U.S. Education Versus the World
Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.
—John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) Thirty-fifth President of the USA
Education is the backbone of our society and an excellent barometer of future success. Recently, there has been much debate over how to properly revamp our school system to prepare the children of the United States to compete in a global landscape. According to the Department of Education, our per pupil expenditures in adjusted 2008 dollars are approximately $10,441 today, whereas they were $4,552 in 1971. Yet, even with this increase in expenditures, our reading and math scores have flat lined and our global competitiveness has fallen.
Here is how we stack up globally as measured by the most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study (2009). I have boldly highlighted the U.S. statistics:
The above image was taken from the Guardian DataBlog (the link has an excellent interactive chart of this same data) and fact checked against the Department of Education summary of PISA results.
The U.S. ranks 14th in reading proficiency (not measurably different than the OECD average), 25th in math proficiency (below the OECD average), and 17th in science proficiency (not measurably different than the OECD average).
Certainly our biggest educational issue is mathematics. On the other hand, is average good enough for a country that has the resources and wherewithal of the United States?
NeilS – As the old saying goes, when it rains it pours. We are at a time in U.S. history when it seems like nothing can go right. Congress has the lowest approval of all time and has, by many measures, been the least productive as well. The potential of a double dip recession looms like an ominous cloud over the country. Partisan politics seems to have entranced the government and the entire nation into a paralysis. Joblessness seems like a persistent blight among our population. Yet, I believe it is the knowledge of these problems that gives us the power to combat them.
First, we need to acknowledge the problems and respect all potential solutions. Once we have done that, we will have taken the first step to solving them. Hopefully we can recognize that many of these issues are systemic and structural in nature and will require bold measures to tackle. There is no longer time for half-way or middle of the road solutions.