How A California School System Exhibits Real Racism


It's hard to see or read a news article these days where somebody, somewhere isn't accusing Trump, his administration, and all Republicans in general of being "racist".

Whenever I see or hear such it is obvious that people who throw around such insults don't know what the definition of "racist" / "racism" is.

Here's the definition from Merriam-Webster:

"A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Now, if "superiority" is an aspect of racism, then "inferiority" is inferred, as well.

What prompted this article was a news report coming out of California; (Click Here for that news report.) Now, THIS is racism.

A paragraph, excerpted here, was the impetus for this offering:

"Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who heads the nationís largest community college system of 114 campuses, told The Times that intermediate algebra is seen as a major barrier for students of color, preventing too many from completing degrees. About three-fourths of those who transfer to four-year universities are non-STEM majors, he said, who should be able to demonstrate quantitative reasoning skills by taking statistics or other math courses more applicable to their fields."

Before delving into my "racist" claim, which should be obvious from his above statement alone, I have several other disagreements.

First, if he believes that Algebra is too tough, wait until these students try and tackle statistics.

Second, what exactly did he mean by intermediate algebra? Well, I found this set of examples of what today is called intermediate algebra.

I have no idea what has happened to the teaching of Algebra since I first took it some 55+ years ago, but the above is far from what I would term "Intermediate" - those examples are first year high school Algebra questions.

If students going for an associate degree in college have difficulties with examples such as the above, what in Heaven's name did they learn in high school? How bad must California's high school education system be?

Now, does one need to know how to solve such problems if one's ambition in life is to be an English teacher, Historian, or other such? Not really, one could argue. An example:

"One need not need to know how to derive a laplace transform to determine the real reason the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 - and why not in 1065 or 1067. OK! That may be a bit beyond Algebra; but you get my point."

Fundamentally, the purpose of Algebra is to instill some ability to think logically when facing a problem and to hone our reasoning abilities - not just to solve equations.

We, all of us, use Algebra on a daily basis - mostly without realizing it. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1:

You are baking 2 different style cakes. One recipe requires 2 eggs and the other requires 3 eggs. If you have 9 eggs in your refrigerator, after baking how many eggs will you have left?

Pretty easy, right? And, to solve that problem you don't need Algebra, right? It's just simple subtraction, right? One can find the answer just by thinking about it, right?

Well, of course, the answer to those 4 questions is "YES". However, Algebra, or the logical discipline of Algebra, is what you were using - know it or not.

BTW - Here is the algebraic formula to solve that problem:

9 - 3 - 2 = x

Example 2:

Your car has a 20 gallon fuel tank. Your car gets 30 mpg on the road. You are about ready to leave on a very long trip by car. So, you fill the car up with fuel. You want to know how many miles you can drive before you have to get fuel again - and, you always "fill up" when your fuel gage shows 1/4 full. How far can you drive?

Can this problem be "solved in your head" like the last one. Many can and some may not be able to. But, using the disciplines of Algebra lets one approach the problem logically.

Using Algebraic equations, i.e., the way you would probably think about the problem anyway even if you didn't write down "equations":

1. 1/4 * 20 gallons = 5 gallons left at refuel time

2. 20 gallons - 5 gallons = 15 gallons useable fuel before refill

3. 15 gallons * 30 miles/gallon = x miles

4. 450 miles = x (i.e., you can drive 450 miles before filling back up.)

The disciplines one learns via Algebra helps one logically approach solving many everyday problems. It's a discipline that will help all throughout their lives.

On to my "racist" claim.

The Chancellor's claim that "people of color" can't pass these courses is the same thing as saying that others (e.g., caucasians) can. Is this not identical to saying that "people of color" are inferior to others - the very definition of "racism"?

Such a statement is absurd and not accurate. Because of environmental factors, "people of color" may have entered the academic system he represents less prepared than others - perhaps. So, to remove the learning that may actually help these people is a disservice to them and, in fact, to all of our society - at best.

Would this school system not better serve such students by establishing remedial academic courses to actually help "people of color" - and anyone else who may benefit? As everyone should be aware, "people of color" or any other such "grouping" does NOT imply that all members of any "grouping" have equal abilities in anything.

Failing to address the real problem will do nothing but perpetuate the failing status of the people being pushed through the system via lessening the standards of achievement.