A study (PDF) released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education shows that only 25% of college graduates were “proficiently literate,’ that is, “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.’
The results show a dramatic decline from 1992, the last year surveyed prior to this study.
“This seems like another piece of hard evidence, a fairly clear indication, that the ‘value added’ that higher education gave to students didn’t improve, and maybe declined, over this period,’ said Charles Miller, the former University of Texas regent who is heading the U.S. education secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. “You have the possibility of people going through schools, getting a piece of paper for sitting in class a certain amount, and we don’t know whether they’re getting what they need. This is a fair sign that there are some problems here.’
The report, which extrapolates its findings from a survey of 19,000 Americans aged 16 and up, aims to measure what the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, Mark Schneider, called “reading for purpose’ — how well citizens can process information to do what’s necessary to work and live (sample questions are available here).
It assesses three types of literacy: “prose literacy,’ which is the ability to comprehend continuous texts, like newspaper articles and the brochure that comes with a new microwave; “document literacy,’ the ability to understand and use documents to perform tasks, like reading a map or prescription labels; and “quantitative literacy,’ which are the skills needed to do things like balancing a checkbook or calculating the interest on a loan from an advertisement.
Based on their scores, participants in the survey were deemed to have “basic,’ “intermediate’ or “proficient’ literacy. (Whitehurst noted that a National Research Council committee that recommended the literacy levels initially called the highest level “advanced,’ but that department officials ultimately concluded that the skills required for that category — comparing viewpoints in two editorials, for instance, or calculating the cost per ounce of different grocery items — weren’t really all that advanced.) — Inside Higher Ed
A university degree was a rarity in the United States as recently as the 1940s — only 10 percent of Americans had even gone to college and 75 percent hadn’t even finished high school. And those lucky or privileged enough to attend university actually left school with real knowledge and skills.
Today, nearly a quarter of Americans have a university degree by the time they’re 25, and these college-educated dummies are confused by nearly everything they read. — Sploid
I’ve been saying for a long time that the quality of American education is in decline. We don’t need more studies to tell us there’s a problem. We need to begin addressing the problem. And the problem is the Department of Education itself. Since its creation the country has enacted laws and regulations which have chipped away at the quality of American education until by now we have three-fourths of college graduates unable to read properly.