The Corner

Education

The Roots of Our Educational Failure

(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

As I’ve been saying for the twenty years I have been with the Martin Center (previously known as the Pope Center), our colleges underperform. Of course, some students get a superb education that equips them well for life, but on the whole, students get surprisingly little value from college. Standards are low and the curriculum is weak. Many faculty members are more concerned with being popular than with sound education.

How did they get that way?

Education analyst Sandra Stotsky has just written a book entitled The Roots of Low Achievement that goes a long way towards answering that question. In today’s Martin Center article, Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein reviews the book.

He writes, “The Roots of Low Achievement surveys the condition of public schooling in the U.S. It’s a handy digest of what’s gone wrong and why. In ten crisp chapters, Stotsky emphasizes facts that educators, funders, and politicians prefer to ignore. Those of us who want to see an academic renewal in America cannot ignore them.”

Despite educational fads in reading and math, big government fixes like Common Core, and just shoveling money into schools (as Mark Zuckerberg has done), academic achievement has been slowly falling. The worst school barely pretends to educate; students graduate lest the school look bad under politically established metrics.

One gigantic distraction from quality education for all has been the obsession with racial achievement gaps. Bauerlein writes, “Even if we accept that gap-closing is a proper goal (though Stotsky does not), their efforts have been fruitless.”

Low achievement in high school means that many students will enter college with poor skills, but with the expectation that they’ll receive high grades for minimal work. To keep those kids happy and paying, most colleges have decided to accommodate their desires.

Bauerlein concludes, “The Roots of Low Achievement compiles all the evidence you need to show how badly the student-centered, gap-closing orientation has failed — not just to prepare students for college, but for life. It’s time to remove people who presided over those failures from any further efforts.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

Most Popular

Film & TV

The Manly Appeal of Ford v Ferrari

There used to be a lot of overlap between what we think of as a Hollywood studio picture (designed to earn money) and an awards movie (designed to fill the trophy case, usually with an accompanying loss of money). Ford v Ferrari is a glorious throwback to the era when big stars did quality movies about actual ... Read More
Politics & Policy

ABC Chief Political Analyst: GOP Rep. Stefanik a ‘Perfect Example’ of the Failures of Electing Someone ‘Because They Are a Woman’

Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst for ABC News, suggested that Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) was elected due to her gender after taking issue with Stefanik's line of questioning during the first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “Elise Stefanik is a perfect example of why just electing ... Read More
White House

Trump vs. the ‘Policy Community’

When it comes to Russia, I am with what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman calls the American “policy community.” Vindman, of course, is one of the House Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses. His haughtiness in proclaiming the policy community and his membership in it grates, throughout his 340-page ... Read More
Law & the Courts

DACA’s Day in Court

When President Obama unilaterally changed immigration policy after repeatedly and correctly insisting that he lacked the constitutional power to do it, he said that congressional inaction had forced his hand. In the case of his first major unilateral move — “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which ... Read More
White House

Impeachment and the Broken Truce

The contradiction at the center of American politics in Anno Domini 2019 is this: The ruling class does not rule. The impeachment dog-and-pony show in Washington this week is not about how Donald Trump has comported himself as president (grotesquely) any more than early convulsions were about refreshed ... Read More