Mulch

Standards of Worth
Graduating from high school is about to get a lot tougher. The San Francisco Unified School District is set to adopt new graduation requirements before the end of the year -- but not without fanning the flames in the ongoing war of humanities vs. math and science.

Virtually everyone seems to agree that the current standards for a diploma are antiquated and too lax. But the devil, as always, lies in the details. When Superintendent Waldemar Rojas offered up his plan Oct. 1 at the Board of Education's curriculum subcommittee meeting, it wasn't exactly met with a warm embrace.

It called for four years each of math (including three of algebra and above) and science (with three of biology and above), but only one year of either a foreign language or fine arts. The district already requires four years of English, which Rojas left untouched.

Without any serious foreign language requirement, Rojas' proposal didn't get far with board members who've been taking heat about this for years. Further, while the push for math and science reflects state and nationwide trends, S.F. is unlikely to undertake a shift in that direction if it means de-emphasizing humanities.

Consequently, the committee, led by Dan Kelly and Jill Wynns, ordered Rojas and the district staff back to the drawing board. They re-emerged last week with new standards to be phased in during the next three years. They mandate 260 credits to graduate (40 more than currently) and include not only Rojas' original math and science requirements, but also two years of a foreign language and two years of visual and performing arts.

Look for what promises to be lively debate at meetings throughout the next two months.

-- L.D.

Opening the Books
University of California officials soon may have to show their cards to workers who are suspicious of the proposed merger between the UCSF and Stanford University medical centers.

The Public Employee Relations Board forced UC regents to the table recently, when it ruled that the school had violated labor agreements by refusing to disclose details of the impending deal. The unions, which represent more than 5,000 UCSF employees, allege that the merger will result in the contracting out of work currently done by their members. If UC and the unions don't resolve their differences in the settlement conference, the matter will move to an administrative law judge -- who could essentially force UC to make a full revelation.

Meanwhile, the trend toward privatization has picked up speed to the south, where UC San Diego and UC Irvine both are negotiating partnerships with the private sector -- including one of the largest for-profit health care corporations, Columbia/HCA -- to operate the universities' medical centers.

-- L.D.

Journal vs. Journal
The Wall Street Journal's new Wednesday California section is on the streets as usual this week, but thanks to a Superior Court ruling upheld by a timely nod from an appellate court, it's not called "California Journal" (see "Unspun," Sept. 25). That name belongs to a tiny Sacramento-based monthly which has spent the past month battling Dow Jones over its use. California Journal has been told by WSJ lawyers to expect an appeal to the state Supreme Court. All of which makes us wonder why the WSJ, an outfit that trades on its business savvy, made such a blunder in the first place, and why its execs want to drag out legal proceedings when they should be concerned with building readership and an advertising base.

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