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Index to The Happy Days Ahead
 
 
 

The Happy Days Ahead

By Robert A. Heinlein


previous page

The Syllabus

The Happy Days Ahead                                523

    Was my father a mathematician?  Not at all.  Am I?  Hell, no!  This is the simplest sort of kitchen arithmetic, the sort that high school students can no longer do—at least in Santa Cruz.
    If they don't study math and languages and history, what do they study? (Nota Bene!  Any student can learn the truly tough subjects on almost any campus if he/she wishes—the professors and books and labs are there.  But the student must want to.)[1]
    But if that student does not want to learn anything  requiring brain sweat, most U.S. campuses will babysit him 4 years, then hand him a baccalaureate for not burning down the library.  That girl in Colorado Springs who studied Latin—but no classic Latin—got a "general" bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado in 1964.  I attended her graduation, asked what she had majored in.  No major.  What had she studied?  Nothing, really, it turned out—and, sure enough, she's as ignorant today as she was in high school.
    Santa Cruz has an enormous, lavish 2-year college and also a campus of the University of California, degree granting through Ph.D. level.  But, since math and languages and history are not required, let's see how they fill the other classrooms.

The University of California (all campuses) is classed as a "tough school."  It is paralleled by a State University system with lower entrance requirements, and this is paralleled by local junior colleges (never called "junior") that accept any warm body.
    UCSC was planned as an elite school ("The Oxford of the West") but falling enrollment made it necessary to accept any applicant who can qualify for the University of California as a whole; therefore UCSC now typifies the "statewide campus."  Entrance can be by examination (usually College Entrance Examination Boards) or by high school certificate.  Either way, admission requires a certain spread—2 years of math, 2 of a modern language, 1 of a natural science, 1 of
 

524                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

American history, 3 years of English—and a level of performance that translates as B+.  There are two additional requirements: English composition, and American History and Institutions.  The second requirement acknowledges that some high schools do not require American history; UCSC permits an otherwise acceptable applicant to make up this deficiency (with credit) after admission.
    The first additional requirement, English composition, can be met by written examination such as CEEB, or by transferring college credits considered equivalent, or, lacking either of these, by passing an examination given at UCSC at the start of each quarter.
    The above looks middlin' good on the surface.  College requirements from high school have been watered down somewhat (or more than somewhat) but that B+ average as a requirement looks good ... if high schools are teaching what they taught two and three generations ago.  The rules limit admission to the upper 8% of California high school graduates (out-of-state applicants must meet slightly higher requirements).
    8%— So 92% fall by the wayside.  These 8% are the intellectual elite of young adults of the biggest, richest, and most lavishly educated state in the Union.[2]
    Those examinations for the English-composition requirement: How can anyone fail who has had 3 years of high school English and averages B+ across the board?
If he fails to qualify, he may enter—but must take at once (no credit) "Subject A"—better known as " Bonehead English."
    "Bonehead English" must be repeated, if necessary, until passed.  To be forced to take this no-credit course does not mean that the victim splits an occasional infinitive, sometimes has a dangling modifier, or a failure in agreement or case—he can even get away with such atrocities as "—like I say—."
It means that he has reached the Groves of Academe
 

The Happy Days Ahead                                   525

unable to express himself by writing in the English language.
    It means that his command of his native language does not equal that of a 12-year-old country grammar school graduate of ninety years ago.  It means that he verges on subliterate but that his record is such in other ways that the University will tutor him (no credit and for a fee) rather than turn him away.[3]
    But, since these students are the upper 8% and each has had not less than three years of high school English, it follows that only the exceptionally unfortunate student needs "Bonehead English." That's right, isn't it? Each one is eighteen years old, old enough to vote, old enough to contract or to marry without consulting parents, old enough to hang for murder, old enough to have children (and some do); all have had 12 years of schooling including 11 years of English, 3 of them in high school.
    (Stipulated: California has special cases to whom English is not native language.  But such a person who winds up in that upper 8% is usually—I'm tempted to say "always"—fully literate in English.)
    So here we have the cream of California's young adults; each has learned to read and write and spell and has been taught the basics of English during eight years in grammar school, and has polished this by not less than three years of English in high school—and also has had at least two years of a second language, a drill that vastly illuminates the subject of grammar even though grasp of the second language may be imperfect.
    It stands to reason that very few applicants need "Bonehead English." Yes?
    No!
    I have just checked.  The new class at UCSC is "about 50%" in Bonehead English—and this is normal—normal right across California—and California is no worse than most of the states.
8% off the top—
    Half of this elite 8% must take "Bonehead English."
 

526                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

    The prosecution rests.

    …

continued…
 

_________________________

  1. Today, in 1998, that is no longer true.  The professors aren't there any longer, and most likely not even the books are.  Where are the professors supposed to come from now?  And the books?  They have long since been eliminated from the libraries in the numerous feminist purges—for being politically incorrect.  (See J.L. Granatstein, "Who Killed Canadian History.")  I'm afraid that virtually the only way that students will be able to get a good education these days is to educate them at home.

  2. How dismayed Robert Heinlein must have become when entrance requirements were lowered yet again to make it possible for the "underprivileged minorities" to enter universities and colleges under the provisions of Affirmative Action.

  3. It was in the late seventies, I believe.  A student at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, wanted to enroll in an English language course.  The registrar asked her why she wanted to enroll and pointed out that she had enrolled already in a sufficient number of courses to enable her to earn the credits required to graduate.  The student said that she wanted to enroll because she wanted to learn "and what's the problem anyway? You've got open places."  The registrar told her that these places had to be kept open for students who needed the credits so that they could obtain a degree.  The comment of the journalist who reported the incident was that this was the first time ever that an official of the U of A had admitted that it was more important to obtain a degree than it was to learn anything.

See also:

Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

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Updates:
2001 02 02 (format changes)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)