At the beginning of the year, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) released its ninth annual survey and guide for college academic standards ratings known as What Will They Learn? ACTA analyzed publicly-available course catalogs of over 1,100 public and private four-year institutions to survey which of these put a well-designed core curriculum at the forefront of their institutional mission. The guide evaluated whether or not the schools require seven core subjects essential to a foundational liberal arts education: composition, literature, intermediate-level foreign language, U. S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and natural science.
This is a summary of the results, which are as depressing as they are shocking:
- Only 18% of American colleges and universities require students to take a course in U. S. government or history.
- 3% require a course in economics.
- 12% require an intermediate-level course in a foreign language.
- 24, or only 2% of the institutions require six or more of the seven core subjects.
- 66% of the schools required only three or fewer of the core subjects.
I do a lot of work in education, so I am not surprised by these results and, in fact, they are about the same or slightly worse than in previous years of the survey and I happen to know because of other surveys conducted in Texas in which I have participated that race, gender, and class studies are tending to proliferate in the core offerings and the specialties and emphasis of the liberal arts faculties. This trend is impoverishing our young students and greatly undermines the legacy and grounding in Western Civilization that we should be passing along to them. When will we develop the sufficient outrage among trustees, alumni, and opinion leaders to turn this around?