Why Are We So Stupid?

Yes, I’m seriously asking this question. We should ALL be asking this question! Here are some statistics I’ve come across in some of my research recently:

Only one high school junior out of fifty (2 percent) can write well enough to meet national goals.

Less than 10 percent of seventeen year olds can do “rigorous” academic work in “basic” subjects.

In the United States today, only one in five nine year olds can perform even basic mathematical operations. According to the 1990 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only one in six nine year olds reads well enough to “search for specific information, interrelate ideas, and make generalizations.” Only one in four nine year olds can apply basic scientific information.”

Among American thirteen year olds, only one in ten can “find, understand, and summarize complicated information.” Only one in eight eighth graders can understand basic terms and historical relationships. One in eight understands specific government structures and relationships.”

Only one in eight thirteen year olds can understand and apply intermediate scientific knowledge and principles. The NAEP found that the percentage of American thirteen year olds who understand measurement and geometry concepts and can analyze scientific knowledge and principles “was among the lowest of many countries in the developed world.” The 1990 NAEP concluded that “Large proportions, perhaps more than half of our elementary, middle, and high school students are unable to demonstrate competency in challenging subject matter in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. Further, even fewer appear to be able to use their minds well.”

The writing ability of American students is little short of appalling. American schools, according to the NAEP, produce few students who can write well. Only 3 percent of American fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders can write above a “minimal” or “adequate” level, according to the 1992 “Writing Report Card.” The test, which rated students’ writing abilities on a scale of one to six, found that fewer than one in thirty American children earned a score of five or six, which meant they could write effectively and persuasively. Only one out of four students even managed to write at the “developed” level, which earned a score of four. “Even the best students who could write effective narrative and informative pieces had difficulty” writing persuasively, the study found.” In 1988, only 3 percent of American high school seniors could describe their own television viewing habits in writing above an “adequate” level.

A “reading report card” finds that 25 percent of high school seniors can barely read their diplomas. A standardized test given to 26,000 Americans sixteen and older “concluded that 80 million Americans are deficient in the basic reading and mathematical skills needed to perform rudimentary tasks in today’s society. A 1993 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 90 million adults – 47 percent of the population of the United States – demonstrate low levels of literacy. The level of literacy among adults had fallen by 4 percent since 1986 .

Only 15 percent of college faculty members say that their students are adequately prepared in mathematics and quantitative reasoning, a lower proportion than among higher-education faculty in Hong Kong, Korea, Sweden, Russian, Mexico, Japan, Chile, Israel, or Australia. Only one in five faculty members thinks students have adequate writing and speaking skills.

A Washington, D.C., grade-school teacher reports that many of the fifth- and sixth-grade students in her geography class were unable to locate Washington, D.C., on a map of the United States, even though they lived in the nation’s capital themselves. A survey by the Gallup Organization found that one in seven adults can’t find the United States on a blank map of the world. This shouldn’t be surprising. In one college geography class 25 percent of the students could not locate the Soviet Union on a world map, while on a map of the forty-eight contiguous states, only 22 percent of the class could identify forty or more states correctly.

Despite the growing importance of scientific knowledge, surveys have found that Americans are woefully ignorant of basic scientific facts. A majority of Americans, for example, do not know that the earth and sun are part of the Milky Way galaxy, and a third of them think humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time. A 1994 survey by Louis Harris & Associates and the American Museum of Natural History found that only about one adult in five scored 60 percent or better on a test of basic knowledge of subjects like space, animals, the environment, diseases, and earth.

I plan to follow up this post with precisely WHY we are so stupid. Stay tuned!



About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


2 Responses to Why Are We So Stupid?

  1. Bobbi says:

    I’m curious why you chose to site approximately 20 year old studies. You list a number of findings concerning 13 year olds, but the studies were conducted before today’s 13 year olds were conceived. An argument utilizing more current studies would carry more impact. I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask the question you pose, just that newer studies should be used.

    • urthemom says:

      Hi Bobbi,
      You ask a very valid question. However, statistics do not get any rosier the more current we get.

      Yes, the study is from the not-too-distant past. Believe me, the studies I will be sharing—the more recent ones–are NOT any better than this one. America is dumber NOW than ever. I am not being flippant in the least. There’s a very good reason why the SAT was “dumbed down.” The studies I’ve shared here are part of the reason why it was.

      I am currently researching the entire history of the SAT. The stats from this study are even more stunning.

      I can tell you that my kids, at the fourth and fifth grade levels, take the 1970 CAT exams because they are tougher than anything out there from this century. I have them take the CAT just for my own purposes as a home-educator. I want the test with a standard of rigor, not something that makes kids feel good about themselves.

      This study I’ve highlighted is certainly not negated because stats are pulled from a time other than the 2000s. They are what they are. But this is a jumping off point for future posts.

      Again, thanks for sharing your questions.

Hiya! Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: