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IN EDUCATION, THE PAST SHOULD RAISE OUR EXPECTATIONS

Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.
]For the Laurel Leader-Call (5/98)]

The need to rethink our educational approach is evident—just review our past successes in education and our current failures. It is commonly known that American high schools are graduating thousands who are functionally illiterate, to say nothing of cultural illiteracy. With more funds, facilities, and faculty than ever before, one could hardly exaggerate the epidemic proportions of the failure of the modern education bureaucracy — though statistics could be rehearsed without end. Two weeks ago we introduced a remedy, Classical and Christian Education, in an article entitled, "In Education, New Isn't Always Better." This renewed view of education is taking hold of America and impacting public, private, and home schools. In 1991, Douglas Wilson authored the ground-breaking book which outlines this approach, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning (Crossway Books). After detailing the dismal failure of our contemporary efforts to produce universal literacy, we find these words in a section entitled, "Do We Want Too Much?"

 "Have we perhaps set our expectations too high? Is it unrealistic to suppose that everyone can be literate? Can a nation be educated? Or even worse, is the drive for universal literacy horribly misguided?. . . . History answers the question for us, and the answer is that our expectations are not too high. Our second president, John Adams, referred to the fact that "a native in America, especially of New England, who cannot read and write is as rare a phenomenon as a comet." A report to the third president, Thomas Jefferson, concluded that "not more than four in a thousand [young Americans] are unable to write legibly—even neatly. . . ." The report gave credit for this state of affairs in America to the practice of Bible reading, as well as to the reading of newspapers. In 1850, the illiteracy rate in Europe was 50 percent (60 percent if Russia was included). In the United States at that time the illiteracy rate was only 22 percent, and that was counting the slaves. If the slaves were not counted, the illiteracy rate was less than 11 percent, and for large subgroups like male New Englanders, the rate approached zero."

Over the next few weeks we will discuss more fully Classical and Christian Education, taking selections from key books and resources on the subject. On the evening of June 15th (1997), Father's Day, Douglas Wilson (cited above), will be in Laurel addressing the topic.

© Gregg Strawbridge. All Rights Reserved.