April 11, 2005
Remodeling is always a tough and expensive proposition, except
when you dont have to do the work but get to enjoy the
benefits of someone elses hard work and money.
Such is the case this week as HalEisner.Com
premieres a new look, a remodeling of the website. Enjoy it.
The Internet is hard work for those who build it, maintain
it, and remodel it. The rest of us get to sit back and look
good because of it.
Moving on to another type of remodeling, it is time for the
news media to take a hard look at a story it will be revisiting,
but once again, it will probably be over-looking an obvious
angle in what appears to be a boring education story.
But it is NOT boring, folks, and PLEASE, ask the hard questions
this time around.
Were about two months away from the graduation season
and were hearing the Governor and members of the state
legislature posturing again about holding our education system
What theyre referring to is the often-discussed, but
rarely-understood high school exit exam in which you have
to pass, among other things, algebra, or you cant leave
high school. Its feast or famine, genius or dummy!
Please STOP!! Just for a moment. And realize that not everyone
now in high school is going to go to college, at least not
what we consider a traditional college. Some students will
go to vocational schools, or into the military, or family
businesses, or other endeavors where algebra will NEVER come
into play. We were not all cut out to be doctors, lawyers,
engineers or scientists. Thank God!!
Some of us were cut out to be journalists, craftspeople,
artists, and actors, where the only time numbers come into
play is when were trying to figure out how to pay the
bills and why we took this vow of poverty for the sake of
I speak from personal experience on the issue because I began
my news career as a young sports writer for the South Bay
Daily Breeze and the San Pedro News-Pilot when I was 14 years
old. By the time I got to high school and algebra classes,
it was clear my life was going to be in the world of communications
and we measured type faces and fonts by the pica
and didnt need to know that 2x=n + q or whatever.
I failed algebra in high school and later in college. I sailed
through my English, journalism, regular math, history and
other classes, but algebra always haunted me. I didnt
finish my college degree until later in life because I couldnt
pass that darned algebra and it was a state requirement.
For the longest time, I had completed enough college courses
for two bachelors degrees but I lacked that elusive sign of
one lousy accomplishment - the validation that I was educated
- a passing grade in algebra.
A college administrator suggested to me one day that perhaps
I was one of those thousands of people who were not cut out
to understand Algebra, just like some people can never learn
Spanish, even though it is everywhere around them.
The administrator suggested I take a 17-hour state test that
could determine if I had a learning disability in math, specifically
in algebra and geometry. I was both flabbergasted and ashamed.
Me? Disabled in ANYTHING that was intellectual? I was angry,
Still, I agreed to be tested, and after 17 hours of testing
by a shrink, I learned that in deed, I was genetically as
hopeless in algebra and geometry as I was successful in communication,
comprehension, cognitive skills, etc. I had a real life-long
learning disability in math and no one had caught until now.
It was the whole Left Brain-Right Brain conundrum.
It is a MAJOR issue in schools today and yet, I dont
see reporters doing any analysis of the damage these mandatory
exit exams can do to our high school kids. Perhaps because
journalists are creative Right Brainers, we lack the wherewithal
to ask these tough questions of our educational administrators.
The kids deserve better.
Do journalists even know the differences between Left Brain
and Right Brain thinking? Left Brainers are logical, sequential,
rational, analytical, objective, and they look at parts. Right
Brainers are more random, intuitive, holistic, synthesizing,
subjective, and they trend to look at the whole picture.
I know the words objective and subjective
may be in the wrong description categories for some journalists,
since were all supposed to be objective. The reality
is that were not (for purely political reasons these
days), so live with it for now. Lets stay focused on
the kids and what is really going to happen when your kid
cant pass the algebra exit exam and faces being a 4-year
senior and turning 22 while still unable to qualify for that
12th grade sheepskin.
We are all to blame for this dilemma because we told our
elected officials we wanted better test scores and better-educated
kids. We said we didnt want to pay the teachers more
unless it was on merit and unless all of our kids came out
of school looking and acting like little Einsteins. But they
didnt and they wont.
Most of our kids will become plumbers, electricians, grocery
clerks, secretaries, beauticians, cosmetologists, truckers,
construction workers, entrepreneurs, and yes, even longshoremen,
telephone marketers, and journalists.
Its just plain wrong and dumb-headed to pretend theyre
all capable of mastering complex math and formulas in order
to make a living, and not allow them to leave high school
until they pass the exit exam. Were cruising down the
wrong road on this one.
I hear those who say we wont have a competitive California
if we dont mandate the test. Well, the only alternative
to not taking the test will be to drop out, and then take
the GED (General Educational Development) test, which many
people think is a Graduate Equivalency Diploma
or a dummy version of a high school sheepskin.
That would be unfortunate because California would be saddled
with many more GED test-takers than necessary and we would
be ignoring the need for craftsmen and other noble professions
that we have downplayed for far too long.
When my sink drain gets plugged, my hair gets too long, or
I need to dictate a letter, I want to turn to someone who
is proud and qualified to service my needs. And that persons
ability to pass a darned algebra test is the least of all
the qualifications I care about at that moment.
Now it is up to the media to put these types of case scenarios
in front of our government officials and ask the hard questions.
Why demean these vitally necessary non-algebra jobs and the
students who will perform them? THIS is an injustice that
needs to be exposed.