In the early 1980s, our political leaders went into a panic because the economy stalled. Other nations had higher test scores. Thus the schools must be to blame for the industrial growth of Japan and Germany, so said a report called “A Nation at Risk” by President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983.

By 1988, Susan Ochshorn writes, the academic demands of third grade had drifted down to many kindergartens. History repeats itself.

Was this a rational response to outsourcing of industries to other nations? No, but state and national leaders thought that the best response to international competition was to raise standards for five-year-olds.