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Tue, 04 Oct 2011 15:19:00 -0500text/html Why This California Community College Only Has 1 Full-Time Black Professor

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A college professor stands in front of her classroom, pointing to a PowerPoint presentation.

Professor Nikia Chaney gives a presentation on Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African American culture, during an Umoja community event at Cabrillo College in Aptos on Dec. 7, 2023. The Umoja program supports African American and other historically underrepresented students. (Loren Elliott/CalMatters)

At Cabrillo College near Santa Cruz, Nikia Chaney stands out. You can spot her bright pink hair from a distance. She’s also the only Black professor out of the community college’s 165 tenured or tenure-track faculty.

“When I first got hired in 2019, I didn’t look up the demographics of the school or anything like that. I was just really happy I had a full-time job,” she said. But after arriving on campus, she started to feel isolated. “You don’t have faculty members who look like you,” she said.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the agency representing all 116 of the state’s community colleges, wants “to have the makeup of our faculty and staff mirror the student population we serve,” spokesperson Melissa Villarin said. For years, the office has tried to increase diversity as state legislators pumped money into attempted solutions.

Faculty diversity has increased slightly over the past 15 years, but a report the chancellor’s office issued in November acknowledged that “progress remains slow.”

Villarin said that there is no single explanation why but that the problem often lies in recruitment, hiring and retention. For example, the application website for community college jobs is “outdated,” and panels that select candidates often need to be more diverse and better trained, she said.

In a separate state audit released in February 2023, some college districts said it’s hard to find qualified professors when few people in their communities have the necessary graduate degrees. In other cases, the report said, faculty find “higher-paying positions elsewhere.”

“This is a nationwide problem. When everybody is focused on trying to diversify your faculty, it’s going to be your Harvards and Yales who are going to pay you the most,” said Olivia Cheche, a program associate in higher education at the nonprofit think tank New America.

Numerous studies show that a more diverse faculty benefits students and can even help to close achievement gaps between white students and students of color. Using years of data from DeAnza College, a community college in Cupertino, one study found that students who are Black, Latino, and Native American/Pacific Islander get better grades, are more likely to pass a course and are less likely to drop classes when they had a professor who looked like them.

“It’s that idea of having a role model that looks like you. That might be the encouragement a student needs to pursue a higher education,” Cheche said.

Statewide, the report from the chancellor’s office shows that the percentage of tenured or tenure-track community college professors identifying as Black is about the same as that of Black students: between 5% and 6% in 2022, the most latest data available. The percentage of community college administrators who identify as Black is even higher.

But representation is uneven. At Lassen Community College in Susanville, there are no full-time Black faculty members, even though more than 1 in 10 students are Black. In San Luis Obispo and at other rural colleges across the state, similar disparities persist.

Last year, just over 1% of Cabrillo College students identified as Black, according to data from the chancellor’s office. Chaney is committed to helping those students.

“I know myself as an educator. I’m not going to be able to be in a place and not do anything. It’s what keeps me here, but I also really love it,” she said as she set up a classroom for an end-of-year celebration for students in Umoja, a state-funded academic program to support Black students, though anyone can participate. Umoja has existed on other campuses for years, but Chaney helped launch the first iteration at Cabrillo College last fall.

A teacher happily dancing in a classroom of community college students.
Professor Nikia Chaney leads students and others in dance during an Umoja community event at Cabrillo College in Aptos on Dec. 7, 2023. (Loren Elliott/CalMatters)

Standing underneath a poster for Black History Month, she turned on the music to the sounds of a drum circle. “Do I have some volunteers who are going to get up and dance with me?” she said as people slowly trickled in. About 15 students and staff, most of whom were not Black, attended the event.

Kyla Kientzel, who is biracial and an Umoja student, said she appreciates the efforts that Chaney is making for students like her. “It kind of makes me more comfortable when there’s people that look like me around. I’ve never had a Black teacher before,” she said. One time in Chaney’s English class, Kientzel wrote about her first name, which was given to her by her father, who is Black. “I get to write about my experiences, and she understands,” Kientzel said.

Catching a flight to work

Cabrillo College has two campuses, one in the wealthy seaside community of Aptos and another just 20 minutes away in the inland farming town of Watsonville. About 80% of residents in Watsonville identify as Latino, and Latino students there said it had a “welcoming” and “very communal” climate in the campus’ 2018 diversity report. In Aptos, which is 75% white, that welcoming spirit fades, the report said.

Across both campuses, about 18% of faculty identify as Latino, compared to roughly 46% of Cabrillo students.

The district is well aware of the lack of diversity, particularly when it comes to Black faculty.

“My heart really is there for Nikia [Chaney]. It’s not right, and it’s something we need to address,” said Adam Spickler, a trustee of the community college district’s board. “I feel like we’ve done fairly well increasing diversity in other ways. But we need to turn that attention to African American faculty — no doubt.”

As an example of improvements, Spickler pointed to increased diversity among the college’s administration. Out of the 23 administrators this year, three are Black, and four are Latino.

Spickler said the overall lack of diversity isn’t surprising given the demographics of Santa Cruz County. While the region has large and growing Latino and Asian communities, about 1.5% is Black, according to the most latest census data.

“Everything is different,” he said. “In my first semester, I did not understand any of my teachers.”

His first language is Amharic. He said Umoja was a respite for him, where he met advisors who made him feel at home. Now, his goal is to transfer to UCLA. “Los Angeles will be much more diverse,” he said.

For Chaney, the experience was untenable. She said her daughter was one of only a few Black students in her elementary school and was often bullied by other students. After living in Santa Cruz County on and off for two years, she decided to move back near friends and family near San Bernardino, where the Black community is also much larger.

“I need to be in a town where people look like me,” she said. Now, she flies in once a week for classes and campus programs.

Millions spent to diversify faculty

Legally, public colleges can’t consider the race or ethnicity of a job candidate because of a constitutional amendment California voters passed in 1996 that banned affirmative action. Voters reaffirmed the ban in 2020. But the chancellor’s office and state auditors agree that colleges can use other means to achieve the same goal — such as providing diversity training to all staff members involved in hiring, so they can better recognize and correct for their own biases.

An aerial shoot of a community college campus.
A general view at Cabrillo College in Aptos on Dec. 7, 2023. (Loren Elliott/CalMatters)

In 2021, the chancellor’s office required college districts to develop a plan for promoting diversity in hiring. Villarin said 68 out of 73 districts have submitted a plan to the chancellor’s office as of Oct. 1, the final deadline.

She said the remaining districts include Los Angeles and Glendale, as well as the districts that represent colleges in Eureka, Stockton, Cupertino and Los Altos. They will submit their plans in “the coming days,” she said.

Colleges are also required to analyze the demographics of their job applicants, but the state audit found only one out of the four community college districts surveyed had done so. Fermin Villegas, a deputy counsel for the chancellor’s office, said his team would be providing “more oversight and monitoring” in the future.

Of the millions of dollars the Legislature earmarks each year for efforts to diversify hiring, most are sent to the state’s 73 community college districts, which then distribute it to the 116 community colleges. Last year, most districts received about $139,000, Villarin said. Reports show the districts used the money to mentor and train potential and current faculty, among other efforts.

Following recommendations from the chancellor’s office, Cabrillo College is trying a “cluster” model: hiring for eight new positions simultaneously focused on the candidates’ qualifications in their academic fields and their commitment to serving marginalized students.

One advantage of cluster hiring is that it can help avoid scenarios in which one faculty member becomes the token person of color, according to a memo from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.

Chaney said she’s not the only advocate for Black students on campus and pointed to the work of a few Black and Latino administrators and staff who support students in other ways. Many arrived at the college within the last year or two and lived in the county.

Chaney said it’s valuable to have mentors who live in the community, but it’s also important to have faculty who know Black culture, even if, like in her case, those two aren’t the same.

After the Umoja event ended, Chaney didn’t have time to clean up, so her colleagues carried the leftover food and supplies to their cars. “I’ve got to run,” she said, hugging each person as she said her goodbye. She drove to San José to catch a flight home that afternoon.

Fri, 05 Jan 2024 01:30:00 -0600 en-us text/html
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The Future of Testing in Education

In this series, the Center for American Progress examines how assessments in public schools can become effective instruments that help to measure whether schools and educators are meeting the goals of education. It considers how assessments are designed, and how their results are used and understood, and emphasizes that when done purposefully, these tests can be part of the solution in creating a high-quality education for every child. This series is designed to be useful to federal, state, and local policymakers, as well as to practitioners, by challenging the norms on which current assessment policy and practice are based in order to present new and fresh thinking on this issue.

Tue, 12 Dec 2023 13:30:00 -0600 en text/html
American Studies

AMS 201 Introduction to American Studies (4 Credits)

This course provides an introduction to American Studies through the interdisciplinary study of American history, life and culture. Students develop critical tools for analyzing cultural texts (including literature, visual arts, music, fashion, advertising, social media, buildings, objects and bodies) in relation to political, social, economic and environmental contexts. The course examines the influence of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and transnationality on conceptions of citizenship, and struggles over what it means to be an “American,” and how this has shaped the distribution of power, resources and wellbeing in the United States. {H}{L}


AMS 202 Methods in American Studies (4 Credits)

This course introduces some of the exciting and innovative approaches to cultural analysis that have emerged over the last three decades. Students apply these methods to a variety of texts and practices (stories, movies, television shows, music, advertisements, clothes, buildings, laws, markets, bodies) in an effort to acquire the tools to become skillful readers of American culture, and to become more critical and aware as scholars and citizens. Prerequisite: AMS 201 is recommended but not required. {A}{H}


AMS 205 Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies (4 Credits)

This course is designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of Native American and Indigenous Studies. This course looks at the diverse histories of Indigenous nations across North America, as well as histories of shared experiences with ongoing colonialism, legacies of resistance and connections to place. The class focuses on Indigenous perspectives, intellectual traditions and critical interventions across time through the work of historians, anthropologists, philosophers, literary scholars, Indigenous knowledge keepers, poets, writers and activists. This course is required for a Native American and Indigenous Studies focus for American Studies majors. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

AMS 215ir courses in Contemporary Native/Indigenous Studies-Indigenous Climate Resiliency (4 Credits)

It is often noted in mainstream news media that Indigenous peoples are “on the front lines” of the climate crisis, while providing little explanation as to why this is. Narratives of inherent Indigenous vulnerability obscure the ways in which Indigenous communities have mobilized to navigate environmental change, not only in the face of contemporary global warming, but historically, as settler colonial incursions radically transformed landscapes and constrained Indigenous knowledge practices that have provided tools for adaptation for thousands of years. This course considers how Indigenous climate vulnerability is largely a product of settler colonialism—not only a process and system, but also a particular way of understanding and relating to the nonhuman environment. (E) {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 220dm Colloquium: courses in American Studies-Dance, Music, Sex, Romance (4 Credits)

Since the 1950s rock ’n’ roll and other forms of youth-oriented popular music in the U.S. have embodied rebellion. Yet the rebellion that rock and other popular music styles like rap have offered has often been more available to men than women. Similarly, the sexual liberation associated with popular music in the rock and rap eras has been far more open to “straight” desires over “queer.” This course examines how popular music from the 1950s to the present has been shaped by gender and sexuality, and the extent to which the music and its associated cultural practices have allowed artists and audiences to challenge gender and sexual norms, or alternately have served to reinforce those norms albeit with loud guitars and a heavy beat. Enrollment limited to 20. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 225 Colloquium: Corporate Capitalism, Media and Protest in America (4 Credits)

The U.S. Constitution recognizes a free press as the lifeblood of democracy with a mandate to inform citizens and hold the powerful accountable. But there is widespread distrust of the media in American society today. This course analyzes the transformation of the press into a corporate enterprise over the past 150 years, and the opposition this has provoked. Examining key developments (the creation of multinational media conglomerates as well as new digital media alternatives) and focusing on case studies such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and the 2016 Elections, we examine the influence of the media on American political, economic, and cultural life. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 227 Trade and Theft in Early America (4 Credits)

A seventeenth-century engraving imagines an encounter between two men wearing feathers and holding onto the same string of shells: depending on your perspective, this image looks like a scene of trade or one of theft at knife-point. In understanding moments from the past, representation and perspective shape not just interpretation, but sources themselves. Seeing moments as both trade and theft opens them to tellings and analyses from multiple perspectives, exposing overlooked elements and revealing the ways in which histories are made. This course introduces students to Early American history (c1500-1800) through the themes of trade, theft, representation and perspective. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 229 Native New England (4 Credits)

In this course we interrogate the space now known as New England by learning about it as a land with histories, peoples and life ways that predate and exceed the former English colonies and current United States. We devote our semester to studying the cultural distinctiveness of the Native peoples of New England, for example, the Mohawk, Mohegan, Abenaki, Wampanoag and Schaghticoke peoples and to understanding the historical processes of encounter, adaptation, resistance and renewal that have characterized Native life in the area for centuries. We explore histories of the pre- and post-contact period through the perspectives of various Native communities, and discuss the legacies of these histories for Native New England today. {H}{L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

AMS 230cc Colloquium: courses on the Asian-American Experience-Chinese Diasporic Communities in the US and the World (4 Credits)

The course examines the histories of different Chinese diasporic communities in the world, including the United States as they relate to themes of race, empire, ethnicity, gender, globalization, and nationalism. Enrollment limited to 20. (E)

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 230ih Colloquium: courses on the Asian-American Experience-US Imperialism and Hawai'i (4 Credits)

This course examines the history of U.S. occupation of Hawai'i as a case study of U.S. imperialism. The class examines the history of the rise and fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the establishment of Hawai'i as a U.S. territory and the current status of Hawai'i as the 50th state in the United States. The class looks at the role of missionaries in introducing capitalist economy in Hawai'i, Native Hawaiian resistance to American annexation, indigenous land struggles as a result of urbanization and U.S. military expansion, Asian settlers in Hawai'i, revitalization of Hawaiian language and contemporary Native Hawaiian sovereignty movements for self-determination. (E) {H}

Fall, Variable

AMS 234 Living on Turtle Island: an Introduction to Indigenous and Settler Studies (4 Credits)

In this course we will focus on situating ourselves on Turtle Island--North America. We will prioritize the Indigenous histories of our shared home, the Northeast, while also considering histories of other peoples and places across the continent. Our aim will be to develop habits of thought to help us move beyond the reflexes and limitations of settler colonialism and to consider indigeneity in our everyday lives. Interdisciplinary readings will foreground indigeneity, race, feminist and decolonial analyses. This course is open to all students. Previous knowledge of Native American or Indigenous courses is welcome but not assumed. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 235 American Popular Culture (4 Credits)

This course offers an analytical history of American popular culture since 1865. We start from the premise that popular culture, far from being merely a frivolous or debased alternative to high culture, is an important site of popular expression, social instruction and cultural conflict. We examine theoretical texts that help us to read popular culture, even as we study specific artifacts from a variety of pop culture sources, from television shows to Hollywood movies, the pornography industry to spectator sports, and popular music to theme parks. We pay special attention to questions of desire, and to the ways popular culture has mediated and produced pleasure, disgust, fear and satisfaction. Alternating lecture/discussion format. Enrollment limited to 25. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

AMS 238 Only Joking: Race, Gender, and Comedy in American Culture (4 Credits)

Comedy has been a primary site for enacting and contesting citizenship in the United States. This course presents a history of comedy from the nineteenth century to the present to analyze the role of humor in shaping racial and gender stereotypes, as well as expressions of solidarity, resistance, and joy among marginalized groups. Case studies include blackface minstrelsy, stand up comedy, sit-coms, satirical news, social media posts, and cancel culture debates. The course applies cultural studies, affect theory, media studies, feminist studies, and critical race studies to analyze the social, political, psychological, and emotional work of comedy. {A}{H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 239 Colloquium: The Culture Wars (4 Credits)

This course places the “Culture Wars” – U.S. political battles waged over issues such as race, gender, sexuality, the family, abortion, education, guns, climate change and even the “non-partisan” COVID-19 pandemic – into the context of latest U.S. history. The goal of the course is to invite students to think critically about the workings of the Culture Wars within America’s democratic political system and about the impact of the Culture Wars on the broader sweep of life in the U.S. The course pays particular attention to the ways power relationships are manifested, and contested, through the Culture Wars. Enrollment limited to 20. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 240 Colloquium: Introduction to Disability Studies (4 Credits)

This course serves as an introductory exploration of the field of disability studies. It asks: how do we define disability? Who is disabled? And what resources do we need to properly study disability? Together, students investigate: trends in disability activism, histories of medicine and science, conceptions of normal embodiment, the utility of terms like "crippled" or "disabled"and the representation of disability in culture. Enrollment limited to 20. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 245 Feminist & Indigenous Science (4 Credits)

In this course, we will consider such questions as: What do we know and how do we know it? What knowledges count as science? How is knowledge culturally situated? How has science been central to colonialism and capitalism and what would it mean to decolonize science(s)? Is feminist science possible? We will look at key sites and situations in media and popular culture, in science writing, in sociological accounts of science, in creation stories and traditional knowledges in which knowledge around the categories of race, gender, sex, sexuality, sovereignty, and dis/ability are produced, contested and made meaningful. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 267/ SWG 267 Colloquium: Queer Ecologies: Race, Queerness, Disability and Environmental Justice (4 Credits)

Offered as AMS 267 and SWG 267. What is learned by memorizing Queer Ecologies alongside Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, or Over the Hedge as environmental racism? The class considers what it means to have a racialized and sexualized identity shaped by relationships with environments. How is nature gendered, racialized and sexualized? Why? How are analytics of power mobilized around, or in opposition to, nature? How are conceptions of “disability” and “health” taken up in environmental justice movements? Students investigate the discursive and practical connections made between marginalized peoples and nature, and chart the knowledge gained by queering our conceptions of nature and the natural. Enrollment limited to 20. (E) {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 302 Seminar: The Material Culture of New England, 1630–1860 (4 Credits)

This course examines the material culture of everyday life in New England from the earliest colonial settlements to the Victorian era. It introduces students to the growing body of material culture studies and the ways in which historic landscapes, architecture, furniture, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, foodways and domestic environments are interpreted as cultural documents and as historical evidence. Offered on-site at Historic Deerfield (with transportation available from the Smith campus), the course offers students a unique opportunity to study the museum’s world-famous collections in a hands-on, interactive setting with curators and historians. Utilizing the disciplines of history, art and architectural history, anthropology, and archaeology, students explore the relationships between objects and ideas and the ways in which items of material culture both individually and collectively convey patterns of everyday life. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{H}


AMS 340cc Seminar: Capstone in American Studies-Culture and Crisis (4 Credits)

According to a growing number of social theorists, and pretty much everybody else, this is an age of crisis. One of the critical tasks is to develop interdisciplinary tools to analyze how environmental conditions, economic systems, technological developments and political ideologies have sent humans on a path of catastrophes: climate change, resource exhaustion, inequality, social fragmentation and political repression. This course examines how these conditions have shaped American culture (asking why news broadcasts, the entertainment industry and social media respond to crises with distraction, disinformation, fear-mongering and scapegoating), and explore efforts of artists and activists to theorize and devise creative and just alternatives in visual arts, fiction, essays, comedy, movies and music. American Studies Majors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 340nd Seminar: Topics-Capstone in American Studies-New Directions in American Studies (4 Credits)

This seminar engages new scholarship in American Studies, with a focus on critical disability studies, critical race studies, queer ecologies, and feminist science & technology studies. This course presents an occasion to rethink approaches to interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, ethnic studies, and media & cultural studies. Likely texts include works by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Theri A. Pickens, Sami Schalk, Harlan Weaver, Cutcha Risling Baldy, Aurora Levins Morales, Ron Chew, La Marr Jurelle Bruce, Moya Bailey, Candace Fujikane, Sylvia Wynter, and M. Remi Yergeau. Limited to American Studies Majors. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 351np/ ENG 384np Seminar: courses in Writing about American Society-Creative Nonfiction Writing through Photography (4 Credits)

Offered as AMS 351np and ENG 384np. A creative nonfiction writing workshop where students Improve their writing using photography as muse, guide, foil and inspiration. Students write long, creative nonfiction pieces about current issues in American life using photography as a method for inspiring, analyzing and improving the prose. Students take photos, report and write, applying principles of photography such as point of view, depth of field, focus, flatness and timing to help with the essentials of narrative prose. Stories range from blog posts to profiles to fully realized long form, magazine-style, nonfiction articles. This is not a photography course, and if students' photography improves as a result, that is a happy accident. No prior experience with photography required. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Writing sample and instructor permission required. {A}{L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 355 Seminar: Tiny Homes in America: Salvaging the Material (4 Credits)

This seminar combines historical, theoretical, and material cultural sources about housing justice, and housing injustice, in the United States. A significant component of the course involves teaching students how to build a tiny house, while critically considering scholarly and popular cultural sources engaging the present, past, and (potential) future roles of small homes in America. In the class, we will pay particular attention to cultural-historical trends in home size and location as a way to better understand race, class, disability, settler colonialism, gender, age, sexuality, “the urban,” nature, sustainability, nation, and other analytics key to cutting-edge American Studies scholarship. Enrollment limited to 10. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. (E) {A}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AMS 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Admission by permission of the instructor and the program director.

Fall, Spring

AMS 410 Tutorial on Research Methods at the Smithsonian (4 Credits)

Individual supervision by a Smithsonian staff member. Given in Washington, D.C. {H}{S}


AMS 412 Research Project at the Smithsonian Institution (8 Credits)

Tutorial supervision by Smithsonian staff members. Given in Washington, D.C. {H}{S}


AMS 431 Honors Project (8 Credits)

Fall, Spring

AMS 351np/ ENG 384np Seminar: courses in Writing about American Society-Creative Nonfiction Writing through Photography (4 Credits)

Offered as AMS 351np and ENG 384np. A creative nonfiction writing workshop where students Improve their writing using photography as muse, guide, foil and inspiration. Students write long, creative nonfiction pieces about current issues in American life using photography as a method for inspiring, analyzing and improving the prose. Students take photos, report and write, applying principles of photography such as point of view, depth of field, focus, flatness and timing to help with the essentials of narrative prose. Stories range from blog posts to profiles to fully realized long form, magazine-style, nonfiction articles. This is not a photography course, and if students' photography improves as a result, that is a happy accident. No prior experience with photography required. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Writing sample and instructor permission required. {A}{L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ARX 340 Seminar: Taking the Archives Public (4 Credits)

This seminar brings together a cohort of archives concentrators and other advanced students to explore contemporary issues at the intersection of archives and public history. The readings focus on case studies and the challenges in preservation, access and interpretation of archival materials. The class analyzes how these materials become part of a meaningful and usable past for general audiences while taking into account the dynamics of national and collective identity formation, trauma, memorialization, social justice, and the changing digital landscape in the fields of public history and cultural heritage work. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. {H}


FYS 188 Indigenous Peoples and the Environment: Myth and Reality (4 Credits)

This course examines the stereotype of the “ecological Indian”—a racial trope that has perpetuated the idea that Native North Americans are naturally closer to nature or are natural conservationists. The class looks at how this stereotype has shaped non-Native ideas about Indigenous peoples in what is now the United States and has affected Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. This course also examines the varied ways Indigenous peoples have thought about ecological relationships and the strategies they developed to live in relation with the environment. The class critically examines the relationship between settler colonialism and the environment and considers contemporary and historical case studies in which Indigenous peoples have fought to protect and care for their lands and waters in the face of the ongoing violence of settler colonialism. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI {H}

Fall, Variable

JUD 260 Colloquium: Yiddish Literature and Culture (4 Credits)

Why did Yiddish, the everyday language of Jews in east Europe and beyond, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? From dybbuks and shlemiels to radicals and revolutionaries, the course explores Yiddish stories, drama, and film as sites for social activism, ethnic and gender performance, and artistic experimentation in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Americas. How did post-Holocaust engagements with Yiddish memorialize a lost civilization and forge an imagined homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders? All texts in translation. No prerequisites. Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

THE 213 American Theatre and Drama (4 Credits)

This course discusses issues relevant to theatre history and practices, as well as dramatic literature, theories and criticism in 18th-, 19th- 20th- and 21st centuries United States of America, including African American, Native American, Hispanic American and Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, the American musical, political, feminist and contemporary theatre and performance. Lectures, discussions and presentations are complemented by video screenings of latest productions of some of the plays under discussion. {A}{H}{L}


Thu, 29 Jul 2021 10:21:00 -0500 en text/html
American College of Thessaloniki No result found, try new keyword!American College of Thessaloniki is a private institution that was founded in 1886. It utilizes a trimester-based academic calendar. American College of Thessaloniki is a private institution that ... Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:07:00 -0500 Accounting Education Disrupted No result found, try new keyword!In Brief Although emerging technologies have disrupted the entire accounting ecosystem in latest years, the education realm has been one of the areas ... Fri, 29 Dec 2023 07:01:00 -0600 American Funds College 2036 529-A

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College of Education
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About the College of Education

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American Elementary No result found, try new keyword!American Elementary is a public school located in Bakersfield, CA, which is in a large city setting. The student population of American Elementary is 749 and the school serves K-6. At American ... Fri, 26 Mar 2021 05:24:00 -0500

HS330 teaching - Fundamentals of Estate Planning test Updated: 2024

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Exam Code: HS330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning test teaching January 2024 by team

HS330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning test

Test Detail:
The HS330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning test is administered by the American College. It is designed to assess the knowledge and understanding of individuals in the field of estate planning. Here is a detailed overview of the test, including the number of questions and time, course outline, exam objectives, and exam syllabus.

Number of Questions and Time:
The HS330 test consists of multiple-choice questions and is divided into two parts: Part A and Part B. The total number of questions and time for each part are as follows:

Part A:
- Number of Questions: Approximately 100 multiple-choice questions
- Time Limit: 2 hours

Part B:
- Number of Questions: Approximately 35 multiple-choice questions
- Time Limit: 1 hour

Course Outline:
The HS330 course covers various courses related to estate planning. The course outline may include the following areas:

1. Introduction to Estate Planning:
- Basic concepts and principles of estate planning
- Overview of applicable laws and regulations
- Ethical considerations in estate planning

2. Property Ownership and Transfer:
- Types of property ownership
- Estate planning implications of different property types
- Transfer methods and strategies

3. Wills and Trusts:
- Importance and elements of a valid will
- Types of trusts and their uses in estate planning
- Revocable and irrevocable trusts

4. Estate and Gift Taxes:
- Overview of estate and gift tax laws
- Tax planning strategies and exemptions
- Generation-skipping transfer tax

5. Charitable Planning:
- Charitable giving techniques and strategies
- Tax benefits of charitable contributions
- Charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts

6. Business Succession Planning:
- Planning for the transfer of a business to the next generation
- Buy-sell agreements and other business succession strategies
- Valuation of closely-held businesses

Exam Objectives:
The objectives of the HS330 test include:
- Assessing the candidate's knowledge and understanding of estate planning concepts, laws, and strategies.
- Evaluating the ability to apply estate planning principles to different scenarios.
- Demonstrating proficiency in analyzing and solving estate planning problems.

Exam Syllabus:
The HS330 test syllabus covers a wide range of estate planning topics, including but not limited to:
- Basic estate planning concepts and terminology
- Property ownership and transfer methods
- Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents
- Estate and gift tax laws and strategies
- Charitable planning techniques
- Business succession planning

Note: The specific content and emphasis within each Topic may vary, and it is recommended to consult the official American College materials or authorized study resources for the most accurate and up-to-date syllabus.
Fundamentals of Estate Planning test
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HS330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning test

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Fundamentals of Estate Planning test
Question: 386
All the following items are allowed as a deduction from a decedent's gross estate to determine
the decedent's adjusted gross estate EXCEPT:
A. Expenses incurred in the presentation of probate assets.
B. Payments of estate debts.
C. Expenses incurred for the benefit of individual heirs.
D. Costs of distributing probate assets to estate beneficiaries.
Answer: C
Question: 387
All the following statements concerning guardians for minors are correct EXCEPT:
A. A guardian named in a deceased parent's will is not necessarily binding on the court.
B. A guardian has equitable title to the property he administers for the minor.
C. A special guardian can be appointed by the court to protect a minor's rights in a legal
D. A guardian of the person of a minor may not necessarily be the guardian of the minor's
Answer: B
Question: 388
All the following statements concerning real property ownership by married couples as joint
tenants with right of survivorship are correct EXCEPT:
A. The deceased spouse's interest in the property qualifies for the marital deduction since it
passes outright to the surviving spouse.
B. All benefits of ownership remain available to the surviving spouse without interruption
during the administration of the deceased spouse's estate.
C. Jointly held property between spouses does not pass through the probate estate of the first
spouse to die.
D. In common-law states the total value of the property receives a stepped-up tax basis in the
estate of the first spouse to die.
Answer: D
Question: 389
All the following statements concerning property ownership by a married couple residing in a
community-property state are correct EXCEPT:
A. All property that is not separate property is community property.
B. Community property loses its identity when a community-property couple moves to a
common-law state.
C. Property inherited during the marriage is the separate property of the spouse who inherited it.
D. Income earned by one spouse becomes community property.
Answer: B
Question: 390
All the following are grounds for contesting a will EXCEPT:
A. The instrument is a forgery.
B. The testator executed a later valid will.
C. The testator did not have testamentary capacity.
D. The widow was bequeathed less than her intestate share.
Answer: D
Question: 391
All the following powers held by the grantor of an irrevocable trust will cause the trust assets to be
brought back into the estate of the grantor EXCEPT the power to
A. terminate the trust
B. change the trust remainderpersons
C. add principal to the trust
D. designate who shall enjoy the trust income
Answer: C
Question: 392
An executor may value assets as of the date of death or the alternate valuation date 6 months
after death. Assuming the executor elects the alternate valuation date, all the following
statements are correct EXCEPT:
A. A property interest that diminishes with the mere passage of time, such as a patent, is
includible at the date of death value.
B. Property sold by the executor before the alternate valuation date is valued at its sale price.
C. Property that has increased in value since the date of death is valued at the alternate
valuation date.
D. Property distributed under the will within the alternate valuation period is valued at the date of
Answer: D
Question: 393
A father wants to accumulate funds for his 12-year-old son's college education. On the advice of
his attorney, the father establishes an IRC Section 2503(c) trust and funds it with annual gifts.
All the following statements concerning this arrangement are correct EXCEPT:
A. The trust must be irrevocable.
B. The father's annual gift tax exclusion must be reduced by any amount used to pay college
tuition costs.
C. Any accumulated income and all trust principal must be available for distribution to the son
when he attains age 21.
D. In the event of the son's death prior to age 21, trust assets must either be payable to the son's
estate or be subject to a general power of appointment held by the son.
Answer: B
Question: 394
Generally the courts will accept as the federal estate tax value of a closely held corporate
business the price established by a buy-sell agreement if all the following conditions are met
A. The agreement requires the payment of liquidated damages to the survivors if the executor
fails to carry out its terms.
B. The agreement as to per-share value is fair, adequate, and made at arm's length.
C. The agreement requires a deceased shareholder's executor to sell the stock at the price
specified in the agreement.
D. The agreement requires a shareholder to first offer his stock to the corporation or other
shareholders at the specified price if he wishes to sell it during his lifetime.
Answer: A
Question: 395
The personal representative of a decedent has the duty to file all the following tax returns
A. the surviving spouse's income tax return for the year of death
B. the estate's income tax return
C. the decedent's final income tax return
D. the federal estate tax return
Answer: A
Question: 396
The failure of an individual to have a will can result in all the following EXCEPT:
A. The decedent's state of domicile might receive the property left by the decedent.
B. Testamentary gifts to charity cannot be made.
C. Unnecessary death taxes may be imposed.
D. A surviving spouse receives only his or her elective share.
Answer: D
Question: 397
All the following transfers are subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT)
A. A direct cash gift of $50,000 from a grandparent to his grandchild if such grandchild's
parents are still alive.
B. A direct cash payment of $28,000 from a grandparent to a private prep school to cover the
tuition costs for her grandchild.
C. A distribution to a grandchild from a sprinkle trust created by a grandparent to benefit both
skip and non-skip beneficiaries.
D. A termination of a trust at the death of the nonskip life income beneficiary with the
remainder distributed solely to skip persons.
Answer: B
Question: 398
All the following statements concerning a federal estate tax deduction for a bequest or gift to a
qualified charity are correct EXCEPT:
A. A life insurance policy that was assigned to a charity as a gift less than 3 years prior to the
insured's death qualifies for a charitable deduction.
B. The amount of a charitable deduction is reduced by any taxes and administrative expenses
chargeable against the bequest.
C. An estate may deduct the value of the remainder interest in a charitable remainder trust.
D. The amount of a charitable deduction may not exceed 50 percent of a decedent's adjusted
gross estate.
Answer: D
Question: 399
A person dying without a will loses all the following rights EXCEPT the right to
A. name the person to settle the estate
B. have assets pass to heirs
C. supply property to a charity
D. take maximum advantage of the marital deduction
Answer: B
Question: 400
All the following statements concerning the gift and estate tax chartiable deduction are correct
A. It is possible for a charitable contribution made during the donor lifetime to generate both
income and transfer tax deductions for the donor.
B. If the donor retains an interest in property contributed to a qualified charity during lifetime, the
value of the property may be included in the donor gross estate.
C. An estate tax charitable deduction is allowed for the full value of property transferred to a
qualified charity but only if the property is included in the donor gross estate.
D. A donor is denied a charitable deduction for property that passes to a qualified charity as the
result of a qualified disclaimer if the donor original transfer was to a noncharitable donee.
Answer: D
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American-College Fundamentals teaching - BingNews Search results American-College Fundamentals teaching - BingNews The Other Crisis in American Education Atlantic Monthly Sidebar

November 1991
A college professor looks at the forgotten victims of our mediocre educational system--the potentially high achievers whose SAT scores have fallen, and who read less, understand less of what they read, and know less than the top students of a generation ago.

by Daniel J. Singal

Two crises are stalking American education. Each poses a major threat to the nation's future. The two are very different in character and will require separate strategies if we wish to solve them; yet to date, almost without exception, those concerned with restoring excellence to our schools have lumped them together.

The first crisis, which centers on disadvantaged minority children attending inner-city schools, has received considerable attention, as well it should. Put simply, it involves students whose habitat makes it very difficult for them to learn. The key issues are more social than educational. These children clearly need dedicated teachers and a sound curriculum, the two staples of a quality school, but the fact remains that most of them will not make significant progress until they also have decent housing, a better diet, and a safer environment in which to live.

The second crisis, in contrast, is far more academic than social and to a surprising extent invisible. It involves approximately half the country's student population--the group that educators refer to as "college-bound." Although the overwhelming majority of these students attend suburban schools, a fair number can be found in big-city or consolidated rural districts, or in independent or parochial schools. Beginning in the mid-1970s these students have been entering college so badly prepared that they have performed far below potential, often to the point of functional disability. We tend to assume that with their high aptitude for learning, they should be able to fend for themselves. However, the experience of the past fifteen years has proved decisively that they can't.

For most people, any mention of the problems of American education almost immediately conjures up an image of the wretched conditions in the stereotypical urban ghetto school. But can we really explain the sharp decline in college-entrance-exam scores by pointing to the inner cities, where only a tiny fraction of students even take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT? Do so many freshmen entering prestigious institutions like Harvard and Berkeley display a limited mastery of basic historical facts, not to mention of their own language, because they come from crime-ridden neighborhoods or school districts with no tax base?

If one looks at the aggregate statistics of American education from this perspective, the full dimensions of this other crisis become strikingly apparent. Consider the latest history of the Stanford Achievement Test, which has long served as one of the main instruments for measuring pupil progress in our schools. According to Herbert Rudman, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University and a co-author of the test for more than three decades, from the 1920s to the late 1960s American children taking the Stanford made significant gains in their test performance. They made so much progress, in fact, that as the test was revised each decade, the level of difficulty of the questions was increased substantially, reflecting the increasing level of challenge of the instructional materials being used in the schools.

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, however, we managed to squander the better part of that progress, with the greatest losses coming in the high schools. During the past few years the Stanford and other test results have shown some improvement in math and science, and in language skills at the elementary school level. But there has been little or no movement in the verbal areas among junior high and high school students, and seasoned test interpreters have also seen a tendency for the gains made in the early years of school to wash out as the child becomes older. In effect, the test numbers substantiate what the National Commission on Excellence in Education concluded--quoting the education analyst Paul Copperman--in 1983 in A Nation at Risk: "Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

The blame for this wholesale decline in test scores is often put on a throng of underachieving minority students thought to have been pulling down national test averages, but in fact just the opposite is true. To be sure, it is possible to attribute much of the relatively small initial drop in SAT scores, from 1963 to 1970, to the fact that blacks and other minorities began taking the test in larger numbers during those years, but since then the composition of the test population has not changed in any way that would dramatically affect test scores. Most important, blacks have made gradual but significant gains in the past two decades, as measured by school achievement tests like the Stanford and by college-entrance exams. Although their average scores still fall substantially below those of whites, their combined (verbal and math) SAT scores rose by 49 points during the 1980s alone.

"Perhaps the most untold story of American education in the past few years is the achievement of black students," Gregory R. Anrig, the president of the Educational Testing Service, declares. "The hard data are encouraging." The sad irony, of course, is that this progress came at a time when the Reagan Administration was proposing drastic cuts in the amount of federal scholarship aid available to students from low-income families, most likely leading many young blacks to believe that a college education was not within their reach.

While students in the bottom quartile have shown slow but steady improvement since the 1960s, average test scores have nonetheless gone down, primarily because of the performance of those in the top quartile. This "highest cohort of achievers," Rudman writes, has shown "the greatest declines across a variety of subjects as well as across age-level groups." Analysts have also found "a substantial drop among those children in the middle range of achievement," he continues, "but less loss and some modest gains at the lower levels." In other words, our brightest youngsters, those most likely to be headed for selective colleges, have suffered the most dramatic setbacks over the past two decades--a fact with grave implications for our ability to compete with other nations in the future. If this is true--and abundant evidence exists to suggest that it is--then we indeed have a second major crisis in our education system.


Look at what has happened on the SAT, a test that retains its well-deserved status as the most important educational measuring device in America. Despite the test's many critics, the number of colleges relying on the SAT keeps increasing, because it provides such an accurate gauge of the basic skills needed for college-level work, among them memorizing comprehension, vocabulary, and the ability to reason with mathematical concepts. The SAT also has the virtue of having a rock-steady scoring system: it is calibrated, by the College Board, so that a score earned in 1991 will represent almost exactly the same level of performance as it did in, say, 1961. Thus, by tracking the percentage of students coming in above the benchmark of 600 on the College Board scale (which runs from 200 to 800), one can get a good sense of how the country's most capable students have fared over the years.

The news is not encouraging. In 1972, of the high school seniors taking the SAT 11.4 percent had verbal scores over 600; by 1983 the number had dropped to 6.9 percent, and, despite modest gains in the mid-1980s, it remains in that disheartening vicinity. That's a decline of nearly 40 percent. The decline since the mid-1960s has probably been closer to 50 percent, but unfortunately the College Board changed its reporting system in 1972, and earlier data isn't available. The math SAT presents a somewhat different story. Though the percentage scoring over 600 dropped from 17.9 in 1972 to 14.4 by 1981, it has climbed back up to 17.9 in 1991. However, an influx of high-scoring Asian-American students (who now make up eight percent of those taking the test, as compared with two percent in 1972) has apparently had much to do with this latest upsurge.

To grasp what these national figures really mean, it helps to approach them from the standpoint of the individual student. How, we should ask, would the drop in SAT scores affect a typical top-quartile senior at a well-regarded suburban high school in 1991? To my knowledge, no published studies have addressed this question, but the available information, including my own research, suggests that our hypothetical senior would come in roughly fifty to sixty points lower on the verbal section and twenty-five points lower on the math than he or she would have in 1970.

Consider the trend in average freshman scores at selective colleges. Indeed, perusing a twenty-year-old edition of Barron's Profiles of American Colleges is an experience equivalent to entering a different world, with tuitions much lower and SAT scores much higher than at most schools today. In 1970 students arriving at top-ranked institutions like Columbia College, Swarthmore College, the University of Chicago, and Pomona College posted average verbal SATs from 670 to 695; by the mid-1980s the scores ranged from 620 to 640, and they have stayed roughly in that neighborhood ever since. The same pattern appears at colleges a notch or two lower in the academic hierarchy. To take a few examples from different geographic areas, from 1970 to 1987 average verbal scores went from 644 to 570 at Hamilton College, from 607 to 563 at Washington University, from 600 to 560 at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and from 560 to 499 at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The point is not that these particular schools have slipped in their relative standings. They all currently receive ratings the same as or higher than those they received twenty years ago from Barron's in terms of competition for admission. One could pick almost any selective institution at random and find the same trend (an exception: the stronger schools in the South, where test scores held steady or rose in the wake of desegregation). Nor can one attribute the drop in scores to a change in the size of the test population or in the percentage of high school seniors taking the SAT (the latter figure has risen significantly only in the past few years, too recently to have affected the 1987 scores). To be sure, an increase in the number of minority students attending these institutions has been a factor, but the basic problem remains: with a 40 percent decline in the proportion of students scoring over 600, there are far fewer high-scoring students to go around.

But do these numbers matter? Does a loss of sixty points on the verbal SAT translate into a significant difference in a student's educational experience at college? The testimony of those who teach at the college level suggests that the answer is yes. When a national poll in 1989 asked professors whether they thought undergraduates were "seriously underprepared in basic skills," 75 percent said yes and only 15 percent said no. The same poll asked whether institutions of higher learning were spending "too much time and money teaching students what they should have learned in high school." Sixty-eight percent said yes. Professors feel like this, I should add, not because they are old scolds given to grousing about students but because their work brings them into daily contact with the manifold ways in which the American education system has failed these young people.

Those who tend to dismiss those sixty lost SAT points as insignificant haven't seen a college term paper lately. It's not that freshmen in 1991 are unable to read or write. Most of them possess what the National Assessment of Educational Progress calls "satisfactory" skills in this area. But is that enough for college? Do they have sufficient command of the English language to comprehend a college-level text, think through a complex issue, or express a reasonably sophisticated argument on paper? Those of us who were teaching in the early 1970s can attest that the overwhelming majority of freshmen at the more selective colleges arrived with such "advanced" skills. Now only a handful come so equipped.


Take reading, for example. "While the nation's students have the skills to derive a surface understanding of what they read," the

NAEP recently reported, "they have difficulty when asked to defend or elaborate upon this surface understanding." That's what most college faculty would say. Emilia da Costa, a Latin America specialist who has taught at Yale for the past eighteen years, estimates that whereas 70 percent of her students can pick out the general theme of an essay or a book, only 25 percent come away with in-depth comprehension of what they read. David Samson, a former lecturer in history and literature at Harvard, likewise observes, "No one reads for nuance. They pay no attention to detail." My own experience confirms this. Countless times I have been amazed at how little students have managed to glean from a book I know they have read, to the point where they are often unable to recall the names of prominently mentioned figures. So much escapes them; even those of above-average ability absorb no more than a dusting of detail from a printed text. And without such detailed information it's impossible for them to gain a real understanding of what the author is saying.

Equally distressing is the rate at which today's students read. A friend of mine at the University of Michigan remembers that in the 1960s the normal assignment in his courses was one book a week. Now he allows two to three weeks for each title. He has also reluctantly had to adjust the level of difficulty of his assignments: even a journalist like Walter Lippmann is too hard for most freshmen and sophomores these days, he finds. Again, this is typical. Twelve to fifteen books over a fifteen-week semester used to be the rule of thumb at selective colleges. Today it is six to eight books, and they had better be short texts, written in relatively simple English.

As one might expect, students who don't read at an advanced level can't write well either. Their knowledge of grammar is not bad, according to Richard Marius, the director of the expository writing program at Harvard, but "the number of words available to express their thoughts is very, very limited, and the forms by which they express themselves are also very limited." The average incoming Harvard student, he observes, has a "utilitarian command of language" resulting in sentences that follow a simple subject-predicate, subject-predicate format with little variation or richness of verbal expression. Harvard, of course, gets the cream of the crop. Those of us teaching at lesser institutions would be happy with utilitarian but serviceable prose from our freshmen. More often we get mangled sentences, essays composed without the slightest sense of paragraphing, and writing that can't sustain a thought for more than half a page.

Along with this impoverishment of language comes a downturn in reasoning skills. Da Costa laments that students are no longer trained in logical analysis, and consequently have difficulty using evidence to reach a conclusion. R. Jackson Wilson finds this to be the greatest change he has observed during a quarter century of teaching history at Smith College. "Students come to us having sat around for twelve years expressing attitudes toward things rather than analyzing," he says. "They are always ready to tell you how they feel about an issue, but they have never learned how to construct a rational argument to defend their opinions." Again, these complaints are amply substantiated by data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On one test of analytic writing measuring "the ability to provide evidence, reason logically, and make a well-developed point," only four tenths of one percent of eleventh graders performed at the "elaborated" (what I believe should be considered college-freshman) level.

Finally, no account of the present condition of college students would be complete without mention of the extraordinary dearth of factual knowledge they bring to college. Horror stories on this Topic abound--and they are probably all true. I will never forget two unusually capable juniors, one of whom was a star political-science major, who came to my office a few years ago to ask what was this thing called the New Deal. I had made reference to it during a lecture on the assumption that everyone in the class would be well acquainted with Franklin Roosevelt's domestic program, but I was wrong: the two students had checked with their friends, and none of them had heard of the New Deal either. Another junior recently asked me to help him pick a twentieth-century American novelist on whom to write a term paper. He had heard vaguely of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, but did not recognize the names of Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, William Styron, and Saul Bellow.

Indeed, one can't assume that college students know anything anymore. Paula Fass, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, remains astonished that sophomores and juniors in her upper-level course on American social history are often unable to differentiate between the American Revolution and the Civil War, but rather see them as two big events that happened way back in the past. Alan Heimert, a veteran member of the Harvard English department, encounters the same mushy grasp of historical knowledge and blames it on the "trendy social-studies curriculum" now taught in most high schools which covers broad thematic courses rather than history. "They are aware that someone oppressed someone else," he says with only slight exaggeration, "but they aren't sure exactly what took place and they have no idea of the order in which it happened."

Though not always recognized, a direct connection exists between this deficit in factual knowledge and the decline in verbal skills. Most reading, after all, is at bottom a form of information processing in which the mind selects what it wants to know from the printed page and files it away for future use. In conducting that operation of selecting, interpreting, and storing information, the reader constantly relies on his or her previous stock of knowledge as a vital frame of reference. No matter how fascinating or valuable a new detail might be, a person finds it almost impossible to hold in memory and have available for retrieval unless it can be placed in some kind of larger context. Providing that basic intellectual scaffolding used to be a major function of a good high school education. Year-long survey courses in history and literature, covering the United States, Europe, and the world, were designed to ensure that college-bound students would have the necessary background to make sense of the new subject matter they would encounter in college. Yet few high schools today teach that kind of curriculum.

Little wonder that so many students experience great difficulty in absorbing detail; since they have no context in which to fit what they read, it quickly flows out of their minds. Unable to retain much, they find little profit in reading, which leads them to read less, which in turn makes it harder for them to Improve their memorizing skills.

One often hears this generation accused of laziness. They don't perform well in school or college or later on the job, it is said, because they lack motivation. I don't happen to subscribe to that theory. The percentage of students who are truly lazy--that is, who simply have an aversion to work--is probably no greater today than it has been in the past. The real problem, I'm convinced, is that college-bound youngsters over the past two decades have not received the quality education they deserve. As R. Jackson Wilson observes of his students at Smith, this generation is typically "good-spirited, refreshingly uncowed by teachers' authority, and very willing to work." They enter college with high ambitions, only to find those ambitions dashed in many cases by inadequate skills and knowledge. The normal activities required to earn a bachelor's degree--reading, writing, researching, and reasoning--are so difficult for them that a large number (I would guess a majority at most schools) simply supply up in frustration. Some actually leave; the rest go through the motions, learning and contributing little, until it's time to pick up their diplomas. We rightly worry about the nation's high school dropouts. Perhaps we should worry as well about these silent college "dropouts."


What has caused this great decline in our schools? The multitude of reports that now fill the library shelves tend to designate "social factors" as the prime culprit. Television usually heads the list, followed by rock music, the influence of adolescent peer groups, the increase in both single-parent families and households where both parents work, and even faulty nutrition.

Those who attribute the loss of academic performance to social factors don't take account of the small number of high schools around the country that have managed to escape the downturn. Some are posh private academies; a few are located in blue-collar neighborhoods. What they have in common is a pattern of stable or even rising test scores at a time when virtually all the schools around them experienced sharp declines. There is no indication that the children attending these exceptional schools watched significantly fewer hours of television, listened to less heavy-metal music, were less likely to have working mothers, or ate fewer Big Macs than other children. Rather, they appear to have had the good fortune to go to schools that were intent on steering a steady course in a time of rapid change, thus countering the potentially negative impact of various social factors.

It would seem obvious good sense to look closely at this select group of schools to determine what they have been doing right, but as far as I can determine this has been done in only two national studies. The better one was issued by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in 1978, under the somewhat pedestrian title Guidelines for Improving SAT Scores. Now out of print and hard to find, it contains one of the most perceptive diagnoses available of the underlying malady in our schools.

The report identifies one main characteristic that successful schools have shared--the belief that academics must invariably receive priority over every other activity. "The difference comes," we are told, "from a singular commitment to academic achievement for the college-bound student." These schools did not ignore the other dimensions of student life. By and large, the NASSP found, schools that maintained excellence in academics sought to be excellent in everything else they did, they "proved to be apt jugglers, keeping all important balls in the air." But academic work came first.

Two other factors help account for the prowess of these schools in holding the line against deterioration. The first is a dogged reliance on a traditional liberal-arts curriculum. In an era of mini-courses and electives, the tiny group of high schools that kept test scores and achievement high continued to require year-long courses in literature and to encourage enrollment in rigorous math classes, including geometry and advanced algebra. Though the learning environment in those schools was often "broad and imaginative," in the words of the NASSP, fundamentals such as English grammar and vocabulary received heavy stress. The other key factor in preserving academic quality was the practice of grouping students by ability in as many subjects as possible The contrast was stark: schools that had "severely declining test scores" had "moved determinedly toward heterogeneous grouping" (that is, mixed students of differing ability levels in the same classes), while the "schools who have maintained good SAT scores" tended "to prefer homogeneous grouping."

If attaining educational excellence is this simple, why have these high-quality schools become so rare? The answer lies in the cultural ferment of the 1960s.


In every conceivable fashion the reigning ethos of those times was hostile to excellence in education. Individual achievement fell under intense suspicion, as did attempts to maintain standards. Discriminating among students on the basis of ability or performance was branded "elitist." Educational gurus of the day called for essentially nonacademic schools, whose main purpose would be to build habits of social cooperation and equality rather than to train the mind. A good education, it was said, maximized the child's innate spontaneity, creativity, and affection for others. To the extent that logic and acquired knowledge interfered with that process, they were devalued.

This populist tidal wave receded by the late 1970s, but the mediocrity it left in its wake remains. The extent of the devastation has varied by subject area: math and the natural sciences, which continue to be blessed with relatively widespread agreement on what should be taught, have escaped the worst damage (though test scores in these areas still fall below average in comparisons with scores in other industrialized nations), while English and history now lie in ruins in all too many schools. The latter, of course, are the disciplines primarily responsible for inculcating verbal skills and for supplying the broad framework of knowledge that students need for success in college. Yet it is precisely in these areas that the spirit of the sixties remains most evident, hovering over the high schools and junior highs like a ghost.

Consider the teaching of English. The Great Books, of course, are out of fashion. A few get assigned as a token gesture, but are rarely set in chronological order. The results of a questionnaire I recently distributed at Hobart and William Smith Colleges suggest that less than a quarter of the college-bound population now gets a real year-long survey of American literature, with probably no more than 15 percent taking such a course in British or European literature. Instead, students all too often are given works that, as the English department at one highly ranked independent school puts it, are "age-appropriate" and "reflect [a] concern for social pluralism." "Age-appropriate" means giving students assignments "that reflect their interests as adolescents, that they can read without constant recourse to a dictionary, and from which they can take whatever they are inspired to take."

Nor are they asked to read much. Most ninth- and tenth-grade English memorizing lists are limited to four or five titles a year. According to Arthur N. Applebee, the director of the National Research Center on Literature Teaching and Learning, the typical college-bound high school student reads only sixty-five pages a week (even with Advanced Placement courses factored in), or less than ten pages a night. A check of the typical high school curriculum would disclose that plays are favorite choices these days (they tend to be much shorter than novels and make easier reading), along with personal memoirs. The rich diet of fiction and poetry that used to be served up--Dickens, Twain, Poe, Hawthorne, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Thoreau, Dickinson, Milton, Melville, and Steinbeck--is increasingly hard to find.

These changes in the teaching of literature matter greatly because memorizing is the primary vehicle by which students absorb the rhythms and patterns of language. The more a person encounters sophisticated prose, the more he or she will pick up varied sentence structure, vocabulary in context, and even spelling, as well as advanced descriptive techniques and narrative strategies. Feed a student the literary equivalent of junk food and you will get an impoverished command of English, which is what we too often see in the current crop of college freshmen. And yet, because most new teachers these days are themselves the product of this new English curriculum, the trend continues to run the wrong way.

The rest of the English curriculum also reflects the impact of the sixties. If the reports I get from my students are accurate, it would appear that formal drills on grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and diction are infrequent these days. Teachers may toss an occasional drill into the schedule to keep parents satisfied, but the assumption is that students will absorb these things automatically from their reading. Given what students currently read, however, that's a dubious assumption. As for writing, when it is assigned (there seems to be wide variation among schools on this), it tends to take the form of "personal expression"--with assignments calling for first-person narratives that describe what the student has seen, felt, or experienced. Essays in which the writer marshals evidence to support a coherent, logical argument are all too rare. Since that kind of exercise might dampen creativity, it must be minimized. The outcome is utterly predictable. "Analytic writing was difficult for students in all grades," the National Assessment of Educational Progress noted in summarizing the results of its various writing tests in 1984, while students "had less difficulty with tasks requiring short responses based on personal experience."

In sum, this is a generation whose members may be better equipped to track the progress of their souls in diaries than any group of Americans since the Puritans. But as for writing papers in college, or later producing the sorts of documents that get the world's work done, that's another story. In contrast, a survey conducted by the Educational Testing Service in the mid-1960s, just before countercultural innovations swept away the old curriculum, discovered that over twice as many high school students of that era said that they "frequently" wrote papers criticizing the literary works they were studying (a valuable pedagogic strategy because it forces the student to become a much closer reader) as said that they "frequently" wrote papers based on personal experience.


The same tendency appears in other key subjects. Students headed for college used to get a solid grasp of both American and European history at the high school level. Now, as most people are aware, they pass through an array of social-studies courses designed to impress upon them the central values of the sixties, including concern for the natural environment, respect for people of different racial and ethnic groups, and women's rights. These values are important and should certainly be included in the curriculum. But teaching them in such a superficial manner, devoid of any historical context, simply doesn't work--as the alarming increase in racist and sexist incidents that has plagued college campuses in the past few years would suggest. Above all, this spotty social-studies approach deprives students of that vital base of in-depth knowledge they must have to succeed as undergraduates.

Accompanying this pervasive dumbing-down of the curriculum has been a wholesale change in school philosophy. In place of "stretching" students, the key objective in previous eras, the goal has become not to "stress" them. One hears again and again that kids growing up "need time to smell the roses." (That they are more likely to spend their free hours in front of a television or cruising a shopping mall seems never to be considered.) Placing serious academic demands on them, it is thought, might impede their natural development and perhaps even render them neurotic. But the stress they avoid in high school often comes back to haunt them in college. An extensive survey of college freshmen recently found that an increasing number say they are "overwhelmed by all I have to do." "We have very high suicide rates among college students now," the survey's director, Alexander Astin, says. This should come as no surprise: having had little previous experience with stress, students are not well equipped to face the normal and necessary pressures of either college or the "real world."

Perhaps most crucial, the sixties mentality, with its strong animus against what it defines as "elitism," has shifted the locus of concern in American education from high to low achievers. All over the country educators today typically judge themselves by how well they can reach the least-able student in the system, the slowest one in the class. Programs to help the culturally disadvantaged and the learning-disabled have proliferated, while those for the gifted receive no more than token interest.

The prevailing ideology holds that it is much better to supply up the prospect of excellence than to take the chance of injuring any student's self-esteem. Instead of trying to spur children on to set high standards for themselves, teachers invest their energies in making sure that slow learners do not come to think of themselves as failures. These attitudes have become so ingrained that in conversations with teachers and administrators one often senses a virtual prejudice against bright students. There is at times an underlying feeling, never articulated, that such children start off with too many advantages, and that it would be just as well to hold them back until their less fortunate contemporaries catch up with them. At a minimum, the assumption goes, students of above-average ability will in due course find their way to classy colleges and thus don't need any special consideration from their schools.

In adopting this posture, one must remember, the education profession has simply been carrying out its social mandate. In the wake of the sixties the country seemed to be telling the schools that the prime mission now was to produce equality rather than excellence--to lift up those on the bottom, whether they were there because of race, class, ethnicity, or low ability. As the test scores tell us, the education establishment took this mission to heart. Those in the bottom quartile have shown slow but steady progress, while those in the top quartile have exhibited a sharp decline. Only since the appearance of A Nation at Risk, in 1983, with its warning about "a rising tide of mediocrity" sweeping over the schools, have we started to realize the sizable hidden cost that this currant educational strategy has exacted.

Here it is necessary to be precise: the problem is not the pursuit of equality as such but the bias against excellence that has accompanied it. If anything, the effort to help children who start off life severely handicapped by their socioeconomic circumstances deserves more money and attention than it has received to date. However, that effort need not and must not obscure from view the quite separate problem of restoring academic quality to our schools. If real change is to occur in this regard, we must make clear to teachers and administrators that their mandate has been revised--that we want to move toward social equality AND academic excellence.


Most of the reform proposals currently on the table fail to speak to the other crisis in American education. The majority are designed to raise minimum standards or to cut the high school dropout rate. To the extent that higher-level academics gets mentioned, the discussion usually centers on such courses as critical-thinking and "process writing" skills and cooperative learning groups, as if a few minor adjustments in technique could make a significant difference. Almost no one addresses the fundamental, substantive issues that must be dealt with if we really want to restore excellence to our schools.

If that IS our objective--if we are determined to recover the ground we have lost since 1970--then we should take the following concrete steps:

1) Dramatically increase the quality and quantity of assigned memorizing for students at all grade levels. By the senior year of high school, college-bound students should be memorizing the equivalent of at least twelve books a year FOR CLASS, not counting textbooks, along with six to eight additional books under the rubrics of independent and summer reading. To build up to this amount, the memorizing load should be adjusted in each of the preceding grades so that students become gradually accustomed to memorizing more each year. (A good rule of thumb might be to have college-bound students read the same number of books each year as their grade number--eight books in the eighth grade, nine books in the ninth, and so on.) Since memorizing is a learned skill that can almost invariably be improved by practice, the sheer number of pages counts--the more the better. But there should also be an effort to make the assigned texts as complex and challenging as possible. In the end, nothing builds a true command of language faster than this kind of regimen.

I can already hear a chorus of educators declaring this proposal to be utterly unworkable. "Kids just don't read anymore," they will say. But the fact is that this sort of memorizing load, which was standard in the best American schools a quarter century ago, is still standard in some schools today. At McDonogh, an independent school just outside Baltimore that enrolls college-bound students from a wide range of ability levels, fifteen to twenty assigned books a year in English class is not unusual for eleventh and twelfth graders. College admissions officers I know rave about how well prepared McDonogh graduates are and how enthusiastic about learning. The secret, I'm convinced, is in the reading. I see no reason why other schools can't follow McDonogh's example.

2) Bring back required survey courses as the staple of the high school humanities curriculum. There are many different ways to do this. My preference would be to have one year of coordinated courses in history and English focused on the United States, another year focused on Europe, and a third year devoted to the non-European world. Issues of race and gender would naturally arise; it is hard, for instance, to cover American literature without including black and women writers, or to discuss our past without spending considerable time on slavery and segregation. But the main purpose of this curriculum would be to ensure that students enter college with a firm knowledge of how the world they will inherit has developed.

3) Institute a flexible program of ability grouping at both the elementary and secondary school levels. Few issues in education can raise tempers faster than ability grouping, and few are more badly misunderstood. The most common error is to confuse ability grouping with "tracking," a practice in which students are sorted out at an early age according to their scores on intelligence tests and placed in separate "tracks" for fast, medium, and slow learners, where they remain through high school. Reformers in the 1960s rightly objected to that kind of predestination, pointing out that minority and working-class children were often routinely put in the slow track and thus deprived of the chance to advance themselves through schooling. But unfortunately this assault on tracking soon broadened to include ability grouping, a somewhat murky term that I would contend should be defined as a system for dividing students up on the basis of their actual performance in individual subjects. Under ability grouping a student might start off in the fast group in math but the slow one in English, with the placements changing from year to year depending on his or her progress. The guiding principle is not to supply privileged treatment to any one group but rather to provide instruction closely tailored to the learning needs of each child.

Does ability grouping work? The research can supply whatever verdict one favors. Until roughly the mid-1960s most of the studies tended to show that ability grouping was beneficial. Then came the cultural revolution of the late 1960s. For the next two decades researchers found that ability grouping was damaging to most students, especially those at the bottom. The pendulum now seems to be swinging back the other way, with a number of latest investigators suggesting that such grouping does not harm anyone and can be of great value to those of above-average ability, provided they get a special curriculum that is truly challenging rather than simply moving through the standard curriculum at a faster pace. Moreover, these newer studies suggest that ability grouping may actually enhance the achievement of slower learners if they, too, are given a curriculum and teaching style specially designed for them. A unique program at South Mecklenburg High School, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has even found that ability grouping can significantly help those in the middle ability range, though once again the crucial element is instruction tailored to their needs.

Since the research is contradictory, perhaps the best way to decide the issue is to apply common sense. It is obvious that with children of different ability levels in the same classroom, everything will tend toward a level just a notch above the lowest common denominator. Instead of being challenged to develop their talents to the fullest, the most capable students will be forced to work, in effect, at half speed. The math problems set before them will require little effort on their part to solve; the English texts will not stretch them in the least. As a result, these students quickly discover that there is no reason for them ever to extend themselves, that they can coast through school with minimal effort.

Ability grouping continues to face formidable political opposition; last year, regrettably, the education task force of the National Governors' Association took its first major step by denouncing it (though its statement was so brief that one has difficulty telling whether it opposes ability grouping or tracking). Thus compromises may be in order. One possibility is the system of intensive courses adopted by the Waynflete School, in Portland, Maine. An intensive section in English entails a heavier than normal load of memorizing in more-advanced texts, more-sophisticated writing assignments, and faster-paced instruction. The key is that all students are free to try an intensive section; there is no teacher placement involved. Those doing so run little risk: since the curriculum includes the same core material covered in a regular section, students unable to handle the demands can drop back at any time during the school year.

This arrangement has several advantages. One is that the "regular" sections are truly regular, rather than "slow" or "remedial," so that those enrolled in them feel no stigma whatsoever. Better yet, students who voluntarily contract to be in a special section are especially motivated. Administrators at Waynflete report being pleasantly surprised at the number of kids with middle-range academic ability who perform well in intensive sections because they enjoy the challenge. And of course, this is a reform that can be implemented with relatively little disruption to other programs and at virtually no extra expense. It seems clear that more schools should be trying this system, yet to date, so far as I can tell, it remains unique to Waynflete.

4) Attract more bright college graduates into the teaching profession. It is astonishing, but all too true, that the average verbal SAT score of the young people drawn into teaching has hovered around 400 for more than a decade. "Half of the newly employed mathematics, science, and English teachers are not qualified to teach these subjects," bemoaned A Nation at Risk. Clearly, if we want top-notch instruction for college-bound students in the years ahead, we must find a new supply of capable teachers.

To the familiar prescriptions of offering much higher pay and better working conditions I would add that it's time to abolish certification requirements for teachers, at least above the elementary school level. When they first came into being, those requirements served the important purpose of helping to raise standards, but today their only function is to discourage talented would-be teachers from entering the profession. Indeed, certification actually serves to lower standards: instead of acquiring a thoroughgoing knowledge of their subject, future teachers spend far too much of their time in college and graduate school taking Mickey Mouse courses on how to construct a lesson plan. Private schools do not require certification, yet they manage to attract a teaching corps of much higher quality--even at lower salaries than the public schools pay. "Our teachers never learned how to teach, which is why they teach so well," quips Laurance Levy, the former head of McDonogh's first-rate English department.

My impression is that many in the top quartile of the class at our best colleges would flood into teaching if they could do so on the basis of a liberal-arts bachelor's degree--and if they could avoid the kind of stifling bureaucratic control that is all too often a teacher's lot today. Some states, including New Jersey, have experimented with letting young teachers of this description loose in their classrooms, apparently with much success, though, alas, these new teachers are eventually required to obtain certification. And programs at various selective private colleges and universities permit would-be teachers to combine a liberal-arts degree and professional training. But for the most part the cumbersome, outdated apparatus of the teaching profession remains in place.

The solution? While it is probably not politically possible in most states to dismantle the existing system in the near future, why not set up a parallel system to provide an alternate career path for new teachers? Those liberal-arts college graduates choosing the new path would go straight to the classroom and be exempt from all formal professional training. They would, however, have more-experienced teachers in their schools serving as their mentors. Attracting these people into the profession would necessitate a much higher pay scale but also something more. When I recently asked a group of exceptionally capable students at my college if they would consider a teaching career along these lines, three quarters at first said yes, but soon reversed themselves. They had witnessed the demeaning conditions under which most teachers work, they explained, and wouldn't want the job even if salaries were more appealing. The only way to lure them into the classroom, it became clear, would be to supply them considerable freedom to shape their own curricula, allow them to choose instructional materials, and spare them the petty annoyances like the ubiquitous loudspeaker announcements that can suddenly disrupt a class. If the governors really want to do something useful to upgrade education, establishing this alternative career path is perhaps the most valuable project they could take up.


The other crisis in American education has ominous implications for the well-being of our political system. According to a latest study by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, titled "The Age of Indifference," young Americans aged eighteen to twenty-nine are remarkably uninformed. They do read, the survey found, but primarily lightweight publications like People rather than serious newspapers or periodicals. Most striking, a majority of these young adults report that they often first become aware of political candidates from television commercials. This response cuts across all educational levels: college graduates and high school dropouts alike displayed a troubling ignorance of political facts and a reliance on sound-bites as their basic source of political knowledge. The "limited appetites and aptitudes" of this generation, the Times Mirror Center concluded, are already adversely affecting "the practice of politics and the nature of our democracy."

One could advance a host of reasons--economic, social, and cultural--why this other crisis in education needs immediate attention. But in the end the most important is probably moral, having to do with the responsibility of each generation to look after the well-being of its children. Observing the performance of students who have been arriving at college campuses over the past decade, one can only conclude that the present generation of American parents has been failing in its obligation to provide its offspring with a high-quality education. It seems safe to predict that this failure will have specific consequences in a lower sense of professional fulfillment for these youngsters as they pursue their careers, and will hamper their ability to stay competitive with contemporaries in many European and Asian countries, where college-bound students typically do get the benefit of first-rate schools. Is it right or sensible to place our children at such a strong disadvantage before they even begin their adult lives?

As the United Negro College Fund aptly puts it, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. It's time to recognize that we have been wasting far too many good ones.

Copyright © 1991, Daniel J. Singal. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; November 1991; The Other Crisis in American Education; Volume 268, No. 5; pages 59-74.

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