According to a dear friend, quoting a study by the Economist, “the U.S. ranked 17th in its assessment of the world’s education systems.” This, and other similar rankings, makes the case we are “failing,” because America is not keeping pace educationally with its global competitors. Applying that thinking, we hear often in legislative committee rooms, it’s because we “aren’t spending enough.” But according to our U.S. Department of Education, “The U.S. outlay [spending] is $2,826 more per pupil, than other industrialized countries.”

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When you are looking at the statistics on anything, in this case education, you have to remember that in America statistics don’t mean anything without further analysis. Average rankings, spending and graduation rates don’t mean anything unless thy are further broken down according demographics, such as

  • public, charter and private schools
  • asians, whites, hispanics, blacks
  • new immigrants, first generation Americans, second and later generation Americans
  • inner cities / ghettos, mid-town, suburbs, and small towns / rural areas
  • cultural factors that determine “class” status
  • the specific curricula being offered in our schools
  • and least of all, economic factors that determine “class” status

Only then you can start seeing the reasons for the disparities. Only then you can start to understand why just throwing more and more money at the problem is NOT the solution. It is much more important to reexamine where and how the money is spent.

  • Poverty will keep you out of private school, but it can’t keep you from learning what you are taught, no matter where and by whom you are taught.
  • Only the cultural attitudes of your parents, peers and, tragically, your teachers and the school boards can do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • Misdirecting funds, away from the classroom to top heavy administration and social welfare programs based in school, can and does do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • Forgetting that the purpose of schools is to educate, not to correct social ills and injustices, can and does do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • Forgetting that education is the pathway to responsible citizenship, but not necessarily to economic success, can and does do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • Adopting whatever nonsensical fad is being promoted as the latest and greatest in pedagogic theory (creative spelling, whole language, self-esteem programs, Common Core…), can and does do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • Day care, masquerading as all day pre-K or kindergarten, can and does do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem.
  • ESL (English as a second language), ELL (early language learner), teaching academic subjects in your native language and other similarly misguided and expensive programs can and do do that. More money does NOT fix THAT problem. In this case the only program that does work is totally free — total immersion, the way you learned your first language and I had learned three more in my childhood. You don’t need special ESL, ELL and native speaking teachers and the massive administrative superstructure to do that.

None of this has anything to do with improving education but everything to do with throwing more and more money into the bottomless pit that is today’s education establishment.

If only all the well-meaning people concerned about our children and worried about their future would hear and understand that… But I am just a lone voice crying in the wilderness at closed ears and closed minds.

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