Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life. Unfortunately, it seems to be the American way. Here's the Straight Talk on education (or the lack thereof) in the United States today.
“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
- Dean Wormer, Animal House
According to the CDC, 66% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. That is approximately 140 million adults. Somewhere between 15 and 20 million Americans can be classified as alcoholics. As many as 50% of those on welfare are alcoholics. There are 225 million people over 18 years old and 32 million of them do not have a high school degree. There are 32 million adults or 14% who are illiterate (23% in California, 22% in New York, 20% in Florida, 17% in New Jersey). The United States’ spending per pupil in public schools at $9,266 is in the top 5 in the world. New York and New Jersey spend $14,000 per pupil and one-fifth of their adults are illiterate.
Forrest Gump, when asked “Are you stupid or something?” responded, “Stupid is as stupid does.” A person’s appearance does not prove they are stupid. It is their deeds and actions which prove whether they are stupid or not. The terms stupid and idiot are not politically correct in today’s America. Intellectually challenged, IQ disadvantaged, aptitude deficient, brain power wanting, and acumen poor might satisfy the PC police.
Let’s take a look at their definitions according to Webster’s Dictionary and assess whether they might apply to anyone in the increasingly socialized United States of today.
Stupid - slow of mind; given to unintelligent decisions or acts; acting in an unintelligent or careless manner; lacking intelligence or reason; lacking in power to absorb ideas or impressions; implies a slow-witted or dazed state of mind that may be either congenital or temporary.
Idiot - a foolish or senseless person; a person of subnormal intelligence; a person lacking intelligence or common sense.
Besides describing George W. Bush, these definitions sadly describe millions of Americans. As a wise person I know likes to say, “It is a sad state of affairs.” Our citizens have failed to heed the wise words of our Founding Fathers:
“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”
- Thomas Paine
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
- James Madison
“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”
- Edward Everett
The American people’s ignorance, stupidity, and disinterest in the governance of this nation have allowed an oligopoly of politicians, bankers, and powerful corporations to seize control of the country and loot its riches for their personal gain.
By failing to educate themselves, millions of ignorant Americans have lost all of their power and are now dictated to by the few with knowledge. The elite who dictate the path of our country do not want the masses to become educated. Their power would be in jeopardy. The American public school system insures the retention of their power and wealth.
“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”
- P.J. O’Rourke
The Ugly Numbers
Educational attainment is the single biggest determinant of lifetime income. As of 2008, 14% of Americans over 18 years old haven’t graduated high school, 31% have achieved a high school degree, 27% have earned a bachelor’s degree, and only 9% have earned an advanced degree.
The median household income in the US is $46,326. The median household income of Asian households is 24% higher at $57,518. The median household income of Black households is 35% lower at $30,134. Asian households have a fantastic educational achievement, with 49% of Asians achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher. Black households have a higher percentage with no high school degree (18%) than they do with a bachelor’s degree or higher (17%). Hispanic households have even more dreadful levels of educational attainment with only 12% achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher, while a full 37% of Hispanics have not graduated high school.
Even though 69 million Americans have attained a high school degree, many are functionally illiterate as our public school system has just matriculated them through the system.
If you make the effort and earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, the likelihood of making it into the top 10% to 20% of earners goes up dramatically. Drop out of high school and you guarantee that you will remain in the bottom 25% of earners, making less than $22,500 per year.
There are approximately 111 million households in the United States. Only 5.6 million households earn more than $167,000. On the other end of the scale, there are 36.6 million households making less than $30,000. The middle is occupied by another 36.6 million households making less than $62,500. The bottom is occupied by high school graduates or dropouts. The top is occupied solely by college graduates. Those with knowledge and money are able to use their power to generate more money and consolidate that power by manipulating the ignorant poor masses. The U.S. public school system insures a continuous flow of ignorant masses.
Liberal Waste of Money
“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”
- Mark Twain
The United States takes in excess of $500 billion per year from its citizens through income taxes, real estate taxes, and school taxes to educate our young people in the public school system. The local and state bureaucrats along with the thousands of government officials responsible for the U.S. public education system believe that a half a trillion dollars is not nearly enough.
There are 50 million students enrolled in 97,000 public schools in this country. The US Department of Education spends $59 billion of your tax dollars and employs over 5,000 bureaucrats to guide our top notch world class educational system. There is no country on earth that spends close to the amount spent by the U.S. With this level of spending, we must have the smartest, best educated, most motivated students on the face of the earth.
Somehow, despite the billions “invested” in our children, millions graduate and can’t add or subtract. Cashiers in most retail stores would not know how to give you change from a dollar if the cash register didn’t tell them. Even then, it is often times a struggle. Mathematical literacy of our 15 year olds is well below the world average and 10 to 15 percent below leading Asian countries. We did beat Russia, Italy and Mexico.
Any cost benefit analysis of what we spend versus what we get would conclude that our educational system is a complete disaster. It should be clear even to a high school dropout that our government bureaucrats haven’t spent our tax money efficiently or effectively. Our public schools are either not teaching the right things or not using the right techniques.
The liberals who are clamoring for more money and more government control of education have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that their methods have failed. According to the US Dept. of Education the per-pupil spending in 2005 was $9,266, up 128% since 1971. This means that from the time a child enters 1st grade until he/she graduates from high school (if they graduate), it costs taxpayers $111,000. You would think that with that investment, more than 33% of high school graduates would go to college.
A study of public school students from 1991 to 2002 by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research generated disturbing results:
• The national high school graduation rate for all public school students remained flat over the last decade, going from 72% in 1991 to 71% in 2002.
• Nationally, the percentage of all students who left high school with the skills and qualifications necessary to attend college was 34% in 2002.
• The states with the lowest graduation rate in the nation were South Carolina (53%), followed by Georgia (56%), Tennessee (57%), and Alabama (58%).
• In the class of 2002, about 78% of white students graduated from high school with a regular diploma, compared to 56% of African-American students and 52% of Hispanic students.
• About 40% of white students, 23% of African-American students, and 20% of Hispanic students who started public high school graduated college-ready in 2002.
The bureaucrats that allocate the billions in education spending have decided to concentrate on special education, education for the disadvantaged, and closing the “achievement gap” between white students and minority students. The results of these efforts have been dreadful. The facts are:
• In 2007, the federal government spent $71.7 billion on elementary and secondary education programs. These funds were spent by 13 federal departments and multi¬ple agencies. The Department of Education spent $39.2 billion on K—12 education. The largest programs in the Department of Education's elementary and sec¬ondary budget were "Education for the disadvantaged" ($14.8 billion) and "Special education" ($11.5 billion).
• While spending per pupil has more than doubled, reading scores have remained relatively flat.
• The achievement gap persists, with black and Hispanic children still lagging behind their white peers despite decades of federal aid targeted at equalizing opportunities for all students. Similarly, in 2005—2006, the national high school grad¬uation rate for white students (80.6 percent) remained significantly higher than the graduation rates of black students (59.1 percent) and Hispanic students (61.4 percent).
• In many cities, spending per student exceeds $10,000 per year, yet graduation rates are below 50%. In Detroit, per-student spending is $11,100 per year, yet only 25% of Detroit's students are graduating from high school.
• According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 52% of public education expenditures are spent on instruction. This percentage has been slowly decreasing over recent decades.
Instead of encouraging excellence in our most gifted children, government bureaucrats spend billions experimenting with the latest educational fads and trying to make sure all students are treated equal. This socialist teaching methodology has accomplished mass mediocrity. The devastating combination of mediocre teaching methods, weak curriculum, disinterested or non-existent parental involvement, lazy unmotivated pupils, and greedy self serving teachers’ unions has led to the poor excuse for a public education system.
More Perfect Union
“I don’t represent the children. I represent the teachers.”
- Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers
“This is U.S. History, I see the globe right there.”
- Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The average salary of public school teachers is approximately $53,000. The average salary of public school teachers in California leads the nation at $65,000. This gives the term “pay for performance” a new meaning. A full 32% of all public school students in California don’t graduate high school. The California public school system doesn’t even prepare the average student well enough to read a newspaper or fill out an employment application at McDonalds.
Based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following facts can be gleaned:
• The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.
• Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working. By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week.
• Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.
• Public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.
• The Detroit metropolitan area has the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour, followed by the San Francisco metropolitan area at $46.70 per hour, and the New York metropolitan area at $45.79 per hour.
With the highest average salary per teacher, Detroit must be turning out the best and brightest. Does a 75% high school dropout rate merit the highest salaries in the country? The district has 15,000 workers, an annual budget of $1.2 billion, and only graduates 25% of the 94,000 students it matriculates through its horrific system. Well done. I’m sure they will get big union negotiated raises this year.
There is absolutely no evidence that average teacher pay is related to high school graduation rates. Due to their strong teachers’ unions, salaries, benefits and tenure are fought for, while the interests of the students are disregarded.
“A lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.”
- Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers
Excellent, motivated teachers produce excellent, motivated students. Incompetent, unmotivated, burnt out, tenured teachers produce dropouts and functionally illiterate students. Tenure allows bad teachers to stay employed for decades. It is virtually impossible to get fired.
In ten years, only about 47 out of 100,000 teachers were actually terminated from New Jersey’s schools. Newark’s school district successfully fired about one out of every 3,000 tenured teachers annually. Graduation statistics indicate that Newark’s graduation rate was a fabulous 30.6%.
New York City’s Chancellor has revealed that in that city, only ten out of 55,000 tenured teachers were terminated in the 2006-2007 school year. According to the New York Daily News, at any given time in New York City an average of 700 teachers are being paid not to teach (they instead report to “rubber rooms”) while the district goes through the hoops (imposed by the union contract and by law) needed to pursue discipline or termination. A city teacher in New York that ends up being fired will have spent an average of 19 months in the disciplinary process. The Daily News reported that the New York City school district spends more than $65 million annually paying teachers accused of wrongdoing, in addition to the cost of hiring substitutes.
One highly destructive feature of the typical teachers’ union contract is a system that forces principals to hire teachers who transfer from other schools within the district. Since these teachers are frequently transferring because of poor performance in their original schools, the practice is called “the dance of the lemons” or “passing the trash.”
One problem related to the destructive transfer system is a hiring process that takes too long and/or starts too late, thanks in part to union contracts. Would-be teachers typically cannot be hired until senior teachers have had their pick of the vacancies, and the transfer process makes principals reluctant to post vacancies at all for fear of having a bad teacher fill it instead of a promising new hire.
Anywhere from 31% to almost 60% of applicants withdrew from the hiring process, often to accept jobs with districts that made offers earlier. Applicants who withdrew from the hiring process had significantly higher undergraduate GPAs, were 40% more likely to have a degree in their teaching field, and were significantly more likely to have completed educational coursework than the teachers who ended up staying around to finally receive job offers.
Another common problem with the union contract is a “bumping” policy that fills schools which are more needy (but less desirable to teach in) with greater numbers of inexperienced teachers. In its report, “Teaching Inequality,” the Education Trust wrote:
“Children in the highest-poverty schools are assigned to novice teachers almost twice as often as children in low-poverty schools. Similarly, students in high-minority schools are assigned to novice teachers at twice the rate as students in schools without many minority students.”
The nonprofit Education Sector found in a 2007 report that nearly 19% of all public education spending in America goes towards things like seniority-based pay increases and outsized benefits, things that don’t do much to improve teaching quality. If these provisions were done away with, the report found, $77 billion in education money would be freed up for initiatives that could actually improve learning, like paying high-performing teachers more money.
Teachers unions push for contracts that effectively cripple school districts’ ability to monitor teachers for dangerous behavior. In one case, school administrators in Seattle received at least 30 warnings that a fifth grade teacher was a danger to his students. However, thanks to a union contract that forces schools to destroy most personnel records after each school year, he managed to evade punishment for nearly 20 years, until he was finally sent to prison in 2005 for having molested up to 13 girls.
As an attorney for one of the victims put it, according to The Seattle Times, “You could basically have a pedophile in your midst and not know it. How are you going to get rid of somebody if you don't know what they did in the past?”
"There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness."
- George Washington
Whenever I read about failure, my immediate reaction is to look for examples of success. Based on the studies I’ve found, Finland finishes at or near the top of every survey in Math and Science. They must be doing something right. With the pitiful results achieved by the U.S., we should humbly examine what we can learn from the Finnish school system.
• Pre-school begins at age 6
• Comprehensive school: age 7 to 16
• Upper secondary school or vocational school: 16 to 19
• Pupils in Finland, age 7 to 14, spend fewest hours in school
• Higher education places for 65% of young people
• Second-highest public spending on higher education
• They don’t divide students until they reach 16 years old.
Education Minister Tuula Haatainen describes their philosophy:
“There is a philosophy of inclusion underlying this system. Widening participation in education is the most effective way of finding the most talented students. It's like ice hockey. We let all the girls and boys play, not only the best ones. With this fair play, we can give everyone the same chance to practice their skills - and this also gives us the way to find the best ones."
Their methods are based on common sense, personal responsibility, financial support and strong families:
• An important ingredient in Finland's high achievement in reading and writing is a strong culture of reading in the home.
• Parents nurture a love of reading among children and this is supported by a network of public libraries.
• In the last international education league tables, produced by the OECD, Finland's 15 year olds were judged to have the highest standards of literacy in the world.
• School meals are free to all pupils, there are no university fees and students can stay in the upper secondary stage (loosely equivalent to sixth forms) for up to four years.
• Finland has made a conscious effort to have highly-qualified teachers throughout the school system.
Other ideas that have worked to improve academic results include private school choice, public school choice, and charter schools. Private school choice policies like vouchers, scholarships, or education tax credits help parents to enroll their children in a private school of choice. Public school choice allows parents more opportunity to choose the best public school for their children by offering open enrollment within the public education system. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that meet certain performance standards set by the government but are otherwise free from the traditional public school system.
It is amazing what happens when free market competition is created by school choice. Government bureaucrats and teachers’ unions despise these ideas because failure and mediocrity are penalized while success is rewarded.
In 2001, Harvard University Economics Professor Dr. Caroline Hoxby studied the effect of school choice options on the performance of public schools. She found that public schools that faced a higher degree of competition from private schools improved their performance compared to public schools that faced less competition.
Many surveys and focus groups have found that parents are more satisfied with their children's learning environment when they can choose their school. That helps to explain why limited voucher programs are usually over-subscribed, with many kids ending up on long waiting lists. In 1998, the non-profit Children's Scholarship Fund offered private school scholarships to 40,000 low-income students across the country. In all, more than 1.2 million kids applied. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the public school system.
Implications of Failure
“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
- Carl Sagan
After spending trillions on education in the last 40 years, we have absolutely nothing to show for it. SAT scores in reading are lower and math scores are flat compared with 1972 scores. The general populace is more ignorant, less informed, less curious, and easier to manipulate than they were in 1970.
Our family has sacrificed financially to send our children to Catholic schools. Public schools spend anywhere from $8,000 to $14,000 per pupil and are able to send only 33% onto college. I pay $6,000 per year to send my oldest son to Catholic high school. Of the recent graduating class, 99% went on to college.
The teachers are paid less, the school spending is half as much per pupil and results are dramatically better. The combination of teachers who are competent and care, parents who are involved and care, and students who work hard and care, leads to success.
The failure of public school education has vast negative implications for our society. Those with education and knowledge have pulled farther ahead of the uneducated and stupid. There are 225 million people over 18 years old and 146 million do not have a college degree. Only 20 million have a Master’s degree or better. Those who are educated make more money, send their kids to private schools and continue the cycle. Ignorant teenagers who grow up to be ignorant adults, have kids who are raised ignorantly. It is extremely difficult to break this cycle.
This is a free country. No one is going to stop you from reading a book. My parents didn’t go to college, but their three kids did. All of our kids will go to college. It is expected and encouraged from the day they are born. The encouragement and involvement of two parents is more important than any other factor. The numbers speak for themselves.
Asian children succeed the most because 85% of them are brought up in two parent households. White children are more successful in school because 76% of them are brought up in two parent households. Black children fail because only 38% are brought up in two parent households. The government can spend trillions more in urban public school systems and get no better results because black men have not taken personal responsibility for their children and families.
“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
- William Shakespeare
The dumbing down of America has allowed the intelligentsia to retain power and increase their control over the country. Lack of educational achievement doesn’t automatically mean you are easily manipulated, but it sure increases the odds. If you weren’t motivated enough to do well in school, you are unlikely to take your civic duties of voting, understanding national issues, and getting involved in your community seriously.
The saddest part is that an enormous quantity of even the college educated are so intellectually lazy that they choose to trust their leaders without question. With 100 million, ignorant, non-thinking, non-questioning, and intellectually lazy zombies occupying space in this country, continued domination by a few thousand highly educated elite remains quite easy.
A highly educated citizenry would endanger their power. By socializing public education, encouraging mediocrity, and not rewarding excellence, government bureaucrats insure that the masses remain ignorant and pliable. Those in power know that by keeping the ignorant masses sedated with socialist goodies like welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, and easy credit, they can stay in charge. For them it is fabulous, for the country it is a disaster.
Winston Churchill summed it up succinctly:
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
There is no area of ignorance more distressing than in the area of economics and finance. Those with superior knowledge and power are able to mislead the ignorant masses regarding the state of our economic situation because most Americans have no clue about deficits, inflation, or the printing of money out of thin air. I’m reminded of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Know You’re a Redneck” comedy routine.
You know you are ignorant if:
• You think Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Germans (Bluto, Animal House)
• You think the Civil War is a Guns N Roses song.
• You think Inflation is what you do to tires.
• You think the Federal Reserve is a brand of scotch.
• You think GDP stands for Got Da Payment from the welfare office.
• You think you deserve a $300,000 house when your annual income is $22,500.
• You don’t know the names of the guys on the penny, nickel, dime or quarter.
• You think the National Debt is a monument in Washington DC.
John Adams predicted the confusion and distress that has arisen in America:
“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.”
The question is whether we can change our course, properly educate our populace, and take this country back from the entrenched elite. There is no more important issue facing our country today.