[Excerpt] In the late 1960s and early 1970s American students were told that the value of a college education was declining (see Freeman 1976). Although liberal arts students were particularly discouraged by reports of recent graduates driving taxicabs, even the demand for engineers and other technical specialists seemed bleak. Two decades later, the headlines have reversed. Study after study proclaims that American children are performing more poorly on achievement tests than the children of most other industrialized nations. Employers complain of a shortage of skilled workers: young people are said to be ill-prepared for the demands of the workplace and older workers are said to lack the educational background requisite for retraining (Johnson and Packer 1987). Studies by labor economists have largely confirmed the employers' contentions and foretell of even greater shortages of skilled labor in the near future (Bishop and Carter 1991).