by Frank Muller
If we look back into the history of American education, we see a great contrast with the classical Western civilization model of education and the last sixty years of progressive education throughout our country. The prior model emphasized reading, writing, arithmetic and comprehension. That is, we taught students the basics of ordered thought and then taught how to think by applying those lessons to understanding.
How well did the system of educating American students do compared against students from around the world prior to the taking hold of progressive educational ideas? The Council of Foreign Relations did an in-depth historical study of this question, and the results are astonishing.
For the current cohort of 65–74-year-old Americans who primarily received a classical Western Civilization model of education, this cohort ranking was # 1 in the world at the high school level. Let that sink in for a bit and contemplate the correlation to growth that this cohort of Americans contributed to America.
For the current cohort of 35–44-year old’s, these Americans at the high school are ranked 13th from around the world. Let that sink in for a bit and contemplate the correlation to future growth this cohort of Americans will contribute to America.
For the current cohort of 25–34-year old’s, these Americans at the high school level were ranked 18th from around the world. Let that sink in for a bit and contemplate the correlation to future growth this cohort of Americans will contribute to America.
For the current cohort of 15–24-year old’s, these Americans at the high school level are currently projected to be ranked between 22nd -25th in the world. Let that sink in for a bit and contemplate the correlation to future growth this cohort of Americans will contribute to American growth.
Within the older cohorts there was also the notion of ability tracking, that is IQ tests, academic projective tests like the SAT’s and ACT’s and others. This of course did not sit well with folks who disagreed with aptitude tests but instead inferred with little critically tested theories that differences in aptitude were related to race, wealth and socio-economic factors though the research simply said certain groups did less well relatively to others but never actually postulated and proved the actual causality factors.
Thus, the war was on between whether aptitude is a function of race or economics or other factors. The implicit assumption was that all students are college capable, and all students have the same aptitude and what holds them back are these socio-economic factors. Thus, the premise was revealed, and the test began.
What was the test? It was the slow elimination of vocational training “shop”. Not only was the training systematically eliminated it was systemically degraded as people assumed that students who preferred vocational training were being abused by the socio-economic stigmas. Well, what have we learned?
We learned what we already knew. There were students who loved Calculus and Aristotle but could barely operate a hammer. There were others that could create works of art with sheet metal because of sheer eye hand coordination and visualization skills combined with advanced dexterity and strength. Thus, we tried to take that latter student and make him or her a business major (and they failed out).
How do we know this to be true? More than 30% of all high school students graduate with neither academic nor vocational job skills and never go to college. This is a national disgrace. That 30% happens to represent the prior educations output of electricians, welders, plumbers, concrete and steel working that are the backbone of an industrial economy through vocational training. Today your average lawyer makes less than the average master plumber. Hmmm….
Of the 68% that go to college, approximately 40% fail out within two years which translates into wasted time, money and loss of self-esteem. Of the remaining 60% that do graduate from college nearly 40% of those are doing work that only require a high school education to qualify for.
What has been the massive cost in dollars for this failed experiment that had no statistical basis even to be tried in the first place? What has been the massive cost in terms of broken lives, broken wills, broken bank accounts from this engagement in feel good yet not reasoned thinking?
Despite the massive evidence that America does not have enough qualified trades people, despite the massive evidence that almost half of all college graduates should never have gone to college in the first place, despite the fact that we have to illegally immigrate those trades workers whilst we hypocritically deride their being here to bail us out of our own mistakes – why don’t we change?
Let us go to our school boards and start encouraging young men and women who have the aptitude for a vocational trade to train them accordingly and early. Let us praise and acknowledge those young men and women who volunteer for the Armed Forces to gain that vocational and management training. Let us send off to college every student of any race or economic status that has the proven aptitude to succeed at the University level and let us use reason to determine the causal factors that determine academic aptitude.
Let me close with yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal showing how schools like MIT and others that began to eschew aptitude tests only to find out that those admitted without the academic chops but possessed the favored socio-economic markers -what was their results? Below average performance and many never made it past their freshman year.
Now, the schools that fostered nonsensical thinking are finally doing what? Reinstating rigorous academic standards and I say hooray. Now, bring back the vocational training this country needs, and those students so blessed with those abilities and let us train them with the dignity they deserve and provides jobs for them that not only allow them to raise a family well but contribute to the long-term growth and competitiveness of America.
May Peace be with us all.