It’s A “Ripley”! Oregon High School Grads No Longer Have To Know How To Read, Write, Or Do Math At High School Levels

believe-it-or-not 2

No, I’m NOT making this up. I wish I were.

I saw this story yesterday, and I refused to read all of it until today after I had wrapped my head to guard against an explosion that would have taken out the whole cul de sac. It’s really getting this bad. It really is.

Of course ground zero for the latest rot infesting Western society as we know it is Oregon, which has officially become Bizarro World, where up is down and dumb is brilliant. The state’s far, far Left governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 744 into law, so for the next five years, an Oregon high school diploma will not guarantee that the student whose name is on it can read, write or do math at a high school level. I keep reading that sentence over and over, and I still can’t believe it. If a high school diploma does not certify that the student receiving it has minimal proficiency in what a high school is charged with teaching, then what does a diploma stand for? Why go to high school at all?

Brown had refused to say whether she supported the wacko plan passed by the Legislature to drop the requirement that students demonstrate they have achieved those essential skills. Now, Oregonians are learning, she signed the bill into law on July 14. She just didn’t tell anybody about it. Brown’s office did not hold a signing ceremony or issue a press release. The governor’s signing the bill was not noted in the legislative database until July 29, though the normal practice is to update the public database the same day a bill is signed.

Is it possible that nobody leaked this to the press? Or is it more likely that someone did, but the usual Pravda journalists just kept Brown’s secret? In Oregon, anything is possible.

Democracy dies in darkness, by the way.

Through a spokesperson, the governor refused to comment on the law and why she supported issuing high school diplomas to graduates who shouldn’t graduate and couldn’t function in the workplace or society. Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, “explained'” in an emailed statement to news outlets that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

Oh. Like so much else that is counter-productive, retrograde and makes no sense coming out of woke governments lately, this is going to benefit minorities. I need a bit of elaboration on that. How is graduating from high school without being able to read, write or do ‘rithmatic’ going to benefit anyone? Isn’t Boyle’s statement racist on its face? Minorities will benefit because they will get a fake but real diploma telling people that they have skills they never acquired, and could not have otherwise graduated without, because, you know, minorities? Or is the thinking that graduating illiterate white students will level the playing field to compensate for all that systemic racism?

No wonder Brown doesn’t want the public to know about the law. And fortunately for her, the mainstream news media isn’t reporting the story. If they wait long enough, maybe nobody in Oregon will be able to read it anyway.

With this post, “The Ripley” officially enters the Ethics Alarms lexicon, signifying an ethics story that is so outrageous it defies belief.

35 thoughts on “It’s A “Ripley”! Oregon High School Grads No Longer Have To Know How To Read, Write, Or Do Math At High School Levels

  1. This will probably lead to potential employers using standardized tests (8th grade level maybe) to screen applicants for these essential skills. Of course, those potential employers will be vilified as “racist”.

    In other news, progress continues in the development of robots capable of doing many routine but critical jobs in manufacturing and distribution. Developers claim that even though the robots will eliminate many jobs, there will be many new jobs created in the robot development field. Unmentioned was the fact that the people losing jobs will not be the ones taking the new jobs.

  2. Yep. The mind sure does boggle, ¡¿no?! What could this possibly mean? That minorities are simply incapable of satisfying the bare minimum graduation requirements? That minorities are so thoroughly disenfranchised that that they cannot function in society? It is the same logic that underlies objections to voter ID laws: minorities are incapable of meeting the minimum requirements to vote. How much more racist and segregationist can you get? How many people do not have some form of photo ID? How do people apply for credit, open bank accounts, apply for social security/disability, file tax returns, obtain local, state, and federal benefits? Get the COVID vaccines?


    • The abilities of groups, other than their own, are not important to Progressive ideology. The Woke wet dream consists of an elite intellectual class, watching over vast flocks of docile compliant citizens who are led by reliably obedient bellwethers. Education is superfluous to the needs of the “flocks”. Necessary information can be disseminated through media, making control of media a top priority. “Apartheid 201” expands the basic premise to include conservatives, the religious, and any others who would resist. The baasskap of the woke requires that decision making remain in the hands of those who “know what’s best”, while the rest play X-Box.

    • Beat me to it. Holy heck but the lack of self awareness it takes to say something like this:

      “Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, “explained’” in an emailed statement to news outlets that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.” “

  3. After taking a drink of my coffee, I read “If they wait long enough, maybe nobody in Oregon will be able to read it anyway.” You owe me a keyboard.

  4. The rationale is that, by withholding reliable information on the qualifications of any particular individual, minorites who are more likely to lack that qualification would be on an even playing field with whites who have it.

    The reason is that, by withholding that information, it’s easier to hide how public officials in education have failed disadvantaged minorities.

    The effect will be that, in the absence of information on individuals, people will have to play the odds based on group statistics. In other words, they will assume that whites and Asians are literate and that blacks and indigenous people are not. The net beneficiaries of the policy are white underachievers. We’ve seen this before, when various jurisdictions have sought to hide information on, say, criminal records, or credit score.

  5. Yet another example of a pandemic “benefit” (the skills requirements were suspended due to Covid-19) that is difficult to rollback.

    The article quotes the governor’s deputy communications director:
    “Leaders from those communities have advocated time and again for equitable graduation standards, along with expanded learning opportunities and supports”

    Who are these leaders? It is difficult to imagine any actual parent of a student advocating for the elimination of basic standards.

  6. I say again, read “Marching Morons”. An educated ruling elite keeps an illiterate, uneducated populace in check with a form of welfare. It does not end well for the rulers, but only because of moral luck.


    There’s so much apparent inanity around this story, it seems more quotes should be seen and savored. (It also sounds as if Oregon is not an outlier by any means.) Some mystifying highlights from the Daily Mail article:

    Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill late last month suspending the state’s ‘essential skills’ requirement for graduation for the next three years while its Department of Education seeks alternative graduation requirements.

    The state’s Department of Education is directed to develop its new graduation standards with input from representatives for ‘historically underserved students,’ such as those with disabilities, those who are from immigrant or refugee populations or ‘racial or ethnic groups that have historically experienced academic disparities.’

    Education non-profit Foundations for a Better Oregon says the law opens the door for more ‘equitable’ graduation requirements. ‘With SB 744, Oregon can ensure high school diplomas are rigorous, relevant, and truly reflect what every student needs to thrive in the 21st century,’ the group said in a statement.

    ‘Inclusive and equitable review of graduation and proficiency requirements, when guided by data and grounded in a commitment to every student’s success, will promote shared accountability and foster a more just Oregon.’

    ‘The testing that we’ve been doing in the past doesn’t tell us what we want to know,’ Oregon State Sen. Lew Frederick, a Democrat told KATU.

    ‘We have been relying on tests that have been, frankly, very flawed and relying too much on them so that we aren’t really helping the students or the teachers or the community.’

    But passing a test has not been a requirement to graduate in the state since 2009, when its essential skills standards were initially put in place.

    Students could demonstrate their abilities in math, reading and writing through five separate tests, or complete a classroom project judged by their individual teachers to prove their proficiency, the Oregonian reported.

    In fact, only 11 states in the country require passing a test for high school students to graduate, according to Education Week.

    And some states that do, such as New York state have proposed removing testing requirements for graduation,

    Scott Depew, administrator for schools in the Oregon city of Hermiston said he was happy to see the essential skills requirement go, according to the East Oregonian.

    Although he said he didn’t find the requirements burdensome, he found them to be another hoop students would need to jump through to graduate.

    Matt Yoshioka, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment in the city of Pendleton told the East Oregonian said he agreed the essential learning skills requirement sometimes created issues for students that struggled with tests.

  8. If a high school diploma does not certify that the student receiving it has minimal proficiency in what a high school is charged with teaching, then what does a diploma stand for? Why go to high school at all?

    Let me answer that for you: Having to actually attend high school is a burden upon children of communities (my favorite commie term- always divide people into groups so they can be pitted against one another) of color. But so is not having a high school diploma, to a certain extent (but not really too much because you can always get public housing and welfare and other benefits without a high school diploma, so it’s kind of a wash really). So let’s just give these kids diplomas and call it good. Their mothers can put up photos of their babies in their gowns and mortar boards and they can say their babies graduated high school. Hurray! And anyway, you don’t really expect the kids to hold down jobs, do you? I mean, we’re working on a guaranteed minimum income so who needs a job?

    • I guess my bottom line is this Oregon development is less shocking than it appears insofar as schools all across the country have evidently been gutting high school graduation requirements for years. I’m not even sure this is news. Thinking back to the ‘sixties and the Civil Rights act and integration, wasn’t placing black people on an equal footing with white people supposed to raise the black people up to higher standards and make them equal to their white counterparts? Instead, everyone and everything is being lowered to make black people equal? Am I missing something? Is this some sort of joke? Were southern racists along the lines of Lester Maddox and George Wallace right about integration?

  9. Another reason not to trust public schools. They aren’t what they used to be. If this is how they are going to be run, they need to lose taxpayer money. Set up a system where people can pay for the government service if they want it through signing up in the tax code, and those who don’t want public schools won’t have to pay. Or, we could do an automatic voucher system and let parents choose which public schools work best for them. Or some sort of voucher system that covers private and public schools.

    I don’t even like standardized tests, but the issue here isn’t just standardized tests; it’s standards period. Every standard that leads to any racial disparity is at all is seen as systemically racist. It doesn’t matter why there is a difference, just that there is. Parenting, culture, differences in intellect, differences in motivation, and even sometimes differences in interest in a subject can all affect why outcomes are different. Jumping to race immediately is intellectual laziness.

  10. I’ll stipulate that the argumentation is stupid. That said, the actual change in policy is at the very least far less laughable than you suggest; indeed, I’d argue it’s a net positive.
    What has actually happened is that Oregon has decided not to put all its faith in a standardized test run by a for-profit corporation. I don’t think that’s a bad call. Even the most professionally run of these exams have histories of major problems. Numerous math questions aren’t age-appropriate. (The people who write the exams aren’t educators–they’re often education majors who couldn’t get a job as a teacher.) There was a case few years ago where a reading comprehension problem was leaked, and a poet got two out of five questions “wrong” about his own work!
    But the writing sections are the worst. Even the testing companies aren’t brash enough to argue that computers can score writing (although some are experimenting with the idea). So they hire graders. These jobs generally pay less than $12 an hour and require only a college degree… in anything! For that kind of money, you’re not going to get someone who can tell the difference between a sonnet and a laundry list.
    So the company makes it easy for them: there’s a formula. Five paragraphs. First one says what you’re going to say. Next three, you say it (actually saying anything is more or less optional). Last paragraph: say what you just said. Follow this, without any enormous grammatical errors, and you’ll be fine. But woe betide the student who writes a coherent and persuasive essay… but wraps it up in four paragraphs. (The sonnet/laundry list line is an exaggeration; the five paragraphs or you fail part is not.)
    The serious decline in writing skills I see in today’s students relative to their peers of even two decades ago (in the same courses at the same university) has occurred not despite the Great God Accountability (worshipped by both political parties, albeit in different ways), but because of it. I’ve seldom had students question their grades on essays, but when they do, I almost always have to control my urge to scream at them, “you got a bad grade because you didn’t freaking say anything.” But… but… it was five paragraphs, and…
    So many of today’s students are terrible writers in part because they’ve never learned to think. They’ve been taught to follow the formula. There’s a “correct” answer for everything; their job is to memorize it and spew it back on demand. But ask them whether Hally or Sam is the protagonist in ”Master Harold”… and the boys, and a goodly number will start looking like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.
    Students coming out of Oregon schools have demonstrated the necessary skills in the 3-R’s to the satisfaction of their teachers, who, at the very least, see them every day, and therefore know that although that particular essay wasn’t great, young Tiffany or Caleb can actually write. To be sure, I’ve seen enough functional illiterates in my college classes not to trust high school teachers’ opinions unhesitatingly. Life gets a lot easier when students pass: the school looks better, there’s less conflict, less chance of a lawsuit.
    But the corporate hacks are equally incentivized to find some failures: after all, if they’re seen as simply endorsing the teachers’ opinions, even state legislators aren’t dumb enough to keep paying them pots of money to do so forever. And by “pots of money,” I’m talking tens of millions of dollars a year in a state the size of Oregon, precious little of which lucre will find its way into the hands anyone but upper management.
    Do standardized test scores tell us anything? Sure, but not anything like the full picture. To use an example from one of your favorite topics, Jack: does a baseball player’s batting average mean anything? It does. But let’s compare centerfielders from when you and I were lads. Manny Mota’s lifetime BA was .304; Willie Mays’s was .301. Which one would you rather have on your team? And if .300 is the cut-off, then Mota passes and Duke Snider (.295) doesn’t. I beg to differ.

    • These tests are that difficult? I’m assuming they’re pretty basic. Aren’t they “competency” tests? They’re not looking for genius, they’re looking for competence?

    • What you argue is coherent and true. The problem, then, is bigger than the standardized tests, right? Why not actually address that issue and not scuttle the test? And, lest you wonder, I hate standardized tests because they only test for test-takung techniques and not critical thinking.


    • But still: if it can’t say for sure that grads can read or write, again, what does the diploma mean? It’s fine, and I agree, to say the measurement methods are flawed, but the solution to that is “we better have some other way” not “until we come up with something, let’s just let ’em go.”

      • This works on the assumption that there is literally no merit to a math teacher saying the kid can do algebra, or an English teacher says the kid can write a coherent paragraph.
        The people who decided I should get a high school diploma, a BA, and a PhD were the people who taught me and no one else. None of them were answerable to some unqualified and acquisitive corporate yahoo. The only person outside the school I attended ever to have a say was one external reader for my MA thesis, who was also an expert in not only my academic discipline, but the subdiscipline. (I got my MA in the UK, and no, I don’t know who that person was, only that he or she was a published scholar in Renaissance English drama, which was the subject of my thesis).
        The politicians and the corporate shills would have us believe the biggest problem is in the teachers. That’s because the rich and powerful can’t see their own reflections in the mirror. (Yes, I just called them vampires.)
        Standardized testing is marginally useful in comparing students from different schools–one student is 1st in a class of 25 and another is 45th in a class of 200, and there’s no other way of deciding who’s “better.” But there is virtually no value whatsoever to a high stakes test which decides little more than who is a good test-taker, who gets test anxiety, and who was running a fever that one day.
        I would have thought that to stop spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money a year on a system that provides literally no useful information would be a good idea, whether there’s another plan to disrespect professional educators in place or not. Silly me.

        • But a case by case subjective assessment by widely varying judges is still not a standard. Then you are seeing biases, individual misconceptions and emotions involved. There are too many teachers in public schools who can’t write at a TEACHER level: isn’t it bizarre to trust their judgment on what is minimally acceptable writing skills?

          At Georgetown University Law Center, we had first year students with college degrees who couldn’t write at a middle school level. One was a Yale grad. I suspect this experience may affect my faith in the judgment of teachers.

          • My argument isn’t that all high school teachers are qualified to judge the skills in question. It’s that the citizenry shouldn’t be spending millions of dollars annually to privilege the opinion of someone even less qualified.

            • I don’t disagree, but we’re back at my initial question: if a high school diploma doesn’t ensure that the recipient can read, write and do math at a high school level, what good is it…how can it be trusted?

              I once hired a staff project manager who didn’t have a HS diploma. He had valid experience, seemed bright, and did Ok on my own exams and interviews. I wanted to give him a chance.
              Disaster. His analyticalally skills were poor, he couldn’t use punctuation properly, and his writing was stiff and unclear. I had to fire him. I also have had to fire college grads for similar problems. This is not a healthy thing for society.

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