Money can’t buy you math

“In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

—Mark Twain

Surfing the information superhighway, I happened upon Sen. Bob Beers’ (R-Las Vegas), Web log at He had two items on it that caught my eye. The first was a comment about how surprised he was to learn—upon first being elected—that half the lobbyists he encountered represented government interests. That’s an interesting little fact liberals fail to mention when excoriating big business and demanding lobbying reform. I mean, does it strike anyone else as obscenely moronic that the taxpayer-funded government should be using taxpayer dollars to lobby for even more taxpayer dollars?

The second item, which is hereby submitted for your consideration, is the following excerpts from a memorandum distributed on May 16th to the Nevada Assembly from one Dr. Cliff Ferry. (He’s the current president of the Nevada State Board of Education and serves as an example of my general contempt for a government-run anything.)

“It was my privilege to testify Monday, May 14, before the Assembly Education Committee regarding SB 184, specifically Section 20, dealing with the requirement for four years of math for students who want a ‘regular diploma.’ I would like to summarize briefly my position, as supported by the State Board of Education:

“1. Math is difficult and uninteresting to many young people (and adults). I believe that requiring 4 years of math will cause more dropouts. I believe there’s some evidence that credit deficiency rather than failing the high school proficiency test is a major cause of dropouts.”

OK, for those not paying attention, let’s revisit that in more detail.

As I understand this, math is a tough and an otherwise boring subject and therefore the “solution” to a tough and otherwise boring question is to reduce (or eliminate) the subject as part of the requirement for obtaining a regular high school diploma. And the rationale for said idea is that the cause of dropouts is not by failing the proficiency test, but a “credit deficiency.”

And apparently the School Board is in support of this because it makes perfect sense? Or perhaps not.

And yet the good doctor claims that reducing (or eliminating) said requirement makes perfect sense because, for goodness sakes, it’s just too difficult to find qualified educators. He writes, “2. One of the issues in improving math instruction is, as you know, the current shortage of math teachers. I don’t think the supply will increase significantly, and the demand will increase as students in the program approach the 12th grade.”

OK, so we can’t find any good math teachers, so the alternative is to simply drop the four-year requirement?

The coup de grace here was that the extra requirement “could very well diminish programs in career and technical education, the arts, music, drama, etc. These are programs that engage high school students in significant ways.”

“The State Board of Education has proposed that the existing ‘advanced diploma’ be used for the advanced requirements and that students who opt out would earn our regular diploma.”

So he apparently proposes that we have a two-tiered system. An “advanced” diploma for those who take the increased credits in math and a dumbed-down version for the “regular” students. Perhaps we should call that one a G.E.D.?

And yet every session, the education bureaucracy claims they need more money.

Sounds to me like they need some intelligent leadership. This perhaps brings me back to Twain’s assertion.