Time for High Schoolers to Put on Their Big College Pants

“Who was absent yesterday and needs the handout?” is not a question a teacher of high school seniors should pose.   In less than one year, how will these students function on their own, choosing courses, purchasing books, transporting themselves to college?

We baby students.  Too much.  Too often.

Chancellor Timothy P. White of the California State University (CSU) system made the right call earlier this month proclaiming that starting in the fall of 2018, incoming freshmen will no longer be given placement tests in English or math, nor will those who struggle be enrolled in remedial classes.

The decision is based primarily on the length it takes a CSU student to complete a degree, and the extra money students have to expend by remaining enrolled beyond the traditional four years.

Currently, over one-third of freshmen are enrolled in these classes; CSU’s four-year graduation rate stands at 19 percent.

Between now and then, each campus will figure out a plan on how to ensure that these students will succeed through other means.

The larger problem that no one wishes to address is that these recent high school graduates are not ready for college.

Several of them are suspended on a rickety bridge between 12th grade and freshman year resembling an Indiana Jones cliffhanger:  who will make it to college and who will not.

Those of us who work at the high school level need to look in the mirror and question our methods and expectations.

Much teacher training is spent on how to scaffold and differentiate lessons, breaking down hard concepts into smaller chunks which eventually handicaps the lower ability students and frustrates the higher ability ones.

Some of this work fits earlier grades.   However, come high school, more should be asked of students.

Each grade from kindergarten through 12th should purposefully be organized to ensure with each passing year, teachers hold the students’ hands less while the students gain more control of their learning.  That way, by the time students cross the stage and hoist up the diplomas, there is true meaning behind that accomplishment.

An integral aspect of attending college is being mature enough to handle the extended freedom and independence.

Schools get the concept of “college prep” wrong.   While applying the phrase to upper grade coursework, college prep actually begins in kindergarten not high school.   Every grade, every class should prepare students to further their education beyond 12th grade, be it college or learning a trade.

High school seniors should not still be working on how to write an effective paragraph.   These kids will fail in their first quarter of college.

This past summer school, one Glendale administrator urged teachers not to fail students.  Having failed classes during the regular school year, these students were given an opportunity to retake them by only being taught 60 percent of the curriculum.  Yet some still couldn’t pass the class.

Administrators and teachers who wipe clean the ‘F’ are not doing these students a favor for maybe the only real lesson that student will have learned in summer school is that a person needs to work at something in order to receive credit.

If that lesson is not learned at the high school level, then a four-year college is not the right option for that individual.

President Harry S. Truman had a famous sign on his desk while in the White House:  the buck stops here.

Those of us in public school need to adhere to standards; passing along students who do little to no work or show little to no grasp of subject matter is real failure.


Hello Dolly vs. Groundhog Day: the Classic Musical vs. the Classless One

Whenever I visit New York, two items are always at the top of my to-do list:  eat fantastic food and see exciting Broadway musicals.   The food rarely disappoints (Peter Lugar Steakhouse and Katz Delicatessen); it’s the musicals that sometimes can be a crapshoot. To hedge our bets, my wife and I try to see one classic and one new one each trip so that at least the tried and true show will not fail.


This summer we went to see Tony Award winner Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly” which has received rave reviews since the revival opened in April.   Premiering in 1964, Jerry Herman’s classic remains so even 53 years later.   Hummable tunes, colorful costumes, imaginative lighting and set design, and a chorus of singers and dancers.


The new musical we saw was “Groundhog Day” based on the 1993 Bill Murray comedy about a man who keeps waking up to the same day over and over again.  Since our teenaged sons had seen the film, we thought this would get them excited to see the musical version.


Even though the film was rated PG, we live in the age of “The Book of Mormon” so I researched “Groundhog Day” to make sure it would be appropriate for my kids.


After multiple sources verified it as family-friendly, I bought the tickets.


Anytime I am about to attend a live performance of a musical or an opera, I listen to a recording of it beforehand to get familiar with the story and the lyrics, and so I bought the “Groundhog Day” cast recording.


I knew I was in trouble when in the second number “erection” was used.   The language went down from there, literally and figuratively.  The producers turned a PG film into an R-rated live performance.  Finding a clean piece of entertainment these days is as hard as finding a piece of watermelon that actually has a taste.


In addition to the requisite four-letter words that a modern piece of entertainment can’t be without, here is a partial list of the sexual and scatological references that are put to music:   nipples, pubic hair, masturbation, foreskin, enemas, semen, defecating in one’s pants and swallowing vomit.


It was as if the composer was paid by the number of off-color word and bodily functions he could fit in a Broadway show.


Hardly any of the 17 songs were clean, or memorable for that matter.  I’m sorry, but hearing pretty voices sing ugly words does not sound good.  All the parts of the body in the key of C doesn’t change the fact that they are singing dirty words.  Also, it does not reflect well on the composer who goes in the gutter for rhymes instead of creating more imaginative word choices.


The filthy language also will date this musical quite quickly.


Clearly, what I consider family-friendly and others differs greatly.  Just this week Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote a piece on an 85-year-old grandmother who once she saw herself dancing on the huge video screen at Dodger Stadium, decided to pull up her shirt and flash her breasts (thankfully in a bra).  To me, that behavior should not be cheered, yet I recognize I may be in the minority.


Meanwhile, “Hello Dolly” without the obscenities remains timeless.  And that is why it is a classic. “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” and the title song stay in your mind long after leaving the theater.


I doubt that in 2037 there will be a revival of “Groundhog Day.”  Unlike the main character who continues to relive Feb. 2, no one should relive this musical.