Phi Beta Cons

Is College the New Junior High School?

It’s pretty well known that many American college students are not academically ready for a college education. At some community colleges, an alarmingly large majority of students need remedial education.

It turns out that the U.S. has no special claim as the world’s foremost slackers. The same problems are now occurring in Europe. One American professor who teaches law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Jonathan Price, describes the same sad decline there (law can be an undergraduate program in Europe):

At this point, they have passed through approximately twelve years of basic education and two and a half years of higher education — at great public expense — yet many cannot string sentences together into a single coherent paragraph.

And Leiden is not Open Admissions State U. — it’s one of the most prestigious schools in Europe. Incoming students’ skills are now so bad that the law faculty had to remove an outstanding course on “the history of European legal codifications” as a requirement for first-year law students to make room for “basic writing instruction.”

Maybe we should rejoice on this side of the pond: Surely mediocrity likes company just as much as misery.

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