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Cal Thomas: Public school scandal

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WORLD Radio - Cal Thomas: Public school scandal

Older generations knew education, not indoctrination, made public schools great


Kelvin Grove State School, April 1951 Wikimedia Commons/Photo by Queensland State Archives

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Paul Butler.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Up next: Commentator Cal Thomas on the decline in education standards for American children.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: As millions of children return to public schools, it’s a good idea to again examine what they are being taught and what is being left out. It also offers an annual opportunity for parents to ask if their kids are being educated or indoctrinated.

At the recent convention of the National Education Association in Orlando, Florida, reports told of delegates waving rainbow signs proclaiming: “freedom to teach” and “freedom to learn.” The delegates ignored parental concerns over pornography in certain books and tarred conservative politicians as book banners. Peculiar how it’s “academic freedom” to introduce books that promote behavior and ideas many parents oppose, but “censorship” to object to them.

The NEA loudly supports “reproductive rights” for women. And delegates continue to favor the LGBTQ-plus agenda. How is any of this preparing children to compete with China and other nations in math, reading, and science?

It is not. The New York Times reported last October: “U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading. … In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.”

The Covid-19 pandemic is blamed for some of the decline, but as the NAEP notes, the trend has been headed downward for many years.

It hasn’t always been this way. In a 2006 column for WORLD Magazine, Joel Belz recalled a 1924 education pamphlet designed to prepare eighth graders for high school. It had the lengthy title “Stephenson’s Iowa State Eighth Grade Examination Question Book.” Belz thinks most high school seniors today would find the questions challenging.

They include questions about arithmetic, like this one: “A wall 77 feet long, 6½ feet high, and 14 inches thick is built of bricks costing $9.00 per M. What was the entire cost of the bricks if 22 bricks were sufficient to make a cubic foot of wall?”

One prompt on grammar reads: “Define five of the following terms: antecedent, tense, object, conjugation, auxiliary verb, expletive, reflexive pronoun.”

Regarding civil government, the book asks students to “Name three township, three county, and three state officers and state what office each person holds…”

I’m betting not many students today could name their members of Congress, much less local officials.

Other categories were geography, history, music, reading, and physiology. These were supported by a daily salute to the American flag and other expressions of patriotism.

Who decided these subjects and practices were unnecessary to equip children to become good citizens and lead prosperous and healthy lives? Is it the teacher’s unions and other activists who see schools not as places for education, but as indoctrination centers for their secular-progressive worldview?

Some parents have begun moving away from public schools. Increasing numbers are homeschooling their children or taking advantage of school choice programs.

For the rest, get them out now if you can and while you are still able to save their minds and the country.

I’m Cal Thomas.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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