Pierce College graduates...filed into their Woodland Hills stadium Thursday to receive diplomas, see presentation of awards, and hear talk by Pierce College President John B. Shepard. Photo courtesy of Alan Hyde, LAPL.

The Weekly Rant — A Lower-Higher Standard: More Graduates, Less Knowledge

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Living in the Southland comes with many perks and many difficulties. High rents, no housing, homelessness and hate crimes–we endure a lot for mild winters and beaches, but we don’t have to endure in silence or alone. 

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin

SoCal’s moderate climate, scores of activities and social events, and cultural diversity make it seem like a paradise to many. I have personally been accused of being “spoiled” for living in L.A. and having the “luxury” of easy beach access and an abundance of nightlife. 

While it is true that our mild winters and (typically) low-humidity summers are great reasons to live here, we in the South Land trade off a lot for nice weather and diversity. High taxes, a housing crisis and burgeoning crime rates mean that we pay for the “luxuries” we enjoy, either directly or indirectly.

Sadly, one of those tradeoffs exists in the form of a piss-poor education system–at least for SoCal’s youths. 

California currently has the largest economy in the States and would place fifth in world economies if we were a sovereign nation. 

So why do we struggle with quality education for our younger citizens? California as a whole has a more than liberal assortment of excellent four-year colleges and universities, with quite a few ranking in the top one hundred in the country. But we fall exceptionally short when it comes to providing quality education to our high schoolers especially. 

For a contrast, let’s look to our oldest allies, the French.  

The French requirements for completing high school–or le lycée–are much more demanding and stringent. They consist of a series of six exams in various subjects such as philosophy, history, math and foreign languages. The exam, known as le Baccalauréat or the Bac for short, also determines your eligibility for universities, trade schools, etc. Essentially, they’re comprehensive exams combined with the SATs. 

“In France, the minimum passing grade for the Bac is a B minus. Essentially, their “failing” is our “good enough to pass.” 

Now cumulative exams and a college entrance exam don’t seem to carry much wow-factor when it comes to education. Many schools have similar requirements for graduating and virtually all colleges and universities require SAT scores to be considered for admission. However, the problem is not with the type of testing used or expectations required but rather with the way we grade and scale our tests. 

However, for many U.S. school districts, including our own LAUSD, the minimum passing score for a high school diploma is a D. In France, the minimum passing grade for the Bac is a B minus. Essentially, their “failing” is our “good enough to pass.” 

Now take a minute and let that sink in.

Their standards are higher on both ends of the scale, according to the Agency for French Education Abroad.  An “A plus” in France is the equivalent to an “A plus plus” here in the States. That’s an A with two plus signs following it.

Recently the LAUSD reported an all time high for the number of students finishing high school but the brag is farce. In truth, students in the LAUSD are only required to graduate with no apparent expectations for college or university. The fact that the quantity of graduates receiving diplomas in the spring has risen does not mean the quality of education has improved. 

“More people graduating with little to no knowledge of history, math or science is nothing to brag about; it just leads to more people who deny science and disregard the health of our planet.”

This is not something to brag about. 

More people graduating with low literacy and comprehension skills is nothing to brag about; it leads to more people being screwed over by paperwork. 

More people graduating with little to no knowledge of history, math or science is nothing to brag about; it just leads to more people who deny science and disregard the health of our planet.

Education is linked to many facets of life, most notably its impact on crime. With the recent spike in crime haunting areas of L.A. once considered safe, we need to look at the overall picture to cut off these issues before they become even bigger. 

Us Angelenos have to demand better quality for our younger citizens. Basic literacy and math skills aren’t enough anymore if we want to remain competitive in an ever-changing world. Given both the state and L.A. County’s wealth, I’m not proud of sinking standards and growing graduation rates. Less people who struggle with reading and math is an embarrassment to us all–let’s take more pride in our “collective” selves.

Los Angeleno