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The Higher Learning

In response to:

The Decline of Higher Learning from the February 13, 1986 issue

To the Editors:

You could have chosen no better way to illustrate the “Decline of Higher Learning” than by publishing Andrew Hacker’s essay. Or at least no better way to indicate the decline of editing.

For instance: “black students with incomes over $40,000 a year,” “Newton’s thermodynamics,” and “Kant’s antimonies.” Surely students with incomes that high do not need to study! Mr. Hacker did not say what he meant and you did not correct him. Was Kant really an expert in the chemistry of one chemical element? Did Newton discuss a branch of science that was developed in the nineteenth century? Absurd!

If social scientists cannot get their details and data right, the rest of us will continue to scorn their conclusions. And an article on poorly educated students should not have seen print with these illustrations of a lack of a liberal education still in it.

Edward Adelson

Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Andrew Hacker replies:

My thanks to Professor Adelson for catching me out on Newton and Kant. Indeed, these errors underscore my point about the erosion of a common learning. As for those affluent black students, I had already noted twice, in a table and the text, that these were family income figures. I would have thought that as careful a reader as Professor Adelson would understand an abbreviation.

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