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Failing Education In America

For one of the wealthiest and most prosperous nations in the world, the United States has its fair share of issues when it comes to implementing effective educational reform. Cracking down on cheating, plagiarism, and attempting to get student to truly become passionate about a subject is also become increasingly difficult as teachers are choked out by their meager salaries. And then we have the cherry on top of it all, an incompetent and ironic figure, the Secretary of Education herself, Betsy Devos. Let’s break it down.

The United States Underperforms Globally in Education

The first point is that if the United States is so wealthy and so full of opportunities and so accepting of a diverse range of people and ideas, then why is its education system so backwards? According to results from the think-tank, the Pew Research Center, U.S. adolescents are performing at a very worrying academic standard. The report spells it out bluntly:

“The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U . S . an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science . Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD), which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U . S . ranked 30th in math and 19th in science . “

Essentially, despite being the economic, military, and political powerhouse it is, the United States is unable to even breach the foremost 20 countries in critical subjects such as math and science. The results are further cemented in the followup OECD survey. A nation’s future depends on the scientific and mathematical literacy of its population, especially in an age where the information economy and the Internet has become so prevalent.

The state of U.S. education is in shambles, and its both baffling and unacceptable if the United States intends to retain its position as the dominant superpower in the coming years, despite the extent of its current cultural, political, and socioeconomic influence worldwide.

Teachers Are Underpaid, Students Lack Passion

If there’s one job in the United States where you can really say that the people who are doing it really are doing it because they love it rather than any financial incentive, that job would be teaching. The dedication of some teachers is stunning, but isn’t enough to fully inspire uninterested or unfocused students at times. This, coupled with failures in the implementation of certain educational curricula, has exacerbated the issue of education.

There’s no doubt that teachers love their jobs. News on the issue of housing costs and teaching commutes along with failures on the part of teachers’ unions to negotiate livable wages for their employees find themselves plastered all over the media. NPR reports one particularly poignant example: “Kelly Henderson loves her job, teaching at Newton South High School in a suburb west of Boston . But she’s frustrated she can’t afford to live in the community where she teaches: It’s part of the 10th most expensive housing market in the nation.”

Forgetting about the inefficiencies in the general infrastructure and policies when it comes to compensating teachers, there’s also the issue of a disconnect between those guiding educational policy and those who are doing the actual ground work teaching. Just look at the emergence of the Common Core.

An opinion piece in the NY Times communicates that the adoption of the Common Core standard is hurting students’ educations and costing billions. The rationale? One point that journalist Diane Ravitch makes in her piece is the idea that the digitalization of educational materials impacts the ability of students to learn information and perform on tests:

Children starting in the third grade may spend more than 10 hours a year taking state tests – and weeks preparing for them. Studies show that students perform better on written tests than on online tests, yet most schools across the nation are assessing their students online, at enormous costs, because that is how the Common Core tests are usually delivered.”

Instead of researching methods and compiling data on what works best for different subsets of students at different developmental periods in their academic careers, so much money is being wasted on the largely bureaucratic effort of standardization that has little to show in terms of the progress or impact it’s made for American education.

Incompetence at the Top

CNN has created a scathing montage of Betsy Devos’ recent interview on 60 Minutes, where she crashes and burns on basic questions about the schools themselves and the infrastructure, what’s being taught, and future initiatives to improve the educational efforts in Michigan. The lady and billionaire heiress looks like she’s supposed to be having fun in a park with her grandchildren, rather than sitting at top position guiding reformative educational measures for a troubled U.S.

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that as Americans, we need to do something quickly and continuously, at all levels of education for our children and students.

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