American education gets bad rapAmerican education has received some very bad press, both in the past and lately. I’ve even seen comments that claimed it stinks, but nothing could be further from the truth.
By: Bernie Hughes, Superior Telegram
American education has received some very bad press, both in the past and lately. I’ve even seen comments that claimed it stinks, but nothing could be further from the truth. Readers who don’t know me are probably wondering what in the world qualifies me to make such a comment.
And for that background, I give a brief synopsis of my experience, which I believe gives me some such qualifications. I’ve had elementary and secondary education in Minnesota and Wisconsin schools for 12 years and higher education at Stout Institute, University of Minnesota and Washington State University for seven years. I taught secondary education in Montana for six years – school superintendent for 14 – two years as lab school director at Mankato State and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for 17 years. I think you could summarize that by saying I’ve been around the block in education.
I’d like to speak to the quality of American schools today, and I’ll speak to other questions later if readers request.
Comments have been made that American schools don’t compare with schools abroad, especially in engineering because we don’t have the emphasis or numbers in math and science classes. We’ve heard corporation executives mouth that as a reason for sending manufacturing plants abroad. That does let them off the hook, patriotically, for seeking foreign employees who will work for much less than American workers. They can even make more profit if they move these plants south of the Mexican border for easy access.
Now we blame the Mexican workers for taking those jobs and the advantage of American emergency room medicine; it must make a good story since many people seem to believe it.
There are differences between our American education and foreign schools. They separate children and provide for those students with greater academic aptitude early on, and move faster and further with those, fewer, more apt pupils.
Another factor in American education is our public willingness to fund. We loosely call our state funding of public education, “equalization aid.” Someone hearing that must think that is wonderful; we are treating all of our public education students equally. Not true at all. We are helping poor school districts, in part, but equalization it most certainly is not.
What does this mean in test scores? The difference between average science scores in poor and wealthy districts in the U.S. is 4- to 5-times greater than the difference in the U.S. and Singapore (a world leader) national averages. And the proof in the pudding is the large number of students in the top fifth of American schools rank along with the world’s best.
Another difference is their test teaching emphasis. As Fareed Zakaria, who was schooled in Mumbai, points out in his book entitled, “The Post-American World,” he states “I recall memorizing vast quantities of materials, regurgitating it for exams and then promptly forgetting it.” He believes that American schools are much better at developing the critical faculties of the mind, which is what you need to succeed in life. Other education systems teach you to take tests. American system teachers get you to think.
He described his Mumbai school education as very good using the “Asian” method.
Zakaria also says that engineer comparison numbers are faulty because foreign countries count graduates of 2- and 3-year programs when comparing numbers with our graduates of four-year programs.
There is no doubt that we can improve public education for our students if we made that commitment to truly educate equally and pay for it. Here’s how: