American Education System: Part 2
AMERICAN STUDENT INTERNATIONAL RANKINGS
A constant point of contention, focus, and debate within the American political and education system are the standardized test scores that rank students in countries around the world based on a specific set of standards according to their level of knowledge in particular subjects. Each country treats these standardized test scores with different levels of importance, which often comes down to how much funding a nation provides towards educating its children, the economic stability and poverty level of a population, and the social or political division in countries that may interfere with a child’s learning ability.
Some countries rank higher in some subjects, but lower in others; for the most part, each country remains consistent in their global ranking and improves as their economy grows and is able to compete on the world stage. In the past, where just a few global superpowers controlled the educational, political, economic, social, cultural, and military climate of the world, many countries could not afford to compete and perform at the same level sustainably as the more powerful countries. But as time progresses many smaller countries are gaining ground on countries like the United States, the U.K., Germany, Canada, Australia and other industrial, Western democracies that previously dominated the majority of the planet’s human operating system.
One of the most widely used international student testing programs, Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), provides comprehensive, content-rich testing in mathematics, reading, and science to 15-year-old children in countries around the world. In 1990, the U.S. ranked sixth in the world for its levels of educational achievement; due to a decline in American education spending, however, and a surge in government protection of banks, pharmaceutical corporations, fossil fuel companies, and other billion-dollar corporations, as well as the economic setbacks from several recessions and slow middle-class economic growth, American children continue to suffer from the governments failure to improve and modernize our education system and its testing standards.
In 2015, the Program for International Student Assessment rated U.S. high school students number 40 globally in math and number 24 in science and reading. Finland, Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, and Switzerland consistently outrank the United States on PISA rankings as well as in other standardized tests. Each country takes vastly different approaches to education than the United States, many with education systems far younger, smaller and more centralized than the American system, which relies on a more diverse system that allows states the freedom to conduct their education system as they see fit for their population.
Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is a group of 35 modern, Western, industrialized, democratic nations that sponsors the PISA initiative, the United States ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. (Pew Research)
The United States spends more per student on education than nearly any other country; but contributes a smaller amount of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), just 6.2% of GDP, towards funding its education system than other countries. In fact, since the Great Recession in 2007, the federal government and the states continue to cut education funding in order to balance their budgets without placing too much burden on the population through tax increases.
The majority of funding for the American public school system comes from states budgets, rather than the federal government; this provides states with greater autonomy, control, and responsibility over educating their children, but also conflicts with the national testing scores, as some states place greater priority, meaning greater funding, over education than others, which lowers the national testing average.
Aside from this lack of education funding, the United States continues to fall behind on international rankings due to the nature of our education policies, such as the government-supported, No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which restricts the curriculum of American students in order to focus on subjects within standardized tests: reading and math. The purpose of this method of education is not a broad understanding of a wide range of topics for students, but rather, higher international test rankings; the test itself becomes the goal of teaching, not increasing student’s knowledge and understanding.
The United States focuses on student test results and higher teacher accountability of the results. High performing countries focus on comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a wide range of topics; teaching strategies; teacher collaboration; stronger lesson plans; learning environments; professional development; and exit qualification exams. American teachers spend hundreds of hours more than their international counterparts on in-class instruction, but their students achieve worse results.
The American education system places a priority on memorization of material rather than in-depth learning, understanding and thinking critically of the complex subjects. Americans view education and knowledge as the filling of a vessel (brain), but education done correctly likens more to the lighting/kindling of a flame of inspiration that progresses towards more complicated and complex subjects for the sheer joy of gaining further knowledge of topics of things previously unknown.
By the time children in America reach the end of high school, much of their creativity, curiosity, uniqueness, and individuality, are suppressed and eliminated in order to conform to society’s hierarchal social and political standards. From that point forward, children then associate learning and curiosity with the monotonous repetition of memorization of material within textbooks for the purpose of testing higher on multiple-choice exams, rather than increasing the overall intellectual understanding about the world for the simple sake of obtaining greater intellectual understanding.
Many American adults, then, view the end of high school or the end of college, as the end of learning and curiosity altogether, while they willingly fall into a pattern of passive and idle action and behavior that fails to learn new concepts, to formulate complex questions, to challenge themselves, their present reality and way of life to escape from their present career and social standing.
Every man is born an original, but sadly, most men die copies.Abraham Lincoln
- United States spent $620 billion on K-12 education in 2016 and $649 billion on K-12 education in 2015 (National Center for Education Statistics).
- In 2014, the U.S. allocated an average of $12,157 per student, 30 percent more than the OECD average of $9,419. The federal government pays 10 percent of these costs, the rest comes from the state and local tax revenues.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median (middle) annual teacher salary is $55,000 per year; with a starting salary of $39,000 a year for new teachers and $67,000 per year for veteran teachers. In order to improve our education system and student learning outcomes, the United States must provide teachers with higher pay, greater benefits, and incentives, and allocate more resources to assist students to improve their learning environments, especially in middle and low-income communities. This requires a restructuring in our view of the importance of teachers and of education and its long term benefits for our society and culture. Providing knowledge to the nation’s youth requires a high level of skill, attention, and inspiration that should be treated and compensated as such. Our teachers are preparing children for their lives in the future as adults that must operate, contribute ideas and solve problems that affect our collective culture and society.
The devolution of American society and the expansion of the federal government over the past 50 years directly coincides with the cancerous growth and expansion of legal corruption, bribery, corporate, and special interest influence over our political system; puppet politicians without morals, ethics, or integrity, gladly leading the country further towards collapse as they line their pockets with corporate bribes, while the poor and middle-class struggle to get by on measly, stagnant wages and cuts to vital social and education services as a result of governments protection and subsidizing of financial institutions and other billion-dollar corporations that continually destroy the environment and the free market economy knowing that thirsty politicians are available to bail them out for the right price.
Self-preservation is a powerful, evolutionary adapted, biological mechanism; politicians know this well. Their social survival comes down to their survival in their career as a politician; and to survive in a career as a politician a certain level of ignorance, hypocrisy, and corruption must be tolerated and ignored in oneself to succeed in a broken system. For most politicians, integrity, ethics, morals, and public policy decision-making are mutually exclusive, as long as their public policy decisions that affect the entire American population makes them large amounts of corporate, special interest money through political lobbying; in which case, that politician may declare with impunity that their decision to abandon integrity is a necessary act to survive as a politician in a corrupt system.
The cruel, vicious cycle plays out the same every decade: The United States government subsidizes and protects corporations and policies that destroy the economy and the environment; these corporations, in turn, subsidize and influence our own government through federal lobbying (legal bribery). The growth of one sustains the growth of the other. Politicians see the situation as imperative to protect these powerful industries in order to receive money for their reelection campaigns. Politicians then write policies that allocate taxpayer revenue to bail these industries out so that they may commit the same failure again without punishment. To limit the federal spending deficit that continues to expand each year, the government cuts vital education, medical, and social services that primarily benefit the poor and middle-class, which stunts economic growth and class mobility, as the bottom 90 percent of the population (the drivers of economic growth) are left with poor wages, low purchasing power, and a dwindling social safety net. Inflation increases the price of goods and services, including healthcare, education, and housing, making it increasingly difficult for the majority of the population to get by on the wages and the jobs from our past; a recession hits and the cycle plays itself out again.
The most vital social programs: education, healthcare, fire, police, community social services are the first programs whose budgets are cut to repair the failure and systemic corruption of our government in their protection of corporations over that of the American people; while increases to military, fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, telecommunications and financial industries budgets continue, as these are the industries that sustain the governments power and control over the population.
The Great Recession of 2007, caused by the deregulation of the financial industry, which allowed major banks to invest your savings account for their own private profit; and the predatory corruption of financial institutions that preyed on minorities, women, poor and middle-class families and manipulated them into believing that they could own their own home without any credit rating or savings account, led to a $9 Trillion, zero-interest rate loan, taxpayer-funded bailout of these financial industries and designated them under the moniker of ‘too-big-to-fail,’ meaning that their holding assets and dominance over the American social, political, and economic climate provides them with total control over the United States government.
The effects of this recession are still being felt today, with annual cuts to education spending by both federal and state governments. Education spending cuts force schools to cut back on vital programs and services, hire less teachers and pay them lower salaries, which limits the amount and lowers the quality of people interested in a career as a teacher, a job of high significance and importance in many other countries that value the education of their youth with greater vigor and financial resources than our American education system, through the ignorance of greedy politicians.
No people will tamely surrender their liberties, nor can any be subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the contrary, when people are universally ignorant and debauched in their manners they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.Samuel Adams
The United States cut education spending by 3 percent from 2010-2014 while spending increased by 5 percent in other OECD nations (even though the student population increased by 1 percent in the U.S. during this time). Cuts to local taxes after the recession, combined with lower property taxes leaves little money left over for education spending, which means laying off teachers and cutting after school programs and other services that benefit poor and middle-class students.
By mid-2012, local school districts cut 351,000 jobs; some school districts restored jobs in the years after the recession, but districts are still down 135,000 jobs across the nation from pre-recession levels. This means that fewer teachers are left with less money to educate more students; and the manner in which states allocate revenue to fund school districts, poor and minority communities are impacted the most from these cuts to education.
On average, 47 percent of school revenues in the United States come from state funds; local governments provide another 45 percent; the rest comes from the federal government. This means that the majority of education spending comes from local tax revenue. Higher-income communities contribute greater amounts of money to their local schools than do poor communities. Poor and middle-income communities outnumber affluent communities, which increases the number of students attending underfunded and poorly staffed schools, which then lowers the national average scores on standardized tests.
This suggests that under our current system of funding, education spending cuts disproportionately affect poor, low and middle-income, minority, and immigrant families and communities, which may be an intentional side-effect of an education system rooted in our nations past racist history and segregation that treats minorities and the poor as second class citizens. Studies show that students from poor communities are more likely to graduate high school and attend college if their school receives adequate funding.
Eduction spending cuts may appear to work in the short term but prove to harm society and the economy in the long term as children grow up in poor learning environments and teachers are left with low pay or with no job to contribute to the economy. This lack of purchasing power for the poor and middle class from a decrease in quality paying jobs, combined with economic inflation, limits economic mobility and impedes economic growth for the United States. Public education of the nation’s children is an 18 year, long-term investment. But over time, as local, state, and the federal government cut education spending to compensate for the loss of revenue as a result of the recession, children are left with a low-quality education by uninspired teachers that lack adequate pay, while students that decide to continue their education in college are left with massive amounts a debt from a lack of state and federal funding and an expansion of high-interest rate, government-approved student loans. Part 3