It's nothing new, but we're still well behind other industrialized nations in math and science, at least from a general population standpoint. And the problem is probably not that we don't have smart kids that are good in math and science, it's just that our problem students are more pronounced in the average. Perhaps it's due to sampling bias in other countries. I know our school's SAT average would have been 24 points higher last year if they had just been able to drop the 20 lowest scoring seniors (~250 took the test). Add a lot of low achievers to the average and things start to look less and less stellar.
This isn't an advertisement for more standardized testing. God knows we already have more than enough. Rather, I bring the question back around to the issue of what are we trying to achieve in our obviously flawed school system? A one-size-fits-all mentality in the name of "fairness." Seriously, does everyone really need to take Algebra II, especially when they can barely squeeze past Pre-Algebra? I haven't heard anyone saying "Well, math skills not so good? Maybe we can at least teach you to turn a wrench, run a sewing machine, type orders into a computer, deliver a package, frame a house, etc." Why not? It isn't fair! But somehow it is fair to torture both someone who obviously isn't or doesn't want to "get it" and the teacher that has to put up with them. (sorry, "teach" them)
At some point, fair became giving everyone the same opportunity. That definition of opportunity means the same classes, same teachers, same whatever. Maybe they should look up the word opportunity. Merriam-Webster defines opportunity as:
2 : a good chance for advancement or progressPerhaps "equal opportunity" could start to mean equipping students for individual success. I hope I didn't just say a bad word when I said "individual." That'd go against the collective mentality. Or perhaps not. Even Marx himself had this to say:
"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!"What's so wrong with educating individuals? Not as communists, but rather educating for future success as a productive citizen of society. I understand this is totally against contemporary mass-production style education, but if we're going to take matches to perfectly good piles of money perhaps we could at least try something else when it isn't working. We've been so involved in the business of teaching self-esteem instead of knowledge that the students are getting more and more confident about their ignorance.
I'm afraid, along with others, that under the status quo things are going to continue to progress downward until either: A) we hit rock bottom and then finally try something different, or B) we're too stupid as a society to do anything about it.