Monday, January 30, 2006

What should a high school diploma mean?

In A Night at the Opera starring the Marx brothers there is a scene in which Groucho and Harpo are trying to negotiate a contract. Groucho pulls out a long contract, saying this is a standard contract. After Groucho reads the first paragraph Harpo says he doesn't like it. So Groucho rips it out. Each time Groucho reads more, Harpo doesn't like the next paragraph, and so more and more is pulled until very little is left.

The Los Angeles Times has a long article over a fight to include algebra as requirement for getting a high school diploma. There is a push for raising the bar on what it means to be a high school graduate in California. The problem is algebra is hard. Some students struggle trying to learn algebra. The article also admits many students just don’t show up to class. Some people want to rip out the requirement. Over the last thirty years the public education system has been watering down and softening the requirements for graduating from high school.

What is the purpose of a high school diploma? Is it to show that a student has mastered the basics of education and achieved some level of proficiency? Or should a high school diploma merely show that a student has served their time in a public school? The push for the second reason has lead us to a situation in which many high school graduates have such a little education that they have to take remedial classes when they get to college.

While school experts continue to argue about whether algebra should be included as a high school diploma, I'll picture Groucho and Harp ripping out requirements for a high school diploma.

(Hat tip:

Update I (30 Jan 06)
Robert Lindsey pointed out (in a comment) that it was Groucho and Chico who argued about the contract. He's right. I guess I'll have to go back and watch the movie again. Maybe we can make it a homeschooling assignment.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

You should be looking for a picture of Groucho and Chico. They are the ones that had that discussion.

Andrea said...

In our province, the documentation says that if a student cannot pass the materials for graduation, because of special needs or whatever, they will keep lowering or adjusting the content until he *can* pass, and they won't mention this on the diploma.