We hear constantly about how American students are losing ground in worldwide performance standards. We score around 500 out of 1,000 in a number of important categories like reading and science.
Every three years the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report is compiled and released, comparing the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world. The United States ranks 14th of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science, and a dismal 25th for mathematics.
The man-on-the-street interview has become common fodder for comedy shows, because the ignorance of the average American is overwhelmingly predictable. If you don’t believe it, casually ask someone in Starbucks the most fundamental of social studies questions: how many senators are in the US congress, or even the name of the vice president. You will be surprised at the number of blank stares you receive.
The Dumbing Down of America
So what do children learn in schools under the stern directives of the National Education Association? They learn about global warming, necessary tolerance for abhorrent human behaviors, and about how bad President Bush was. They are taught to speak out vehemently against anything and everything that is traditional or moral, and to blindly embrace every edict and dogma of the left.
Our classrooms are often filled with NEA union “change agents,” set in place to transition impressionable minds from logical and moral thought to leftist nonsense of redistribution and “fairness.” Our children don’t dare question the dogmatic edicts of these “community organizers” whose job it is to preach the gospel of the left, numbing the minds of the children and getting them to thoughtlessly repeat the chants and talking points of liberals.
Even in conservative Provo, Utah, we’ve received reports of a female seventh-grade teacher who recently bullied a female student in front of the class for having a note in her papers on the desk that she was supporting Mitt Romney for president. When the girl’s father asked the principal why his daughter was berated in front of the entire class and called “stupid” for her written thought, he was threatened with a lawsuit and a restraining order if he mentioned the incident outside of the principal’s office.
With all of that “education” going on, it’s no wonder that there is no time or energy left over for things like reading, writing and arithmetic.
“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education.”
Does Education Need More Money?
Duncan’s use of the word “investing” is liberal-speak for raising taxes and feeding the NEA with more money to donate to Democratic candidate political campaigns. In fact, where students are more likely to drop out of school, and to be unemployed when they leave school, we find the highest levels of NEA influence, and the highest support for Democrats. Think east coast and west coast cities, Chicago, Detroit, etc.
Indeed, we constantly hear how underpaid teachers are, and how our schools need more money for the classrooms. Let’s look at some real numbers. First, we spend more than $9,000 per student per year on K-12 education (far more than all the countries who beat us in PISA reports), totaling over $120,000 per student by high school graduation. That is over $800 billion annually, which is a full 4.5% of our gross domestic product.
So where does all of this money go? Around 60% goes to classroom instruction, including teachers’ salaries. The rest (40%) goes to non-teaching employees and extras, in place mainly to ensure federal compliance, to qualify for the small percentage of the local budget that comes from Washington, D.C.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanical engineers earn $31.93 per hour, but public school teachers earn on average more than $34.00 per hour, with an average annual salary of over $47,000. That salary is for a job that consumes just 36.5 hours per week compared with many hours more for nearly everyone else. Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less. It is true that there are those who earn more than public school teachers. Nuclear engineers earn 17% more; actuaries, 9% more; and physicists, 3% more. There are public school teachers working for a number of failing school systems who are earning a lot more than most people. The Detroit metropolitan area has the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour, followed by the San Francisco metropolitan area at $46.70 per hour, and the New York metropolitan area at $45.79 per hour.
We need to invest more? No, we need to take back control of our schools and ensure that motivated teachers are teaching basic educational courses—the kind of subjects that are tested and measured internationally. We need to make sure there is competition in the teaching profession, something the NEA has fought with tremendous ferocity. We need to reward teachers who excel, and fire teachers who aren’t teaching useful subject matter to our children.