June 16, 2024

Why American Education Stinks

Despite spending vast amounts on our primary education system, the United States is getting only moderate return on that investment.

In primary education, on a per-pupil basis, the United States spent 66 percent more than Germany, 56 percent more than France, 27 percent more than Japan, 80 percent more than the United Kingdom, 62 percent more than Belgium, and 122 percent more than South Korea.

High school figures were similar.

Despite this spending, the United States ranked fifteenth among the thirty-one countries that participated in the OECD’s 2000 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading exam. Ireland, Iceland, and New Zealand were among those that outperformed us while spending far less per pupil. The results in math are equally disquieting: on the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the United States ranked nineteenth of thirty-eight participating countries. Most troubling is that America’s standing actually deteriorates as students spend more time in school.

Why in the heck is that?  Here are three examples that illustrate the problems rather concisely.  First, the recent story from Florida, a state in which people were unable to read the ballot properly in the 2000 presidential election, about a teacher fired for "wizardry" highlights a common problem with school administrators:  the inability to make common-sense value judgments about right and wrong behavior on campus.

Jim Piculas worked as a substitute teacher at a middle school about 30 minutes from Tampa, Florida.

One day he made a toothpick "disappear" then "reappear" in front of his students, but the next day he got a call from his supervisor saying he didn’t need to return to campus.

Poof!  Piculas’ job disappeared.  Over a magic trick?  Ridiculous.  The district says that there were other issues involved, a claim Piculas disputes.

Second, many of the students we ask our teachers and administrators to educate are quite simply beyond the redemptive powers of a one-size-fits-all education system, as exemplified recently in Los Angeles when a gang rumble exploded into a melee between literally hundreds of students.

A fight between rival groups of black and Latino students at Locke High School quickly escalated into a campus-wide melee Friday, with as many as 600 students brawling until police restored calm with billy clubs.

The troubled campus in South Los Angeles was locked down after the fight broke out at 12:55 p.m., as students returned from lunch to their fifth-period classes. Overwhelmed school officials called Los Angeles police for help, but students and faculty said it took about half an hour before dozens of officers, many in riot gear, restored order.

This is exactly what one should expect from a system in which education is forced on teenagers who do not value it.  Education, when viewed as a right, is a burden and a waste of time.  Only when it’s understood to be a privilege can it have value.

It’s a joke on the vast numbers of bright, hard-working American students to be forced through a system that forces them to attempt to learn in hostile, even dangerous conditions.  They deserve better; however, they’ll never get it unless adults learn that, rhetoric aside, some children must be left behind for the rest to move forward.

Third, many behavioral issues are the result of poor or completely absent parenting.  Take this post in which Michelle Malkin mocks the worst prom dress of the year, a sluttish outfit a seasoned professional prostitute would be embarrassed to be caught dead in.  Yet it’s good enough for a school formal.  Pathetic.

Dazed, Michelle ponders the imponderable:

Where was the adult in this teenager’s life to block the door and say: “Nuh-UH, no way in hell you’re stepping out that door. Go put some clothes on or I’ll make you wear a sleeping bag to your prom.”

Classiness, RIP.

Of course, who’s to say that girl has any adult role model worth mentioning?  Yet even given a complete dearth of decent women in her life the child surely knows that what she’s wearing is completely inappropriate – that’s the whole point.

Until a significant number of adults are willing to step up to the plate and do the hard work of laying down the law to the students and parents involved in these behavioral debacles I see no chance of things changing anytime soon.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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