Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, August 10, 2007

Class Dunce Drops Out of Math and Science Competition

If you were always the last one to be picked when they were choosing up teams, you probably didn’t go out for varsity sports in school. And iff yu diddint spel wurds verry gud, you probably didn’t take part in the spelling bee.

Similarly, if you're a country who's squandered so many trillions of dollars on wars and invasions that your education system is a disaster — you don’t want to take part in an international science and math competition.

It isn't actually a competition. It’s an international study called TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) Advanced 2008. The purpose is to measure how American high school seniors are doing in algebra, geometry, calculus and physics compared to their counterparts in other countries.

But rightly or wrongly, nobody wants to be shown up and embarrassed by going too far out of their league. If you weigh 95 pounds and can't curl your car keys, you probably don’t want to enroll in a gym frequented by 300-pound power lifters. If you think two plus two equals seven, you're not ready for advanced calculus.

The last time the United States took part in a similar survey was 1995. We came out ahead of just two countries, Cyprus and South Africa. Hey, at least we weren’t at the bottom. As Southerners like to say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

The Commissioner of the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics is claiming that the decision to withdraw was based on finances and their “overextended staff.” About 4,000 American high school seniors would have taken part in this study, at a cost of between $3 million and $10 million.

Even if the cost is the real reason, an advocate for math and science education said: “It’s pennywise and pound foolish. It is crucial that we know what our most talented students can do and how we are serving them. I can’t think of anything more important than having data on how you are training your future mathematicians and scientists.”

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Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I know this has nothing to do with "no child left behind" because it involves our smartest and brightest students. Maybe Bill Gates will come up with the millions for said test.

August 10, 2007 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: Yeah, we may have to depend on Bill Gates or some other private donors. Reminds me of that poster from the '60s, something like "someday the schools will have all the money they need and the army will have to hold a bake sale to pay for its newest weapons."

August 10, 2007 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I HOPE this has nothing to do with NCLB, and the necessity to dumb the next generation or two down in order to get where the neocons want us to be... uninformed, unquestioning, incurious, made in the image of Dubya.

But if this is our best and brightest not being involved, that is too bad. $3 million to $10 million is all it costs? I say "all" because when one looks at that amount as part of our national budget, it is beneath the level of pocket change. Of course Dumbya doesn't pay attention to the results of studies, and his gut probably tells him our kids are the best in the world anyway, but it would be nice to know how good they REALLY are doing in comparison to other kids around the world.

August 10, 2007 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who needs American Science students? All they do is grow up and expect top jobs at top pay when they got out of college!

That's why we need more H1B visa's to get foreign Scientist (who's education was most likely financed by their governments) at half the price and work them 80 hours a week!


August 10, 2007 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Technically it has nothing to do with NCLB, but the mentality is the same. Squelch the best and brightest while making everybody a bunch of automatons who all spout the same memorized factoids. And these "leaders" are the ones who claim they're against socialism??

Yes, it would be nice to see how we compare to other countries so we know where to make changes and adjustments. But since we're Number One, we certainly can't learn anything from a bunch of furriners.

Erik: You've got it, foreign scientists (and probably better trained) at half the price, working twice as long. What's good for Corporate America is good for, well, you know the rest...

August 11, 2007 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

They have billions for studying the mating habits of fleas but they can't pour money into something like this?

August 11, 2007 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Larry: Yup, their priorities are pretty screwed up.

August 11, 2007 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Besides, $10m is like another hour of operations in Iraq. Why spend that kind of money on something so....valuable?

August 11, 2007 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Prague Twin: Yup, that one hour of operations in Iraq is much more valuable. The U.S. can kick global ass and that's what counts.

August 11, 2007 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Mile High Pixie said...

I can almost guarantee you this has a fair amount to do with NCLB and its similar testing ilk. My sister teaches freshman English at a couple of colleges in the south, and she's noticed that kids that get trained to take standardized tests only learn, well, how to take those tests. Those who go to schools that don't emphasize those testing skills can actually add, read, and write critically. So maybe if this international competition involved taking high-pressure tests, we could pass it. However, something tells me that it's testing actual knowledge and the ability to apply it. And as we all know, the US hasn't been really good at learnin' or applyin' knowin' of stuff for the past six or so years.

August 13, 2007 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mile High Pixie: Yup, learning how to take tests is different than learning useful knowledge and how to apply it. Without knowing much about the education field, it seems to me like NCLB is turning our schools into factories whose purpose is to create millions of bots for corporations to use. JMHO.

August 13, 2007 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Amy Masreliez said...

Harper: You are on right on target with your assessment of leadership and national priorities. Some of what you say sounds deeply sinister, but unfortunately true.

Snave: Right on the money when it comes to importing foreign labor. Even then we can't meet the demand needed for U.S. businesses to find talent, one reason why CEOs are lobbying for immigration reform.

So why are we as a nation becoming bankrupt of the skilled workforce needed to compete now and in the future?

Answer, if you are passionate about this topic -- these books will point you to the answer:

1) The Call For Brilliance --- http://www.thecalltobrilliance.com/index.html

2) Dumbing Us Down - Amazon link

3) Enriching the Brain -- Amazon

August 18, 2007 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Amy: Thanks. Yes, I think this international study that we're dropping out of really shows our sad priorities.

Interesting books; I'll check those out.

August 18, 2007 at 1:10 AM  

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