Failure has failed

According to many reputable experts, the American education system, of which I am a part, is failing. Students leave high school unprepared for college level work. I’ve seen many examples of that. What to do?

Robert Samuelson, a very infrequent subject here at The Non Sequitur gives some qualified endorsement to adult re-education. Community colleges and for-profit online colleges pick up where high schools and colleges fail.

>Up to a point, you can complain that this system is hugely wasteful. We’re often teaching kids in college what they should have learned in high school — and in graduate school what they might have learned in college. Some of the enthusiasm for more degrees is crass credentialism. Some trade schools prey cynically on students’ hopes and spawn disappointment. But these legitimate objections miss the larger point: The American learning system accommodates people’s ambitions and energies — when they emerge — and helps compensate for some of the defects of the school system.

>In Charlotte, about 70 percent of the recent high school graduates at Central Piedmont Community College need remedial work in English or math. Zeiss thinks his college often succeeds where high schools fail. Why? High school graduates “go out in the world and see they have no skills,” he says. “They’re more motivated.” The mixing of older and younger students also helps; the older students are more serious and focused.

We’re not going to poo-poo education of any sort, but we’re confused by the reasoning in the second paragraph (the part that’s highlighted). The conclusion Samuelson ought to draw–or at least ought to stress–is that our high schools ought to be fixed without interposed delay. That stupid ugly reality forces some kids and adults to fix it themselves with repeat or remedial education is evidence of that fact, not a serious alternative.

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