The Happy Days Ahead
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 doat 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 wishesthe professors and books and labs are
there. But the student must want to.)
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
Latinbut no classic Latingot 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
outand, 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 spread2 years of math, 2 of a modern language, 1 of a natural
science, 1 of
American history, 3 years of Englishand 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
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.
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 enterbut 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 casehe can even get away with such atrocities as "like I
It means that he has reached the Groves of Academe
The Happy Days Ahead
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.
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
(Stipulated: California has special cases to whom English is not native
language. But such a person who winds up in that upper 8% is usuallyI'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 schooland 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
It stands to reason that very few applicants need "Bonehead
I have just checked. The new class at UCSC is "about
50%" in Bonehead Englishand this is normalnormal right across
Californiaand California is no worse than most of the states.
8% off the top
Half of this elite 8% must take "Bonehead English."
The prosecution rests.