The education problems in the United States won't be solved by the Chinese and Italians. In September, the Manhattan Institute released a survey (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) that found only 70 percent of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32 percent of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges. The rates are particularly bad for blacks and Hispanics, with just 51 percent of black students and 52 percent of Hispanic students graduating, and 20 percent of blacks and 16 percent of Hispanics ready for college.
The trends in American public education have not always been encouraging. Long-term trends in science and math showed declines in the 1970s and early '80s, followed by modest increases, according Department of Education figures. But an education is more than regurgitating "facts" on a test. It is about, as Alexander Pope noted, forming "the common mind. Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined."
We are losing our "common mind" and what it means to be an American. It is being replaced with a watered-down "multiculturalism" that neither advances unique American ideals nor, it would appear from test results, propels many students toward the advantages of a truly educated mind.
Contemporary students know more about sex than about Shakespeare, more about the environment than about T.S. Eliot, more about popular culture than about Thomas Paine. How can foreign governments possibly teach American students how to become better and more educated Americans? Sadly, that does not appear to be the objective of the Advanced Placement program. It should be the objective of every American and the policy of our government.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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