REPRIEVE FOR FAILURE: A California judge has struck down the state's high school exit exam that required students to demonstrate minimal proficiency in language and math skills in order to graduate. Overturning the will of California voters (no surprise there), the judge said the test isn't fair because all schools aren't "equal." We're not talking about Rhodes Scholars here. We're talking about saying "No diploma" to students who score less than 55 percent in the math test or less than 60 percent in the English language test. We're talking about students getting more than one chance to pass the test, beginning in their sophomore year. Those who fail the first time get a chance to study harder for the final exam in their senior year. Those who fail it the second time can take a shot at earning a GED or attend adult education. This is "unfair"? Really and truly: to whom is it "fair" to give high school diplomas to students who don't master the basic skills of high school? The joke is on 18-year-old Liliana Valenzuela, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "I feel very happy," Liliana declared. "Now I'll be able to have my diploma and fulfill my desire to become a nurse." Memo to Liliana from the Real World: There's not a nursing school in the country that will give you a second look if you don't have a high school degree. By the way, Liliana made that statement in Spanish because (let's say this in unison) she lacks the basic English skills required to graduate from a Bay Area high school in the United States in the year 2006. Maybe I'm being unduly pessimistic about Liliana's chances to become a nurse. Look for a class action lawsuit soon claiming that it is "unconstitutional" to turn down nursing school applications from aspiring nurses just because they don't speak English. Look for demands that nursing schools be required to set up bilingual training programs. Expect the costs of such programs to be paid for by increasing taxes on "the rich." Then wait for patients to sue hospitals when doctors and nurses who don't speak the same language commit some truly horrific instances of medical malpractice. Yes, the real fun's yet to come.