"Stupid in America" continues

Last night, John Stossel reported the fallout on the segment, "Stupid in America," that aired on 20/20 in January. The segment demonstrated how educational competition - such as that which exists in other parts of the world - would improve and advance our own educational system. That the United States Postal Service did not have overnight deliveries until FedEx appeared on the market, was provided as an example. Competition for government-run institutions = good. Same-old = bad.

These were John Stossel's main points, taken from 20/20's website:

"American fourth-graders do well on international tests, but by high school, Americans have fallen behind kids in most other countries.

The constant refrain that "public schools need more money" is nonsense. Many countries that spend significantly less on education do better than we do. School spending in America (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled over the past 30 years, but national test scores are flat. The average per-pupil cost today is an astonishing $10,000 per student — $200,000 per classroom! Think about how many teachers you could hire, and how much better you could do with that amount of money.

Most American parents give their kids' schools an A or B grade, but that's only because, without market competition, they don't know what they might have had. The educators who conduct the international tests say that most of the countries that do best are those that give school managers autonomy, and give parents and students the right to choose their schools. Competition forces private and public schools to improve.

There is little K-12 education competition in America because public schools are a government monopoly. Monopolies rarely innovate, and union-dominated monopolies, burdened with contracts filled with a hundred pages of suffocating rules, are worse. The head of New York City's schools told me that the union's rules 'reward mediocrity.'"

The union of New York City teachers, however, decided to protest John Stossel for airing the segment. Not the system that reinforces the same-old, but the man who revealed the problem.

Yes, that makes total sense to me.


Becky said...

Several years ago, when we spent our seven-month sabbatical at my parents' place on the little island, we sent eldest child to K at the private school.

At the end of the year, all the kids were reading, writing, and doing basic math, including fractions. I was astounded how much the school in general, and my daughter's teacher in particular (a very young woman with nowhere near the equivalent of teacher training and periodic developmental whatsis), could accomplish with so few resources -- nowhere near $200,000 US for the entire school, nursery school to grade 6.

In fact, the main resources seem to be several small shelves of outdated textbooks donated from the U.S. years ago, a great belief in children's abilities, and diligence on the part of the students and teachers. It was a real eye-opener.

liz said...

I'm not sure I'm so interested in improving the "factories" -- in fact, I'm not terribly interested in the metaphors that are constantly used comparing schools/kids to corporations/products, and which include the obsession with competing with other kids around the world. It all feels anti-humanistic to me.

Instead of saying the model's basically okay, it's just not being implemented well, I prefer John Gatto's take on schools:


Guess I'm an unschooler at heart.

la Maitresse said...

Liz: I think Stossel's point was that we are not interested in looking at how we measure up to the rest of the world (the test that 20/20 used was just an evaluative tool for discussion); that apathy with how we measure up, he concludes, is one of our problems with education.

Becky: I do believe that motivation to teach, not dollars, can go very far indeed.

Becky said...

I do believe that motivation to teach, not dollars, can go very far indeed.

And motivation to learn even farther ; )

la Maitresse said...


But what makes a motivated learner?

Anyone? Anyone?

Calletta said...

Hmm. . . a motivated learner. . . Well, curiosity needs to be present, and a fear of failure needs NOT to be present. Fear of failure leads to hopelessness, so then the kids say, "Why should I bother?" or "I can't." Because they'd rather not than try and fail. So maybe de-emphasize the values placed on scores and grades? I really don't know; I'm just thinking/typing aloud here.

la Maitresse said...

I agree with you there about scores and grades. And maybe also do away with public denigration/humiliation? I had soo many teachers (at the boarding school, included) who just looooved to put students dooooown. I hated those classes.

I find it interesting that in some international educational systems do not weigh grades until exam time (once a year). And, as I am learning, our U.S. universities do not even require grades for admission (but they do like those SATs).

Anyone else? Anyone?