Quick identity switch from man of the people to arrogant elitest snob. Let me go back to the statistic I introduced in my original article. The College Board defined “college readiness” as a 65 percent probability of getting a 2.7 freshman grade-point average or better, and then used freshman records from 41 major universities to determine the SAT score that predicted “college readiness” by that definition. The result was a score that only 10 percent of all 18-year-olds could get if all 18-year-olds took the SAT. Furthermore, these results are obtained in an era when a C effectively represents what used to be a failing grade.
Roughly 40 percent of all 18-year-olds enroll in a four-year college, and about two-thirds of those eventually get a BA, so obviously something interesting is going on, but let me focus on the question: Do these results really mean that 90 percent of kids can’t handle genuine college-level material?
Yes. More than that can get through, of course, but that doesn’t mean they’re absorbing much of the material in real college courses. To make that point for majors in the sciences and engineering is easy, because it’s easy to prove that no more than 10 percent of the population can handle the math that those majors require. To make the same point about the social sciences and humanities, Real Education presents a set of passages from page 400 (chosen arbitrarily) from college texts. The vocabulary, syntax, and reasoning ability required to understand those passages is at a level that roughly corresponds to the “advanced” level of reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress–and only 5 percent of twelfth-graders reach the “advanced” benchmark.
Kevin, let’s go pick a set of 18-year-olds with measured IQs of 110 (25th percentile), give them the opening few chapters of the textbooks that I drew the passages from, and then engage them in conversation about what they understood from those chapters. And then try to tell me that they belong in any of the traditional college majors. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb. It doesn’t mean they can’t be successes in life. It just means that they don’t belong in the traditional college majors, which is a good reason to start thinking about better ways for them to get the post-high-school education they want, rather than sending them to institutions that were designed to provide the traditional college majors.