Why American Education Reform is Doomed (Part 3)

March 17, 2010

Part 3

Solutions and False Comparison

I’ve spent about 2500 words now telling you why government attempts at education reform are doomed to failure, and you are probably asking yourself, “Okay, Mr. Smartypants, what should we do about it?” This is where I need to talk about false comparisons.

You will hear the following numbers a lot: The US ranks 15th in reading, 24th in math, and 21st in science among the 30 “industrialized” countries. That tells you something, but not what you think it does. Go look at the charts and follow the links to individual countries, what you will find is this: Every single country ahead of the United States has done one of two things, and usually both: 1. It has plowed a lot of money into the educational system.* 2. It takes care of its people. Most of the countries ahead of us are the same ones you can hear certain members of the government decrying as “European-style Socialism.” These are countries that pay attention to their poor and don’t have the majority of their wealth concentrated in a handful of citizens. Amazingly, when they don’t have to worry about eating or working two jobs, students and their parents seem to do better. Crazy how that works.

*A commonly held misconception is that the US spends more per student than any other country. This is true only in a raw sense. In addition to the discrepancies caused by the inequitable funding system we have in the US, things tend to cost more here, so the US is the leader in educational spending only if you don’t adjust for how much things cost in a given country and ignore the under-funding that occurs in poor communities.

So here are your solutions: The bulk of the problem takes place outside the educational system. To fix it, you need to implement wide spread social reform that shows that the country is dedicated to taking care of all of its citizens. In schools, where the rest of the problem lies, it’s time to actually put the money there. No more dilapidated school buildings. No more desks that are older than me. If a teacher asks for books, the money should be there. Wait, I take that back, a teacher should NEVER have to ask for books. Oh, and if you want to start drawing more people to the profession, especially the struggling schools, you’re going to need to start paying better. A lot better. My first year of teaching, I was stuck in one of the very worst high schools in the state. If I’m being honest, I would require a raise of more than $10,000* to be tempted to move back there. Otherwise, the increased workload and frustration that comes with that job just aren’t worth it. Others might not come as cheaply. This is why inexperienced and bad teachers end up in the worst schools. If your company needs someone to take on a hard, shitty project, and they want someone competent to do the job, they are probably going to have to kick in some extra money. Harder jobs within companies tend to pay more. There is a reason for this.

*I don’t want to hear about how I only care about money. If that were true, I wouldn’t be a teacher. I just don’t want to be miserable everyday, and if I’m going to be, I want to be compensated for it.

If the President and others in the government really want to fix education, there are things that can be done, but I have yet to see any of them discussed. Our elected officials need to wake up and pay attention to how the world really works. Until they are willing to do that and drop the posturing, I’m unwilling to listen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *