J. Martin Rochester on Our Huge K–12 Problem

A decade ago, Professor J. Martin Rochester wrote a superb book on the dumbing down of K–12 education, Class Warfare. In this interview, he discusses the continuing weaknesses in the earlier segments of our educational pipeline and explains that “progressive” educational theory, dominant in American education schools, bears much of the responsibility for high-school grads who are nowhere near college-ready. He also observes that parents must share in the blame, since many of them never do what Ben Carson’s mother did and say, “Stop watching TV and read books.”

A large percentage of the students colleges take in have had twelve years of educational neglect and malpractice. Many of them expect college to be a continuation of their education-lite diet, and many schools have been happy to accommodate them. As Steve Balch of NAS says, “We don’t so much have higher education in America as we merely have longer education.” Instead of worrying about putting still more young people into college (the Obama/Lumina/Gates Foundation crusade), it would make vastly more sense to work on improving K–12. A good place to start that would be for states to get rid of teacher-licensure laws that create cartels for ed schools.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. He holds a B.A. from Carroll College (Waukesha, Wis.) and a J.D. from ...