Critics of education often tout the idea that the U.S. was once the greatest nation in the world in math and science, and that might be true in pockets, but as a nation we really haven’t topped many lists. Consider this statement which is included in a study of international test results since 1964:
“The United States never led the world. It was never number one and has never been close to number one on international math tests. Or on science tests, for that matter. It is more accurate to say that the United States has always trailed the world on math tests.”
The U.S. has remained economically, socially, and militarily powerful no matter the education rankings and the perceptions about American education. Tom Loveless, at the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, says this about America:
If we have managed to be the world’s most powerful country, politically, economically and militarily, for the last 47 years despite our less than impressive math and science scores, maybe that flaw is not as important as film documentaries and political party platforms claim. And if, after so many decades of being shown up by much of the rest of the developed world, we are improving, it might be time to be more supportive of what we already doing to fix our schools.
Loveless went on to say that Shanghai, often mentioned as one of the most successful nations in the education world, is not all it’s reputed to be. He mentions that 83.8% of Shanghai’s high school graduates attend college, but only 24% of its total population does. 66% of Americans do. For a nation that educates all of its citizens this is an impressive number. Imagine how many students in Shanghai are not even graduating high school.
In short, the United States does quite well educating its citizens. The system isn’t “broken” but does have pockets of problems around the country. I have faith in our system and have watched it work very well for most of our children; plus, we continue to innovate. It’s the American way: no matter what others say or do, we persevere and succeed.