Stupid Proposal

Governor Gray Davis recently proposed that every public high school senior who finishes in the top 4 percent of his or her high school class would gain automatic admission into the prestigious University of California system. The measure is expected to be approved by UC Regents on March 18. Nonetheless, it has garnered some criticism. Some believe the measure is a thinly disguised maneuver around Proposition 209's ban on affirmative action.

But others believe the plan doesn't go far enough. Among them is Sam Guy, whose conservative Center for Excellence in Traditional Education Values Coalition has been a staunch advocate of voucher programs, corporate sponsorship of schools, and a curriculum that includes Norman Vincent Peale and Ayn Rand. We talked with Guy about Davis' plan in the center's Irvine offices.

OC Weekly: You've said the governor's plan doesn't go far enough. Does that mean you'd like to see more than the 4 percent guaranteed spots in the UC system?

Sam Guy: Oh, no. Our problem with his proposal is that it extends only to public school students. It'll be wide open to fraud-what parents of a smart child won't immediately find the poorest-performing high school around, fake a home address, and sneak their child into a lousy school where he or she will certainly outperform his or her undereducated peers?

So your solution is . . .

If the proposal were to include private education, I think it goes without saying that public-minded entrepreneurs would be moved to fill a need-the way other entrepreneurs have brought commercial television into the classroom and corporate sponsorship of schools. The need in this case is that parents want to get their kids into good schools. Some parents will do just about anything to get their kids into a good college, and a lot of them will spend just about anything to do that-whether for private tutoring, SAT preparation or private schools.

But none of those things guarantees getting into a good school. What do you have to offer?

If parents are willing to shell out a lot of money for no guarantees, they'd certainly pay a lot to a private school that could offer them a money-back guarantee if their child doesn't finish in the top 4 percent.

But how could you offer a money-back guarantee?

By creating a private school stocked with the one thing a child needs to assure them of finishing in the top 4 percent, the same thing this state is blessed with an abundance.

Quality teachers?

Stupid classmates. If a school could guarantee parents there would be no competition for the top 4 percent-because the overall intellectual power of its graduating class couldn't power a salad fork-that would be very attractive to them. Now, these would probably not be parents of high-performing kids, but wealthy folks with middling performers who still want to get their kids into good schools.

And you actually think a school like that is possible?

Not only possible, but also very profitable. And not just one, but a whole bunch. Successive Republican administrations-Deukmejian, Wilson-and Proposition 13 have combined to produce for California a bumper crop of really stupid children. That's California's untapped resource.

Well, that might be great for the top 4 percent, but isn't it a little harsh on the stup . . . on the other kids?

Oh, come on, let's not go there. We're talking about solutions here. You and I both know stupid people live with who and what they are every day. They're used to hearing, "You're so stupid" and, "Don't put that in your eye, stupid" and, "Latin isn't the language of Latin America, Mr. Vice President."

You're saying this system would be good for the stupid.

Entrepreneurs will compete for stupid kids, turning them into a sought-after, precious commodity. And once in these schools, these stupid kids will thrive! They'll be in the vast 96 percent majority-a graduating class of 50 would have just two students who'd comprise the top 4 percent. In that kind of situation, stupid kids wouldn't be singled out or ridiculed for believing that Aquaman is a cabinet position appointed by the president. They'd be valued, and they'd learn they serve an important role and that if they work hard and play fair, they can one day achieve their dreams. And they'll believe it. They're stupid!

But how could you assure the best families that their kids would absolutely finish in the top 4 percent?

Well, that's where the rubber hits the road, isn't it? Pre-admittance tests will be critical to ensure that a school is using only the stupidest lemons to make lemonade. They couldn't admit just any Johnny-Come-Lately-When-God-Was-Passing-out-Brains or poor kids who, given half a chance in a better system, would learn quickly and throw off the curve. The tests would have to explore subtle differences between idiots-you know, average stupid kids who'd throw coins off a tall building-and stupid kids, kids who'd need directions down after jumping off a tall building.

And after a child is admitted, what kind of education can he expect? I mean, does he go to class? Is he ignored by the teacher once he gets there?

Oh, God, no. Everything at the school would function as a regular school. Classes would be taught in the normal fashion. If the proper testing is done beforehand, you don't need to skew things later. Well, except you'd use a straight grading system, no bell curve. But I want to emphasize these would be really stupid kids. You know, kids so dense that light bends around them. [knocking his knuckles on his skull] "Yoo hoo! Anybody home?" No. They're just not going to pick anything up. No worries there.

You mentioned that some kids would either pay reduced fees or get free rides. If you do that, how could a school survive financially?

The tuition that the stupid kids don't pay will more than be made up for by the higher tuition paid by the rich, top 4 percent families. Say, $50,000 per semester-and to be honest, I could see where you could get into an auction type of situation. Remember, we're talking about a very limited number of spots. Plus, the schools will be able to develop non-core revenue streams through such fund-raising projects as candy drives and sales of a Jeff Foxworthy-ish "You know your kid's stupid when . . ." books and videos. They could also make money by selling student mailing lists to credit-card companies, sweepstakes clearinghouses and armed-forces recruiters as well as making their students available at a considerable fee to universities and research centers studying abnormal behavior.

But isn't what you're proposing just a way of giving up on public education-really, education in general?

Just the opposite. What we're proposing realizes the high value people place on education. Look: stupid kids exist. If you believe in God, you must believe they exist for a reason. I mean, what would you say if I told you I found a way to let rich families pump millions of dollars into the state's economy while also helping ease crowded public schools? And not just overcrowding, but also shifting stupid kids out of the public classroom, where they hold back other kids, and into schools where they are better appreciated. You'd say great, when do we get started? We're not going to do that because we don't want people to get their feelings hurt? Please. That's dust-bin-of-history stuff. In the business world, this is known as a win-win situation, even for the kids who couldn't spell "win" if you spotted them the W and the N. Davis wins with liberals because he solves the education crisis; he wins with conservatives because he does so with a market-oriented approach. But it's the kids, really, who end up the real winners because they'll leave these private high schools not only better for the experience, but also rich in confidence and self-esteem, which will serve them well when they enter either the fast-food industry or a Cal State University.


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