It probably won’t get published, but I had to write the following letter in response to this op-ed piece that appeared today in the NYTimes: No Undergrad Left Behind.
I’m writing in reference to the Opinion piece by Eugene Hickok in the October 11, 2006 edition of the paper. Mr. Hickok seems to want to take a failing system, “No Child Left Behind” (which the President’s own brother dislikes), and apply it to higher education. What Mr. Hickok is failing to realize is that the problems he details in higher education are, at least in part, a result of the “No Child Left Behind Act” – colleges and universities are now spending much of their time bringing students up to the level of education they should have attained in high school. Colleges and Universities are now “high school finishers” for many students.
Higher Education is doing exactly what it needs to do – screening out those students who cannot succeed. It sounds elitist; it sounds arrogant, but not everyone is cut out for higher education – be it a result of lack of motivation, lack of commitment, or lack of earlier education. If we take the approach advocated by Mr. Hickok, the result for higher education will be the same for high school – a general “dumbing down” of graduation requirements. If that were to happen, a college degree would quickly be as worthless as a high school diploma. By continuing to keep graduation requirements high, college diplomas remain a sought after commodity.
Mr. Hickok is trying to pass the problem on to the current solution. Lowering educational criteria is not the answer. Raising the bar earlier in education is. Testing every student as often as possible is not the answer. Educating students to succeed in careers, in their future education, and in life is the answer. “No Child Left Behind” is resulting in unprepared students being sent to college. Colleges and universities are doing what they can to raise those students to the level they should be upon exiting high school. If Mr. Hickok had his way, those unprepared students would, like in high school, be passed from classroom to classroom and ultimately be handed a diploma, just because they were there. That isn’t an education. That is educational welfare.