Dumber Students? It’s Not Just Me!

CNN Reports that the high school class of 2011’s SAT scores were some of the lowest on record. The reading scores are the lowest on record and the combined reading and math scores are at their lowest point since 1995.

Public education in America has devolved into a two track system; the top 10% get a decent education through magnet and honors classes while the rest are stuck with crappy teachers in a glorified babysitting program.

Our lower education system is completely broken and it bodes poorly for the future of the nation. More and more technical majors in American universities are becoming dominated by foreign students, if we don’t fix this imbalance soon (through more Americans, not by kicking out the exchange students), then eventually even our higher learning centers will decline as other nations’ schools outpace even our currently excellent(ish) public universities and leave America in the dust once and for all. Can we really expect to keep our technological dominance when we eventually are only left with strip mall colleges? Can even the next Silicon Valley protégé emerge when she or he does not receive the mathematics education that is required during their formative years?

Just another reminder for me to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese before too long.


  1. Francisco Bacopa says

    Might just be that everyone is supposed to go to college now and more people are encouraged to take the test. Fewer people took it back in the day and the high 12’s and low 13’s were relatively more common.

    College is not for everyone.

    Study wiring and get yourself a state license and become a Union contractor. You’ll make more money than my high 13’s ever did.

  2. BobApril says

    I think you have a point, Francisco, but expecting everyone to go to college has been the norm for awhile now, hasn’t it? You’d think the decline would be leveling off. Besides, my anecdotal evidence shows me that people really are getting dumber (or at least less educated.) Not only the troops who used to e-mail me assignment requests in text-message spelling and grammar, but the new cashier trainee my wife has that can’t figure a 50% discount in her head, count change, or even figure out how much money she’s holding when a customer hands her two $50s and a $20. Yeah, this one is the worst my wife has seen – but only by a slim margin.

  3. scenario says

    I believe the education system is divided into high, medium and low. Kids in rich school systems get a good to excellent education. Kids in middle class schools get a fair to good education, depending on the teachers they get.

    The real problem is in the poor neighborhoods. Many of the kids in the poor school systems have the most serious problems with the least resources to deal with them. They get the least support at home either because the parents don’t care about education, are actively against education or are working so much to try to get ahead they don’t have time.

    Most of the truly terrible scores you see are from poor schools.
    Lumping all american schools together is not fair to the many hard working educators.

  4. TX_secular says

    I regularly see college students (in a large, public school) unable to calculate a simple average to figure out their grades in class. Don’t even get me started on their poor critical thinking skills. I just graded an assignment where students had to defend a point of view and their inability to make reasoned arguments and provide evidence was frightening. I know this is anecdotal but over time there does seem to be a trend towards poorer academic performance.

  5. P Smith says

    The goal of the wealthy in the US has been, since the days of the Rockefellers, to turn the US into what feudal Europe once was, a two class system: The few very rich, and the majority who are poor. The US has been gradually reverting from its ideals to a theocratic plutocracy, and nobody notices because it happens one step at the time.

    The wealthy want an uneducated rabble working for them who don’t know enough to question how unethical and corrupt the system is. They want a return to “satanic mills” of England where workers had no rights or protections. (Collapsed mines, anyone? OSHA and workplace safety restrictions rescinded, etc.)

    Why should anyone be surprised that health care in the US is a disaster, and that education for anyone but the rich is becoming almost impossible to receive.


  6. Saul Adrem says

    As a high school teacher, it seems to me the biggest problem is student and parent apathy. Sure, there are some bad teachers out there who don’t help. Fully 25% of the parents I try to call don’t have a working phone number and another 25% don’t seem to care that their child is failing….what can I do with that???

  7. ischemgeek says

    As someone who went through high school relatively recently (graduated 6 years ago), I would suggest this isn’t restricted to the US. I’ve been TAing university-level lab courses for two years now and tutoring part-time for four, and it definitely seems that each year, my students clients are less well-prepared for the courses they’re trying to take than the year before.

    Why? I don’t know, but I have to say this much: If you’re not in post-secondary education, you would be absolutely shocked to know how many people enter Science programs without grasping basic algebra (I’m not even talking ‘quadratic formula’ basic, I’m talking “x+5=8, find x” basic – stuff that my sister in a ‘mainstream’ math class was introduced to in grade 7, and that I, in an AP course, learned in grade 5). More alarming are those whose first language is English but that don’t seem to understand that a basic sentence structure requires a subject and a verb.

    The most infuriating ones to me are those who know they don’t know this material, and then expect me to magic them up an A when they a) don’t have the background to grasp the course b) don’t want to get the background to grasp the course and c) have no desire to spend more time on the course than the hour-a-week they pay me to spend on it… during which time they get pissed off if I don’t do that week’s assignment for them. I fire these ones as clients. Maybe I get less money this way, but it’s far less frustrating and, I feel, more honest. If they’re not gonna do the work, why should I waste my time and their money?

    The students described in the above make up about a third of the students who try to hire me nowadays… when I started for years ago, they were more like a fifth. Still a minority, but alas, a growing minority.

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