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In the last several years, Americans have been sensing that something is seriously wrong with the current crop of young people. True, they are likely to have the most education credentials any generation has ever received. They also are technically-savvy, and as such, have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips.

But in spite of these factors, today’s students seem to exhibit a character that is high in sensitivity and low in knowledge. What gives? Why are our students turning out like this?

Camille Paglia recently revealed the answer to that question. Paglia, a long-time Democrat, feminist, and college professor, believes the problem started in the earliest stages of education in the nation’s public schools:

“It’s really started at the level of public school education. I’ve been teaching now for 46 years as a classroom teacher, and I have felt the slow devolution of the quality of public school education in the classroom.”

According to Paglia, teachers at elite institutions are unable to see this decline in knowledge because their students often come from private schools and wealthy homes, which presumably still retain some elements of rigorous education. The great majority of students, however, can be described in the following way:

“What has happened is these young people now getting to college have no sense of history – of any kind! No sense of history. No world geography. No sense of the violence and the barbarities of history. So, they think that the whole world has always been like this, a kind of nice, comfortable world where you can go to the store and get orange juice and milk, and you can turn on the water and the hot water comes out. They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization. They now have been taught to look around them to see defects in America – which is the freest country in the history of the world – and to feel that somehow America is the source of all evil in the universe, and it’s because they’ve never been exposed to the actual evil of the history of humanity. They know nothing!”

There’s one exception to this, however. Even while today’s students have not been taught knowledge, they have also been taught not to bully a person on the basis of their race, class, gender, or any other trait.

On the surface, that seems like a good thing. But as Paglia implies, such a singular lesson gives students a heightened sensitivity and a stilted lens through which to view the world and its problems. As such, she fears that students are catapulting their country toward a situation similar to that of ancient Rome in its last days.

John Adams would likely agree. He once said that the failure to teach truth, combined with the dumbing down of education and the embrace of Epicurean pleasures and teachings, was one of the things most likely to bring “punishment” to America. Given Paglia’s observations, are we seeing his warning come to pass before our very eyes?

[Image Credit: Max Pixel]

This post Paglia: The Dumbing Down of America Began in Public Schools was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Annie Holmquist.


  • BestinShow

    when I read that “Niger Ambush Came After ‘Massive Intelligence Failure”, and that mistakes caused “Missing sailors found dead in flooded compartments on US Navy destroyer”. I’m concerned that the once Best of the Best are showing signs of the failures of our education system. We no longer can brag about the quality of our military when our education system is failing them so miserably. U.S. students’ academic achievements lag behind that of their peers in many other countries, and performance continues to drop. Scary to think that we have to rely on the students now coming out of this coddled environment for the future safety. of our country

  • emmayus

    This is nothing new!! It began during my generation back in the 70s. Each new generation of teachers has unwittingly been just a wee bit less intelligent than the ones they had, only each new generation has grown in numbers. Our children have been taught they don’t have to work, they have been taught that every one will be nice if they be nice first, they have been taught that they don’t have to deal with mean and aggressive people, their feelings have been protected to such a degree that to them, reality is optional. Then people wonder why every year our world is flooded with clueless, frustrated young people.

  • mary711

    No surprise here. Even in the 90s, my students came to college thinking that the Puritans wrote the Declaration of Independence, that the Civil Rights movement freed the slaves, that the Americans invented slavery. They have been convinced that all memorization is bad; they could not recite a single important date–1620, 1776, 1860, 1939 are all just figures to them, and hence they know nothing of cause and effect. They were so illiterate that they could not understand the Constitution or the Bill of Rights when I tried to teach it to them; their reading skills are on a level of perhaps a 3rd grader. Only perhaps two in any class had better skills than these, and even they thought they could disappear from class for two months and on reappearing hand in all missing work and get an A! And these people have not been voting for almost twenty years! Is there any wonder our politicians are so ignorant!

  • Peter Okeefe

    if children are never allowed to fall how will they ever learn to stand up…to never know failure is to never feel success..we are too busy making them safe to ever allow the teachings of dangerous things to instill the needs of normal things