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ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

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Tinkering With Education

Missourian
October 18, 2014 by Editorial

One of the most obvious fields in which making changes has been harmful is education. To be kind, in many instances the tinkering has been well intended but a failure. Survey after survey have indicated this failure.

Some basic education subjects have been abandoned or replaced in attempts to improve education, but what has resulted is an inferior product. For example, penmanship courses are considered obsolete. Cursive writing has been ignored and there are college graduates who only know how to print (we know that from applications for employment), and spelling is a problem for them, along with expressing themselves in writing. This lack of core courses is evident in our elementary schools. Don’t blame the teachers, they teach what the schools mandate.

A failure in education is in the teaching of American history, government and economics. College students are earning degrees and have a total ignorance of American history. The sixth annual analysis of core curricula of 1,098 four-year colleges and universities by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that only 18 percent of schools require an American history course to graduate, 13 percent require a foreign language and 3 percent economics. The results of the survey were published in The Wall Street Journal.

It is easier to earn a college degree today than in the past. Few colleges and universities mandate courses in what are considered rigorous core subjects. Of course, in some lines of studies, core subjects are taken, and those students are getting a good education—and they are motivated. But there are what we used to call “Mickey Mouse” courses and degree paths that are, to put it bluntly, not much of a challenge to students. Michael Poliakoff, who directed the survey, and who was quoted in The Journal, said at some colleges and universities today, “It’s like saying to a lot of 18-year-olds, the cafeteria is open, you kids just eat whatever you like.”

The report has been dismissed by some college presidents as arbitrary, but there is growing unease about the value of a university degree at a time of grade inflation and employer complaints that graduates are entering the workforce without basic skills such as critical thinking, The Journal reported. Poliakoff says the lack of a rigorous core curriculum is behind the failure to learn. He adds that the nation’s civic and economic health is at stake.

We all know that education must begin in the home and that we are graduating some high school students who really haven’t earned the diploma that is given to them. On the other hand, we do have bright students who are taking tough courses and making the grade. We talked to a mother the other day whose high school freshman son is taking a college credit course in physics. 

Somewhere along the educational journey, the tinkers took control of the curriculum and they have dumbed down education.