poverty. It would continue that trend onward and end up with an upper and lower class, and we would have lost sight of the initial goal. the advantage that America has always had over other countries has been our public school system. Instead of getting rid of it, let us fix it and make it better. I am sure a nation that can created something like the Internet could muster up enough thought to fix our dismal pre-secondary school system. (case in point, our secondary and post-secondary schools are the best in the world, but we have the worst grade schools in the world. maybe making the public school system match the university school system might not be a bad idea. It isn’t as inclusive as public schools, but it isn’t as exclusive as an all private school system. food for thought.)
Lets make our children’s future brighter than it is now.

zellamayzao says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ok I see your point, a system like that could also make a larger rift in the divide. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. The smart get smarter while the poor get dumber kinda thing.

Side bar (Didn’t European scientists come up with the protocol to share information freely over a area wide network later to be call the internet? They needed a way to be able to quickly access information from other scientists and then it became what it is today. I dont quite know for sure maybe Al Gore could help me out?)

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Didn’t European scientists come up with the protocol to share information freely over a area wide network later to be call the internet? They needed a way to be able to quickly access information from other scientists and then it became what it is today.

No, the US military came up with a protocol to distribute information quickly that survive a nuclear attack by automatically routing around damage. That was the ARPANet that became the internet.

zellamayzao says:

Im pretty sure.....

This is not what MLK had in mind when he was fighting for racial equality in the United States. It should be equal opportunity for children of all races to learn and succeed. Not equal end result as a result of removing a particular class subject in school because another race may not be doing as well in it as another. B.S.!!! Its up to the student to do well in that class. What next…if more males do better in an auto shop program they are gonna nix it from the curriculum because they do better than females?

What is this politically correct society coming to? Every now and again people need to get their feelings hurt and have the truth told to them. If you cant do well in the class then dont take it if its an elective. But dont punish the kids who want to take that class and learn that field of study.

The Anti-Mike says:

You sort of have to read the whole story

It’s odd Mike that you jumped over the very first paragraph of the story, which seems to explain the situation better than the rest of the story:

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.

if you have only so much budget, and your goals are to try to get all students to perform well, you look at the most expensive (and potentially least productive) areas, and attempt to reallocate those resources to other areas of the school.

On the surface, it could be said that they are taking away an area where only white kids do good. But the other half of the discussion is missing, where will the money be going as a result? As an example, if getting rid of the science department and replacing it with remedial language and math classes helps to get more students to stay in school, to pass, and to become productive members of society, is that not a good idea? If the school is failing to meet the needs of all of it’s students,then it needs to change.

It’s easy to frame something only in racial terms, but schools need to have a high success rate at the basics, they need to work to make sure that all of the students in their care move forward and can graduate with a reasonable education. Science is nice, making sure that everyone can read and so basic math is much better, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

“It’s easy to frame something only in racial terms, but schools need to have a high success rate at the basics, they need to work to make sure that all of the students in their care move forward and can graduate with a reasonable education. Science is nice, making sure that everyone can read and so basic math is much better, no?”

At what cost? This is high school. Reading and _basic_ math should be pre-requisites. You don’t go to high school to learn trivial things; if they are there without those basic skills, shame on the parents and whoever advanced them. These students are there to learn to think and apply their knowledge. How does favoring the LCD in this manner accomplish that?

The No Child Left Behind crew is going to leave them all behind sooner than later with disservices like this.

Michael Ho (profile) says:

Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

But… why eliminate the more advanced classes if the budget is the reason? I’m sure there are extra-curricular activities that are expensive, too… why not cut all the sports programs and teach kids that math/reading is more important than football?

How is it that anyone can argue that higher-level science education is a potentially less productive area, anyway?

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

It’s pretty simple: If basic reading and writing skills are a requirement for all, anything beyond that is “extra”, and has to be considered.

Taking a half a dozen teachers away from advanced science and moving them help the lowest achievers in the end is good for everyone. School isn’t just for the top 5% of the students, it is for everyone.

As for sports, well, let’s just say that physical activity is part and parcel of being healthy enough to learn, unless you want them to contribute to a whole new generation of couch potatoes…

KevinJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

“Taking a half a dozen teachers away from advanced science and moving them help the lowest achievers in the end is good for everyone. School isn’t just for the top 5% of the students, it is for everyone.”

I completely agree with the second sentence, but disagree with the first. How is encouraging mediocrity good for everyone? By removing ‘advanced’ education classes you are holding back students that could easily learn so much more. And if a student can’t read and write at a 9th grade level, why should they be allowed in the 9th grade?

“As for sports, well, let’s just say that physical activity is part and parcel of being healthy enough to learn, unless you want them to contribute to a whole new generation of couch potatoes…”

That’s a very nice sentiment, but there is a problem. The “sports” your referring to are mainly played by a small subset of students, and usually those students are already in above average physical shape. A better program to make sure that students get “that physical activity” and are “healthy enough to learn” would be physical education classes that all students must take. Unfortunately, for many years school districts have been sacrificing physical education classes in order to help fund sports programs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You sort of have to read the whole story

Having worked in a public school system at the administrative level for many years and seeing this all from the inside, I can say with some degree of certainty that an overwhelming majority of the decisions that are made have NOTHING to do with increasing knowledge, educating children gifted, smart, stupid, slow or otherwise. The school systems in America are run from the top down first and foremost to generate tax dollars and then the second highest priority is indoctrination of our children into what can only be described as a socialist-communist like understanding of the world in which they live where the state is king, the family no longer exists, religion is dictated and separate from all things and God, if he does exist is to be marginalized but better yet is most likely non-existent or dead. With those goals in mind, the best way in which to reach them is to cater to the lowest common denominator. If you have a science lab where some small minority of students (race doesn’t matter) are excelling yet the majority are not – rather than prop up that class as an example to others and continue to set the bar and expectation high – you cut that class and offer remedial reading. This is the same ideology behind idiotic wasteful programs like ESL (English as a Second Language) and bilingual education. The unwritten rule is we’ll teach immigrants at a slower pace and only in their native language, this way we guarantee a permanent under-class. A section of society that can be subverted for any purpose. Need cheap, nearly slave labor – there you go. Need a class of people who can be brainwashed into voting for politicians and mandates that serve to usher in the new wave of socialist ideals – there you go. Need to grow the numbers of the population who undermine the definition of a nation? – There you go. Each year we graduate, advance and pump out hundreds of thousands of students who have no respect for or concept of the English language, no interest in becoming part of American culture and who could care less about established borders. Borders – Language – Culture. That is the textbook definition of a nation. Without it you have no nation – you have a melting pot and what’s cooking in it is putrid and vile.

What must happen in this country is for citizens to wake up and see what their government is doing and has done to weaken the strong foundations of this country and to demand in every way possible that we right this ship before it capsizes. The education system in this country, along with the entitlements programs that pay the downtrodden, impoverished and hard-luck cases to do nothing, contribute nothing, learn nothing are doing a disservice to all of us and sooner or later each and everyone one of will wake up and send our children to education camps where they will read about the new Rome (formerly named America) that legislated and educated its way into history books by allowing marxist leaning politicians and communist educators to guide its policies and educate its children.

This school dumbing down its curriculum in order to appease those who can’t or won’t motivate themselves to greatness is just another example of how we the citizens of this country are allowing our freedom to be chipped away bit by bit. The answer to the problem is not to shutdown the science lab, but to create more of them. Set high expectations for success from all students and to become absolutely intolerant of failure. To teach kids that failure is not an option – although it is a fact of life – and to let them know that when they fail, it is not the end of the world and they should use failure as a learning opportunity and motivation to succeed on subsequent attempts. This is the natural way of all things. Try and try again is not just a cliche – it absolutely works. Which is why it is a cliche. We must stop putting so much focus on standardized testing which serves no other purpose other than giving school districts and government education departments a way to prop up phony statistics to parents, communities, vendors and corporate sponsors about the perceived success of a school in order to bring more dollars into the district. We must focus more on teaching. We must institute programs that teach kids how to live as well as how to read and write and count. I would have loved to have seen classes about how to manage money or start a business in high school. We must make those in the school who are falling behind recognize the importance of being like those who are succeeding and we must stop worrying about how little johnny feels when he sees a red mark on his paper. We must make him focus on the fact that a red mark on his paper now is motivation. If he doesn’t motivate now, the red mark later in life is a pink slip or an eviction notice and ALL of these things can be avoided with a little hard work now.

But I’m sure most of us would rather just continue down the road we are going now. Surely it is much easier to just let society and our children fall by the wayside rather than do anything about it.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

> Taking a half a dozen teachers away from advanced science
> and moving them help the lowest achievers in the end is good
> for everyone.

And now *you’re* leaving out the *other* half of the story. They aren’t taking away classes because they’re advanced. The classes are being targeted for elimination because the majority of kids who take them are white.

D.E. Chernicoff says:

Re: You sort of have to read the whole story

*Yes.* This is the salient point here.

I’m a BHS alum, and the main issue at work is that there isn’t enough money, and in order to free up more discretionary funds to help students–all students–tweaks to the schedule are often proposed. (Schedule affects attendance, which affects revenue, which in turn affects offerings of all sorts.)

I don’t live in Berkeley now, but I’ve been following the story for a while–at no point has anyone in the BHS or BUSD administration drawn a direct connection between changing science courses from (double to single period) and the achievement gap in any way OTHER than a financial one.

For those on this thread who are opposed to “sinking to the lowest common denominator”–I think most of the country is agreed on this point. The answer? More funding for education. So are you willing to put your money where your mouths are and pay the extra taxes to get schools like this one the funding they need to have a sufficient operating budget AND offer fun things like double-period science classes? For my own part, I am, which is why I’m upset to see this feature of the school on the block. But I’m not upset with the school for it, I’m upset with the voters. You can’t have your schools and eat them, too.

Back to my original point, though:

Taking things out of context because they’re sexier blog fodder is irresponsible.

As is commenting when you haven’t read the full story.

Steve M says:

I think this article might provide greater detail on this topic. They appear to be extra-curricular Science Labs, not part of the regular curriculum. So therefore they aren’t reducing the required science classes, but re-allocating the funds to other before/after school services.

Right in the first paragraph it says “including a controversial proposal to eliminate science lab instruction that is currently offered before and after regular school hours.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Clarification: they are not extracurricular classes, they *go along* with the class. If you’re in any science class, you are required to attend a lab once or twice a week, which take place before or after the regular bell schedule. They’re a part of the class, but many students skip out, because they don’t want to get up early or stay late.

–BHS Grad

TheDanimal (profile) says:

So long sports

Just like a few others have stated, I guess to make things even they will probably have to cancel basketball and some track activities, because blacks are “predominately” better at those sports, and they will have to cancel auto shop and body shop because my latino brothers excel in those classes….(sarcasm). The more and more I look at the state of America’s education system, the more I’m convinced that the movie Idiocracy is actually going to come true

Wolfy says:

What wasn’t mentioned and may be quite germane to the subject is whether those on the School Board who voted to do away with the science labs, were “anti-abortion” or “pro-creationist”. There is an attack on science in the schools in this country that is hand-in-hand with the evangelical religious prayer-in-schools crowd.

Wolfy says:

What wasn’t mentioned and may be quite germane to the subject is whether those on the School Board who voted to do away with the science labs, were “anti-abortion” or “pro-creationist”. There is an attack on science in the schools in this country that is hand-in-hand with the evangelical religious prayer-in-schools crowd.

As far as “anti-mike” goes… he is a good example of our not breeding for intelligence in this country… let’s lower the lowest common denominator even more!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

> What wasn’t mentioned and may be quite germane to the subject
> is whether those on the School Board who voted to do away
> with the science labs, were “anti-abortion” or “pro-creationist”.
> There is an attack on science in the schools in this country that
> is hand-in-hand with the evangelical religious prayer-in-schools
> crowd.

You’re not likely to find any of those people on a school board in Berkeley, California.

Benjie says:

Causation vs Correlation?

White kids takes Science Labs and White kids do better in everything. Science labs give white kids and unfair advantage

Guns make loud noises and people die when guns are pointed at them. Loud noises kill people

How about they actually put time into finding out what the problem is. Ma’b their parents are too over worked and life is being bad to them. Ma’b their parents need a bit of help so they can spend time with their kids and help them do better.

My “fix” may not be perfect, but it sure is a ton better than theirs.

Anon says:


The CEO of the company I work for dumps A LOT of his own money into on the side peer review search which is freely available but also indirectly helps our company since we get to work directly with the scientists.

Anyway. The latest finding was that the #1 factor in a students academic success was how much time parents spent with their children. And by #1, the article sent company wide said the parental factor made more of a difference than all other factors combined.(obviously within reason) I know some of the major factor were Social Status, IQ, Money, and several others that I can’t remember.

Could be cultural or ma’b society is putting undue hardship on black parents which is resulting in less time spent with their children. Berkly is a well-to-do place and the average black child may be in a family border-lining just making it in that area which would cause extra stress that other places may not have.

Bengie says:

Dear Mr. Money Bags

Please loan me $1100 to pay off my Perkins loan 🙂
I hate owing people money, but I also hate getting nagged to pay them back when I barely make enough $$ to pay for gas to get to work during the winter.

I buy a a $5 bag of trail mix and that’s lunch at work for 2 weeks until next paycheck while everyone else around me is eating chinese.. :*(

But yeah, I know a lot of people who smoke, go out to bars, go out to eat and complain of not having enough $$$. My wife and I “splurge” about $20 on out to eat about once per month. I could spend more on food and then apply for more assistance, but I hate relying on others.

My wife’s parents each make $50k+ and “somehow” have nothing in their 401k, savings, and complain about heating/electricity.

Yet they have a hot tub that runs 24/7 outside, Brand new Jeep 4×4 SUV they get every 4 years that they drive EVERYWHERE with like 1 person and not hauling anything, and run the AC down to 65f in the hot hot summers.

QQ, no $$$

I run the AC about 2-4 weeks out of the year, even then I micro manage it unless it gets too hot for the cats, then it’s on low all day.
-End of random crap-

Berkeleyan says:

Correct Information

Hi. I just want to let you know that, as someone working on this issue here in Berkeley, it has been reported in a wildly inaccurate manner. NOTHING OF THE SORT that you (and others) have described has been approved. Please call the Berkeley Unified School District if you would like some correct information: 510-644-6348. Thank you.

anonymous says:

this proposal seems quite outrageous to me. i am only reading this bc it was posted to my fathers facebook page, and this is exactly why i choose not to stay current with political news. bc there are too many (stupid) people in important places with such idiotic and outlandish way of coming to conclusions about right and wrong in this world! how does removing an educational class such as a science lab (a class that can potentially lead an aspiring student to become a doctor or scientist, etc.) be of any benefit to humankind???? is it because the people who come up with these crazy ideas are too scared to speak the truth, so the only way to solve some type of “race related” issue is to dance around the truth, and instead make every child (regardless of race or color), each whom have the right to get the best education possible, suffer? wonderful. wait i have an idea. ive noticed that only blacks seem to be excelling in the sport of basketball. as this seems very unfair to the white children who cant seem to do as well, and to narrow the “dismal white basketball achievement gap”, i feel it necessary to do away with the sport. BRILLIANT!

SirRuncibleSpoon (profile) says:

Berkeley High's Curriculum Readjustments

How about this: Grade Credit Offsets!

Concept: As overachieving white students amass AP credits and corresponding grade point averages, they will be taxed along a progressively configured sliding scale. Payment of this tax will be in the form of various percentages of their arrogantly aggrandized graduation credits and in points deducted from individual course grades. The school will administer a pool of points and credits (the PC Pool) to which underachieving students may apply as they discover a need for additional numbers to pass this or that course or, indeed, even to graduate. Voila! Look at what has been achieved:

1) The Racial Grade Gap closes from both top and bottom.
2) Racially privileged white students receive a lesson in racial sensitivity to effects of their unfair social advantage. They become aware of the unfair disadvantages their insistence on achieving brings to students of color.
3) Racially privileged white students are given a meaningful way to share the fruits accruing to the application of their unfair advantages. This training prepares the overachievers to cheerfully accept their role as providers for the welfare of underachievers throughout their adult life. This course could be entitled Reparations 101!
4) Racially disadvantaged students have their frustration at the unfair advantages of others recognized, legitimized and compensated. This prepares them to graciously accept further reparations throughout their adult lives!

Application: The administration and disbursement of this system’s pool of credits and points weaves itself into the fabric of well crafted social studies curricula. In such curricula, its bases get thorough airing and its students trained to play their roles with pride and panache. Teachers will make the connection of this in-school Grade Credit Offset program with impending Carbon Offset regimes affecting whole economies, making the student experience all the more relevant.

Grade Credit Offsets make sense, racially, righteously and really! Let’s all get behind this effort and make the most of this crisis.

Sean Poremba says:

This just in from the Superintendent in Berkeley...

Dear Berkeley Families,

Berkeley High School is in the middle of a major redesign, primarily focused on four areas: Advisory Classes, Bell and Lunch Schedules, Decentralization of the Small Learning Communities, and the Configuration of Science Labs. Science is only one aspect of that; it is the subject of this letter.

At Berkeley High, students are currently required to attend science labs either before or after school for Advanced Placement (AP) classes and most College Preparatory classes. In nearly all other schools in California, science labs are held during the regular school day science classes when students are required to be in school, avoiding any conflicts for students who work, participate in sports or other extra curricular activities or are required to be at home before and after school…. See More

The proposal from the principal and the school leadership is to integrate the labs into the regular school day, not to eliminate them as has been reported by the media. Typically in California, college prep science classes meet only five times a week instead of six times as many BHS science classes do. The proposal would bring instructional time in line with the rest of the state; however this would decrease instructional time over the current practice at BHS, especially for AP classes. Note that it is common for AP classes to have more learning time by extending a course into two years or over the summer.

The principal and leadership team believe that by offering a full science program during the regular day, science classes will be more accessible to all students, and that attendance and performance in science will improve. The proposal has received the support of the BHS School Governance Council and is expected to come before the BUSD Board of Directors on February 3, 2010. This Board review of the high school redesign has been delayed because the administration and science teachers are meeting to resolve the instructional time issues.

As Superintendent I have been following the redesign discussion closely, and have taken a special interest in the question about the science labs. I have met with concerned parents from both sides of the discussion and have personally been meeting with Principal Slemp and the science teachers. The Superintendent’s primary questions/concerns are the issue of requiring students to attend school during extended school hours; how to provide the instructional time necessary for AP and College Preparatory students and how to provide quality science labs and additional support for all science students.


William Huyett
Superintendent of Schools

Steven D says:

Cutting Berkeley Science Classes

The issue with low and high performing kids is not one of race. The kids who get into AP classes apply for AP classes and voluntarily choose to be in science. NO ONE keeps any kid out because of racial bias. The kids who don’t choose AP classes, some of which end up in remedial classes are, struggling for a wide variety of reasons one of the major ones is truancy. Berkeley High, conservatively has 34% truancy rate on a daily basis! Just go to park across the street and see the kids congregating – not in class. Where’s the schools policy on keeping kids in the class room and focusing on learning? This is NOT the fault of the science faculty or the kids who go for AP classes. The principal and school administration need to take some responsibility for their lack of control and focus on learning.

Eugenio Juarez says:

Berzerkeley High!

In order to understand what is going on at the high school you need to understand the mad man who is running the institution. He says one thing and does another.
Berkeley High, despite the progressive rhetoric is sadly mostly serving the needs of the well to do white students. Just look at the school report card, look at the data which reveals that the Berkeley High is not meeting the academic needs of students of color. The teacher population does not come close to reflecting the student population. The curriculum is not culturally relevant. Teachers and administrators of color have been leaving the school. With the advent of academies, the school has been re-segregated. Look at the drop out rates for blacks and Latinos. Look at the CAHSEE passing rates by ethnic groups. Examine the graduation rates and the students who take University of California and Calif State University required classes for admissions. It is not a genetic inferiority causing the failure, it is the autocratic, outmoded,way subjects are taught. Kids are not empowered, they are treated like empty vessels that need to be filled up (indoctrinated) in order to be not much more than mindless cogs in the wheels of this economy.

Rubbish!!! says:

Re: Berzerkeley High!

What is not addressed in your e-mail is, how is Berkeley High School so cleverly only serving the “well to do white students”? The school curriculum SHOULD NOT be CULTURAL relevant (this philosophy is what is keeping “cultural” teachers employed and the students ignorant), but rather ACADEMICALLY relevant. The school should be teaching math, science, and English. Yes, English since this is the native language of this country. Please also take note that in your remark that “Berkeley High is not meeting the academic need of students of color” you must mean that Berkeley High is not meeting the needs of all students since “white” is a color.

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