The Truthseeker: America ‘Dead Last’ In Education (E29)
Published on Dec 1, 2013
Extensive skills study from the OECD finds young Americans are ‘dead last’, leaked lesson plans from corporate-controlled schools, expulsion and arrest offences under child ‘zero tolerance’ policies, teen mental patient screening questions, and hundreds of thousands of US college students being forced into prostitution.
Seek truth from facts with The Untold History of the United States co-author Prof. Peter Kuznick, Associate Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Josh Golin, studentdebtcrisis.org co-founder Robert Applebaum, Storyleak editor Anthony Gucciardi, and filmmaker Michael Moore.
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In recent years, a number of international surveys have raised alarms that the United States is falling behind other countries in terms of educational achievement. Now there is another one, and its findings represent a serious threat to the country’s future prosperity. In basic literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, the new study shows, younger Americans are at or near the bottom of the standings among advanced countries.
The survey was carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a Paris-based forum and research group, which counts thirty-three high- and middle-income countries among its members. Some of its findings have been well covered elsewhere, particularly by the Times’ editorial board and its economics columnist Eduardo Porter.
But the data comparing young adults aged sixteen to twenty-four in different countries—the folks who will be manning the global economy for the next thirty or forty years—deserves a closer look. The figures come from three charts in the report’s statistical annex, which we have adapted here. Taken together, they vividly illustrate some of the challenges facing an economic hegemon that has for decades been plagued by wage stagnation and rising inequality, and which, as President Obama has pointed out, desperately needs to raise its game.
The numbers come from the O.E.C.D.’s inaugural Survey of Adult Skills, a massive exercise in which researchers interviewed five thousand people in each participating country. In order to capture their ability to function in “technology rich environments,” the subjects were also asked to answer questions on a computer.
The first chart shows proficiency in literacy among sixteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. Finland’s youth came out on top, with a score of 296.7; the average score was 277.9. The United States scored 260.9, which put it second to last, above Italy.
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Zero Tolerance Schools Discipline Without Wiggle Room
John W. Whitehead
Posted: 02/ 8/11 07:45 PM ET
“We end up punishing honor students to send a message to bad kids. But the data indicate that the bad kids are not getting the message.” — Professor Russell Skiba
What we are witnessing, thanks in large part to zero tolerance policies that were intended to make schools safer by discouraging the use of actual drugs and weapons by students, is the inhumane treatment of young people and the criminalization of childish behavior.
Ninth grader Andrew Mikel is merely the latest in a long line of victims whose educations have been senselessly derailed by school administrators lacking in both common sense and compassion. A freshman at Spotsylvania High School in Virginia, Andrew was expelled in December 2010 for shooting a handful of small pellets akin to plastic spit wads at fellow students in the school hallway during lunch period. Although the initial punishment was only for 10 days, the school board later extended it to the rest of the school year. School officials also referred the matter to local law enforcement, which initiated juvenile proceedings for criminal assault against young Andrew.
Andrew is not alone. Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. That particular LEGO, a policeman, was Patrick’s favorite because his father is a retired police officer. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns. A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.
Things have gotten so bad that it doesn’t even take a toy gun to raise the ire of school officials. A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time. A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. In Houston, an eighth grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement). Six-year-old Cub Scout Zachary Christie was sentenced to 45 days in reform school after bringing a camping utensil to school that can serve as a fork, knife or spoon. And in Oklahoma, school officials suspended a first grader simply for using his hand to simulate a gun.
What these incidents, all the result of overzealous school officials and inflexible zero tolerance policies, make clear is that we have moved into a new paradigm in America where young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike.
Adopted in the wake of Congress’ passage of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, which required a one-year expulsion for any child bringing a firearm or bomb to school, school zero tolerance policies were initially intended to address and prevent serious problems involving weapons, violence and drug and alcohol use in the schools. However, since the Columbine school shootings, nervous legislators and school boards have tightened their zero tolerance policies to such an extent that school officials are now empowered to punish all offenses severely, no matter how minor. Hence, an elementary school student is punished in the same way that an adult high school senior is punished. And a student who actually intends to harm others is treated the same as one who breaks the rules accidentally — or is perceived as breaking the rules.
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