You may well ask why I am talking about Education on a blog which is all about Bicycles and Growth? Well I’d like readers to understand the character of our city of Cupertino and one cannot really understand it without talking about Education. It is a large, perhaps the key, reason why people flock here to live, and it is responsible for our demographics being over 60% Asian. House prices are unusually high for this particular region considering the size of properties. Our neighboring city of Saratoga has much more expensive houses but many are situated on lot that are considerably larger, often 2-6 times larger, than those typically found in Cupertino.
Cupertino has two school districts, Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) k-8 grades and Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) 9-12 grades which also cover parts of other neighboring cities. As school districts both are among the highest ranked academically in the state and nation. FUHSD has a couple of schools, Monta Vista High School and Lynbrook High School, which rank in the top 10-50 in a nation of more than 35,000 public and private high school. That means that they are in the top 0.03-0.15% of school in the nation. The fact that we have at least 2 high schools in that category and others in the top 100 is quite an accomplishment. Understand that there are only 5 high schools in FUHSD.
There is much controversy among some parents who feel that the overemphasis in academics is robbing kids of a more rounded education. But in fact many parents expose their children to many other things outside of school such as the arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities knowing very well that many top universities in the nation not only look at academic accomplishments but other interests which may distinguish them from other strong applicants. And that speaks to motive for all this emphasis upon academics, giving their college bound children the best chance of being accepted into the nations best universities. But academics is very highly stressed.
It is because of highly motivated and invested parents that our schools have achieved such high academic standings. Dropout rates and truancy are almost non-existent and crime and drugs far less a problem than elsewhere. Students are typically very competitive in vying for the highest SAT scores, a few each year scoring perfect over multiple disciplines. Many residents are recent Asian immigrants to this nation and have a tradition of highly treasuring education and instilling that into they young children. We have a high population of predominantly Chinese and Indian residents living here primarily because of our highly ranked schools. But let it be said that our schools are ranked very high because of the high expectations of parents, not necessarily because they are inherently great schools. Without such highly motivated parents our schools would be far more ordinary. Parents continue the education of their children after school and during weekends with tutors and other learning challenges such as Chinese schools to learn Chinese. So studying in addition to play is part of the culture here, and amazingly they do find time to play and hang out with one another and make lasting friendships.
Anything that residents feel might pose a threat to their children’s education is highly contentious and greatly resisted by residents. Housing is one of these things. Residents equate more housing with overcrowded schools that may threaten the quality of education so are met with great resistance. So any attempt at high density housing to meet the needs of expanding jobs is highly contested. There is no land available for building new school sites. There are some people who argue that schools can hold many more children than they currently do by building up higher schools buildings as is done in other space limited cities and in one of our highest ranked and highest student density schools, Monta Vista High School. Classroom size will not be impacted by having multistory classrooms. But many more people argue about the density of students using playing fields, parking spaces, long lines at the cafeteria and restrooms, etc. Even though there are possible solutions to each perceived concern they do not want to take a chance that something may affect the quality of education their children currently receive and they have heavily invested in.
I agree that it is appropriate for this nations so lacking in world-class schools to have a few such schools that set high expectations and shoot for very high standards and why not locate some in the heart of Silicon Valley, the home of Apple. The bar is set so low in this nation and this and other Presidents have been trying to pump more money into schools and raise standards for decades in a global economy where technology and science are king for economic prosperity. If this nation doesn’t do something soon about education we will not be able to compete with such emerging nations of China and India. China is already a well positioned threat with 3.7 times our population and there are signs that India with 3.3 times our population is not far behind. So we are a small nation on a huge playing field. We have the advantage today but there are clear signs that it may not be that way for long in competition with cultures where education is fundamentally highly treasured.