Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Re: College & High School


Naomi Schieffer Riley’s Wall Street Journal piece has much to recommend it, particularly in its thoughts on AP exams, but one of her attributions as to the decline of knowledge seems off. She sees the civic-literacy report, and wonders as to the endemic decline or stagnation of scores:

Why? Because college increasingly offers a crazed social experience at the expense of rigorous study. But high school does better: It is often the last time that students are forced to learn something. Parents make their kids show up at school. More than a few teachers convey basic skills and knowledge. After-school life centers on burnishing a college application, not binge drinking.
While the amount of crazed social experimentation and drinking increases pretty uniformly from high school to college, in my experience, it’s no Rake’s Progress. Those students who engaged in serious academic pursuits in high school certainly don’t stop. Most solid high school students remain attentive in college – it’s far from a four-year Bacchanal. If they’re not learning anything about civics, a surer fix would be distribution requirements. Looking to figures and courses, it’s not that Duke, Brown, and Johns Hopkins students are drowning their civics knowledge in gin: It’s just that many of them aren’t studying it in college classes at all.


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