Comments for: What the world can teach us about education

Posted March 19, 2012, at 5:33 p.m.

We’ve all heard the comparisons between U.S. public education and that of other industrialized countries. And we don’t rank well in those comparisons. Too often, policymakers respond with outrage at the poor state of education and immediately begin brainstorming their own solutions, citing notions of American exceptionalism as they implore …

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  • Guest

    The greater the involvement of teacher’s unions; the NEA specifically, the quicker the education of youth has degradated to embarassing levels.  The unions will tell you there is still not enough money despite the US being amongst the highest spenders.  The teachers have been hijacked by a political organization called the NEA. 

    • Anonymous

      It’s not the teachers it’s the families. If the child comes home and sits in front of the wii instead of doing homework, they are going to do poorly. Unions and teacher compensation (which is much lower than most of us with a similar eductation would work for) are not the problem.

      • Guest

        How do all the countries that score higher than we do deal with bad parents?  How have they figured out how to negate those impacts.  Are the Liberals and Democrats suggesting that we are bad parnets and the parents in all these other nations parent better? 
        Keep making excuses!!

        • RoostookGuy

          It’s funny when conservatives with no obvious education are quick to blame liberals and call for more government and less personal responsibility – just when it comes to educating their kids !

          ROFL !

        • Anonymous

          Yes!

    • Anonymous

      Once again, someone with obviously no experience at all in the education profession attacking an organization that supports workers.  But of course that is the right wing way.  The right wing despises workers and any laws or organizations there to support them.  Whatever is best for the millionaires, everyone else be damned.  The right wing despises workers and their rights, just like they despise women and theirs these days.  You could do some research on this complex issue and issue a thoughtful informed statement, but instead you choose to parrot right wing talking points you hear on FAKE NEWS and other such garbage.  Typical.

      • Guest

        And you choose to parrot left wing and NEA talking points. 

        And then in your second post you point out correctly why this editorial is cr*p.

        But you never make the connection between the two views of the problem.  You recognize that the problem is cultural and then support the very organizations and political philosophy that has led to this failure.

        • Anonymous

          All you ‘wingers’ ought to recognize that most teachers and students aren’t on a wing at all but stuck in the middle listening to all the blather from you all and trying to make the best of a tough situation.  You’re not helping the situation with your talking points from either side.

          • Anonymous

            It’s the great American couch potato sport.  Using education as a political football. 

        • Anonymous

          Speaking of parroting …

      • Guest

        You are absolutely corrects in concluding that the teachers unions supports workers.  THE NEA as you state DOES NOT SUPPORT STUDENTS

        • Anonymous

          You don’t know anything about unions either, do you.   LOL   Fergodsake man read something besides the Blaze and Family Research Council propaganda.  

    • So just a quick aside to pretty much all of your arguments about teachers.  Finland has quite satisfactorily shown when you pay teachers more you draw in higher performing teachers and your world rankings go up. No matter how you wrap it up by arguing against the teachers unions your arguing that teachers should be payed less and have less benefits.  Coming from the sciences I have personal experience with many friends who had originally hoped to teach high school math, or science and were pushed away by the insane anti-teacher rhetoric and the opportunity to start at almost twice the yearly salary in the privet sector.

    • Anonymous

      Flat, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Teachers salaries have been flat or below the level of inflation for years.  Find another straw man to beat.  

  • Anonymous

    “…but by the 1990s and 2000s, dropped to sixth and then 13th.”  All around the time we stopped tracking students–as Luxembourg, Switzerland, and much of the rest of the world do–and mainstreamed all students.

    Talk to some teachers privately.  At their own peril, they will quietly tell you to stop wasting time on testing and go back to tracking.

    • Anonymous

      Testing is a horrendous waste of time and money, and could be limited.   Tracking, however, does little good for either the top or bottom performers.   Heterogeneous grouping sets expectations for all, gives top performers the opportunity to test their leadership skills and builds community in the school.   The challenge is greater for the teacher in terms of differentiating instruction but the benefits are worth it.

      • Anonymous

        Heterogeneous grouping works well until about junior high school.  After that tracking makes sense.  England recognizes this with their O Level exams.

        • Anonymous

          In my experience, year 9 students respond much better to heterogeneous grouping and perform better throughout high school as a result.   Furthermore, the community building aspect has a positive impact throughout their 9-12 career.

          • Anonymous

            It hasn’t been mine.  But mine was with a district that respected only the academically oriented students.

    • Anonymous

      Our problem with tracking is that we refuse to
      honor and respect both tracks.  We respect  the academic track, give
       awards, enthuse over the admittance to an ivy university, stick signs on
      our bumpers lauding our kids academic ability and look down on those with
      technical skills.  This is stupid and wrong.   Until we show equal
      respect and enthusiasm for the tech track, tracking will not work.  

       

      The society which scorns excellence in plumbing
      as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an
      exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither
      its pipes nor its theories will hold water. 
      John W. Gardner

  • Anonymous

    Finally, a reality check on America’s “greatness” in education. It is a fantasy.We are also ranked around 15th on health care. Yet, many Americans blindly believe we are the best in everything when the data shows otherwise. Until we recognize and admit our shortcomings it will be impossible for Americans to have the quality of life other countries offer. This editorial is a start.

    • Anonymous

      It is a start.  How do we get out of this  state of denial, though?   Look at the comments.  These are the people that will be asked to vote on intelligent changes.  Does it look like they will vote for anything other than banning unions, cutting salaries, instituting disciplinary codes and throwing kids out of school?   How do you get uneducated and hostile people to vote for realistic educational changes.

  • Anonymous

    Look at those countries at the top.  They also have much smaller populations and are much more homogeneous.  They have CULTURAL differences where families place very high value on academic work ethic and student achievement, and some have significantly longer school years.  Our teachers and schools are competing with endless video games, facebooking,  and reality tv shows.  We have good schools, great resources, and by and large very good teachers.  We have many kids doing amazing things every day.  We have a higher education system that is the envy of the world. But it is very hard to compare the US in the aggregate to many of these nations cited. I agree with some of these ideas, but also we MUST consider the CULTURAL and POPULATION differences.  Also, we include special ed test scores in our numbers.  Other nations don’t. It is very hard to compare Switzerland and Finland to the US like apples to apples.

    • Anonymous

      So how can we get families to place more importance on education?

      One thing clear in this article is that our poor education is not a result of a lack of funding. So it must be our methods. I still believe our educational system offers significant opportunity for most students who want to learn. The need is to engage parents and students in the educational process. Which is why I think school choice is always a good thing. When an engaged parent and student feel as if they can access the education they need, they are likely to be more involved in that choice.

       

      • RoostookGuy

        You get families more supportive and involved with education by making education available to adults as well as kids.  Here, in America, we have plenty of “parents” that have very little education themselves, why are we so surprised their kids under-preform?

      • Guest

        How to get  families to place more importance on education.

        Eliminate the federal Department of Education.  At the federal level, (and somewhat even at the state level), policies are effectively 1 size fits all and tend to end up setting standards and goals progressively lower over time.  On paper this results in what looks like improving results and scores that helps to justify continuing the program.

        Raise standards to graduate at all levels drastically.  At least to the levels they were in the 50’s.    (Take a look at a math book used at even the 8’th grade level at the turn of the century and the difficulty level will blow you away.)  This will have multiple effects and consequences, many of which will be very painful over the short term.  In short, many parents will scream bloody murder.  We will once again have to accept that not everyone will graduate and get a diploma.  Not everyone is capable of college level work and that many students in college now do not belong there.

        Drop most non-academic classes and no credit towards graduation for those that remain.  I’m talking about things like gender studies, basket weaving, most art and music classes, almost everything that is not a core subject or closely related to a core subject.

        If you want people to value education and place importance on it then you have to make it something that actually has to be worked for and there has to be negative consequences for failure to do that work.

    • Anonymous

      One of the systems Prof. Schwartz studied was in Ontario, Canada, and had a large number of foreign students.

    • Anonymous

      In the 1960s  when we were in the top 5 our population was not homogeneous.  We have other problems. Homogeneity is not one of them

  • Anonymous

    I have a news flash. School isn’t about education anymore. The teachers aren’t teaching, they aren’t challenging the students, even at the youngest of grades. It is all about “community” and being socailly accepted. Teachers are expected to parent, discipline (which they stink at) and I have no idea where the principals roll is anymore. That was our biggest threat in school!! And all these aids…please. Give a teacher 15 students and she is overwhelmed and can’t teach. Go ahead, blame the WII, it is offers more education than public school!! Homeschooling is the way to go if you want your child to get an education, nobody else really cares. I say my child isn’t challenged, they say he has social issues. BS You don’t want to do your job, I will.

    • Yawningattrolls

      Hopefully you won’t teach since it is obvious you are illiterate.

      • RoostookGuy

        The Principle’s jelly-roll…

    • Anonymous

      And there you have it:  the major problem with American education: ” Discipline all those bad kids but my kid just isn’t challenged. ” 

  • Anonymous

    Here are a few things that greatly damaged our public school systems:

    The Teacher’s Union.
    Federal involvement through the Department of Education.
    Too many foo foo classes (foo foo meaning classes to help the lazy get through).
    Lower expectations.
    Lack of discipline (students and teachers alike).
    Loss of respect for teachers.
    Erosion of the family structure.
    Allowable disrespect for the American Flag and for America.
    Liberal policies.
    And a lack of respect for God.

    • Yea because God makes you better at biology… Good luck with competing in a world market place when the same people arguing for more God are also arguing we stuff our fingers in our ears, close our eyes, and ignore one of the most evidence support theories of any science, evolution.  Oh, right it is also the theory that is the underpinning for all of modern biology… There is plenty of other bad logic in your arguments but I will stop with that. 

      • Anonymous

        First of all, everything is better with God. Secondly, there was a day in America when the world competed with us, not the other way around. And last, evolution is a theory completely built on fluid baselines that are changed every time something new pops up. Evolution has more holes than Swiss Cheese, and is no more provable than the theory of Creation. 

        • Anonymous

           Actually evolution has been tested time and time again.  In fact we have been able to create multi-cellular organisms in a matter of weeks from a single cell organism.   Has anybody been able to create a world in 7 days (sorry 6 days) to show that creationism works?

        • Anonymous

          We’ll never prove anything but evoutionary theory has been established to be consistent with a stunning amount of observations of the natural world.  What “theory of creation”?  A literalist statement of dogma, hardly a theory, not even a hypothesis. 

        • See. You have been lied to in the name of religion. The weight of evidence that supports evolution is crushing. It has also been tested as a predictive theory time and time again. So you want the world to compete with who can best ignore evidence? 

        • Anonymous

          If conservative christians are the result of biblical creation then God has a thinking disability. 

    • Anonymous

      How do you explain Canada’s and Finland’s success?  They both have teacher’s unions that are stronger than the NEA and the AFT.  Unions are not the problem.  In fact, unions may be the only thing focused on education.  Right now factions: religious, conservative, corporate and cultural are focused on tearing education apart for their own personal reasons which have nothing to do with education.

  • Anonymous

    I have been to more then half of the other countries involved in the study.  These other countries don’t have the massive amount of different minority populations that the U.S. has to drag down the averages.  We also have way more cities that have terrible inner city problems with the gangs, crime, unemployment, etc.  Were far from being as good as we should be, but were not as bad as we may look.
    More money is the last thing big education needs.  The teacher unions are to strong, so we can forget about them taking any responsibility, unless its good news of course. 
    Holding parents more accountable for there childrens outcomes would be a good place to start.  This could be done with strict dress codes, strong disciplinary action, and a no tolerance truancy policy.  Instead of forcing kids to staying in school until they are 18, we should do the opposite and start getting rid of them. 3 strike rule.  We still need ditch diggers.  Schools lose money when they lose students, that keeps them from dumping the dead weight that drags the system down.  That should be changed as well.

    • Anonymous

      Wow.  Who is dragging down averages?  People who aren’t the majority?  These countries may be a  bit more cohesive ethnically but I highly doubt minorities are the reason for americans poor educational system.  

      I also highly doubt your ridiculous over simplification of the educational system would work.  Kicking a kid out of school is not going to help the country.  Kids are stupid.  It is up to adults to educate them, not throw them into the ditch.   Most people need more a few chances to prove themselves, especially at a young age.

      • RoostookGuy

        That anyone would even suggest throwing kids out, like so much trash…

        That’s America for you, though.  When the going gets tough, we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    •  These countries are getting more and more immigrants.

      • Anonymous

        And the immigrants are not bringing down the achievement averages.  Immigration is not the problem. 

    • RoostookGuy

      Their and they’re are two different words.

      “The problem” isn’t those stupid foreigners, it’s our ignorant and uneducated populace that betrays their own ignorance, and how they choose ignorance, every time.

      It’s the basis of advertising, after all.  Nothing sucks like success.

    • Anonymous

      If  we are going to hold parents more accountable then we have to give parents more time to be accountable.  Most lower and middle class wages have not even kept up with inflation and both parents are working 8 hours a day simply to keep the bills paid.  They don’t have the time or the energy to be accountable.  Raise wages or keep kids in school longer so they can do their homework in a supervised situation.  Dress codes and truancy laws don’t improve education.  Better wages for parents does.  

  • Anonymous

    First get rid of teacher unions. Second hold the teachers to a high standard. Third give the educators the power to deal with bad children. Last TEACH the children. Stop all the bs and teach the children the things they need in life and not much of  the useless stuff they spout out to our children. If we do not teach our children all we can then what is the point of a school. 

    • Anonymous

      And when was the last time you attended a curriculum meeting of your school board and offered your input.  We insist on local control: that means the public has to put some effort into guiding the schools.  Constant bellyaching on a comments page is not what “local control” means.

  • Many of the arguments I see here will find what I am about to say crazy, but it is how the world has worked. Finland has massively improved their education system with some relatively simple steps.
    1) Pay teachers a competitive wage that will bring in higher performing college graduates. (MA required and the programs are now harder to get into the Med/Law schools). 
    2) No schooling until kids are 7. Let them be kids they are not small adults. 
    3) No testing until the age of 16
    4) No “competition”  to be the best push corporation between students. 
    In 2010 they were 2nd in the world in Reading and math. Number 1 in Sciences.

    •  Finland also has fully subsidized child care.

      • Ok… Sounds good to me. How many people do you know who are crushed by the cost of child care? 

        • Anonymous

          Many in the lower wage job market.

  • See, by controlling education, by involving government in education, we have limited our own choice of schools. We can’t just take our kids out of school if they’re being bullied, fitting in with the wrong crowd, or any number of other things we might have a problem with. Could very well go to jail for that!

    But the NEA isn’t a government organization. It is a private organization, and government creates laws and mandates and all manner of nonsense, based on the opinion of a private organization! It works much the same way as the National Electric Code (NFPA 70), where people in the trade tweak and change rules to make it safer for building homes, and such things. Then, state and local governing bodies adopt and adapt the code to meet their needs. The NEA works on the same principal, except we can see that without a doubt it has failed on every level. I don’t trust the NEA any more than I trust the people who started it, and those who carry on its legacy.

    Education is a big part of being able to excell, and we as a country, is in some serious *$#%. How many people do you know, who think we have more than 50 states in the union? How many people don’t know the difference between “they’re”, “there” and “their”? How many people do not know the first three words of the Constitution of the United States?

    You know, trigonometry used to be a part of junior high school curriculum. That’s why your grand-dad’s 8th grade education was worth a lot more, AND they knew how to apply it to real-world situations.

    We’ve lost our way. Our economy is in shambles and our process of government is broken and unfair. It’s kind of our collective fault though, we let it happen, because we trusted that “government” would take care of it. We gotta stop trusting this vaunted “government” thing to keep doing things for us, it isn’t working out so well when it comes to these “certain things”.

    • Anonymous

      Government is involved in schools only on the local and state level.  Federal funding is mostly for Special Education.   Your comment indicates a very low level of understanding of  how public education is structured, organized and funded.  

      • I never mentioned anything about it being exclusively a federal mandate. State governments can encroach on freedoms just as well as a strong federal government could. In fact, I specifically mentioned “state and local” governments in my second paragraph.

        • Anonymous

          “government creates laws and mandates and all manner of nonsense, ………. Then, state and local governing bodies adopt and adapt the code to meet their needs.”The federal government does not involve itself in mandating policy, curriculum, texts, teaching methods or school law.  The state passes very few laws regulating your local school.  If there is “all manner of nonsense”  going on in your school district it was enacted by the school board you elected. 

  • Harry H Snyder III

    Nobody is going to mention that the societies listed above are largely homogeneous with long held traditions and cultural beliefs, and ours is made up of many many cultures speaking hundreds of different languages?

    Massachusetts citizens were 99 percent literate before the imposition of mandatory education.  After the advent of mandatory education, they never got above 90% again. I believe the reason for this is before mandatory education students had people who cared about them doing the teaching.  Usually this was a family member. 

    You can not, for any money, pay someone to “like” children.  Children will not learn from people who demonstrate, by their actions, that they do not like them.

    • RoostookGuy

      Oh, Harry, you seriously believe that Mass had a 99% literacy rate ?

      I just have to laugh at the level of self delusion people will accept to support their own conceptual failures.

      • Harry H Snyder III

        Facts are facts. Ignorance is ignorance. 

        Read John Taylor “Gatto’s Dumbing us down.”  Find the truth for yourself….or don’t.

    • Anonymous

      Did you read the article?   It stated that the US used to be number 1 and 2 in most areas in the 1960s.  We were not a homogeneous population then.  Homogeneity has nothing to do with learning.  Intelligent goals, testing, funding and leadership do. 

  • Anonymous

     Actually the countries that are ahead of us generally have greater Union involvement for the teachers.  In this country, the poorer performing states are the ones with right to work laws and greatly diminished unions.  Unions are the only ones standing up for teachers, trying to recruit the best teachers by recognizing the importance of making the profession as attractive as possible, and by extension truly standing up for our children.  Now, as to how much we spend on schools, we should spend more.  Everything costs more over here.  Healthcare costs 2 or 3 times what it does in the other countries where they have socialized medicine. 

  • Anonymous

    Education costs are high in the US , not because of teachers’ salaries which have barely matched the rate of inflation, but,  because everybody is trying to make money from the system. Funding public education represents in most towns and cities the biggest expense and many regard that pool of money not as the cost of a critical need for our country but as a pot of gold ready for plundering.

    School buildings are scandalously expensive  because they are all architect designed instead of having two or three standard designs already available from the state department of education.   Publishing companies have raised their prices on all books and work books exponentially since the 1960s and they keep pushing new editions.  Teaching methods change every other year and each change is pushed by a corporation making money.  School administration has expanded and increased salaries faster than inflation.  School equipment  and supplies are a gold mine for suppliers.  

    We now have hedge fund managers, banks and financial corporations getting into education trying to get their hands of educational funding.    They have absolutely no interest in education.  They are focused on  getting as much of the public funding  as possible and the public has no problem with this.  They see it as the free enterprise system working.  

    There are ways to cut costs.  We don’t want to do them.  What we apparently want to do is ban unions and cut teachers’ pay.  That will make the union and teacher haters feel good.  It won’t improve education  and it won’t cut costs.

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