By this point in the year, most high school seniors have walked across the stage and grabbed their diploma. Many parents sit proudly by during this process, sniffing back tears and saying, “I can’t believe they’re ready to move on to college!”
The unfortunate fact of the matter is, they may not be as ready as the parents, teachers, or even students themselves think.
That’s one of the findings from a National Curriculum Survey released by the ACT.
As the ACT explains, the survey serves “to ask educators about what they teach (or don’t teach) in their courses and how important they feel various topics in their discipline are for students to be successful in these and future courses.”
The section on English Language Arts is particularly interesting. ACT asked teachers in the fields of English, history, and other social sciences to name the reading skills that are most important to a student’s success in class. An overwhelming number of K-12 and college instructors listed the following five areas as most important:
- Determining central ideas
- Identify important details
- Drawing conclusions and make inferences
- Evaluating evidence and/or support for an author’s claims
- Distinguishing among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment
But as many college instructors were quick to discover, many high school graduates were ill-prepared in these areas, in spite of the fact that their teachers recognized these areas as vital to success. Most startling was the fact that only 18 percent of college instructors rated their first-year students as well-prepared in the area of “distinguishing among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment.” (Chart)
Such news is deeply concerning. If today’s students are unable to discern between fact and opinion while still in school, then how will they be able to separate the truth from the propaganda which pours from the hydrant of information the American public is fed every day?
If Americans have little knowledge of basic facts, are we closer to an American dark age than we’d like to believe?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.