The Wall Street Journal has published an article showing that fewer than 25% of students who took the ACT college entry examination this year scored high enough to pass core college curricula. The blame game for this involves all the usual suspects: not enough school funding, high school curricula that aren't rigorous enough, bad national education policy, etc. etc.
But none of that is true. The reason our children are getting stupider isn't systemic, it's cultural. We as a culture place a higher level of importance on the high school "experience," replete with sports, social gatherings, extra-curricular activities, dances, "socializing," etc. than we do on the actual point of school: education. When an over-achieving child wants to graduate early, we advise her that it's best to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience that is high school. (Even the phrase "over-achieving" carries a negative connotation, as if one can achieve too much!) The brainy kids are ostracized while the numbskulls are glorified - and for the most part, we're fine with that. We accept it. We see this as "the way it should be."
The WSJ article's interactive graph also reveals that while 66% of students scored adequately in English, less than half of students met the Mathematics benchmark, and less than one third met the Science benchmark. I cannot underscore enough what a terrible omen this is. Culturally, Americans are rejecting math and science (and therefore logic in general). Instead, anyone with an interest in books is considered "smart," whereas those who are actually capable of inventing something are just considered brainiac nerds to be ignored.
Mises pointed out in Human Action and elsewhere that society cannot progress without new technology. Our children are growing up as consumers of inventions but inventors of nothing. When I talk about a new dark ages, this is what I mean. When our society has been stunted by a complete rejection of the very qualities of mankind that lead to human progress, all hope is lost.
Pride and Prejudice may be a great novel, but it feeds no one. Art should be appreciated and preserved, but if we don't start adding logic, reason, science, and mathematics to the list of things that we glorify as a society, then you can kiss it all good-bye. There is no art without intelligence. There is no human race without inventions.