July 28, 2000

El Foro ... The Public Forum

A Voice of Reason

On the eve of the announcement of California's SAT 9 test results, Robert B. Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, point(ed) out that US education is continuing in its "one-size-fits-all system". In an article published in the New York Times Opinion section, Reich cites Thomas Lepuschitz, one of NY City's 46 imported foreign teachers of math and science as "thinking it strange" that US schools expect even the slowest students to succeed in math and science.

And locally, the SD Blueprint for Student Success in a Standards Based System continues the folly. Like a majority of US school reform efforts based on the incompletely stated axiom "all kids can learn," the implication is that the output of our schools will be children whom can all achieve at the same level. All kids can learn, but not equal amounts of every subject!

When the San Diego Board set our Subject Matter Standards the view that they should be set as "minimum but required" standards was not acceptable. "The public demands high standards" was the clarion call, and so we followed the National trend. It's politically easy to approve a plan that assures every voter that our children will all succeed... especially when you won't be around when it falls apart!

But Reich points out what many parents know. ... Everyone cannot achieve at the same level. Some of us are good on things not measured by standard tests... There are spatial relationships, auditory memory, physical strength, hand-eye coordination, esthetic and creative characteristics, linguistic skills, ethical sense and people skills...just to name a few. And not every child leaving the school system will need prescribed lock-step math or science skills...even though they are important to some.

Reich clearly points out the paradox that we are "embracing standardized tests at a time when the economy is eliminating standardized jobs." ... I am sure that he would be concerned about any education reform like the Blueprint that significantly reduces the number of electives available.

Over 9000 secondary students in San Diego City Schools will lose their chance this next school year to take an elective class that could make the difference for their future.

The kind of course they will lose include: Photography, Journalism, Art, AVID (26 sections), Woodshop, Choirs, Spanish, French, Computer Applications, Video Production, Cooking, Sewing, Animation, Broadcasting, Auto Shop, Technology Core, Advanced Construction, Advanced Band, Consumer Ed., Aviation Technology, AP French, AP Music Theory, ROP Tourism, Instrumental Ensemble, Choir, Design in Mixed Media, Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD), Transportation Technology, Drafting, Construction Technology, Public Speaking, AP Computer Science, Computer Applications in Business, Japanese, orchestra, Computer Multi-media, Dance, and Business Education.

But these young people will all be prepared to take the SAT 9 test! And it's probably true those kids who do make it through the high stakes testing and curriculum standards will all have better preparation for college than any of us did. But some of us worry about the other kids! What happens to them if they are forced to repeat classes they can't pass over and over again.?

Like Robert Reich, I worry about whether or not we should keep moving down the popular, but dangerous track of a one-size-fits-all education. The danger is that many kids will drop out because they don't get a chance at the kind of vocational and creative arts preparation that they really want before they leave our schools. Someday we will have to reconsider this serious mistake!

John de Beck
San Diego City Schools Boardmember


(Comment: Unfortunately, Mr. de Beck only begins to touch the tip of the iceberg. While he did point many of the physical barriers to success, he failed to mention the myriad of social and economical barriers that also dictate success or failure within the school system. Within this context we find a disproportionate number of Hispanic students that not only have to struggle with passing or failing a test, but they also have to worry about receive one square meal a day; having one parent home from work who can help with the homework; the lack of help at school where there used to be teacher's assistants who could help, to name a few of the problems. One-size-fits-all education only serves to benefit those at the top of the education ladder to begin with.)

Who's Signing the Checks in San Diego: I'd Like One

Have we as a City truly come to value Baseball more than the basic needs of man (shelter)? If actions truly speak louder than words then what should our conclusions be from San Diego's actions and commitments of the last few years in bringing the ballpark to life. I would say their priorities speak for themselves.

I recently had the pleasure to meeting a young African-American single mother, who I'll call Eve. ... Somehow we got into a conversation in which Eve shared with me that she was being evicted from the Villa Maria (affordable housing community) apartments in San Diego's Little Italy section. I was sadden at the realities in which she was embroiled in.

It is my hope that collectively our council members can be as responsive to coming to the aid of a constitute for resolution to her situation without skipping a beat as they have been with assisting our wonderful new ballpark with it's challenges through the project (public hearing after public, redrafting plans, etc.)

Eve said she should have been out already but she had no where to go and no money either! Eve has just begun a new job...and I trust that the three month cash reserve which we boast so boldly of, that all should have in case of emergency is not something she is privy to at this time. Eve has also had to take time off to contend with the eviction proceeding against her!

If the Council can find funds to proceed with the problems of it's projects ... "Council OKs $10 million for ballpark work," which I am in favor of, it is my hope that the $1,400 ... to keep this young woman and her two sons in their current apartment and add to their stability could be handled as easily and swiftly. Like the Padres executives said, "Without the temporary funding, the city and the Padres faced the prospect of demobilizing...is the very same issue Eve is facing!

... So how would you like sleeping under the new bleachers of the San Diego Padres Ballpark located in downtown San Diego, California.

I know I wouldn't want that for my grandchildren.

Rhonda Barnwell
Concerned Citizen


(Comment: In politics you first help those who can help you, ie campaign contributions, and work your way down the list. Unfortunately Eve and people like Eve are way down the list. The $10 million dollars given to the Padres has to come from somewhere, the budget is already set, meaning that the city is going to have take money away from something -- like helping people, like Eve.)

They Love Us In England

I did log on your web page and it was very good: clean, easy to use, smart and friendly. I am now continuing to learn "el español de las Americas porque... I love that language!"

We used to live in Southern California for 7 years... and...we adored it!!

The USA taught me about the "You can do it attitude" and that dreams can come true. I miss...the flavored coffees, malls, Hispanic people, streets with signs in Spanish, movies, theatres, super size it meals .... you name it!!!!

Es my compleaños y mucho les agradeceriamos nos mandaran unas etiquetas engomadas de su periodico y un cartel de La Prensa San Diego?

Pascal Gillon
Devon EX141LE

(Comment: Well here it is and keep practicing your Spanish.)

Letters to the Editor Return to Frontpage