America’s students now read, write, and do math at a lower level than the students from most developed countries. Until the 1960’s we led the world. Since the 1960’s, education spending has risen 2.5 times faster than inflation. The relative decline in performance occurring at the same time as the relative spending increases shows that more spending doesn’t necessarily lead to more progress.
It seems logical to assume that higher spending would lead to higher salaries for teachers and therefore more qualified and capable teachers and that these things would help students retain their lead in the global education competition. But this line of thinking assumes that the spending increases provided incentives for better performance.
Well it is difficult to compete well when you don’t know you are competing in the first place. My friend Keenan and I found the comment between the 0:42 and 0:53 mark in this documentary to be interesting and noteworthy.
(In case you are interested, the documentary has another 7 minutes or so left in a "part 2" you can find with a YouTube search.)
It is easier to see how we could have fallen so far behind even while spending much more money if we don’t believe we are competing in the first place. But if the point of our educational system is not to compete, then what is the point? Maybe it is providing maximum employment opportunities to certified teachers. Why else would Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott and North Carolina Republican senate candidate Thom Tillis brag about their records of spending increases rather than talking about what they are doing that will help raise the performance levels of their states’ students?
Are we voters, citizens, and parents not able to handle the subject of performance? Are our children’s egos too fragile to be challenged and held accountable for performing at a higher level. Keenan’s daughter recently came home from school proud of herself for helping her team win a science game. She and her peers would probably be proud to come out victorious in a global competition, too. We should encourage them to play. And while winning isn’t everything, it is what you try to do when you compete, once you know you are in a game.