Racing to Hold Thirty

America isn't exceptional where we really need to be.

by Friendly Bear

In auto racing, drivers strive to be the first across the finish line. In sports, we dream of winning the World Cup or some similar prize that proclaims to all that our team is number one. Yet, in education we are obviously content to fall far short of number one. As a nation, America seems happy if we can hold number 30 in math.

Comparing language skills between nations is tricky because some nations use multiple languages and students may have to learn an altogether different language in school. Languages are also subjectives in the sense that some may be more difficult than others.

Math is objective. Math is also the same worldwide. From a student's point of view, math makes everyone equally miserable. And that is exactly why math is such a good measure of a nation's education.

Nations that excel at math, also excel in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math - indeed, the currently sought STEM subjects.

Nations that excel at Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, tend to become dominant nations, both commercially and militarily. Just saying.

Friendly Bear has experienced the American Education System from different perspectives: student, tutor, teacher. As a student, we are under pressure to learn a hard, yet versatile topic.

It was in the role of math and physics tutor that I began see a lost cause. When tutoring, I would meet with the student in the presence of one of their parents. One year, six students that I tutored defined the overall experience. Two learned the material and went on to receive "A" grades. The other four? They dropped their courses. In front of me, one parent told her daughter, "That's too hard. You don't need to bother with that stuff."

As a professor teaching at a major American university, my typical class of seniors consisted of about 1/2 public high school graduates, 1/4 private high school graduates, and much to my surprise, 1/4 home schooled students. While I had heard of home schooled students, I previously had little exposure to them. Not a "put down," just fact.

The home schooled students were far ahead of most of their classmates in math and physics knowledge. Again, just fact. At first, I struggled to understand how this could be. Private schools usually have plenty of cash and can pick and choose their students from the applicants. Public schools receive massive funding, but it's not always applied where the teachers know that it's needed. Furthering the mystery, I learned that most of the students used the same or similar text books in high school.

Finally, a pattern emerged. The students who were the best prepared, be they graduates of public, private, or home schools, had a parent or parents who placed great importance on education. They valued education.

Like a bunch of Chernobyls, American universities are in advanced stages of meltdown. Nutty, no-talent professors preach a toxic mix of Stalinism and Liberalism. I intentionally used the word Stalinism to denote the manner with which they advocate the spread of "equality."

Values such as knowledge and learning are passé, relegated to a soon-to-be torn down history. Students often are graduating from community colleges with far more knowledge of physics than are students graduating from big name universities.

STEM programs at high school and university level pick from the applicants based on social engineering, not ability or aptitude demonstrated by the students. Students are being granted access to STEM based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, and increasingly, political opinions. Anything but performance. It would be like putting me in charge of music education, when I'm not even qualified to sing in the shower.

As a teenager in junior high school, I read "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. The story gave me the creeps. My only solace was that it hadn't happened and adults assured me that common sense would prevail. I'm not so sure now. Maybe we're living "Harrison Bergeron"?

What about math? What about physics? What about that STEM stuff? In 2015, America fell back to 35th place in math, although some countries tied, so we were really like number 40. If it makes you feel better, we still beat out Kazakhstan.

Now, we're back at number 30, and by golly we're determined to hang on. Let's all proudly raise our Participation Trophies!

This article was reprinted from a different site. Commentary may be added.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Guest Editorial or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Old news.... I went to Catholic school grades 1-8 and a private Catholic school from 9-10. This was the early 1980’s. I graduated high school in 1974.
The private school closed and I finished high school at the local public school. When I got there at the beginning of 11th grade, I was surprised to find that based on the credit system the public school used, I only needed a handful of credits to be eligible to graduate. I was also shocked to find that sleeping in class or not even showing up was condoned. And no one flunked. Everybody passed and graduated. Not to say that all the kids were stupid, they weren’t. But only a small minority of kids took any math or science. I know, because I was one who did take science classes. I already had geometry and algebra from the private school so didn’t need anymore math. It was a joke. I remember a class called film study. Part of the English department. We sat in class and watched a movie every week. I remember watching Mutiny on the Bounty. That was class. Bring your popcorn.
Public high school is mostly a joke and has been for 50 years and it’s only getting worse. And no Civics class anymore so kids have no idea that the US has a rule book called the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights and that contrary to what their stupid, progressive teachers tell them, we’re not governed by feelings and the everyone-gets-a-trophy, live your truth propaganda.
We’re doomed. The inmates have finally taken over the asylum.

December 20, 2020 8:25 AM

Typo.... “this was the early 1970’s”

December 20, 2020 8:26 AM

I'm sure the public school academic decline over the past decades correlates closely with the rise of the education unions and their " pensions over pupils" philosophy. They are pretty much behaving like what they are...a monopoly. Any alternative to the public school comes at a steep price.... both a tuition bill and taxes. And like a monopoly, they favor the service provider ( educators) over the service receivers ( students and their parents) .
It would seem that the only real answer would be embracing Milton Friedman's idea of public school vouchers. Parents serious about their child's education spend the vouchers at a certified school that actually teaches. Obviously the unions would fight it aggressively . But it seems to be the only way to break up a monopoly that isn't performing.

December 20, 2020 2:42 PM

Excellent point re: teachers unions and for that matter, state employees too. Democratic votes bought n paid for via lifetime healthcare and pensions with our taxes.

December 20, 2020 5:18 PM

I find it interesting that another piece on this site denounces Canada and New Zealand as further left than the looniest Democrats, or something to that effect, but they both did better than us on the mathematics exam. Maybe they're doing something right?

January 20, 2021 3:20 AM
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