Curbing Excellence

The trouble with American education

America's primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them. Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong ones. Mediocrity is the national norm.

The very best students are the ones most likely to do things of great benefit to the rest of us—cure malaria, devise revolutionary inventions, start the next Apple, or plumb the secrets of the universe. But we don't always put much importance on helping them realize their full potential.

A case in point is Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., a racially and economically mixed suburb of Chicago that is home to Northwestern University. It recently decided to eliminate a high honors freshman English course aimed at challenging the top students.

Henceforth, these youngsters will be grouped with everyone else in a regular "honors" class in humanities. Next year, the same may be done with biology. Your kid is an honor student at ETHS? Heck, everyone is an honors student at ETHS.

It's hardly the only school in America where grouping students according to their ability is in disrepute. There is a widespread impulse to treat all kids as equally able and willing to learn. But the results often fall dismally short of the hopes.

When the Chicago public schools scrapped remedial classes for ninth graders and put everyone in college-prep courses, "failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve and students were no more likely to enter college," according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. Among average and above-average students, absenteeism rose.

The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don't elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, "The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There's a long-standing attitude that, 'Well, smart kids can make it on their own.'"

But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.

School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor. Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses.

This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests. Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.

But if you have a fever, you don't bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work. Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn't exist.

Schools that group (or "track") kids by ability generally get better overall results. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, "Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels."

Why would that be? Teaching is not easy, and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder. Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group. Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another.

Shortchanging gifted teens creates the risk of another unwanted effect: inducing their parents to leave. Families in Evanston can always move to neighboring suburbs with good schools, or they can opt for several fine private and parochial alternatives. Average students don't gain from being in the same classes as exceptional ones if the exceptional ones are not there.

We as a society have not been very successful at turning average students into high achievers. Maybe we'll have better luck doing the opposite.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

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  • Old Mexican||

    America's primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them. Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong ones. Mediocrity is the national norm.




    Are you insinuating that Public Schools favor conformity over achievement as part of their nature?

    Say it ain't so, Shoeless! Say it ain't so!

    (We kinda knew, Steve.)

  • BakedPenguin||

    Viejo, Chapman is a Creators Syndicate columnist - his stuff goes out to those who don't get the real dirt libertarians get at Reason, Liberty, LvMI, etc..

  • ||

    Everyone needs to relax. The war on education, just like the war on drugs and everything else is working just exactly as it is intended that it work. It is serving the interests of those whose interests it is supposed to serve. I'm certain you have all seen George Carlin's take on education. Is there really anything else to say? Anyone who thinks we are trying to produce capable, intelligent, thinking individuals with public education is delusional.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "This is US History; I see the globe right there."

  • ||

    In high school, my friends and I ordered a pizza and had it delivered to our social studies class to honor Spicoli and Mr. Hand. To her credit, our teacher didn't give it all away to other people. I don't think she'd seen the movie.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Someone tried it at my school, but the delivery guy went to the office instead of the classroom, where it was promptly confiscated.

  • ||

    Every classroom in my school had its own door to the outside plus windows, so we just told him which class to come to and he walked right up; he never even had to go inside the school itself. When he knocked on the door it was priceless.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Yeah, if she'd seen the movie she'd have definitely given it to the other students.

    What's interesting about the Spicoli/ Mr. Hand dynamic in the film (and I'm sure this was completely unintentional) is that it nicely epitomizes how schools got so mediocre in the first place. Mr. Hand's ostensibly a ball-buster, berating his students for their stupidity and keeping Spicoli from attending the end of school dance for a couple of hours. But ultimately, he moves Spicoli along because he doesn't want to have to deal with him the next year.

    Mediocrity is accepted because teachers don't want to fail students, and parents don't want to believe their kids are actually dumb strivers that shouldn't be aspiring to the managerial class.

  • Cyto||

    Also interesting is who the players in that act are. The teacher (Ben Stein) went on to become something of a right winger (at least on religion) in favor of higher education standards, among other things. Spicoli (Sean Penn) went on to become a strong socialist with friends in high places in many of the countries that are in opposition to the US. It mirrors what one would expect from a student who skated through life and a teacher who tried to whip him in to shape, but ultimately failed and gave up.

  • ||

    That ain't Ben Stein. It's the guy from My Favorite Martian. His name escapes me, but it sure as hell ain't Ben Stein.

  • ||

    It was Ray Walston.

  • ||

    Thank you, Beuler.

  • ||

    Before I recognized the picture, I thought it was Joe Biden.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Unintentional? Seemed damned obvious to me.

    If anything, it doesn't fit modern times because some schools WANT fuckups (just not too many of them) so they can get some money for being "at risk".

  • Old Mexican||

    School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

    One can actually smell the bullshit ripen...

  • Oh, I get it||

    Sitting next to underachieving, misbehaving assholes that never do homework rounds out one's personality. I think a couple of years of slave labor in the soybean fields would be better.

  • DesigNate||

    That sounds way to fucking close to some actual lines in Shrugged.

  • Billy Shakespeare||

    One can actually smell the bullshit ripen...

    How do you know when it's ready to pick?

  • Matrix||

    Wanna sell bullshit? Tell them that they will earn "cultural" or "social" skill in lieu of academic excellence. See which one gets you a rewarding career faster, assholes!

  • ||

    Well, if you're going civil service......

  • ||

    Well, I know most everyone hates me here but my take is 'fuck the high-tech shit' and bury students heads by age 18 in textbooks filled with differential equations, molecular biology, physics, chemistry, and Western culture and everything will be fine.

  • Mr Whipple||

    How about shit that students can actually use in life, like personal finance. I read that only 8% of high school students are taught personal finance. Any wonder why there is so much credit card debt, and bad mortgages? What the Hell good is Diff-E-Qs if you can't balance a fucking checkbook?

  • ||

    But, if students were taught the rudiments of finance, they might not believe the bullshit that the government feeds them about the national debt!

    -jcr

  • Mr Whipple||

    It would also make it easier for them to understand business finance and possibly become entrepreneurs.

    Too many entrepreneurs ruin a good crony-capitalist society built on monopolistic corporations and monopolistic unions. We can't have any of that.

  • jtuf||

    Hmmm. I used Diff-E-Q's to understand statistics in grad school. That allowed me to earn a stipend. My wife balanced the checkbook. ... Actually, my exwife balanced the checkbook, so maybe that's not the best system to use.

  • ||

    Your right on Mr. Whipple another thing I would add is, why not let the student chose what he or she wants to do in life and take classes in that profession? Why not make it hands on? If a student wants to be a chef, let him or her cook etc. There is schools who do this and the students are more successful then the factory public school students the system shits out year after year. In any profession the student will learn finances, math, spelling etc. to get the job done. If a kid wants and loves the profession he/she will want to learn.

  • Derp||

    College called, it wants it's ideas back.

  • wat||

    Why on earth should that be taught to high school students? That's basic math and far beyond what they should be expected to know. Teach that to sixth graders and let the high school kids learn age-appropriate stuff.

  • Matrix||

    It's a conspiracy! Accountants and credit companies don't want you to know to to manage your own money so you will seek their services.

  • ||

    8%, so that's like, half?

  • Mr Whipple||

    That's like the joke about the group of Physicists that go out to dinner, and between them, can't figure out 15% of the check for the tip, because nobody brought a slide rule.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Musta' been a bunch of theorists.

  • jtuf||

    Then a mathematician with a slide ruler walked by and gave it to them. Since they had reduced the situation to a solvable problem, they all went home without bothering to pay the check.

  • ||

    Use 10% it's easier.

  • Sam Grove||

    This way:

    10% of $18.36 = 1.84
    1/2 $1.84 = $0.92

    1.84 + .92 = 2.76

    15% tip on $18.36 = $2.76

    What the hell, make it $3

  • ||

    What the hell, make it $3

    $3 is the perfect tip for 1 person anyway.

  • Mensan||

    I just use 20%. Not that 15% is much more difficult to calculate, but I'm lazy.

  • jtuf||

    +10^2 to shrike

  • Jeffersonian||

    Shriek, I've mother-fucked you ceaselessly here, but I find myself in complete agreement with you on this. Training high-schoolers in technology that will be obsolete by time they graduate is a fool's game. Teach them the rock-solid fundamentals, and they can learn the fleeting and transient on their own as need be.

    That's for the top students, ones who ought to go to university.

    For the rest, American needs to get over its idiotic idea that everyone ought to get a college-prep education. We need to train others to have enough math, language and history to be teachers, machinists, store managers, electricians and other jobs that are almost totally neglected today.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    ^^This.

    If you're a striver poor with a high IQ and can get scholarships, then all the best. But if you're actually dumber than a box of rocks, you're not doing yourself any favors by taking out an obscene amount of debt--which, at this point, you'll probably be paying off for the rest of your life--only to get stuck in the employment wasteland after college.

    The whole internet is awash with stories right now of kids who let their dreams, and the encouragement of their elders and the media/political/educational complex, fuck them with debt and a worthless degree. Better if they had developed some blue-collar skills, worked an apprenticeship, saved their money, and started their own business down the road.

    This "Julian" ad epitomizes everything that's wrong with today's attitude about college--it's not a means to get a degree and establish a career that provides, but rather something to allow yourself to mindlessly consume shit you don't really need and can't afford.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=channel

  • Mensan||

    We need to train others to have enough math, language and history to be teachers, machinists, store managers, electricians and other jobs that are almost totally neglected today.

    Each teacher that I know personally has at least a Master's degree. I maintain that a Master's in Ed must be one of the easiest degrees to earn, because almost every teacher I know is a dumbass.

  • ||

    It really depends what the degree is in. My mom just got a Master's in Special Needs education, which is a chore in and of itself. A Master's in say, Physical Education or Elementary education though? Just 2+ more years of the same shit you would have taken in undergrad classes and probably most people figured out in 12 years of primary education.

  • ||

    The reason the teachers all have master's degrees is because getting one gives them a big bump in pay and it's easy to get. Around Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University is the mill of choice. I believe an IQ of 90 is needed to manage a masters in ed from NEIU. I'm sure it's the same elsewhere - gaming the idiotic system.

  • ||

    I am a teacher with a masters degree. And you're right. Not only do you not have to be too bright to get a masters in education, but you can get a 4.0 with very little work. We had a catholic nun in my class who actually bragged about all the essays she plagiarized from the internet and how she got A's as a result.

    All but two of my classes were taught by adjuncts -- teachers in the classroom whose superiority of knowledge to my own was in doubt.

    My masters was in special education.

    ]

  • Realist||

    "...differential equations, molecular biology, physics, chemistry..." That is how we got high tech.

  • Invisible Finger||

    High school is far too late with the intense learning. People still want to believe their kids are smart but "the high school isn't working right" when the problem is the Elementary schools aren't teaching them anything (especially how to learn on their own). Far too much time in public grade school is spent on social self-esteem at the expense of the 3 R's.

  • jtuf||

    Chapman, I beg to differ with you. Mixing students is better than tracking. I was in 4 different tracts from "special education" to "Advanced Placement" during my K through 12 years. In each track, I got A's. So, being in the lower tracts limited my ability to learn in those classes, because the advanced material was never even presented to me in those classes.

    My high school also had mixed Honors and Regular electives. Students from both tracks attended the same classes, but the Honors kids got extra homework that required higher levels of thinking. It is rather easy to accommodate diverse abilities in one class. You can even eliminate the Honors and Regular labels if you get the parents of Regular kids to accept that a C is for average work and the B's and A's are for above average work. Tracking is just a trick to get everyone on a level where he can bring home all B's and A's. Eliminate the grade inflation, then you can combine tracks.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Your solution presumes that the people operating the school are competent.

    Actually, tracking makes that presumption too, but only requires that the people making the tracking decisions are competent.

    In the public schools I attended the incidence of competence are pretty low both in the classroom and in the support wing.

    Take from that what you will.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    In the public schools I attended the incidence of competence are pretty low both in the classroom and in the support wing.

    But you can see from my grammar that it didn't hurt me at all...

  • jtuf||

    Good point. Come to think of it, my teacher for those classes got yelled at by the teachers union for working to many hours. How about we bulldoze the schools and let the kids grow free range?

  • Mensan||

    How about we bulldoze the schools and let the kids grow free range?

    Free range kids taste better.

  • Realist||

    But much tougher to chew!

  • Derp||

    Then we'd be Afghanistan.

  • ||

    I remember a few experimental classes where the smart kids were mixed with the dumb kids for Language Arts. I hated it with a passion because I felt like I was being dragged down and held back and relearning stuff I had already learned three years ago. And then there was the in-class reading. I was always 10 pages ahead and when the teacher called on me to read I had to ask where the rest of the class was in the book, either that or I followed along and blurted out every other word because the dumb kids were stumbling over them. I just wondered the whole time, "why were a bunch of smart kids put in a remedial class?" I really don't think I learned anything in that class that year.

  • ||

    Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

    That's funny, none of my job or college applications ever had a "cultural capital" section.

    All this will lead to is more wiggers. One of the more unbearably awful sounds in the universe is white kids who talk like they're black. The only white guy who should ever talk like he's black is Herbert Kornfeld. And he's dead.

    Can we start outsourcing the jobs of school administrators to their counterparts in India and China, who, it seems, actually know how to run schools?

  • El Duderino||

    Teachers are dumb. They think black and white kids are the same, but they call a mix of black and white kids "diversity". The fucking dictionary should be required reading for all teachers.

  • Realist||

    They have something to work with in China.

  • ||

    Here's a shocking suggestion: Let the parents decide. Crazy, I know.

  • ||

    Our schools are run by union members and are overseen by the same kinds of people who run the DMV. Their purpose is to make everyone conform. 1) Keep kids off the street. 2) Conformity via Social indoctrination

    Sending children to public schools is a form of child neglect.

    I'd say I'm sorry if that offends those of you who were so neglected or those of you who neglect your own children that way--except I'm not.

    I think one of the worst aspects of that kind of conformity is the way it strips otherwise decent people of their shame. Everyone else sends grandpa off to the nursing home, so it's okay if I do it too! Everyone else sends their kids off to the DMV for indoctrination, so it's okay if I do it too!

    ...besides, I was sent to public schools all my life! ...and look at the strapping young sprite I turned out to be!

    Baloney.

    Everyone else indulging in disgusting behavior doesn't make it any less disgusting. ...reminds of my pet peeve--people who send their kids to public schools complaining about "welfare queens". ...as if sending your kids off to the meat grinder for an education at everyone else's expense somehow makes you better than people who use food stamps?!

    I think it's great that a "free" education is shitty. What'd you expect?! A quality education?

    Why?

    Taught by union members. Managed by politicians. Why any morally thinking person would send their innocent children off to such a sure a fate is beyond me. Why should anybody else care about your children if you don't care enough about them yourself to educate them properly?

  • ||

    I don't know anyone who thinks a public education is a "free" education.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Professional Critic,

    I don't know anyone who thinks a public education is a "free" education.

    http://laprensa-sandiego.org/s.....e-unforms/

    Maybe you and Sally Arguilez can get to know each other.

  • ||

    I have a feeling I wouldn't like her. Point taken though.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Professional Critic,

    And I totally undestand what you're trying to say: "Public"schooling ain't free at all. But there are people who believe it is.

  • JD||

    It's understandable that they believe that--they learned their math skills from the public schools.

  • ||

    It's not the math skills that lead to that attitude, it's the history/social studies where people are supposed to learn about taxation, voting, divided government, etc...American history classes are little more than indoctrination sessions where the triumphs of FDR are endlessly trumpeted as the salvation of America.

    Not all students are duped by this, but they know they have to play the game in order to get the cookie at the end of the maze.

  • Mensan||

    American history classes are little more than indoctrination sessions where the triumphs of FDR are endlessly trumpeted as the salvation of America.

    Unfortunately that's not even limited to K-12. I had a University professor who thought FDR was the greatest president we ever had. To her credit, she actually considered my arguments when I would interupt her lectures. She even read a copy of FDR's Folly that I let her borrow. She told me that she had never heard any of those arguments against FDR's policies before. She managed to get a PhD in history without ever hearing anything but praise for him!

  • Realist||

    That is scary.

  • ||

    But you can see scare quotes well enough to repeat them?

    I suppose it probably seems "freer" to people who pay tuition for their own kids to go to school--on top of what other people's kids get...

    It sure seemed that way to me when I was working my way through boarding school. I remember, I used to have to walk through town to get to the bus to go work a shift at the saw mill. I always had to walk through a crowd of kids hangin' out after school... They gave me the business for being a rich kid--a "preppy". I remember how it bugged the shit out of me that part of my taxes went to pay for their education...

    That I had to help pay for my tuition, room and board--and then I had to pay for their education too. ...I had to work a shift after school--and they had time to hang around on the sidewalk and hassle me...for being privileged?

    Yeah, somebody has to pay for that education--so it isn't really free in the strict sense. Of course, those rotten kids didn't pay for a god damn thing. And compared to people who pay for their own kids' educations--and then everybody else's kids too?

    It can sure seem like somebody's freeloading along the line there somewhere.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Sending children to public schools is a form of child neglect.

    Hear hear! Just in case anyone cares, I'll mention that I've been agitating for youth rights, including the right to be free of the public school system. At the end of every school day last week, I've been seen near the local public high school with a protest sign saying HIGH SCHOOLS ARE PRISONS, handing out free books about youth liberation. Some students hate me for it; some love me for it.

  • ||

    I brought up the idea of "negative rights" (i.e., the right not to get an education) in a faculty meeting once. Ouch. I think some of my colleagues secretly agreed, but were more than happy that I brought it up so I would get the icy stares and not one of them.

  • DesigNate||

    Unfortunately, my monocle and top hat, plus my gold and diamond encrusted underwear will preclude me from being able to send my kid to private school. Plus it doesn't help that she/he will be white as a sheet.

  • ||

    we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

    IOW, nerdy white, asian, and middle eastern kids get to sit in skid row to get their lunch 'capital' taken from them by the other 'cultures'. Great work, guys.

  • publius||

    Schools in our time have nothing to do with learning, but with various rather dubious forms of perceived economic advantage.

    When people discuss K-12 schooling, they mention international norms and global competitiveness.

    When they talk about secondary education, they mention job placement and the advantages of prestige schools for career advancement.

    No one even remembers that when universities were first created they weren't places where you went to train for a job, they were places where scholars could get together to communicate and advance, you know, scholarship.

    Today, advancing scholarship seems to be an afterthought rather than a goal.

  • ||

    Brian Aitken freed...

  • Ali||

    But if you have a fever, you don't bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work.

    Nonsense. It's genetics. When you break down American scores by race every group clusters with the nations where their ancestors came from.

    http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

    The war on excellence will go on until we acknowledge this.

  • Adonisus||

    Piss off, white nationalist scum.

  • Ali||

    Ha ha, I'll make sure to tell all my brothers at the Mosque Friday what "white nationalist scum" I am.

  • Mensan||

    Nonsense. It's genetics. When you break down American scores by race every group clusters with the nations where their ancestors came from.
    White Americans students outperformed the national average in every one of the 37 historically white countries tested, except Finland.

    Intersting correlations, but I'd be more inclined to suspect cultural influences over genetics. Do the correlations persist through subsequent generations removed from the ancestral country? What about abopted children raised in a different ethnic culture? Do asian children raised by white adoptive parents test more like asian kids, or more like white kids?

  • Realist||

    You really need to read more on this subject. IQ is much more genetic than cultural. There are many studies on this subject. Twin studies, adoption studies, generational studies.

  • Ali||

    When Asian and Black children are adopted into white homes the gaps are practically the same. Google the book "Race, Evolution and Behavior."

  • Old Mexican||

    Mediocrity is the national norm.

    Must be part of the "great deal" that Tony was talking about...

    "Taxes aren't charity. They're payment for services--and the best deal you'll ever find."

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/12.....a#comments

  • ||

    I'm glad you take him on, OM. I haven't the faculties or energy to argue with him, but I do find myself smarter after reading these exchanges.

  • Kjetil||

    In Norways all-public school (public monopoly) grouping kids into different levels is illegal :'(

  • Realist||

    Where the hell is Norways???

  • Realist||

    Must be close to Anyways!

  • ||

    It's a country full of people smart enough to understand posessives without depleting their store of apostrophes.

  • crazyfish||

    Does high school really matter? I mean we have had the shitty public schools for what 20 years now? And America is still on top of the shit relatively. And it will lose its "top of the shit" status not because of shitty public k-12 education but of the growing constraints and attacks on economic liberty. Indian or Chinese students may be able to solve differential equations when they are five, but that does not mean squat for the level of economic opportunity in those countries. And in the USA, we have done a lot despite our shitty k-12 system. We are still the driver of creative ideas that gets turned more successfully into profitable enterprises.

    Here is why the rest of the world is better than us in public education: the rest of what world makes education easier and more efficient by tracking their students. I grew up in the Nigerian and Cameroonian schooling system which closely resembles the British and French system. The level of education for those that can get it is more rigorous than in the USA. It had to be, there were tough examinations at every stage of education. Examinations that would make even the most ambitious parent here in the States cry. Teachers were not afraid to hold students back from the grade if they do not pass the examinations. By the time you are 14 or 15, the system has already forced your path in life. Either you studied more sciences and math, and forget the humanities and soft stuff, or you concentrated on the soft stuff and forget about the sciences.

    But the good news for the american student, is that they can at any time in their later adult lives go back and correct their faulty education. We have community colleges and, vocational colleges (for the record, I totally support a teenager skipping high school entirely and going straight to a community college, the teenager will learn faster, and more efficiently). In the rest of the world, people are stuck with what the system forced on them.

    Of course if a system tries to treat everyone the same, pretends that every student is interested in learning the same things, the system will gravitate to the lowest common denominator. It won't rise above the average. But what do I know? In Lake Woebegone, every child is above average.

  • Patriot Henry||

    "Does high school really matter? I mean we have had the shitty public schools for what 20 years now? "

    More like 120 years.

  • ||

    Only 6 percent of American kids ...

    It's dumb to lump all the US states (counties, whatever) together because there's more difference between the various states than there is between some states and other countries, including the countries that typically score well.

    http://www.infoexpanse.com/index.php?ID=p797
    The report, "Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators for Comparing States and Nations," classifies student performance levels as: Basic, which indicates a partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge; Proficient, solid academic performance; and Advanced, which shows superior performance.

    In mathematics, students in 49 states and the District of Columbia are behind their counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Students in Massachusetts are on a par with Japanese students, but trail the other four nations. In science, students in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin trail only students in Singapore and Taiwan, while performing equal or better than students in the other 45 countries surveyed.
    ...
    Students in the District of Columbia had the lowest U.S. performance in mathematics (they did not participate in the science test). In math, the average D.C. student is at the Below Basic level, putting them behind students in 29 countries and ahead of those in 14 countries. In science, nine states are at the Below Basic level: Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Alabama, Hawaii, California and Mississippi.

  • Realist||

    Hmmmm, is there a pattern here. The places that do for shit are all multi-cultural and the places that do well are uni-cultural and asian to boot.

  • ||

    Something else that's dumb is to claim that there's a "US school system" or a US style of education, and not realize that the differing test results within that system means that the results depend more on student demographics than on the school system.

  • Adam||

    racial balance will take priority over academic rigor

    Bad choice. If one knows how to read and follow a logical argument, one has the capability to learn about "diversity." If one simply shares the classroom with "diverse" people, one's learning how to read and follow a logical argument may be diminished.

  • ||

    honestly, i think that a country's economic/technological health is totally irrelevant to the primary education system. as people get older and they realize that they need certain skills to get a given job, they get the training they need for it. Freedom in the overall economy and the ability to get training for a given job...is much more important.

    I just view the public education system as a huge waste of time and money..the kids aren't learning anything, which is a huge shame.

  • ||

    "All in all you're just another brick in the wall..." -- Roger Waters on British education.

  • ||

    Get rid of all the niggers in our country and we wouldn't have all these problems.

  • ||

    Just like some of the most rabid gay-bashers are in the closet I've found that some of the most rabid white supremacists have a few 'impurities' in their family trees.

  • ||

    Not that there's anything wrong with that!!

  • Realist||

    "...differential equations, molecular biology, physics, chemistry..." That is how we got high tech.

  • Realist||

    This was suppose to be a reply to Shrike.

  • Caroline||

    I think we should phase out the public school system. Education is too important to be handled by a government monopoly. Sure, there are private schools, but most are too expensive for working Americans, who also have to pay for public school "tuition" via taxes. It's amazing that there is a huge outcry about the government controlling health care and the auto industry, but there's not the same outrage over education. State schools have been the status quo for so long that virtually no one seems to question their existence.

  • DK||

    You must be new here. You're not likely to find a single person on this board who disagrees with this sentiment. Most would say that the "is too important to be handled by a government monopoly" moniker applies to almost everything governments currently do. Interestingly, such comments won't evoke much of a response from the many people here who agree with you. Instead, they spend their time arguing with the few who troll these boards and argue for mass government involvement in everyday American life.

    If you are new here, then welcome! But you should know that comments espousing elimination of government entities is not likely to elicit responses on this site. You need to say something relatively evocative, like disagreeing with someone's interpretation of the correct libertarian brand.

  • Mensan||

    The national average (2008 numbers, the most recent I could find quickly) public spending per pupil was about $10.5k. The same year the national average for private school tutition was about $10.5k.

    The difference is the private schools provide a much better education. Eliminating public schools, and allocating the current fundung to vouchers for private schools would encourage the opening of more private schools which would (as everyone here, except for the statist trolls, knows) would improve the quality of education while driving prices down.

  • Realist||

    Not everyone is college material. Our colleges and universities, even some private ones, are full of "students" taking simpleton courses.

  • DDavis||

    "There's a long-standing attitude that, 'Well, smart kids can make it on their own.'"

    It's really murder not to give smart kids work that challenges them. The most important thing that a student needs to learn in school is how to motivate and drive themselves. Setting the bar much lower than their capabilities ensures that they never learn what they need to learn - how to control and operate themselves.

  • Mensan||

    Agreed. I never had to study in high school; even for "honors" classes. I didn't even need to study for my first 2 years of college. Your junior year of college is not the best time to discover that you've never taken a challenging class before, and have no idea which studying methods work best for you.

  • Realist||

    More time and money should be spent on higher IQ students. They will advance knowledge and do great things for mankind. As the great philosopher, Ron White said..."Ya can't fix stupid!"

  • mike||

    Blame the parents who insist that Johnny absolutely must have the latest greatest gadgets in his class, which of course should be a class size of 1. When eduKation stops looking for a problem to solve and instead goes back to basics that were proven to work (ie, pre 1960) we might actually see some progress.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    It always amazes me that people are dumb enough to think that a hyperexpensive smartboard can transmit knowledge to kids better than a blackboard and chalk.

  • ||

    Oh. My. God.
    Someone else who agrees with me!!!! You don't know how mother-fucking pissed off I get every time I see this crap brought into a classroom. You know what my HS kid's Spanish teacher used the sonofabitch thing for? To do streaming audio of a Spanish lesson from teh intertubes. God, I wanted to wring her neck....

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Christ, that's not even as bad as school districts that buy shit like Dance Dance Revolution and Wiis for gym class, as opposed to making the munchkins run sprints, play soccer and basketball, or jump rope. Not nearly as expensive and ten times as effective. Maybe it's the lame-ass "OMG WE CAN'T LET THEIR SELF-ESTEEM BE CRUSHED BY PHYSICALLY COMPETING WITH EACH OTHER" mentality that's caused it.

  • ||

    Jesus, my other educational "hot button". (If I didn't know better, I'd think you were a sockpuppet)

    We can't have the kids throwing a football around during recess - somebody might bump into somebody else!! And they wonder why kids are obese?

    I weep for my country....

  • FleeingCali||

    My wife was educated in China. She had huge class sizes compared to here (50+), minimal equipment/supplies, and yet they still had them at a higher level than I was by the end of high school.

    Our university system is still better - probably because that is where encouraging 'free thinking' pays off. For primary education, repetition and hard work is enough.

  • Realist||

    See my comment about Asians below.

  • ||

    "The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work."

    When my now middle-school aged daughter was in third grade (at a school of mostly low-income students), her teacher taught the class that the Philippines were in South America and that Korea was part of China. My daughter corrected her in front of the whole class.

    We now homeschool.

  • Cyto||

    I had a similar experience with a science teacher in middle school biology. I corrected her (gently) several times in class. Needless to say, she made my life difficult for a while. I eventually got her fired (with help from my father). Many years have passed since then. Yet not much has improved in schools, and much has gotten worse. Now I'm considering options for educating my children. None of them look so great. I guess I'll just spend my "retirement years" working to pay for their education....

  • Sean Dougherty||

    I actually like the idea of cutting the remedial classes and letting the kids who won't study fail. I wish they'd had that at my high school. The kids in the idiot classes were invariably the bigots and bullies. Flunking them out by making them take the same classes I took would have been sweet.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    The down side is that you would have gotten to take classes with bigots and bullies a few years older than you (because they'd already washed back a couple of times.). At least until your last couple of years of high school.

  • rhea||

    I why can’t I feel this so-called “excellence”!? I just remember the movie Coach Carter, anyone seen this will definitely agree with the film. Plus an increase percentage in student bullying and racism.

    We help Americans find jobs and prosperity in Asia. Visit http://www.pathtoasia.com/jobs/ for details.

  • Psy||

    Again, an article (and 72 comments) without ONE mention of the critical issue in learning: INTELLIGENCE. If we do not attend to the normal distribution curve of intelligence we are not dealing with human learning as it is. A student with an 85 IQ is never going to learn calculus.

    Why can't we say it? Not all of us have the same intelligence.

  • Chony||

    But saying that would make us racists, the worst things that ever have and ever will exist.

  • Realist||

    Psy:
    Excellent. You are absolutely right

  • ||

    Ahem...you make it sound like the schools are being mean to smart kids. What is happening - in fact - is an agressive defunding of programs that help high achievers. You people are all alike. You want something for nothing. Great way to raise your kids: an excessive level of comfort and self-esteem and utterly inadequate coping abilities.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Actaully, Ray, what's been going on is a 35+ year experiment in social engineering that's utterly failed.

    If money spent per pupil=success, DC would have the highest achievers in the nation, and we'd sure be a hell of a lot higher in the educational food chain than we are.

  • ||

    Yeah Ray - they're defunding those programs to keep the unions happy and protect multicultural unicorns.

  • Realist||

    "The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work." That's not the problem at all. The lack of cognitive ability is the problem!

  • FleeingCali||

    I don't agree although I do understand your point.

    It doesn't take a high IQ to learn trig, calculus, etc. It just makes it EASIER. Some people just have to work harder.

    I think the bigger problem with black and hispanic students is cultural/social. It's just not as important in those groups (in general) to excel in school.

    Asians do well in school largely because they MUST do well (or their parents will go nuts on them.) They are EXPECTED to do well and work hard. Their friends all are expected to do well and work hard.

  • Realist||

    "It doesn't take a high IQ to learn trig, calculus, etc." It takes an IQ higher than 85.
    "I think the bigger problem with black and hispanic students is cultural/social. It's just not as important in those groups (in general) to excel in school." Old canard. Asian have an average IQ higher than white Europeans or American, and much higher than blacks.

  • d||

    Good to know. If I ever move back to "Da Region", I won't be living in Evanston.

  • ||

    The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem

    Maybe the appallingly low lack of two-parent families among them?

  • DK||

    What's a low lack? Is that a lack or an overabundance?

  • Psy||

    Even one parent families status is associated with low intelligence.

  • Bud Abbott||

    "Didn't you go to school, stupid?"

  • Lou Costello||

    "Yea, and I came out the same way!"

  • The terrorsts won 30 years ago||

    Back in the Cold War days, we separated the idiots from the smart ones so that we wouldn't retard the intelligence of the smart ones. We needed their brains to invent stuff to defeat the Commies.

    The Cold War is over and now we're scared shitless of a few thousand Muslims. So we teach the kids nowadays on how to like and be liked because Allah forbid a few thousand nutjobs don't like us. We have to learn to accept their intolerance as just another viewpoint but we must not only tolerate their intolerance we must also understand it and approve of it.

    It'll all come in handy someday - to keep the unemployment and welfare offices from breaking out in non-religious violence.

  • ||

    Don't put blame entirely on the school systems. Poor parenting skills play a large factor. This is considerably true in the urban areas.

  • 35N4P2BYY||

    Before I start, I know this is an anecdote and does not belie any statistically significant trend.

    Anecdote follows, my oldest step-daughter, a junior in HS, recently came home with a straight-A report card. I am very happy for and proud but the child is not exactly what you think of when you think strait As. But when I look at the projects (lots of coloring and pasting) and homework she has I see a bar set so dismally low it would take an active effort to fail or even do poorly.

    I went to the parent teacher conferences and as the faculty went over the umpteen chances they gave kids to retake math and science tests to better their grades. It made me a little sick to my stomach that they expected so little of these kids.

    Or maybe I am ticked off that I now have to allow her to get a nose stud.

  • ||

    During my rebellious stage as a sophomore in high school I made an active effort to get dismally low grades in a supposedly accelerated English class where the bar was set dismally low.

    Of course I got grounded for getting C's and D's on my midterm reports so I got them up to A's and B's by the end of the semester. really didn't take much effort at all to do that.

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