George Boardman: Dumbing-down the University of California system, party postponed, and a sister’s kiss |

George Boardman: Dumbing-down the University of California system, party postponed, and a sister’s kiss

George Boardman

Observations from the center stripe: Hit man edition

THE RECORDING of President Trump ordering the firing of our ambassador to Ukraine sounds like a Mafia don ordering a hit … MICHAEL BLOOMBERG is running an ad that says he was fired at 39, then started the business that made him a billionaire. The ad doesn’t tell you he exited Salomon Brothers with $10 million, a nice nest egg for starting any business … AT A magazine stand near you: CBD 101, a slick special magazine from Prevention touting the benefits of CBD oil. Talk about mainstream … A TRUMP administration policy I like: Stopping people from bringing their “emotional support” animals onto planes … SEVERAL POLITICAL signs outside the entrance to Lake of the Pines sit next to one that says, “Skunks? Call …”

Social justice warriors have taken aim at the admission requirements of the University of California, hoping to make it easier for “disadvantaged” students to gain entry into the nation’s premier state university system by eliminating the use of SAT and ACT admission test scores.

The movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. More than 1,000 colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, now make the test scores optional. Several UC regents are on record criticizing the tests as unfair to the underprivileged, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently the tests exacerbate the “inequities for underrepresented students.”

A UC faculty task force will give recommendations later this year, but some people aren’t willing to wait. A suit was filed recently on behalf of a high school sophomore, two seniors, and a student at Pasadena City College, all of whom it says would be strong candidates for more selective UC campuses except for their test scores. Several California college prep and social justice nonprofits are also plaintiffs in the suit.

Those opposed to testing can’t explain how they would academically compare students across schools with different grading standards. UC began using the SAT in 1960 to fulfill its mission of finding talented students no matter where they came from, and it continues to enroll more low-income students than the Ivy League and other leading state university systems.

The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education charged the university with educating the top 12.5% of California’s high school graduates when it was adopted in 1960. This has helped make UC a world-class university system that has made a major contribution to the prosperity of California, the world’s fifth largest economy.

The real problem for minority students in California is that too many high schools continue to graduate students who are unprepared for even menial, entry-level jobs, never mind admission to a world-class university. Expecting UC to make allowances for this failure will just dumb-down our higher education system.

Party postponed

The Save Our Bridge Campaign Committee was all set to have a grand reopening celebration this spring to mark the restoration of Nevada County’s iconic Bridgeport Covered Bridge, which almost fell into the South Yuba River eight years ago. They even held a fundraiser for the event in Nevada City last April.

But this is the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, where the only constant is delay and, sure enough, another one was reported last month in a letter to Supervisor Sue Hoek from Matt Green, the acting Sierra District superintendent for the state Parks and Recreation Department.

“Although there has been progress in the restoration of the historic bridge,” Green wrote, “California State Parks regrets to inform you that (the) project will not be completed by this spring, as previously scheduled.” Green wouldn’t commit to a finish date, but did say “it is likely that the project will not be finished until the second half of 2020.” That gives him until Dec. 31.

None of this should surprise anybody who has followed this project from the start. The restoration work was supposed to start in November 2018 but didn’t get going until June of last year with a projected completion date this spring.

County officials sat on their hands the first two years after the bridge was closed, expecting the state to run with the ball. Numerous delays ensued funding the project, mainly because the price tag kept going up from the original estimate of $1.3 million. That required more than one trip to the state Legislature in search of funds.

The final price tag for the Disneyland-like rebuild of the bridge was $6.9 million, more than five times the original estimate. Hopefully, the latest delay won’t require any more money. In the meantime, I suggest the bridge committee makes sure it can get a refund on any deposits it makes for the grand reopening celebration, whenever that is.

A sister’s kiss

Political junkies who spend way too much time obsessing about presidential politics—the election is still nine months away, folks—got all excited recently when the New York Times endorsed Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

People on the left—particularly progressives backing Warren—claimed the Times copped out by endorsing two candidates, while conservatives dismissed the announcement as something you would expect from the leader in “fake news” media.

The Des Moines Register endorsed Warren before today’s Iowa caucuses, and the Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, has endorsed Klobuchar ahead of the state’s Feb. 11 Democratic primary. The Sacramento Bee, currently weighing in on issues that will confront voters in March, recently ran an explanation of how it arrives at its endorsements and why it bothers to make them.

While endorsements liven up the already hyper political scene for a brief moment, they aren’t likely to sway many voters because newspapers—and other mainstream media—just don’t have the influence they once had in this country. In the late ‘70s, nearly three-quarters of Americans trusted newspapers, radio and television. Now, just 41% of Americans have confidence in mass media, according to a recent Gallup poll.

When newspapers were the leading source of news and information for people, endorsement carried substantial weight—many times, they were the difference between winning and losing an election. But as the influence of—and trust in—newspapers has declined, so has the impact of their endorsements. While they can still influence elections close to home, they have become the equivalent of a kiss from your sister: Nice to have, but something you can live without.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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