Monday, January 16, 2006

Stupid In American Schools.

Did you happen to catch John Stossel's on ABC's 20/20 this past Friday night? I didn't, and now I'm searching for a transcript. At any rate, I did see Stossel on the O’Reily Factor last week and I did manage to look at some video excerpts on the ABC News website. It looks like John Stossel took a look at the incredible mess that is American public schools, and found them to be an unmitigated disaster. Should be no surprise, the public school system has been in trouble for a long time now.

One of the video excerpts that I watched focused on a math test that was given to American and Belgian high school students. The Americans, of course, thought that they had done very well on the test. Then comes the reality. They hadn’t done so hot. They only scored a 47. So how did the Belgian kids do? The Belgian students scored at 75%. In the interviews I watched the Belgian students say how easy they thought the test was and they seemed to be amazed that the American children did so poorly and were openly wondering just how stupid our children really are.

If you did see this Stossel special, were you surprised at how low American students score on tests compared to students from other countries? Sadly, you probably were. There is no way that America should be anywhere other than in first place when it comes to education. Fact is, we're in 25th place. Around the world 25 nations are doing a better job of educating their children than we are.

Stossel pointed out one huge and very important difference. In other countries parents get to choose the school their child will attend. They choose the school, and the government pays the bill making schools, and teachers compete for your kids. In the United States there is no competition. Here the government assigns your child to a school. The only way you can choose where to send your kid is to either move, or to pay out of your own pocket to send your children to a private school. Here the government has a virtual monopoly on education and it is closely guarded and protected the teacher's unions. Apparently Stossel was pretty hard on the teacher's unions. He said that they tolerate mediocrity. Teachers generally get paid the same whether they're average, below average or above average.

While our schools are getting worse, and our education compared to the rest of world is falling, the teacher's unions continue their fight to maintain the government monopoly on education and to prevent anything that even remotely resembles school choice to become a part of the solution.

Each and every one of us knows that competition improves the marketplace. Why, then, do we turn a blind eye to the idea of competition in education? Stossil also made an excellent comparison to competition and grocery stores. Imagine that if the government assigned each neighborhood to their own grocery store and it is the only grocery store that you could ever shop at. What do you think would happen to customer service once the owner knows you can’t go anywhere else? You would have spoiled milk and bad meat because there is no incentive to shelve a good product or take care of the customer. It is not like you can shop some where else. You would have real estate agents advertising houses in good grocery store districts. Just as the public school system is now.

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