anti-intellectualism or negative feedback?

Hirsch has made many good points and he catches the absurdity of many educational forays from the vast sea of texts, tests, and curricula.  I know a good number of homeschoolers who use his books and --- and I've met lots of kids who like to just read the What Your xGrader Should Know series.

But he's missing some pieces in his argument here.  From the Core Knowledge blog:
The Nobel economist James Heckman has shown that high school graduation rates rose sharply during the first half of the 20th century, then started dropping in the late 1960s.   During roughly the same era — from 1965 to 1980 — American 15-year olds dropped from 3rd to 14th place in reading comprehension on international comparisons.  Our twelfth-graders’ scores on the verbal SAT dropped a dizzying 50 points.  Since the 1980s the verbal scores of American high school seniors have not budged despite multiple system-invigorating efforts like charter schools, accountability systems, and intensive literacy programs, and a meteoric rise in educational spending.  Other nations, whose students experience the same distractions of TV, Internet, video games, and sometimes show the same diversity of population, have improved while we have declined. The standard explanation is that our test scores have declined chiefly because of a demographic broadening of the test-taking base.  This claim ignores compelling contrary evidence.  During the period of the big drop, from 1965 to 1980, verbal scores in the state of Iowa – 98 percent white and middle class – dropped with similar sharpness.
What changed was less the demographics of the test-takers than the anti-intellectual ideas that fully took over first teacher-training schools and then the teachers and administrators they trained.   The result was a retreat from a knowledge-based elementary curriculum — as researchers have shown by analyzing the severe watering down of American school books in the period 1950-to the present.  The decline of the elementary curriculum coincided with our sharp decline in verbal ability and test scores.   To cause them to rise again, we will need to adopt contrary ideas – never an easy prospect — and we will have to strengthen the coherence and substance of the K-8 curriculum — exactly as the new standards recommend.  
It is strange to attribute this huge decline in quality to a vague set of bad ideas, anti-intellectualism. Rather, it seems more logical to suspect that the growth of the system itself was beginning to impact America's schooling.  The 1930s was the first decade in which more Americans lived in cities than on farms and agricultural/small business employment fell rapidly as industrial employment grew, booming after WWII.  Industrial employment relied on the schools more and the rate of high school degrees awarded climbed continuously.

And by the 1950s, the public school system was entrenched and growing and had cadres of administrative levels --- increasingly centralized and abstracted from the very small, local controls of the first schools. There were good jobs in administering and provisioning this colossal edifice: creating and modifying curricula was what all these employed people could do -- since there is no structural check on this activity. This negative feedback stabilized the system or in plain English, kept people employed.

I mean, seriously, could the curricular architects announce that they had compressed science into several fewer years of work with a compact, highly-focused design?  Could they really even try that?  How? It would lessen the income stream.
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