University of California A-G Requirements are Wrong to Require for Everyone

The imposition of the University of California A-G entrance requirements on all high school students is inappropriate and extremely harmful. The UC system was constructed to be a system of elite universities for the top ten percent highest achieving California high school students. When you add out of state and international students, the proportion of California youth in UC schools is even smaller. The idea of the UC A-G entrance requirements is to prepare elite high school students for the rigorous coursework in the UC schools. These very difficult courses were never meant for all high school students. The requiring of these courses for all high school students is a perversion of the intention of the UC universities.

Someone got the idea that if you require all high school students to take these extremely difficult courses, all students will raise their intelligence, effort, and overcome all backgrounds to be able to master these courses and enter a UC university. This is so patently absurd that it is hard to believe anyone would take the idea seriously. The science of intelligence is that we largely get what we are born with. Of course, parenting and schooling help. However, intelligence is like a rubber band. There is a limited ability to expand it. By definition, half the student population is below average in intelligence. This means half the student population isn’t going to any college, much less a UC university.

Requiring A-G high school courses flies in the face of science and logic. However, this is much worse than an unjustified policy. This policy puts the seventy percent of students who will never graduate from any college in a terrible situation. They are forced into taking difficult courses in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Chemistry, and Biology. These courses have little use in society beyond college preparation. The seventy percent who will never go on to graduate from any college are forced to attempt to master these classes, but they cannot. The high schools do everything they can to make this impossible situation work. They water down the curriculum in these courses with no discernable standards and count a “D” grade as passing, but this is just window dressing.

The reality is that forcing high school students to take these courses eliminates the opportunity for them to take appropriate and desperately needed coursework. They need consumer math to use in employment and in their personal lives after high school. They need career technical education to build work skills for after high school. They need computer courses for work and living after high school. They need parenting courses to help make good parents when they leave high school. They need nutrition classes to properly feed themselves and their children. The whole point of a high school education is to prepare students to survive in American society. A college degree only applies to the top achieving thirty percent of high school students. The remainder need and deserve an appropriate education to prepare them for when they leave high school.

Elitist policy makers created consequences that they did not intend. This pretend system of college preparation graduates young people with no work skills and limited personal education. This poor educational background leaves them prey to gangs, drugs, prostitution, crime, and prison. Seventy percent of the 2.5 million people in American prisons are high school dropouts. This “college for all” policy exacerbates the “school to prison pipeline.” And once they get caught up in these illegal activities, they don’t get out. The recidivism rate is seventy percent. And we all pay for the prisons.

The UC A-G course requirements are meant only for the very elite high school students. It is not only wrong, but also impossible, to attempt to thrust all students through this extremely difficult coursework. If the concern is the under representation of Black and Hispanic students in college, there are specific targeted programs such as AVID that have proven to be quite successful. The broader issue is that we must stop giving college preparation the preeminent role in high school. College bound students are not inherently more important people than the rest of the students. The high school institution is for all of our young people, not just the high achieving ones. We should be smart enough to construct an appropriate education for all students.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
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