[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 14 December 2016. The addendum contains graphics and links relevant to the arguments of the commentary.]
It is again time to take a look at how America’s future is shaping up with respect to the most important measure available – the academic performance of our young people. We’ve been hearing a lot about our youth lately; mostly about their seemingly brittle self-images that need constant reinforcement, mending, and support. Today a generation of young people have grown up who evince extreme sensitivity to recently discovered threats such as ‘micro-aggressions’ from which they now have to be shielded using new forms of prophylactic measures. Besides instituting heavy censorship of speech on the nation’s campuses, universities also provide their most fragile students ‘safe zones’ where occupants will not be exposed to any utterances that may leave a mark.
Tending such delicate student psyches is one thing, but you may be interested in another aspect of this generation that is at least as important – how are they doing in their studies? Are they coming out of our schools with cognitive skills and a body of knowledge that has prepared them for the real world of work? Are they ready for jobs that require world class performance so that America can successfully compete in the global markets for goods and services?
Sadly, in the aggregate we must answer that question with an unequivocal NO. In the last week the results of PISA, a global measure of student performance for policy makers were released. PISA or Program for International Student Assessment is a battery of tests given to thousands of 15-year-olds across the world. The most recent results are reported (here) in the current issue of The Economist, an internationally recognized, prestigious, and left-leaning weekly news magazine.
There we find that the US ranks 31st out of the world’s 72 most developed countries, right below Russia and Spain. Not only that, but America’s scores are trending downward. This corroborates the findings that our under-30 generation in the workforce, the so-called Millennials, are the most narrow-minded, self-absorbed, and ignorant our country has produced in the modern era. For additional data and details that underpin this finding, please read the critically acclaimed national bestseller by Professor Mark Bauerlein of Emory University titled The Dumbest Generation.
To find policy solutions for this massive failure of our union-dominated school system, don’t leap to the usual remedy our education industry promotes that perennially calls for spending more money to teach our young. The PISA data for policy makers disputes that in the strongest terms. The top three countries in the ratings are Singapore, Japan, and Estonia. Estonia spends less than half as much as Singapore per student, and only a little more than half of what the United States spends.
The clear drivers of excellence are the nation’s quality of teachers and its culture, or how education and the educated are regarded by the country’s population. Our teachers unions assure that education attracts and retains teachers from the academically stunted, and our politically correct culture promotes an egalitarianism in which educational achievement is discounted or even purposefully ignored.
An educated citizenry is America’s greatest assurance for not only improving our quality of life, but also, as our Founders stressed, for maintaining America as a beacon of freedom and progress. I urge listeners to contact their elected representatives about how our young people stack up against global competition. The education of our youth should not be a partisan issue.
My name is Rebane, and I also expand on this and related themes on Rebane’s Ruminations where the addended transcript of this commentary is posted with supporting graphics and relevant links, and where such issues are debated extensively. However my views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
[Addendum] The graphics below are germane to the points made above. Additional graphics are found in the referenced Economist article. The news magazine also makes the point that teachers unions are the prime impediments to testing and qualifying classroom teachers. Part of the problem of ameliorated interest in our educational system are articles like the recent one by science writer (with unavailable credentials) Christopher Mims in the 11dec16 WSJ titled ‘Automation Can Actually Create More Jobs’. We have encountered him before in these pages (here) making similarly strange arguments about accelerating technology and employment.
More about PISA is available from OECD (here) and our federal National Center for Educational Statistics (here), which also publishes results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy for the US (here) that we often reference.
Finally, columnist Thomas Elias reported (here) the fate of California’s high school exit exams which are due to return in 2018. Their utility in the greater scheme of things is TBD since they will be geared to measure the performance of students who will then be commonly cored by the new Common Core curriculum.
[15dec16 update] In the comment stream below a reader cited an important outtake (here) from MSNBC featuring a NYT column that finally admits to leftwing hypocrisy, especially as it is practiced in our universities. It's worth a look, and especially by the local leftwing loonies who consider any citation of millennials' intellectual deficits as being some sort of lese majeste toward political correctness. However, their ability to absorb enlightenment is sufficiently limited so as to counsel against any such hope.