Phi Beta Cons

Someone Else Who Sees the Dumbing Down Problem

Every so often, I spy a letter to the editor from a writer who really nails the truth. Today is one of those days. Reading the Wall Street Journal, I came across this letter from a man in Kansas who understands that the more the government pushes formal education, the more it dumbs it down. Here is the letter:

Your editorial “Free College, Dude” (July 11) omits one important consideration: Today’s college degree indicates the holder’s commercial competence as about equal to that of one with a high-school diploma many years ago. I taught at a college in the ’50s and then again 40 years later, and the downward slide in the typical student’s learning capability was alarming. So when we see that most jobs today go to folks with a college degree, it means the employer is, probably knowingly, hiring someone with the ability—and performance prospects—of yesterday’s high-school grad. We once concluded that everyone deserved a free high-school-level education, so now shouldn’t that mean a free college degree? Of course we could strive to improve our educational system to reacquire yesterday’s standards. But that may require the same 40 years it took to lose them.

Harry R. Clements

Wichita, Kan.

As I have said over and over, policies to increase our “educational attainment” just mean that it takes longer for students to learn what they need to. Many, sadly, never learn much of anything.

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

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