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The dumbing down of a generation

The dumbing down of a generation

As I prepare to teach one of my spring courses, I am re-reading a book about 19th-century writer Mary Shelley, author of essays and novels, the most famous of which is "Frankenstein." When she and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were not working on their respective writing projects, they and their friends read aloud to each other, discussed philosophy and studied foreign languages. They also took long walks, enjoying nature.

Today, however, we live in a different world. Few students study foreign languages, let alone Greek, as Mary Shelley did. And discussions of philosophy? Nature walks? Not likely.

College boards have been revamped, eliminating vocabulary...