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The Dumbing-Down of America

“Is our children learning?” as George W. Bush so famously asked. Well, no, they is not learning, especially the history of their country, the school subject at which America’s young perform at their worst.

On history test given to 31,000 pupils by the National Assessment of Education Progress, the “Nation’s Report Card,” most fourth-graders could not identify a picture of Abraham Lincoln or a reason why he was important.

Most eighth-graders could not identify an advantage American forces had in the Revolutionary War. Twelfth-graders did not know why America entered World War II or that China was North Korea’s ally in the Korean War.

Only 20 percent of fourth-graders attained even a “proficient” score in the test. By eighth grade, only 17 percent were judged proficient. By 12th grade, 12 percent. Only a tiny fraction was graded “advanced,” indicating a superior knowledge of American history.

Given an excerpt from the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education — “We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate education facilities are inherently unequal” — and asked what social problem the court was seeking to correct, 2 percent of high school seniors answered “segregation.”

As these were multiple-choice questions, notes Diane Ravitch, the education historian, the answer “was right in front of them.”

A poster put out by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, circa 1940, was shown and the question asked, “The poster above seeks to protect America and aid Britain in the struggle against …” Four countries were listed as possible answers.

A majority did not identify Germany, though the poster contained a clue. The boot about to trample the Statue of Liberty had a huge swastika on the sole.


“We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” historian David McCullough told the Wall Street Journal.

“History textbooks,” added McCullough, “are “badly written.” Many texts have been made “so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence” — such as inventor Thomas Edison — “are given very little space or none at all.”

Trendies and minorities have their sensibilities massaged in the new history, which is, says McCullough, “often taught in categories — women’s history, African American history, environmental history — so that many students have no sense of chronology … no idea of what followed what.”

But if the generations coming out of our schools do not know our past, do not who we are or what we have done as a people, how will they come to love America, refute her enemies or lead her confidently?

This appalling ignorance among American young must be laid at the feet of an education industry that has consumed trillions of tax dollars in recent decades.

Comes the retort: History was neglected because Bush, with No Child Left Behind, overemphasized reading and math.

Yet the same day the NAEP history scores were reported, the New York Times reported on the academic performance of New York state high school students in math and English. The results were stunning.

Of state students who entered ninth grade in 2006, only 37 percent were ready for college by June 2010. In New York City, the figure was 21 percent, one in five, ready for college.

In Yonkers, 14.5 percent of the students who entered high school in 2006 were ready for college in June 2010. In Rochester County, the figure was 6 percent.

And the racial gap, 45 years after the federal and state governments undertook heroic exertions to close it, is wide open across the Empire State.

While 51 percent of white freshman in 2006 and 56 percent of Asian students were ready for college in June 2010, only 13 percent of New York state’s black students and 15 percent of Hispanics were deemed ready.

The implications of these tests are alarming, not only for New York but for the country we shall become in this century.

In 1960, there were 18 million black Americans and few Hispanics in a total population of 160 million. By 2050, African Americans and Hispanics combined will, at 200 million, roughly equal white Americans in number.

If the racial gap in academic achievement persists for the next 40 years, as it has for the last 40, virtually all of the superior positions in the New Economy and knowledge-based professions will be held by Asians and whites, with blacks and Hispanics largely relegated to the service sector.

America will then face both a racial and class crisis.

The only way to achieve equality of rewards and results then will be via relentless use of the redistributive power of government — steep tax rates on the successful, and annual wealth transfers to the less successful. It will be affirmative action, race preferences, ethnic quotas and contract set-asides, ad infinitum — not a prescription for racial peace or social tranquility.

Copyright 2011 Creators.com

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#1 Comment By Art R. On June 20, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

Well Pat, there are very simple solutions to the problems in our government schools: 1. throw lots more money at them; 2. bring in more layers of “doctors of education” to set the right tone; 3. hire more educational theorists at universities to come up with new ideas like “multiple intelligences” and 4. if all else fails, rejigger the assessments (eduspeak for “tests”) as was done with the SATs to achieve the desired outcome and make both educators and kids feel good about themselves.

#2 Comment By Russell On June 20, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

Has Pat been reading the New York Review of Home School Textbooks again ?

All this and Conservapedia too !

#3 Comment By Chad Rushing On June 20, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

If you want your children to actually learn rather than just flirt and kill time with their peers all day, private schooling or home schooling is the way to go. That is especially true if you want them to receive an explicitly Christian education rather than indoctrination in secular humanism, the preferred philosophy of the U.S. government. And while you’re at it, take the TVs and video game consoles out of your kids’ bedrooms; they can live without those constant distractions.

#4 Comment By Bill Pearlman On June 21, 2011 @ 6:23 am

Two Pat Buchanan columns in a row that I actually liked. Is the world still rotating on it axis?

#5 Comment By Andy On June 21, 2011 @ 7:54 am

Well put. I think affirming what we suspect. Chad is 100% correct, and not just committed Christians but Orthodox Jews, and I would think others as well who care about their children’s education make every effort to keep their kids out of the public school system in most districts. Sadly, many public schools are dumbed down to the point that a degree is almost meaningless as proof of literacy. The same can happen to public colleges. My guess is that many community college students would perform as poorly on similar tests as the kids entering high school. It seems to me that many degrees mean little in the way of preparing young adults for a career, and are a waste of money. At minimum we need to emphasize vocational training in areas where there are existing needs. At least a semi literate population will be able to find a job.

#6 Comment By David Peterson On June 21, 2011 @ 7:58 am

Black people made very significant gains in income and employment during the years of World War II and during the booming industrial economy that followed in the late 40’s 50’s and 60’s. Many moved to the Northern states, expectations rose and the Civil Rights movement brought greater opportunity and equality (at least initially). As Pat is aware, we now have the Wal-Mart, McJobs – post industrial economy, where the idea of a living wage is disappearing. The middle class is being “phased out.” What kind of an education do you need to work at Mickey D’s, Target Store or wait on an unemployment line?

#7 Comment By Brian On June 21, 2011 @ 9:59 am

Andy makes a salient point here. We need a broad-based return to vocational schooling. Many other OECD countries, especially Germany (which has a lower unemployment level than we do for the first time since 1982) have these kinds of programs.

Not every student is going to understand the ins-and-outs of the Treaty of Versailles, or the Grange Movement. However, to those that cannot – how about teaching them about an air conditioner, or engines?

Unfortunately, this will not be implemented because the majority of these students will be black and hispanic. For the millionth time, Political Correctness continues to strangle our nation – ironically hurting those it is supposedly “helping.”

#8 Comment By Ang On June 21, 2011 @ 11:06 am

I am a recently graduated highschooler and I have to agree with the analysis presented. I find that a great many of my peers don’t learn most of the information on any subject.
I think that there are a number of reasons for this. One, it’s far too easy just to coast intellectually. There are few, if any, incentives to excel in school. It is easier to take a half schedule senior year and maintain a high GPA along with a leisurely lifestyle. Not only that, after the information is presented and the test is given, there is little need to use the information. The culmination of most courses is the final. After that, U.S. history, or knowledge of any topic, is irrelevant to most students. I think that school’s curriculum need to continuously incorporate knowledge from earlier courses to make sure information remains relevant. Also, I think that courses should more explicitly teach skill than facts. Knowledge is inly useful if one can put it into a larger framework and synthesize it. Furthermore, I think the education system teaches people facts, but it never teaches an appreciation of knowledge and a desire to learn more. Any thoughts?

#9 Comment By cackcon On June 21, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

To be effective, education must be both (a) demanding and (b) non-standardized.

Thus, public education in our country will never be effective.

Give teachers more discretion? Racism! Favoritism! Make more demands on students to think critically? Racism!

Our best students excel largely in spite of, rather than because of, the educational system–one exception being that they likely obtain greater access to educational materials than otherwise.

#10 Comment By John Dorman On June 21, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

Along with death and taxes, the other certainty in life is we will always have old men complaining that young men are poorly educated.

#11 Comment By Leon Berton On June 21, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

I think Ang raises important points. Whether we like it or not, we, and our republic, are in an era with distinctive dynamics, and we have yet to bring forth women and men capable of effectively dealing with what historian, John Lukacs (even if some might find his articulations jarring) has described:

“Many of the main features of the Modern Age, which began around 1500, have come to, or very near to, their end. The expansion of Europe. The conquests of the white race. The colonial empires. The Atlantic at the center of history. The predominance of sea power. Liberalism. Humanism. Bourgeois culture. The predominance of urban and urbane civilization. Permanence of residence. The respect for privacy. The Newtonian concept of the universe and of physical reality. The ideal of scientific objectivity. The Age of the Book.”

We need creative approaches towards transmitting our rich heritage in a new manner, without distorting the truth(s) of what needs to be passed on to this republic’s present and future generations.

We need persons who can integrate insights of thinkers such as Lukacs with those like H.M. McLuhan and George Gilder, and a number of others, who offer insights into not only where we have been in order to have arrived where we are now, but where we are able to be with the dawn of new generations instilled with an understanding, love, and commitment to this republic’s founding principles.

If we can, this republic will not only thrive, but remain vital for all of humanity as we proceed further into an expansive era of ‘electronic’ knowledge technologies.

#12 Comment By Michael On June 21, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

For some time now I have wondered why we call police officers of a city or county our finest.You may be stopped and issued a citation which is mostly multiple choice yet it takes the officer 15-20 mins to fill it out.It gets no better how bright can the finest be?And they are charged with securing the peace and law enforcment.

#13 Comment By Libertarian Jerry On June 21, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

The 10th plank to the Communist Manifesto calls for free Public Education. Cultural Marxism and the Left have taken over the administration and curriculum of the Public Schools. The object of the Public Schools is not to educate but to indoctrinate. So,if you can keep your kids out of the Public Schools and send them to selective private schools or home school them you can keep them away from the collectivist poison that is being spewed.After all their your kids not the property of the State. Aren’t they?

#14 Comment By Arnold D On June 21, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

I think this article misses the point of education, which is the warehousing of people under age 22. Now that marriage has been destroyed, how can a society protect itself from teenagers with nothing to do?

The choices are the university, the military, or prison with the first option being the most appealing. Instead of actually giving students knowledge, high schools dangle the university carrot in front of them.

Even if they just get a worthless piece of paper and a pile of debt, at least young people are kept in a structured environment until age 22.

#15 Comment By Bill N. On June 22, 2011 @ 3:02 am

How can anyone not like what Mr. Buchanan says/writes? He has been calling it for years! Be it the insane trade deals, immigration, the standard of living for America going under, wars we should not be in, etc. This is yet another great article.. Mr. Buchanan SHOULD have been the President of the United States but the people chose nonsense of substance…. A true visionary for sure… FAR ahead of his time politically on many subjects… this being one for sure… You have to be a FOOL not to admit he has called it in many areas for many years… Awesome writer and spokesman… Wish Pat would have run for Senator/Congress, etc…. A Plus!

#16 Comment By Barry Loberfeld On June 22, 2011 @ 7:15 am


#17 Comment By NY Teacher On June 22, 2011 @ 7:36 am

If any reader needs astute confirmation of our edcuation failure (really a conspiracy to de-educate), then one needs to read the postings of Russell and Arnold D, above. Abject paradigms of our failing — and duped to claim otherwise — students, now groping as moronic adults.

#18 Comment By Another teacher On June 22, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

Let me just say, Mr. Buchanan, great article as usual. I can confirm what you say first hand. The textbooks are very suspect because you never quite know why a particular story has been included — because it’s by a precious minority group member, or because it’s actually a good story. Not to suggest these are mutually exclusive, but it makes things very difficult. You could be teaching Beowolf, and then all the sudden there’s a page in the middle of the story about some hispanic guy. Ridiculous! They cannot bear to go ten pages without diversity. And that’s British Lit, we’re talking about! Very depressing. And most teachers (mostly women) are too ignorant to realize what’s going on.

#19 Comment By hammersmith On June 22, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

so stewdants r not memorizing the american fantasy pat b. would call history. what is the point of having them “learn” the lies and distortions of official tale tellers. making them better automatons? perhaps their “ignorance” will make them strong!

#20 Comment By CompassionateFascist On June 22, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

It’s all done with malevolant, collectivist purpose. The teachers’ unions are bright Red. They dumb out and demoralize whole generations in order to create failed adults who will be dependent on government for the very food they eat. Ultimately: you want today’s cheese ration? It’s in that FEMA camp over there…just walk through the gate.

#21 Comment By Henry Drummond On June 23, 2011 @ 5:56 am

If Pat Buchganan, who thinks Poland started the Second World War, thinks American kids are dumb about history, there is hope yet.

#22 Comment By NY Teacher On June 23, 2011 @ 8:44 am

H. Drummond: Where in the above article does Pat B infer that (fact or not) “Poland started the Second World War?”

Noting your reading deficits, one can only conclude that you are one of the dumbed-down citizens churned out by your favorite Teacher-Union Nazis…

#23 Comment By chris On June 23, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

NY Teacher,

Nowhere in Henry Drummonds response did he state that his Poland remark was based upon this article. Perhaps you have a reading deficit. Also, you misspelled education above. You are an ass.

#24 Comment By DLK On June 23, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

One more major reason democracy -as we know- it is under duress.

#25 Comment By C. M. Hawkins On June 24, 2011 @ 5:12 am

The “dumbing down” of American education is very real but the impulse to “racialize” the question is a distraction. It was White middle class parents who demanded that we regigger SAT scoring methods when their kids were not performing well on these tests. There is too much emphasis on memorization in “education” and not enough analysis and critical thinking.

#26 Comment By NY Teacher On June 24, 2011 @ 8:28 am

The comments attached to a specific article in any periodical pertain to the specific article, and not to the price of tea in China. Moreover, typos such as “edyoucation” are just that: typos.
That you can’t discern these elementary principles attests to your being in the sad company of the burgeoning morons — so amply keeping our teacher unions in business. And providing the muscle for the NeoCon wars. Then again, what would you known about the NeoCons and wars… Pity the likes of your ilk.

#27 Comment By chris On June 24, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

NY Teacher,

You’re still an ass.

Further, if you are going to imply that another on this website is intellectually challenged you need to make sure that your criticism is meticulous. I agree – typos are typos – and should generally be ignored – unless the person is an ass. If anybody needs pity it is your students. I think that it is you that should be greatful for a teacher’s union. I’m sure you’ve made your share of enemies along the way.

#28 Comment By dexter On June 24, 2011 @ 1:56 pm


School can’t teach you an appreciation of knowledge but since you are reading this article and not some silly kids magazine I bet you’ve got what it takes.

PS College won’t teach you most of what you need to know about a subject either. If you are really smart you will understand that you are never a “finished product”. Even college is just the beginning.

#29 Comment By Blackfoot On March 22, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

The real reason that dumbing down occurs is to keep the votors as dumb as possible so that they continue to vote for those who control the money and power. No-one cares if the masses are unemployed or even starving, as long as they vote.
America, wake up to what your useless politicians are up to, and what the two political parties are up to, and try (really try) to regain your freedom and former national glory.

#30 Comment By Ricky On May 11, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

It seems to me kids need to know important things for survival like how to grow food not what the history books said about things 200 years ago. I doubt that 35 percent of people in the United States would know how to grow food. Let them get hungry and see how good using correct words taste or what happened in history fills their stomach.