by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
High school was meant to be a place where students could prepare for a professional career. And it worked. But now, high school has become a meaningless credential as administrators and politicians have steadily reduced the standards for graduation. Efforts like those of Gov. Kate Brown in Oregon to further diminish those standards will be the final blow to the once-great movement for state-supported self-improvement. …
… Preparation for life meant holding young men and women to real standards. It’s hard to look at modern public schools and say that those standards remain intact. While progressivism once drove educators to offer more classes and demand more of students, the current version of that ideology is now demanding that educational achievement take a back seat to racial quotas and that standards be reduced or even eliminated. …
… Public high schools began as a way for all American children to learn and improve their employment opportunities through their own hard work. No tuition, no pedigree, no connections, only hard work and intelligence were required.
If Americans were looking for equality of opportunity across race, religion, class, and neighborhood, this was it. Now, after pushing kids away from vocational education in past decades, public schools water down the academic qualifications so much as to make them meaningless.
In 2000, Gov. George W. Bush called this sort of condescending attitude “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” That bigotry has taken over the progressive movement. A few middle-class parents who can afford it will take their kids out of schools that teach little and grade less, but most of them (and all of the poor) have no such option.
They will be stuck in a system that expects nothing of kids and abolishes standards rather than helping kids live up to them. Meanwhile, a supposedly meritocratic elite locks in generational power by choosing private schools that help their children advance even further. So much for progress.