When I first wrote about principal Jim Slemp’s proposal to eliminate 0 and 7th period science labs at Berkeley High, not many people seemed to notice. We’ve tried on Berkeleyside to keep up with events on what is a key issue for BHS and Berkeley more broadly. We’re particularly grateful for the many thoughtful comments that have flowed in to our main post on the subject.
It’s good to report that many more people now have picked up the issue and are writing and commenting on the controversy. Raymond Barglow has been on the beat for the Daily Planet, with three articles so far. The East Bay Express wrote about the science labs brouhaha earlier this week. Their article contained one particularly startling paragraph:
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.
That paraphrase attracted the attention of Wired editor-in-chief (and Berkeley resident) Chris Anderson, who tweeted: “RT this! Berkeley High to cut science, ‘labs seen as benefiting white students’.” Anderson has 24,577 followers on Twitter, so the story has spread and spread. I think that’s good, because the central issue of whether the science labs are being funded at the expense of greater equity at BHS is an important one.
It’s unfortunate, however, that Gibson’s comment (or the paraphrase of what he said to the East Bay Express) has become the meme spreading about BHS. All students at BHS currently take science labs, whatever their skin color. Some writers, like Mike Masnick at TechDirt, dug a little deeper and found that the story wasn’t about white students versus black students (or, at least, not only about that). Others, aren’t so careful.
I may not like some of the distortions, but it does produce some good headlines. Best so far is from the Jawa Report: Berkeley High Cuts Pasty White Geek Classes.
If you want to do something about the science labs issue, you could sign the online petition and clear your calendar for both the next meeting of the BHS School Governance Council at 4:15 p.m. next Tuesday in the Community Theater at BHS and the January meeting of the BUSD School Board on Wednesday, January 13 at 7:30 p.m. at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.