Editor's note: The following column first appeared in the Washington Times.
How many conversations have we had with our friends, family and co-workers wondering what happened to the millennials? We expect a new generation to have new ideas and new ways of approaching the world. So how do we explain when a new generation is steeped in bullying, complaining about hurt feelings, demanding “safe spaces,” and using pride in fragile egos and weakened emotional states as the excuse to condemn free speech?
There’s more than one swamp eating away at this nation. The ignorant and intolerant meltdown of students is brought to us by a “liberal” education system determined to replace teaching with propaganda and logic and reason with unmoored emotion.
One of the more recent examples comes from last week. College students in New York were thrown out of a student-run coffee shop because their “Make America Great Again” caps violated the “safe space” rules. The offending students were accused of being fascists and given three minutes to leave the premises.
More results are now knocking at our doors. The Federalist reports, “Nearly half of American millennials (44 percent) would rather live in a socialist society than a capitalist one, according to a report from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which relied on YouGov polling data. Even so, there’s widespread ignorance among millennials about socialism and communism.”
They also remind us of a New York Times/CBS poll in 2016 in which 23 percent of those between the ages of 21 and 29 said Joseph Stalin, the genocidal Soviet tyrant, was a “hero.”
This is ignorance, bred by an education system with a political agenda. After all, if your students are functionally illiterate and unable to read at any critical level, then what a teacher says is the only thing that prevails. Arguments made by “the others” are, literally, not understood.
Today’s mindless ignorance manifesting in demands for “safe spaces,” and speech control isn’t surprising. We saw the dangers of illiteracy emerging in 2006. The American Institute of Research, in a study funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, reported, “More than 75 percent of students at two-year colleges and more than 50 percent of students at four-year colleges do not score at the proficient level of literacy. This means that they lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks, such as comparing credit card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the arguments of newspaper editorials.”
Fast-forward to California 2017 where a Fresno Bee headline blares, “Lawyers sue California because too many children can’t read.” California touts how it has funneled $10 billion into the poorest performing districts in the state. Because, you know, throwing money at a problem always solves it.
Or, apparently not.
“Assessments found less than half of California students from third grade to fifth grade have met statewide literacy standards since 2015. Both traditional and charter schools are failing. … Of the 26 lowest-performing districts in the nation, 11 are in California, according to the lawsuit. Texas, the largest state after California, has only one district among the 26.”
California’s education department insists they have “one of the most ambitious programs in the nation to serve low-income students.” It has also failed.
Kids are the same everywhere, including those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As many of us know, growing up poor doesn’t make you dumb. The ability to learn is innate, so isn’t it time to focus on who is doing the teaching, or in California’s case, those not teaching?
In the California lawsuit, it appears good teachers are trying to take a stand. “State assessments found 96 percent of students [at a plaintiff’s school] were not proficient in English or math, according to the lawsuit. Only eight of the school’s 179 students were found to be proficient when tested last year. David Moch, another plaintiff, is a retired teacher who taught at La Salle for 18 years. Moch said he had fifth graders in his kindergarten class.”
After years of sowing the education abandonment of our children, columnist Walter Williams offered up what we have reaped, via an American Council of Trustees and Alumni report on what college students know.
“Nearly 10 percent of the college graduates surveyed thought Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than 20 percent of the college graduates knew the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than a quarter of the college graduates did not know Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during World War II,” he said.
Just last year, the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus survey, which “measures things like critical thinking, analytical reasoning, document literacy, writing and communication,” according to The Wall Street Journal, found “40 percent of students tested who didn’t meet a standard deemed ‘proficient’ were unable to distinguish the quality of evidence in building an argument or express the appropriate level of conviction in their conclusion.”
The good news is this confirms the tyrannical and intolerant behavior of today’s college students is not, in fact, some sort of natural result of today’s modern world and can be reversed and rejected. But if we are to have the leaders we need for business, society and politics, we better start draining the academic swamp as soon as possible.