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[whitespace] Bush breaks from fundraising trip to talk education

Cupertino--De Anza College is not known as a hotbed of political controversy, but educators there do like to toot their educational horn. Even Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush wanted to find out for himself where the city's academic successes stood. On his way to a fundraiser in Los Angeles on June 20, he stopped by De Anza College to take part in a panel discussion on math and science education.

Dr. Martha Kanter, president of De Anza College, said it was the Bush campaign that approached the school about hosting a panel discussion on the topic. She said campaigners were interested because of the school's reputation in the math and science departments.

De Anza boasts of high transfer rates to four-year colleges and has a partnership with the Valdes Summer Math Institute, an intensive program for eighth-graders to build math fundamentals. In addition, De Anza math students scored the highest in the country's American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) Student Mathematics League competition during this academic year, she said.

Kanter said she isn't surprised by Bush's request to make a pit stop at the school. "We're well-known nationally. We welcome any presidential candidates," she said.

Bush cited recent examples in which American students ranked poorly in math and science tests when compared to their counterparts in other industrialized nations. His message to the De Anza faculty and students was that teachers and students need to raise the expectations in the classroom. "We need to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations," he said.

To that end, he announced that he would forgive $17,500 in loans for those in math and science, and engineers who decide to teach five years in a disadvantaged schools. Bush sees no excuse for poor performances. "There's no reason why we should be last," he said. "This is the greatest country in the world. We ought to be first."

Faculty and students say Bush is on the right track but maintain that more needs to be done. "The education community knows about the performance in math and science already and has known for awhile," said Jack Lin, a De Anza student in computer science.

"He talked about the loan forgiveness program. It's a great step forward, but it doesn't go far enough," Kanter said.
Michele Leung

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Web extra to the June 29-July 5, 2000 issue of Metro.

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