Today I will show you why it is very important to reorganize most educational systems in our nation.
Over the last few decades evermore Americans have been, and I use this word loosely, have been servicing each other. That is, we have been producing ever fewer products of lasting value. Durable products which can be used, traded or stored to enhance our future. Therefore it can only be a matter of time before we exhaust our ability and resources to be able to buy cars, plastic action-hero toys and thousands of other things from foreign countries. This widening imbalance between servicing and manufacturing within our nation, and vis-à-vis many other countries, can be directly attributed in great part to our evermore misguided educational activities.
Last July The Times-News published an article by a retired U of Idaho professor. It was titled “Funding for public education doesn’t add up.” This professor stated the following: “…public school costs are 40-45% higher than for private schools…, a minimum of 36% of public school expenditure is wasted…, public schools now have 6½ employees per student, and teachers make up only 40% of school employees.”
A study done by the American Legislative Exchange Council covered two generations of students. It graded each state using over 100 measures of educational resources and achievements.
Among its findings were:
While expenditures/pupil have increased nationwide almost 23% in constant dollars over the past 20 years,… standardized test scores have remained relatively stagnant.
States with the top spending increases since 1978 were Maine up 82%, Connecticut up 80% and West Virginia up 61%.
However, Iowa, followed closely by Minnesota and Wisconsin, had the top performing public elementary and secondary schools in the nation… but ranked 32nd, 14th and 9th, respectively, in per pupil expenditures.
Mississippi, the District of Columbia, and Louisiana ranked at the bottom of student achievements, but ranked 50th, 5th and 39th in per pupil spending.
But the stark reality has become even grimmer than these statistics indicate. The “It Takes a Village to Spoil a Child“ mentality of the new “No Spoils Left Behind” Federal law, has rapidly worsened our national education landscape. The September 2005 issue of the American Spectator magazine states that the new Federal law has taught our nation’s schools one thing: “How to lie.“ To deceive everyone into thinking that they are meeting the new Federal standards. American Spectator further said that “recently the Department of Education conducted a state-by-state National Assessment of Education Progress survey. There was not one state where as many as half of 4th graders were achieving the level of ‘proficiency’ in reading. But according to the tests used by the states themselves, all but eight states were claiming that solid majorities of their 4th graders were ‘proficient’ in reading.”
I said earlier that much of our education efforts are simply waste and entertainment. In addition, the October 3rd edition of BusinessWeek magazine reported that America has a shortage of about 250,000 math and science teachers. A shortage of one-quarter million teachers who should be teaching such subjects to millions of students. The charts which I handed out further verify our misguided educational priorities. Its data was compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Figure 1 shows the number of net teaching hours/year for three education levels for public institutions in seven countries. Primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education for the 2001 school year:
In the USA the net teaching hours/year ranged up to 1,138 hrs in these three educational levels. But for the six other developed countries, the hours ranged in Japan with only 478 hours, to the highest in Scotland with 950 teaching hours. The average of the three combined educational level totals for these six countries calculates out to be 2,190 hours. The difference between this number and the US combined total of 3,387 hours is 1,197 hours.
In other words, the USA public school net teaching hours for the school year 2001 were 55% higher than for the average of the other six developed countries. But unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that we teach more of what needs to be taught.
This is evident by the data shown in Figure 2. It shows the percentage distribution of first university degrees awarded by field of study and country. The degrees required to produce tangibles of lasting value are in science, engineering, manufacturing & construction. For the USA these types of degrees amount to just 18% of all degrees offered. This contrasts with the other six developed countries, where such degrees range from 21% for Canada to the high of 32% for the UK.
From the historical statistics which I have presented today, we can draw some definite conclusions. I will briefly summarize what we seem to have been doing wrong, and what steps we must take to again become a more productive country:
Overall spending increases for education has not achieved the desired results. For several decades our school systems have been floundering with ADD-like attempts of patching problems with scores of programs and more programs. This seems to be obvious from the inverse relationship between overall spending increases and the overall results.
Too much taxpayer money has been going for frivolities and entertainment. This also takes away from the time which students should be studying important subjects.
We have to concentrate more one teaching the fundamental subjects of language, math and sciences.
We must reward competence and knowledge of teachers of those subjects by greatly increasing their salaries. And we must re-direct other school employees to become more productive in our overall efforts.
These transitions will not be easy, but they are our only options, if we want keep our middle class from any shrinking and our poor from becoming ever poorer.
Madame Toastmaster. Thank you.