Critics of education: Nostaglia for a time that never was

This is letter to the editor by Stephen Krashen is reblogged from Schools Matter

Sent to the Los Angeles Times

Nicholas Meyer (“Better history through storytelling” (Feb. 2), thinks that “no one learns history (of civics …) anymore” and blames the”dismanteld” school system.

The same complaint appeared in the New York Times, Sunday, April 4, 1943, in an article with the title “Ignorance of US History shown by college freshman.” The article said that only 25% of the students knew that Abraham Lincoln was the president during the civil war, and only 15% knew where Portland, Oregon was.

In 1930, Thomas Briggs of Columbia Teachers College, who reported that high school students had no idea who Solon was and were unable to define the Monroe Doctrine.  They were also deficient, according to Briggs, in math and writing.

Complaints about school quality go back at least to the 1830’s, and even then, as now, critics called for a “return” to higher standards .

Stephen Krashen

Source for Briggs, studies in the 1930’s: Hostadter, Richard. 1963. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.  New York: Vintage Books


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