Just recently I read an article in the October 26, 2014 edition of The New York Times. The statistics quoted in the article was alarming and brought reality home. It seemed to me that the “American Public” was not getting any smarter and that people just seem more opinionated. In the article, the writer talked about his father, a World War II refugee who did not speak English when he arrived in the United States In 1951. His father, purchased a copy of the New York Times and began to teach himself to read and speak English. Not only that, he graduated from college and eventually earned a PhD and became a university professor. This man bought into the American dream that was possible back then. However, today’s statistics suggest that economic and educational mobility are now greater in Europe than in America. Well, that’s sobering and here are some statistics cited as to why America has fallen behind.
America, at one time, led the world in mass education. By the mid-1800s most American states provided a free elementary education to the great majority of white children. While in Great Britain, in 1870, only 2% of British 14-year-olds were in school. And by the 1930’s, the US was the first major country in which the majority of children attended a high school. And in 1957, only 9% of 17-year-olds in Great Britain were in school. Until the 1970s, we were preeminent in mass education and some believe that was the secret to America’s economic rise. Since 1970s, things have changed dramatically.
For example: 1. currently, more young men in America have less education than their parents (20 versus 29% 2. If your parents didn’t graduate from high school, only 5% of you made it through college. While if you lived in another industrialized country, about 23% of you made it through college. 3. Russia, leads the way and has the largest percentage of adults with a University education. At one time we were first. 4. In 2000, the US ranked a respectable second to the share of the population with a college degree. Currently, we have dropped to fifth place. And, among 25 to 34-year-olds, we are in 12th place behind South Korea in first place. 5. Among industrialized countries, 70% of their three-year-olds are enrolled in educational programs. However, in the United States, the figure is 38%. 6. Although American teachers work longer hours, they earned 68% as much is the average American college educated worker. In industrialized countries, their teachers average, a respectable 88% .7. Our educational system is dependent on local property taxes. That’s great for rich kids in the suburbs and disastrous for inner-city kids who need more assistance.
We have heard for years about economic inequality and maybe something to do with that is related to this negative educational trend. While we have a number of private colleges, we know they are creative in attempting to entice students to enroll. However, that doesn’t seem to solve the diminishing educational enrollment problem in our country.
The priorities in our culture seem to center around the military, homeland security, or in economic terms-guns versus butter as was pointed out by Pres. Eisenhower when he talked about the great military-industrial complex. The government and especially social media, radio and TV have done a great job in promoting fear. Too bad other than Bill Gates were not putting more effort into fixing educational inequality in our country.
Have we lost our way? And you think the Wolverines have problems?