The ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment’s suc­cess

The Covington News - - OPINION - COLUM­NIST Wal­ter E. Wil­liams is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity. To find out more about Wal­ter E. Wil­liams and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Cre­ators Syn­di­cate Web page at www.cre­ators.co

Many view Amer­ica’s ed­u­ca­tion as a fail­ure, but in at least one im­por­tant way, it’s been a suc­cess — a suc­cess in dumb­ing down the na­tion so that we fall easy prey to char­la­tans, hustlers and quacks. You say, “Wil­liams, that’s in­sult­ing! Ex­plain yourself.” OK, let’s start with a ques­tion or two.

Are you for or against global warm­ing, later re­named cli­mate change and more re­cently re­named cli­mate dis­rup­tion? En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have re­named it be­cause they don’t want to look silly in the face of cool­ing tem­per­a­tures. About 650 mil­lion years ago, the Earth was frozen from pole to pole, a pe­riod sci­en­tists call Snow­ball Earth. The Earth is no longer frozen from pole to pole. There must have been global warm­ing, and it can­not be blamed on hu­mans. Through­out the Earth’s his­tory, we’ve had both ice ages and higher tem­per­a­tures when CO2 emis­sions were 10 times higher than they are to­day. There’s one im­mutable fact about cli­mate. Only id­iocy would con­clude that mankind’s ca­pac­ity to change the cli­mate is more pow­er­ful than the forces of na­ture.

Dur­ing Barack Obama’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, his slo­gans were about hope and change. At the time, I asked people whether they were for or against change. Most of­ten, I re­ceived a blank stare, where­upon I re­minded them that change is a fact of life. Nonethe­less, when can­di­date Obama ut­tered “hope and change,” it was re­ceived with thun­der­ous ap­plause. There was also thun­der­ous ap­plause when Obama promised, “This was the mo­ment when the rise of the oceans be­gan to slow and our planet be­gan to heal.” Only a de­ranged en­vi­ron­men­tal wacko and duped people could be­lieve that a non-god can change ocean depths. Amer­i­cans fall easy prey to char­la­tans of all stripes be­cause of the ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment’s suc­cess in dumb­ing down the na­tion.

His­to­rian Arthur M. Sch­lesinger Jr. wrote in “The Dis­unit­ing of Amer­ica”: “His­tory is to the na­tion ... as mem­ory is to the in­di­vid­ual. As an in­di­vid­ual de­prived of mem­ory be­comes dis­ori­ented and lost, not know­ing where he has been or where he is go­ing, so a na­tion de­nied a con­cep­tion of its past will be dis­abled in deal­ing with its present and its fu­ture.”

The Na­tional As­sess­ment of Ed­u­ca­tional Progress tests stu­dents in grades four, eight and 12 on sev­eral broad sub­ject ar­eas ev­ery few years. Just 20 per­cent of fourth-graders, 17 per­cent of eighth-graders and 12 per­cent of 12th-graders - ciency in Amer­i­can his­tory in the 2010 ex­ams. Be­cause stu­dents don’t learn Amer­i­can his­tory, they learn lit­tle about our found­ing prin­ci­ples and they fail to learn why Amer­ica is an ex­cep­tional na­tion. But that’s a part of the pro­gres­sive/lib­eral agenda. If Amer­i­cans knew and un­der­stood our found­ing prin­ci­ples and val­ues, spe­cial in­ter­est groups and politi­cians couldn’t run roughshod over our lib­er­ties.

But it’s not just K-12 stu­dents who are ig­no­rant of our his­tory. In a 1990 sur­vey —-and there’s been no im­prove­ment since — al­most half of col­lege se­niors couldn’t lo­cate the Civil War within the cor­rect half-century. More re­cently, 60 per­cent of Amer­i­can adults couldn’t name the pres­i­dent who or­dered the drop­ping of over 20 per­cent didn’t know where — or even whether — the atomic bomb had been used. The same people didn’t know who Amer­ica’s en­e­mies were dur­ing World War II (Ger­many, Ja­pan and Italy). In a civics sur­vey, more Amer­i­can teenagers were able to name The Three Stooges (Larry, Moe and Curly) than the three branches of the federal govern­ment (ex­ec­u­tive, leg­isla- tive and ju­di­cial). A third of the people who were asked the ori­gin of the state­ment “From each ac­cord­ing to his abil­ity, to each ac­cord­ing to his need” re­sponded by say­ing it’s from our Bill of Rights, when it’s ac­tu­ally from “The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo.” I’d say that the ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment has been suc­cess­ful be­yond its wildest dreams in re­duc­ing Amer­i­cans’ abil­ity to think and there­fore caus­ing them to have lit­tle knowl­edge of or love for our found­ing prin­ci­ples.

WAL­TER E. WIL­LIAMS

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