U.S. Education Facts With a Few Observations

  • The following facts are taken from Whitney Tilson’s filmed presentation titled, A Right Denied/The Critical Need For Genuine School Reform. I recommend readers watch the film of his presentation which can be found here: http://www.arightdenied.org/. Material from the presentation is in bold. It is well worth the one hour plus investment of your time.  After some of the facts presented, I add some personal comments found in parentheses and italics.

 

  • Wages for men have stagnated for the last 40 years and for women over the last 10 years. (We can understand why parents with families need to work two or three jobs to try to maintain the same  standard of living as their parents even before the Great Recession began.) 

Median earnings for a man with a high school diploma fell by 41% from 1970-2010. (See comment above. This is the bleak situation for a high school graduate that presumably can read and write and do basic math.  The situation with the current economy is even worse if the man even has a job today. The situation for high school drop outs is far worse in terms of wages by 42% less)

  • K-12 education spending per pupil per student, dollars adjusted for inflation, has more than quadrupled over the past 50 years from $3,000 to $12,460 in 2007. (We should ask is the education better now than then? Not according to test scores relative to students in the other industrialized nations.  Facilities may be better on average. Student to pupil ratios are certainly better. But quality of teaching is not better if 75% of public schools are failing to prepare students for college or a career.)
  • The United States spends more than any other country, with the exception of Switzerland, for education. (Who can argue, when faced with these facts, that massive reform is not needed. In fact, one might argue that we need to scrap the whole public school system and make a fresh start. Abolish all unions. Fire every teacher and post their current position as a job opening for which they can apply and compete for. It is not realistic to expect we as parents and grandparents can scrap the whole public school system. But we can bring a lot of public pressure to bear on school administrators, unions and teachers.  We need to organize and get active in our communities)
  • The rise in spending has been driven mainly by the tripling in the number of teachers over the past 50 years. As a result class sizes are smaller as the student to teacher ratios have dropped 43%. Average class size in U.S. slightly below the average of industrialized nations. (These are positives and we can probably thank some of the earlier work of the unions for these)
  • Why, despite a doubling of spending since the mid-70’s, has average educational attainment stagnated. Average SAT scores have stagnated as well.
  1. Teacher quality has fallen over the past few decades.
  2. Our school systems have become nonfunctional, bureaucratic and unaccountable
  3. Americans have become lazy, and complacent having lived in a rich nation for many years. Our youth spend more time watching TV, listening to music and playing video games than studying hard
  • Americans spend twice as much time watching TV as any other industrialized nation
  • American students at all grade levels are spending far more time watching TV than doing home work.  (Looking for a place to make a difference? Start by changing the culture at home. Get involved. Take an avid interest in your kids work habits and their studies and results. Give them help as best you can. Supplement their in-school work with online course work. Raise your expectations!)  
  • Student in 1999 spent an average of 7.29 hours per day watching TV, music, video and computer.  By 2009 the total hours per day had grown to 10.45.  (Parent can control this. We can not expect the public schools to shoulder the whole load. They spend far less time with our children than we do.  They are our children. It’s their future but it is our duty to put them on and keep them on the right track).
  • American college students on average spent 24 hours per week in 1960 on their studies outside of classes.  In 2009 students were spending only 14 hours per week.  (As an engineering student in 1960 I averaged far more than 24 hours per week. If today’s students are only averaging 14 hours we will continue to decline as a country.  Imagine some parents are spending more than $50,000 per year for their kids to put in 14 hours of work. Parents are spoiling their kids and doing them a grave disservice by not preparing them for the future.)
  • Recent U.S. results for 15 year old’s testing among the 36 industrialized nations. Reading scores 16 of 36. Science scores 23 of 36. Math scores 31 of 36.  (Poor and falling. Trend is not our friend.)
  •  U.S. 48th. of 133 nations in quality of math and science instruction.
  • Nearly half of students in our science and math graduate schools are foreigners. (Math and science majors are among the most difficult but are among the most rewarding financially.  Social workers and liberal arts have value but they don’t pay as well generally and they are not high among the skills needed to keep our country competitive in the world.)

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