The Henry Clay Test


Every few years, someone runs a story about how bad American students are at history. My favorite perennial news story of misguided outrage is the one about how bad they are at geography. The other regularly-occurring news stories are Can Animals Think and Unlocking the Mysteries of the Human Brain. We've been waiting for those two to pan out for a long time now. Let's just assume it's still a work in progress.

Here's the latest:

American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.
Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials said they were encouraged by a slight increase in eighth-grade scores since the last administration of the history test, in 2006. But even those gains offered little to celebrate, because, for example, fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution, the government’s statement on the results said.
Diane Ravitch, an education historian who was invited by the national assessment’s governing board to review the results, said she was particularly disturbed by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, which she called “very likely the most important decision” of the United States Supreme Court in the past seven decades. 
The most important decision decided by the United States Supreme Court was Bush vs Gore, 2000. All other cases pale in significance. American students aren't "bad" at history, math, geography, English, or science. American students are, for the most part, just stupid. It doesn't matter which subject we're talking about--most of them are dumber than a bag of hammers. Always have been, always will be.

Do you wish for it to be otherwise? Then spend more to educate the students who are worth educating. Take the ones who do not have the academic aptitude to go to college and teach them technical skills. Do not send anyone to college unless they can, from scratch, write a legible, comprehensive essay on the weird looking fellow pictured above.

No, you don't get to go to college unless you can tell me who Henry Clay is. Once you can do that, fine. Go off and pretend to know something. Til then, learn how to replace a burned-out fan motor inside of an air conditioning unit.

[my apologies for linking to the NY Times. I haven't linked to them since the paywall went up. If you're not paying for their nonsense, don't click the link]
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