The state of state education

Try these questions. A man sold a watch for $180 and lost 16 ⅔ percent. What was the cost of the watch?

How long a rope is required to reach from the top of a 40 foot building to the ground 30 feet from the base of the building?

Find the amount of 50.30 dollars for three years, three months, and three days at eight percent.

How many parts of speech are there?

Define the following forms of government: Democracy, Limited Monarchy, Absolute Monarchy, Republic. Give examples of each.

Name three rights given Congress by the Constitution and two rights denied Congress.

OK, enough. What you just read are a sample of the 40 plus questions found on an eighth grade graduation exam used by schools in 1912 in Bullitt, County, Kentucky. At that time schools were privately funded by the parents of the students taught. The old one-room schoolhouse was common. The teacher stayed employed by virtue of his or her success in graduating students from the eighth grade, where most education ended due to work necessity. The states were only responsible for oversight and awarding diplomas to deserving students.

This next statement is going to ruffle a few feathers, but so be it. Facts are facts. If there is any testament to the failure of public education, this exam is it. I doubt that most of today’s college graduates, much less high school graduates, could pass the 1912 exam.

The federal government decided it could do a better job than the states. While it had dabbled around the edges of education with several acts providing funding assistance and collecting data, it only became directly involved thanks to President Lyndon Johnson with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

The liberal left through this act managed to slowly gain control of the public education system. And thus began the decline of the quality of public education in the United States.

The facts are disturbing. Walter Williams is an economist with George Mason University, and an African American. He recently wrote an article about the decline of black family structure. One of the things he notes is that the average black college student has the equivalent of an eighth grade education. That is in today’s terms, not 1912.

It is not just the African American community, but they suffer the most. According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2015 only 37 percent of high school graduates were proficient in reading and 25 percent in math. Yet high school graduation rates increased. The government simply changed the graduation criteria.

Government apparently is not taught anymore. In a recent survey, only 26 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. And you wonder why the idiots in Washington keep getting elected.

Many teachers today are there because they couldn’t find a job elsewhere, or it was an easy college major, or some other reason. These teachers just put in their time, and impart the liberal views their educators brainwashed them with. All sides of an issue with the invitation to constructive thought is one thing. Only being shown one view is another. Students are then encouraged to continue in college, where the liberal indoctrination is continued and intensified.

There are still idealistic teachers who chose the profession to try to make a difference. I am the beneficiary of some of those, and I am extremely grateful. Sadly, that group today is stifled by mediocrity and the green blob of bureaucracy so prevalent in today’s federally mandated education systems.

This is why I think Governor Sandoval’s attempt to change the education system in Nevada is admirable. The only mistake I think was made was using several bills rather than one that tied the gross margins tax to funding for charter, online, and private schools. It was to be expected that the vested interests, like the Nevada State Education Association, would fight this tooth and nail. Which they did, with a sympathetic legislature and court. Now we have the tax but limited ability to fund anything but public schools. With no accountability, don’t expect any improvement in their performance.

Statistically, there is no doubt that public education is in decline. Proponents will point to isolated success stories. That is all they’ve got. Failure is rampant overall. It takes nerve to buck the powerful vested interests and employee unions, but rerouting funding and putting states back in control is the only real solution. It will be a bitter battle.

Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at


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