Cal Thomas: Cheating the children out of an education

From the commentary: There is no excuse for this. Robbing a child of a good education is a form of abuse. It also deprives a nation of its future and ability to compete on the world economic and intellectual stage.

Eighth-grade students at Wilson Middle School in San Diego sit at a classroom table.
Eighth-grade students at Wilson Middle School in San Diego sit at a classroom table. National test scores show that eighth-graders in nearly every state across the nation, including California, saw drops in average math scores since the pandemic.
(Howard Lipin/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
We are part of The Trust Project.

While President Biden is trying to win a court victory for his student debt forgiveness proposal, he should be focusing instead on the latest dreadful report by the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

Cal Thomas commentary
Cal Thomas Commentary
Tribune graphic
Summary: I once heard the late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham say America was not at a crossroads, but had traveled down the wrong road and needed to come back to the crossroads and take the right road. What if we can no longer agree on the right road and where the wrong road is leading us?
Summary: Donald Trump would do well to withdraw from the field and allow younger and less controversial candidates to replace him. His record of policy successes while president are undeniable (except for those in denial), but his narcissistic personality contributed to his loss. It is also contributing to the work of the January 6 committee. If that committee wishes to "bring us together," it will forgo recommendations of criminal prosecution and let voters decide, as they should and ultimately will, the future of Donald Trump.
Summary: When rhetoric gets heated, perhaps the best way to be heard is to speak in a tone Scripture attributes to God — "a still, small voice." As noted by the writer of Proverbs: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Summary: Many viewers might want to know why Congress can't seem to fix any of the country's real problems. That perennial question is why increasing numbers of Americans have grown sour about Washington. They see members of Congress more interested in re-election, in their careers and in perks than in the people they are supposed to represent.

In what is called the nation's report card, NAEP has released its latest findings on the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in such critical subjects as math and reading. It makes for unpleasant reading.

As The New York Times reports, the NAEP says students in most states and significantly across all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in these subjects, representing the deepest declines recorded since the organization began compiling data in 1990.

While some blame the pandemic, which led to the closing of many schools and a shift to remote learning, the NAEP says the numbers were declining before the pandemic struck.

Interestingly, the NAEP conducted a study of public vs. private schools in 2005 and concluded "Students at grades 4, 8, and 12 in all categories of private schools had higher average scores in reading, mathematics, science, and writing than their counterparts in public schools. In addition, higher percentages of students in private schools performed at or above Proficient compared to those in public schools."


That is one more argument favoring school choice.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FLA), who promoted school choice that has now been implemented in some form in more than three dozen states, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. Bush's response to the NAEP is a list of what he called "simple solutions" (imagine that) to the decline in especially math and reading proficiency.

Bush writes that parents — or any other trusted adult — "(who) were called on to step up when COVID-19 kept kids at home" can help close the learning gaps. Bush proposes a regimen of reading at least 20 minutes per day: "In addition, research has found that 30 minutes a week of extra math work can help students who are struggling or behind."

More Commentary:
From the commentary: (Pete) Buttigieg connects with voters. He could be the Democrats' presidential candidate. Or, as a replacement for not-much-loved Vice President Kamala Harris
From the commentary: The American business community is about creating jobs, bolstering our economy, and solving problems, and it will support candidates that bring answers and not fear. That message is a recipe for success for either party to embrace.
From the commentary: In another America where laws were once supposed to be equally enforced (the exception being the rule) and truth was not personal, this would likely not have been a problem.

People who are not math whizzes — like me — can find numerous helpful and easy-to-understand resources online.

Bush might have added that reducing the power of teachers unions to dictate educational content would also help, as would banning the teaching of subjects that advance a secular progressive agenda and have nothing to do with empowering children so they might someday find good-paying jobs and be able to support themselves.

Other nations are faring much better than the United States in educating their children in critical academic subjects. A 2017 report by the Pew Research Center "placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science." The latest NAEP report shows nothing has changed since then and, in fact, has gotten worse.


There is no excuse for this. Robbing a child of a good education is a form of abuse. It also deprives a nation of its future and ability to compete on the world economic and intellectual stage. As Jeb Bush notes, the solutions are simple. The problem is and almost always has been that too many in the education and political establishments prefer the status quo, because for many it serves their interests more than the interests of the nation's children.

This Cal Thomas commentary is his opinion. He can be reached at

Commentary logo
Commentary logo
Tribune graphic

What To Read Next
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
From the commentary: (The judge) said he’d alert everyone when his ruling was coming. ... And that he would give everyone a chance to respond before he released the report, if (it was to be) released.
From the commentary: It's clear that whatever else happens, sets should be safer as a result of what Baldwin did.
From the commentary: By passing bipartisan laws and enforcing strong ethics, our elected leaders can once again demonstrate that they are working for the people and promoting the common good.