Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: Stephen Krashen provides a powerful--and useful--history of the American tradition of declaring that high school students don't know enough.]

Submitted to New York Post but not published

To the editor

The Post reports that nearly 80% of city high school grads are not prepared for college work ( Make-believe grads, Jan. 22). Colleges have been complaining about the low quality of incoming students for over 100 years in the United States.

In the 1880’s Harvard introduced remedial writing classes because so many entering students failed the new entrance exams. In 1894, Harvard criticized high school writing teachers for the poor performance of students entering college. Note that these were the best students in the country attending the best university of its time.

In 1930, Thomas Biggs of Teachers College found that only half of the high school students he studied could find the area of a circle, after a year of ancient history students did not know who Solon was, after a year of American history students could not describe the Monroe Doctrine, and students’ written English was “shocking” and “inadequate.”

Either high schools have always been terrible or we have always been expecting too much.

Stephen Krashen

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.