As a direct consequence of reforms prompted by the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, “big government is moving in on education” in the United States, according to Aldo S. Bernardo, Distinguished Service Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Binghamton.
“Local citizens, taxpayers, parents and school boards seem to have been mesmerized by the sheer size of the reform,” he observes.
As a result of the Goals 2000 reforms adopted after A Nation at Risks‘s publication, “what is really happening is not a dumbing down process, but the emasculation of the American educational system,” Bernardo warns. “The rigor, discipline, dedication, and persistence associated through the centuries with real learning are fast disappearing.”
“Dumbing down” is like limping, Bernardo says, while “emasculation” is like not being able to walk at all.
Marianne M. Jennings, professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University, agrees with Bernardo’s assessment. Jennings was “stunned” to discover recently that her eighth-grade daughter–a straight-A student–couldn’t figure out 10 percent of 470 without the aid of a calculator, nor did she know that 25 percent could be expressed as “one-quarter” or “one-fourth.” Although she had taken an advanced placement US history class, Jennings’ daughter didn’t know which side Paul Revere was on, nor was she clear on which war was fought in Boston.
“She has consistently received good grades without the benefit of a good education,” Jennings says of her daughter. When asked “are the other kids this dumb,” Jennings’ daughter responded without missing a beat. “Oh, they’re much dumber.”