Ed's in France, where he met a woman who is a historian of education.
She confirmed the big-fish-in-the-small-pond thesis: better to be the star student in a no-name school than the merely good student in a star school. She was the star in a working class school somewhere in Massachusetts, I believe, and she said Harvard pretty much just "plucked her out."
When she got there, she was completely unprepared. She'd never written a paper in her life (me, too, when I went to Wellesley); she couldn't do history, literature, etc.
She was least behind in the sciences, which makes sense to me because science education became progressive many, many years ago and has remained so to this day. This is why science has always had "labs." (I can no longer remember or find my source on this. sigh. I do recall David Klein once telling me that the situation in science is even worse than the situation in math.)
In short: the public school education she'd received in the humanities was her worst handicap. She was light years behind her peers.
She told Ed that progressive education started as a way to educate the children of the working class, the idea being that they should be taught life skills rather than the liberal arts disciplines.
Subsequently progressive ed spread to the children of the middle class, so now those kids don't have to be taught the liberal arts disciplines, either. Ironically, she said, the few schools in which you can find teachers teaching traditional content are located in working class neighborhoods.
Her view, which is now mine, is that there are no good public schools. Period.
I'm sure that's wrong as an absolute; there have got to be some good public schools out there. But I don't know where they are or how to find them.
Now my question is: have Catholic schools declined, too?
And if so, have they declined as much as public schools?