The deteriorating American education system has been an area of concern among conservatives for many years. The self-serving National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, along with American liberals bent on keeping the nation’s youth imprisoned in ineffective government schools, have succeeded only in lowering the level of education our young people receive. And that holds true not just in the horrible urban schools of our major cities, but in small town America and in every state in the union.
senior fellow in education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Michigan, published the following results of international testing of students in the fourth- and eighth-grade levels in a recent column on the education system:
Among eighth-graders, the top five nations in combined mathematics and science performance were Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Among fourth-graders, the top four nations in combined mathematics and science performance were Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (Korea did not test students in the fourth grade).
How did the United States perform compared to other industrialized nations — that is, the top 40 nations in terms of per-capita income? At the fourth-grade level, American students were nine points above the average in science and 11 points below it in math, putting them almost dead average overall. At the eighth-grade level, American students were four points below average in science and 24 points below average in math, putting them clearly, but not abysmally, below the rich-country average.
While we teach our children how to use condoms, how to be politically correct, how to feel good about yourself when you fail, and in some schools why homosexuality is an okay lifestyle, reading, writing and arithmetic seem to be considered passé. Mr. Coulson’s data show that our once high position in the world is slipping.
Columnist Walter Williams, himself a university professor, offers the following in support of my allegation that our educational system is quickly falling apart.
Here are some test questions.
Question 1: Which of the following is equal to a quarter of a million? (a) 40,000 (b) 250,000 (c) 2,500,000 (d) 1/4,000,000 or (e) 4/1,000,000? Question 2: Martin Luther King Jr. (insert the correct choice) for the poor of all races. (a) spoke out passionately (b) spoke out passionate (c) did spoke out passionately (d) has spoke out passionately or (e) had spoken out passionate. Question 3: What would you do if your student sprained an ankle? (a) Put a Band-Aid on it (b) Ice it (c) Rinse it with water.
Having reviewed the questions, guess which school grade gets these kind of test questions: sixth grade, ninth grade or 12th grade. I'm betting that the average reader guesses: sixth grade. You'd be wrong. How about ninth grade? You'd still be wrong. You say, "OK, Williams, I can't believe they're 12th grade test questions!" Wrong again. According to a School Reform News article "Who Tells Teachers They Can Teach?" those test questions came from tests for prospective teachers. The first two questions are samples from Praxis I test for teachers, and the third is from the 1999 teacher certification test in Illinois. And guess what. Thirty-one percent of New York City public school teachers fail teacher certification tests.
If this trend continues, and the education establishment remains successful in thwarting reform initiatives like school vouchers, competition, tuition tax credits, and accepting poor candidates as teachers and setting low expectations for students, the United States will be in real trouble.