Saturday, April 8, 2017

Are students less educated today than 50 years ago? / Don’t Know Much about History

I remember 30 years ago, when American students were taught to question, not just to believe in things just because someone said this is or that is true. 

Are Students Less Educated Today
than 50 Years Ago?

Dear Dr. Horvat,

Allow me to make haste to say that I find your articles an indispensable addition to my own cultural "re-formation" as I try to approach the Catholic standard.

This article in particular [Decreed: The end of the high school education] caught my attention as I was thinking about, (and curious about), the history of public education. I have been told by my elders, for example, that more was required of a student working toward a Bachelor's degree in the 50's than is required of a student today. I assume, therefore, that the high school student of the 50's also had to learn more.

I am also interested in civics, logic, and rhetoric education which seems strangely absent from education.

The so-called "immigration issue" has demonstrated the lack of logical discourse and also a lack of understanding or appreciation for our sovereignty, citizenship or laws. Not too long ago, I held up a sign near Columbus Circle in New York City stating, "Citizenship is a privilege not a right". You would be surprised at the number of sneers I had gotten.

Do you have any information on this? Am I right regarding public school education?


M. R. 


Dr. Horvat responds: 

Dear Mr. M.R.,

I believe you are correct in your suspicions that the modern public school education is producing less educated and cultured students than the graduates of 50 years ago.

It is irksome to me to hear the fawning of proud grandparents: “The children are sooo much smarter today.” I don’t agree. They are quite adept at computers - to the great detriment of their handwriting skills, I might note – but lack much basic knowledge of sentence structure, language arts, history – in effect, the basics.

A study done in 2002 confirmed that high school graduates of the 1950s did approximately the same on a general information test as college seniors did today. (Zogby Poll International conducted for the Princeton, NY-based National Association of Scholars).

In the 1950s many of the good colleges still had Latin or Greek requirements. Today, almost every college is introducing remedial English and language arts classes for incoming freshmen, who did not learn the basics of sentence structure and paragraph construction in high school. In the 1950s the normal high school graduate could parse a sentence; today’s average college English major would be hard pressed to identify a gerund or participle.

Civics, logic, rhetoric? Such classes – especially important in the formation of boys – have been replaced by social studies, revisionist history classes and “discussion classes”, during which students speak impromptu and spontaneously – in often unintelligible jargon or hip-hop talk. No matter, what is important is to be sincere, open, unprejudiced and tolerant. It is not just the university, but even today’s public primary and secondary schools that celebrate feminine, black, even homosexual history and “culture.” Yes, they are liberated - liberated from the "coercive" ideas of truth and reality.

Books have been written – Why Johnny Can’t Read, Why Johnny Still Can’t Read, etc. – detailing the failure of public education in teaching the rudiments and offering numerous reasons for the dismal results - the John Dewey revolution, outcome based education, multiculturalism, and so on.

In my view, at root is the advance of the egalitarian revolution in education. In an attempt to make an equal education for all, the standards have consistently dropped to satisfy the lowest common denominator. On one hand, the liberal sentimentalist view is that no child should be allowed to suffer embarrassment for being less intelligent than another or for not applying himself properly. On the other hand, no child should enjoy the “unfair” advantage of being honored for being more intelligent than another or publicly rewarded for work well done.

I recall the beautiful custom in the Schools of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart: the most outstanding student in the class - based on both grades and deportment - was awarded a sash in a public ceremony, and then she wore it daily throughout the year as a sign of her achievement.

According to the doctrine of St. Thomas, the fact that a person possesses authentic attributes and is recognized and honored for them by society is a good that is better than health or riches, inferior only to the grace of God, which transcends every other good. You can see the modern education follows the exact opposite principles that provided the foundation for all the social institutions in a sound Catholic society.

In dealing with your last point, it seems to me the educational institution of our country achieved new levels of stupidity on the "immigration issue." Back in the 1960s, following the “civil rights” agenda, some forces in education decided that students whose native language is not English should not have to suffer the great disadvantage of being forced to spend their days in English-speaking classrooms. The experiment of “bilingual education” was born: a bill was passed in 1968 requiring bilingual teachers for Spanish–speaking students so they could be educated in their “native language.” Even more, they were supposed to be instructed about their ethnic culture so they could develop self-esteem. This was all done in the name of an equal-opportunity education.

The theory was that it would be easier for students to learn English if they were literate first in their native language. It was a bad theory, and we are reaping the results now. Children in bilingual education from kindergarten through eighth grade cannot read well in English or Spanish. Many students graduate never having fully developed their English language skills, unprepared for higher education.

Today opposition is growing to this kind of teaching, especially from Latino parents. It is a healthy reaction and I applaud it. But I don’t foresee that it will offer any grand remedy for the problem of public education in the near future.

In the meantime, the home-schooling and small private school movement continues to grow. It is not difficult to understand why.



Don’t Know Much about History –

And about To Pay for It

In 1960, Sam Cooke released a hit song which began with the words "Don't know much about history." Beginning in 1990, Kenneth C. Davis began a popular series of books on history using Cooke's initial five words. Unfortunately, Cooke's lyrics, despite Davis' efforts, reflect not only the knowledge base (or lack of it) of today's millennial generation but also that of many American politicians. The United States is about to pay a bitter price for this ignorance.

To be fair to those youth formed after the millennium, they have reached adulthood after years of schooling in public or private institutions which were more interested in advancing Leftist propaganda than in imparting accurate knowledge regarding who we are and how we arrived at our current situation. For decades, students have been not only mislead by Leftist "educators," but also abandoned by most "Conservatives" who were, for whatever reason, too preoccupied to recognize that an entire generation was not being taught, but propagandized. The "who," "where," and "why," of the past remains vague at best for most young Americans. This leads directly to ignorance or an annoying confusion about the present.

"World War I or II?" "Cold War?" "Bolshevik Revolution?" (OK, there is no nation called "Bolshevik.")

The United States is in serious danger of losing its allies and being surrounded by hostile nations. The problem is, how does one explain this dilemma to individuals who very well may not know where the nations are to which one refers?

When someone warns: Aggression against the U.S. in the South China Sea! The youth formed after the millennium asks: Where? Why should we care about the South Chinese, anyway?

The reality

Americans of all ages have a sense of the dangers presented by Islamic militants, some of whom are now in the United States and ready to attack. More difficult to explain is the danger presented by China and Russia. After all, China is, by most estimates at this writing, the largest creditor of the United States and our second largest trading partner. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, aka the "fall of Communism," Russia was considered a democratic nation in the making. That was the thinking of the "experts" until Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory in November last year.

A review of the actions of China, which remains a Communist regime calling itself the Peoples Republic of China, and the not-so-democratic Russian Federation, cries out danger for the U.S. and its allies. To understand why and how one of our largest trading partners is a threat and why Russia is not really a democratic State requires a basic knowledge of history and an awareness of current events. History, however, is not taught, and the most dangerous developments of our day are not fully reported – at least in mass media outlets.

The dangerous situation in the South China Sea is an example. This part of the world sounds far away with little direct importance to the U.S. The truth is that much of the world's trade goes through this area, and several important U.S. allies, including Japan and the Philippines, depend on the United States to assist in their self-defense.

A propoganda t-shirt cover showing communist leaders havng a partySchooling in public or private institutions is more interested in advancing Leftist propaganda than in imparting accurate knowledge
The People's Republic of China, which claims the entire area, is constructing islands from coral reefs that are becoming military bases. Runways for military aircraft and harbors for warships are rapidly coming to completion. These new bases are tightening China's grip on the South China Sea. The People's Republic of China continues to expand its naval forces and intends to eventually rival the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific.

Japan is threatened not only by Chinese expansion, but also by Russian aggression. Within the last year, Japanese jet fighters have had to scramble 943 times to deter Russian military aircraft from entering Japanese airspace. Moscow is expanding its military installations on the Russian occupied Kuril Islands (owned by Japan until the end of WWII), and the growing Russian Pacific fleet engages in joint military exercises with China's navy.

Should China, or Russia and China, become capable of expelling the United States from the Asia-Pacific region, not only Japan and the Philippines, but also Australia and the free island of Taiwan, would eventually become virtual colonies of China.

The threats in Asia are matched by the dangers of Russian aggression in Europe. Russian troops have been in eastern Ukraine assisting separatists who want to unite with Russia. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are staging maneuvers in anticipation of a Russian attack. Poland is increasing its military budget and is seeking cooperation with neighboring States in an attempt to deter or blunt Russian aggression.

Germany is reviving its military tradition in response to Russia's aggressiveness.

Russia is assisting the Islamic Republic of Iran in its quest to obtain nuclear weapons and to deliver those weapons to virtually any target. Iran is prepared to share its nuclear technology with nations hostile to the United States.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, American and European investments in the Russian Federation and in the Peoples Republic of China have made possible the military build-up in Russia and China, as well as their expansion in various parts of the world, including Latin America.

What is necessary

Students Without a reform in the teaching system
the U.S. can hardly survive
All of the above makes no sense unless one knows some history along with geography. An individual is lost in current events unless one has some basic knowledge of what has already happened and where these places are.

America's survival depends on the people's readiness to meet the challenges around us. A knowledge of geography, current affairs, and, yes, even history, is vital. Ignorance of the world around us will lead to bad political decisions, which, in turn, can easily lead to national disaster.

Traditional schooling has failed. Youth formed after the millennium and anyone else wanting accurate information on the past and present can turn to the "non-traditional" media. A new world awaits – a sure cure if you "don't know much about history."


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