Hard work, a good attitude, and a desire to learn won’t help a student succeed academically if the local high school regards minimal performance as excellent, as one California student discovered upon arriving at the University of California-Berkeley.

The Los Angeles Times wrote about one young man’s freshman year at Berkeley:

He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays — pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases — were so weak that he would have to take the class again.

He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn’t improve his grades by school year’s end, he would flunk out.

Heather MacDonald, writing at National Review, suggests that the story shows the problems with affirmative action and racial preferences in college admissions.

“Racial preferences are not just ill advised, they are positively sadistic,” she says. “Only the preening self-regard of University of California administrators and faculty is served by such an admissions travesty. Preference practitioners are willing to set their ‘beneficiaries’ up to fail and to subject them to possible emotional distress, simply so that the preference dispensers can look out upon their ‘diverse’ realm and know that they are morally superior to the rest of society.”

It also amounts to an indictment of the California secondary school system that assured the student, Kashawn Campbell, he was well-educated and ready for college without actually preparing him.

“It was so rare to have a kid like Kashawn, especially an African American male, wanting that badly to go to college,” a former vice principal at Campbell’s high school told the L.A. Times. “We got together as a staff and decided that this kid, we cannot let him down.”

The Times notes that Campbell was “one of the hardest workers in [his] dorm” and visited a writing instructor once a week. He’d never partied much in high school, so he’s probably not going to imitate some students by using Saturday morning to “get a head start on your drinking.” He sounds like the ideal freshman student.

And he barely avoided flunking out of college. “It took awhile for him to understand there was a problem,” his writing instructor told the paper.. “He could not believe that he needed more skills. He would revise his papers and each time he would turn his work back in having complicated it. The paper would be full of words he thought were academic, writing the way he thought a college student should write, using big words he didn’t have command of.” (Doesn’t every freshman do that, to some degree?)

Of course he couldn’t believe it — he had a 4.06 grade point average in high school. “At Jefferson, a long essay took a page and perfect grades came after an hour of study a night,” the Times notes.

A determined, hard-working student, prepared by high school teachers who were invested in his success, couldn’t pass a freshman writing course after two attempts. That is a broken public education system.