American Students Just “Mediocre”? I Don’t Think So

by Christopher Paslay


Americans—the American media and politicians in particular—have a fetish for griping about how lousy public education is in the United States.  Ever since President Regan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education published the infamous report, A Nation At Risk, our whole country’s just been beside itself when it comes to America’s schools. 


Woe is America!  Our children are in trouble!  They can’t do math!  Or science!  The educational system in America is in shambles!


Enough is enough already.  Let’s stop all the doom and gloom.  America is the best country in the world, and so is our education system.  Don’t think so?  Check out this report in USA Today that highlights the fact that nearly 583,000 foreign students studied in the USA during the 2006-07 academic year. 


Amazing, isn’t it?  Over a half a million young people eager to learn—many from China and the Asian countries that are topping the test score charts—are coming to the US to get their educations. 


People from all over the world understand very clearly that America is where you go to get the best education.  This year’s Summer Olympics are a case in point.  It seemed that every college athlete competing in the games—whether it was track and field or swimming—was going to school in the US.  It was amazing to witness.  Jamaicans were going to school at the University of Kentucky.  Kenyans at Villanova.  Australians at UCLA.  The list went on and on.


I know—these are colleges, not high schools.  But when you look past all the media bias and posturing by politicians running for office, when you look at our county’s public schools as a whole (when we don’t focus on the dozen or so large urban school districts who are crippled by poverty and a culture that doesn’t value education), our country is doing pretty damn well. 


According to The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), American fourth graders were 11th out of 36 countries in math and 8th in science.  Eighth graders were ninth out of 48 in math and 11th in science.  Sure, we’re not at the top, but that’s just because math and science aren’t hip in America.  It’s a cultural thing, not a school issue.  Plus, the professors who write educational policy from their ivory towers in academia don’t want us to be number one (hence differentiated instruction, the very hot and very unrealistic trend in education).  Number one isn’t good.  Number one doesn’t leave room for improvement.  Number one would put a lot of people out of a job, cost educational testing companies billions. 


Regardless of our place on the TIMSS, America’s schools are working.  Our children are not only well educated, but will be the global leaders of tomorrow.  This is a fact, and no matter how hard newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer try to downplay the ability of our youth (US students still test as mediocre, Inquirer, 12/10) we know who they are, and how strong our country’s school system is.