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Grandfather Education Reform Report - comment section

by Michael Hodges (email)

This is a sub report of the Grandfather Education Report chapter within the Grandfather Economic Reports series of mini-reports of dramatic pictures on various subjects regarding difficult challenges facing the economic future of our young, compared to prior generations. Poor education quality is a major threat !!

a school house of hopeIt is instructive to read comments from teachers and students to help confirm and identify problem areas - since such clearly reveals hard evidence of the dumbing down of public school quality - - and the deplorable disservice to America's young generation. Some may find what they are about to read 'unbelievable,' but I assure you the this is absolute reality - - Knowledge is Power, if you have it.

Following are several comments taken from the internet news groups (,, k12.ed.math, and email, responding to the question, 'Can some expert please explain to me why our students are performing so poorly compared to foreign students?' posted by Michael Hodges. There were hundreds of responses in several days, from teachers, parents, administrators, students and others - from Maine to California. Space prevents repeating all, but the following are typical and carry the message of many. (for privacy reasons, names and email addresses are omitted for some - emphases are mine).

NAVIGATION: If you really care to learn what those 'on the ground' have to say it is recommended you take the time to scroll this page and read each comment. Below are some quick links to help you quickly return to one of your favorites.

1.  Biology Teacher - we are less effective as the years go by -
2.  College Math Professor - students not motivated to learn -
3.  Science Teacher - brainless text books, compared to prior years
4.  Naval Academy Professor - their basic math and science preparation is astonishingly poor compared to before
5.  Grade inflation & social promotion - teachers confirm such is the norm - - it's escalating and they don't like it
6.  Foreign student speaks on standards - - pathetic standards & discipline - - far behind his Asian schools
7.  Professors on comparison to foreign students - disproving a myth often used to justify poor relative U.S. performance
8.  Regression toward mediocrity - a science teacher of 28 years reports
9.  Assembly-line model - an exchange between different universities.
10.'Get along for the good of the hive?' - elementary teacher explains the danger of socialistic thinking in public schools.
11.Foreign students dominate graduate degrees math & science - - professors and graduates discuss
12.NEA justification - - higher quality is the job of employers, not schools - instead of more tests they should learn labor history and collective organizing
13.A cry for help from 15-year girl - standards - motivation - "Something in the ATTITUDE of the nation is not right."
15.Home Room teacher asks kids Why
16.Hold to standards of the past and 50% would fail - - teachers recognize the problem but nothing happens
17.Lazy and afraid to compete - students learn how to avoid competing with quality students.
18.To teach phonics you must sneak it in? - a teacher of 22 years says, 'Yes, sneak it in.'
19.Lower Standards and Money - 2005 - money is going into programs that only effect a small portion of the student population. A system of mediocre expectations.
20.New Teachers and Math - from a parent of a teacher - 2006
21.Retired Teacher and Grandmother - 2008 - - 'young people are more unprepared for life in the real world every year'


Michael Hodges wrote in education internet newsgroups :> Can some expert please explain to me why our students are performing so poorly compared to foreign students?<

Hi Michael,
I admire your concern! Though I have many diplomas hanging on my walls, I do not know if I qualify as an "expert." I can, however, share with you from my experience and training what I believe is the difference.
First, in most countries education is a privilege, not a right.
Second, the program in most foreign countries is quite vigorous. Some attend school 8 hours a day and even go on Saturdays. Those who make it are DISCIPLINED, something we have lost here in America. Our students (even the majority of the good students) are rather passive, lazy, and only "toe the line." Since our programs are seldom vigorous, they do quite well.

In my opinion (and my opinion only) I believe that in America education is looked upon as something forced to do, something to pre-occupy the youth (much like babysitting), rather than as a privilege that one must succeed at in order to better their own lives, as well as the lives of others.

I do think that our society has wrongly expected the public schools to be everything to everybody. If you will consider all the social services that schools seek to fulfill, you would be amazed that we are succeeding as well as we are. For example, I was in one high school that provided free baby-sitting for the offspring of our students. There were approximately 10-12 infants/toddlers in the program. When society places extracurricular activities on an already strained system, we lose our effectiveness and our efficiency to reach our main (and supposedly only) goal: educating children to be tomorrow's leaders.

You can ask just about any teacher on any level, and they will tell you that any time we (as teachers) become "too" vigorous, we hear it from the parents. By the way, that is about the only time we see or hear from them). I am not necessarily advocating that every school should have the atmosphere of a military school, but the main difference between our students and those in other lands is discipline, character, and the belief that this educational opportunity is a privilege and not a right. Because we have lost the ideology that hard work and character are vital regardless of one's field, we are really not comparing apples with apples when we compare our educational results with those in other lands. Foreign scores are elevated primarily because those students who could care less are weeded out by prior scores. Our test results almost include everybody. I'm not trying to be pessimistic for I love teaching biology, but I do believe that we are being less effective as the years go by. Richard Biology Teacher , November 1996


In article <>, Atul Nischal <> wrote: >>I teach calculus to college freshman and sophomores. I have noticed the low level of motivation these students possess. Is low motivation a problem in high schools also. If yes, what steps do we take at the school level to increase motivation. P.S.: Curiosity is the basis for learning.<< A posting from professor at Tulane U, May 17, 1997.

An answer from Purdue >>A lot of this is due to the indoctrination that it is only important to learn what is obviously relevant, and that testing will be based solely on memorization and routine. The idea of learning why, that learning is not for the exam but for the somewhat distant future, has been removed from the schools. The teachers cannot understand your relevant P.S. This involves understanding, not routine and memorization. And if a child is curious about something not in the mechanical curriculum, this is squelched.<<

SCIENCE TEACHER OF 30 YEARS EXPRESSES CONCERN - brainless text books, compared to the past

Dear Michael: I have too many comments (all negative) about changes in science education to express in one document so I will limit my comments to a few primary concerns. Thirty years ago the only teaching tool I had was a text book for every student. I was never big on "read the chapter and answer the review questions". I supplemented the text with generic workbooks and teacher made worksheets. Now supplemental materials are a part of the textbook package. These Study Guides are nothing more than brainless class work. The answers can be found word for word in the student text. This co-coordinated material makes teacher preparation much easier but the thinking processes of the students are not developed. You should hear my students complain when I use a worksheet that is from another text!!

Generally the information can be found by looking in reference books in the classroom, but it is not located in one place or written "word for word". The students have to know how to use an index and you would be surprised how many students do not know where the index is located or how to grasp the most basic concepts.

Another concern is the loss of usable class time. Every year I cover a little less material. Announcements over the intercom while you are trying to teach, guidance wanting to talk to students, field trips that take some students away for a full week, pep rallies, ball teams leaving early to go to away games, etc. We have only three weeks of school left and every day has some activity that will disrupt the regular schedule. All of these disruptions help keep "Johnny from learning to read".

I have raised my blood pressure enough so I will quit trashing public education (which I believe to be extremely important) and let you read some responses that may be more positive. Diane - May 1997 - Tennessee

A response>>You do not need to apologize for not being more positive. As one from the international business sector it is the norm to always put into the equation: "managing by the exception". This means identifying all negatives, look for hard data, and try to determine actions which can convert same to positives. If we eliminate the negatives, the positives will take care of themselves. As you know, many want to 'explain away' the many negatives apparent to so many in education, and point fingers to parents, etc. Imagine what would happen to Wal-Mart if they said to themselves 'we have zero negatives' and any seen by others is the fault of our customers - - so, we take no action until customers shape up. Out of business they would go - - as such is self correcting in the marketplace - - not perfectly, but a heck of a lot closer than in the public sector. <<


Input about the Naval Academy - Nov. 1997:
The following question was posed to internet newsgroups by M.W. Hodges - "Why are high schools graduating those requiring remedial college courses?"


- absolute proof of the dumbing down of standards - grade inflation - social promotion -

I received this by email in response to the question of an earlier posting which was 'why are high schools graduating so many students needing remedial courses.' I believe the teacher sending this is most concerned. To protect privacy I have removed the name and the state involved - - otherwise it is verbatim:

"I am an elementary teacher in a school district in Pennsylvania where we are told we must adapt for our students so that they can all pass. It is a school district mandate. The teachers know it is wrong. We are chastised if we have students with failing grades on report cards. The superintendent actually looks at report cards and questions the F's. You are going to see more and more of this. Talk to the superintendents and explain that standards must be set and met. We should not go down to the level of the students who won't perform but rather bring them up to an appropriate level of competency." November 6. 1997 by email

This was confirmed by other teachers - as standard practice for public elementary and high schools - from east to west coast

On 7 November I posted the above quoted message to newsgroups (,,,school.teachers), with subject: "An email from an elementary teacher - how do I respond?" Immediately responses flooded in, not only confirming lack of standards in grading and promotion, but the 'scheme' is escalating. Following are examples:


My opinion on studying in America as a current 12th grader:

I came from India in 1989. They put me in 4th grade because I was too young (9 years old) to be in 5th, even though I had completed 4th in India. In my math class we were learning things that I had learned in the 1st grade in India. I never opened my math book until I was in the 9th grade and took Geometry. I was shocked to learn that I was being taught what I learned in 3rd and 4th grade, in 8th grade here. It is like this in every class. I first opened my math and science book in the 9th grade, five years after I came here. I also skipped the 5th grade because I already knew the 5th grade material. I also could have skipped 6th, but once again I was too young to be in 7th. Right now, I am taking all Advanced Placement courses and notice that a majority of the students are foreigners, mainly Asian. I also know that teachers are going too slow in the AP classes because it takes the teachers two to three weeks to teach 1 chapter. We used to learn 1 chapter per week in India. Also, I notice too many people who do not know how to spell. How can that be? To me it is no wonder, why America is doing so poorly compared to other nations.

Education is like a game to many here and they feel like they can get through life without needing it. They are happy working at MacDonalds and don't want to expand their opportunities. Another problem is that there is no discipline here, I can cut any class any time and I know that I am not missing much and also that I won't be caught cutting. The NTAs are friendly with kids who don't go to class and don't punish them. It is pathetic! It is also too easy to cheat. Students now believe that "ends justify the means" and they won't worry about their morals, if they have any. It is time to discipline the kids in the schools across the nation and make good use of the so much money that the govt. spends on education. I also notice that my cousin who is in the second grade is spending her day in school drawing and painting. This is the second grade. Also, people think that they don't have to know math because a calculator is readily available. Isn't a calculator simply a tool?

Another party makes this comment, often heard:>>Here in the USA, we teach every last man jack at least to the tenth grade level, something most other countries can't boast.<< The student responds: What is the difference if we have students going to school and not learning than if we don't have them go to school at all. Maybe we should do this and then we would have students who want to learn get more attention. At my school, I see a lot of kids who don't want to learn, come to school and then just cut classes. The school then gives them a detention as a disciplinary action. Is that supposed to discipline the kid, I don't think so. There are just too many problems in the education system here. Ankit D.

Another responds to a party who posted a message telling the above student to return to India:

Well, John, it sounds as if you may have a problem with a *foreigner* commenting on our educational system at all, especially if it isn't flattering. It cannot be denied that students in our education system are falling behind students in other parts of the world at an alarming rate. I also know, from first hand experience what our educational system is like, and how much it leaves to be desired. I was born and raised in the US, red haired and freckle-faced as any other American girl, and now I am going to back up Ms. Desai's comments. I know for a fact that we have 3 main problems in this educational system.

1.) Bad teachers - When you have teachers fighting to not take the same type of tests that their students have to take because they are afraid they themselves will fail them, there is obviously a problem with our education of and certification for teachers. I had to take High School Chemistry and Physics from a teacher that had only had a semester of College Chemistry and a semester of College Physics! This is abhorrent and not to be accepted in our schools.

2.) Good teachers that are not supported - I have witnessed first hand situations where teachers were demanding the best out of a child, but the parents, the administration, or other teachers (usually coaches) undercut the efforts the good teachers were making. When I was in grade school, our teachers would divide the class into reading groups based on the current reading level of each student. The teacher would then teach each group based on the skills already gained by the student. The purpose of this was to not hold back gifted or better educated students, while at the same time working on the skills of the students that were in the lower level groups to get them at least to the level needed to pass the grade, if not to get them into the highest level reading group before that year of school was over. This method seemed to work very well, until some parents became embarrassed because their children weren't in the highest level groups. Instead of spending extra time to work with their children and help them rise to that level, these parents insisted that the divisions be abolished. Eventually that occurred and students had no reason to be proud of their accomplishments nor did they have any reason to strive to a higher level.

3.) Cessation and Discouragement of competition between students - This overlaps my previous point slightly, but it is a salient point in itself that must be addressed. Whether it be a posting of students with the highest gpa for the grade period, or the naming of the person with the best smile, class clown, and the most likely to succeed, the recognition of students who distinguish themselves is slowly being stomped out. The purpose of this is to supposedly 'keep children from feeling bad or left out' because they did not make whatever list of distinction. All this does is encourage acting the same as everyone else and doing the same as everyone else. We are promoting mediocrity and only have ourselves to blame when America becomes the country of Cookie Cutter People.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now <smile> AngieT. 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.'-Robert Heinlein

A learned response to a 'myth' often heard to justify 'all is OK':

Chem wrote: > If Japan et al have been doing so well for so long, where are their achievements? Quick, name me the last Japanese citizen trained in Japan to win a Nobel Prize? You can't because that person does not exist. Go down the line and you see that the US has generally produced the original inventions or laid the basic theory in a given field. This is not to say that great contributions have not been made by other countries because they have.<

Response #1:<to my knowledge U.S. Nobel prize winners received their high school education prior to 1965 when our schools produced higher quality>

Response #2:<In an earlier post I talked a little about "The Learning Gap" by Stevenson and Stigler. Concerning the above point, they note that Japan is less interested in letting individual students shine and more concerned with every student doing well. Therefore, except in exceptional cases, students are not tracked, at least at the elementary level. While S&S acknowledge that Americans have many Nobel prizes and other signs of achievements, they say this is the result of a rather narrow stratum of high-achievers, with the large majority of students left behind. It's somewhat similar to a society which has gleaming cities which hide squalid ghettos where the majority of people live.

> Finally, I consider much of the testing suspect. Some (many?) of the people involved in interpreting and publicizing these data are the same people that compete for grants to "solve" the problems. can we say "conflict of interest?" Also, remember these tests compare apples and oranges. We in the US are committed to educating all in the "college-prep" track. Most other countries steer kids into alternate programs. So these tests compare the top 5-10% of other countries against a cross-section of US kids. [sarcasm on] Sounds pretty fair to me. [sarcasm off]<<

Response*: Actually, American kids do poorly when such factors as you've mentioned are controlled for. E. D. Hirsch talks about this some in "The Schools We Need."

Persuter wrote:> In other countries, the privilege of education is afforded only to the best and the brightest. Here in the USA, we teach every last man jack at least to the tenth grade level, something most other countries can't boast.

Response*: This is not true, at least not at the elementary level. All industrial societies send almost all of their children to school through the 6th grade. Education is *not* a privilege in those countries but a duty, a duty which is taken seriously by parents as well as teachers, and even by students. We pity ourselves too much when we bemoan the "fact" that we send more of our kids to school than other countries do or that we have a more diverse student body and therefore cannot hope to match the achievements in other countries. E. D. Hirsch and Stevenson & Stigler put these myths pretty much to rest. The educational systems in other industrial nations (and this also includes China, which is more of a third-world nation) are almost always better than ours, even when factors such as diversity are controlled for. Jim University of Texas

As a science teacher of 28 years in the public schools - - regression toward mediocrity , James offers some comments:

I liked your contribution, James. Hope you don't mind if I repeat some of it. Your comment <<With regard to the removal of incentives and rewards for excellence, I agree with several writers. These spur people on. At the present time there is a regression toward mediocrity in the schools, but this is because we want to make sure that they child doesn't "fail". If one does not fail in life, then one has not lived, IMHO. To never fail is to go through life without challenges. How many of us have never overcome an obstacle and not learned from it?>> Your observations on this point appears to coincide with that of many other teachers here. How, in your opinion, could this <regression toward mediocrity in the schools> be reversed, as it appears you think this a must? Your comment<<The threat of lawsuit keeps many school boards /divisions from enforcing high standards because someone might fail and file suit over it. This mentality trickles down to the "teacher level", and many teachers succumb to it.>> This lawsuit threat thing crops up all over the place, and is sometimes appears conveniently used by many to justify non-action - - in my experience - - when in fact that the lawsuit excuse should be ignored and any public 'servant' using such an excuse for non action should be removed from their post.

Law Suit examples from Mr. Hodges. I respond to the law suit excuse above - - one that must be rejected. Here are 3 examples - -
Example 1: local police will not provide a requesting parent with driver violation info on his kid to assist the parent trying to find out some inside info for control purposes - - might be sued. In that case the so called public safety official is endangering public safety and parental responsibility.
Example 2: My mother was in the hospital last week on voting day and wanted to vote absentee. I got the ballot for her but hospital employees refused to sign as witnesses - - saying they could be liable for a lawsuit. My gosh - - what a fear the lawyer profession has instilled.
Example 3: The local fire department refused to make recommendations to a requesting homeowner asking about the best way to eliminate an old, rusting in-ground LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) gas tank - - their excuse for refusing to provide learned safety recommendations to a home owner was, "they might be sued" - - a typical excuse often heard from bureaucrats responding to the party paying his salary by property taxes - - 'a do nothing approach' that should result in loss of job.
It's true the U.S. has more lawyers per capital than any other nation - - by far more, and the total is expanding - - yet a recent Gallop Poll showed citizens trust in the ethics and honesty of lawyers reached an all time low.) We must not except 'law suit' excuses !!

Your comment<<When I started teaching 28 years ago, the school was the center of the community, the parents knew what their children were doing both at school and at home, the parents knew where their children were, and the parents were acting as parents. They had not "given the children to the school." The present, this is not the situation. The school is not central to the community, the parents frequently see their children only on weekends, they do not know where their children are, what they are doing, and with whom they are spending time with>>Dave - Science Department, High School, , Virginia

You proposed that parents become more involved. I fully agree. But, many parents simply blame the teachers and the system. So, at half-time the game is deadlocked, and the students lose. I read your statement of experience as a long term (at least 28 year) trend in this regard, which coincides with many declining quality measures of 35 years or so. Is there a way to get this reversed other than refusing to pass students to the next grade, or giving them a diploma? If administrators would back up teachers who make this call, would that not shock a few such parents into a little reality? If such is worthwhile, how the heck can it be implemented based on your experience? Something fundamental must change for the 2nd half of our game..>

An exchange between Purdue University, University of Texas,
and private and public high school teachers
assembly-line model

In article ,Chadwick wrote:>In article wrote:

>>Finally, why do public school always seem to fare worse than private schools? The answer again is simple: selection. The private schools don't accept anyone below a certain ability; of course their averages are higher.

>I agree (having taught in both private and public schools) that the answer to the difference is selection -- but disagree about the type of selection -- it is often not a matter of "ability" but of willingness. Also, at the private school where I taught, parents were liable for the tuition whether students completed the year or not. At roughly $4000 a year (this was ten years ago), you better believe parents had some incentive to see that their little darlings did not create problems that got them expelled from school.

>In article BJ> wrote: >Also, people are funny --- if they're paying for something they take it more seriously. If we had a DECENT school system, selection at the school level would be totally irrelevant. The quality of the education available to a given child should not depend on the abilities of the other children.<

Now this can be achieved in two ways. The one favored by those who refuse to accept that people have vastly different abilities is to lower the better ones. The other way is to recognize that children of the same age in a given school should have the opportunity to be "all that they can be". This means that the ones who can should be allowed and even encouraged to progress much faster and at a much higher level. Herman , Dept. of Statistics, Purdue Univ.,

Herman, no argument -- but I wasn't talking about selection by ability level -- my private school had its share of kids struggling to make it academically. What it didn't have were kids who were interfering with the education of others through their behavior and attitudes. BJ

Jay P. wrote: > May I suggest that there are no "higher" or "lower" levels for most students. They are different in their talents and in their learning styles If we had all our students pursuing their individual talents, as fast as their styles would permit, we would achieve the end you are seeking and much more.

This is a popular concept but how in the world can it really be made to work? In a class of, say, 25 students how can a teacher supervise and give sufficient individual attention to each one? Also, some of the best school systems in the world do not follow this approach. Elementary schools in Japan, China, and Taiwan have heterogeneous classes in which the entire class progresses at the same pace.

> The assembly-line model for schooling we have been using was fine when we needed to turn people into computers because the computational technology did not exist. Such narrowness of focus is no longer necessary.<

What do you mean by "assembly-line" schooling? It doesn't make much sense to me, unless it simply means that students progress through the school system from kindergarten to grade 1 and so on through graduation. Nor am I aware that the schools ever tried to turn students into computers. Certainly, the computational technology to do math has been available to students for over a quarter of a century. There's much more to mathematics and statistics than computation. And are we to stop teaching people how to read because we can now get books on CD-ROMs? Do people no longer have to take art classes since they can create computer-generated art?

> I guess that, in a back-handed way, I am agreeing with you. I am sure you will agree that only future statisticians need the depth of understanding of statistics required to create new statistical procedures. The rest of us need enough understanding to interpret the output from computers without errors of application of the concepts involved. And how does one get that understanding?

> Those with the deep statistical aptitude and the love for this style of thinking need to be encouraged to progress at top speed toward this outcome. Those with an eye for the glorious color tonalities in nature and their possibilities in "art" should get the same treatment in their talent.

First of all, I don't see why these 2 categories are mutually exclusive, as you seem to think they are. Second, what on earth does it mean and how does it relate to education?

> The interchangeable person (assembly-line model) does not exist when personal talents are fully realized. We need to seek diversity instead of conformity in education. Let everyone follow the path of the things at which they are most able, being careful not to neglect the interpersonal communication skills, and we will have an educational system almost everyone will support.

Again, as above, this sounds OK on first reading but what does it mean and how does it relate to schools today? How are students turned into interchangeable people? When has our system ever done that? I'm not aware that it has but this type of criticism has been a straw-man argument for decades. Our system has never attempted let alone succeeded in turning students into little robots. The notion that children are going to be turned into uniform little automatons simply because they sit in the same classroom is just silly. Look at a college course where 100 or 200 people are sitting in the same lecture hall, hearing the same lecture. Despite the uniformity of this experience, they are very different people and come away from the lecture with different impressions. Jim

by a California Elementary School Teacher
- commenting later to above

When I was attending the School of Education at San Jose State College, we were taught that the above generally define the pedagogues word of art, "socialization." That is to train students to get along in the ego bruising collective for the good of the hive. I was fingerprinted, X-rayed for TB, graduated, got my California State Elementary Teaching credential, and took a job in private industry. I knew from my student teaching that I would be in hot, red-collective, water forever. BTW, My June, 1960 graduating education class was mandatorily assembled in Morris Hall for a graduation orientation. It was the last meeting of our class, except for the pomp and circumstance. At the conclusion we were asked to raise our hands and vow to always support public education. 90% of the audience did. Not me. I was an older ex-GI and I'd already had a belly full. Perhaps this is why I'm sensitive to the collectivist's euphemistic, "socialization."

This government school thing is like an insect parasite that takes over the host and converts it to the sole purpose of advancing the evolution of the parasite. The government school mediocrities, imbued with the merits of 'socialization/collectivism' graduate from state teacher's colleges and willingly swear to keep the vicious cycle going. Which they do, at increasing costs in human terms. Jim Lorenz.


Postings from recent experiences of 2 upper level university science & math students, as they commented on posting about international data: ":The U.S. ranks LAST internationally in % undergraduate degrees in math, science, engineering and computer science. Top industrial nations have graduation rates 300% higher than ours, according to the 1995 Digest below."

<<In my Physical Chemistry for Biochemistry class at University of Tennessee Knoxville in 1988, I was the ONLY American in a class of 25. I wonder if the American BS grad rate includes foreign students that graduate from American universities. If so, then the BS grad rates of Americans is even lower than the stats indicate.>>

<<As for PhD's in mathematics given at US universities, about HALF are given to American citizens - guess who gets the other half. I've been away from grad school for about 6 years, but when I was there it was fairly clear to me that the foreign grad students were far better prepared for grad school in comparison to the American students. Bob M.>>

Michael wrote back for more info: > Your 'about half were foreign students in graduate school math' in first> comment is even higher than I suspected. May I ask if your proportion is based on your experience at a given university at about 1990, or also from some broader data source you have seen? Trying to put my finger on that.>

Bob's reply with more information: <This comment is from statistics put out by the American Mathematical Society a few years back. In fact, I think that the stats from '92 actually made it into a few newspapers for as I recall that was the first year in which foreign students claimed more than 50% of the math PhD's earned at American institutions. In addition, while in grad school, It was clear to me that there were far more foreign grad students than Americans. Finally, if one attends the employment register at the AMS meeting in January, it doesn't take a whole lot to notice that new American PhD's are in the minority. The statistics seem to collaborate my personal observations. Bob>>


Mr. C., Thanks for your message. I note your posting signature says: member, __ Association of Teachers>.

your comment Mr. C was < this idea of "international competition" is odd to me. U.S. workers are the most productive in the world.>> I must question your basis from my own experience as an international employer, as further evidenced by our long string of record-setting trade deficits despite the fact our worker pay (in international value) has been cut up to 70% due to massive devaluation of our currency. You say "international competition is odd to" you, to which I say there is nothing odd to me about competition, for which more and more of same is international in nature. Chrysler learned the hard way. I recall an exec some years ago mentioning that their engineers kept saying: "comparing our cars to Japanese is apples and oranges." A lot of engineers and managers lost their jobs over that one - - and our entire auto industry almost lost it, and there are a lot fewer jobs than before in that field - - and our national real median family incomes today are at the same level as then. In the end, the market decides. I hope you will get students in the schools you represent to take plenty of internationally comparative exams in math & science (what's the downside?), and help make them the best of all. They deserve it!

Your comment<<I interpret many of the calls for more math and science as calls for schools to do the jobs of employers for them>> Employers and universities should not be required to make up for poor high school math and science education. More and more of their budgets are being sucked out in this regard, as evidenced also by the vast size of remedial courses at university level, and our employers are rendered less competitive if they must spend time and resources making up for poor education quality.

Schools must prove they are providing the quality output in these disciplines needed by employers, and that quality should (without a doubt in anyone's mind) exceed that of all other nations possible and, be such that universities can cease remedial course offerings and devote their resources to higher education. Sending our kids to universities to learn what their high school failed to do is both child abuse and a waste of national resources, in my opinion. Do not promote or graduate Junior until he masters each subject - - not to do that is equivalent to setting him adrift with a major 'handicap' - - and that's child abuse, plain and simple.

And, to your comment which most troubled me, you said <<we might do well to require not more testing, - - but in labor history, community organizing, and collective action -- the education that could prepare kids for the real struggles they'll have trying to win decent wages from their employers.>>

Are you here stating that it is a preference of the <your Association of Teachers> to use schools to enhance labor organization instead of education for tomorrow's internationally competitive jobs and careers? My experience shows me, even from nations with tougher labor laws than ours, that those who excel in their careers as adults do not do so because of labor organization power, but due to the quality of their own education and continued learning - - and their work ethics. Those with such skills do not need organizations to negotiate for them as you probably know, but then that might be a conflict of interest

Mr. C.: I do not want a 'soccer match', but I felt compelled to respond honestly, since you sent this posting also by email - - for which I thank you or I might have missed it. You and I have different backgrounds and experiences - - and that's good old American diversity - - and our privilege to free speech. We may learn something good from each other that in the end helps in some small way improve education excellence for our young people so that their tomorrow can exceed ours. Michael

A CRY FOR HELP FROM 15-YEAR-OLD KATIE - 'attitude of our nation not right'

Dear Mr. Hodges: I am a 15 year old Connecticut high school student. I had the chance of reading several of the messages you posted in the newsgroup. There was such an extensive continuation of messages, that I got more than a little confused where the whole thing began and ended, but I am responding mainly to your last message. Being currently in school myself, and some one who loves to question and contemplate almost everything, I have some pretty developed opinions on the subject!

I think what you said is very perceptive and has much truth to it. Try to think of schools as economic institutions. In the case of a private school, they must attract customers, and KEEP those customers, and are therefore on a constant regimen to maintain good performance. (Like a retail store must carry quality products and offer good service to stay in business.)

However, in the case of a public school, they hold no responsibility to anyone. So what if the parents or children are dissatisfied? A private school has a personal, self-profitable interest to satisfy its customers. But if a public school parent is unhappy, and they withdraw their child from the school, the public school is totally unaffected - they will still receive the parent's taxes for pay, whether the customer is happy or not! Therefore, what incentive does a public school have to perform at its best? Why not just be lazy? They have no incentive, and therefore are content to sit on their asses. Likewise the teachers have no incentive to perform well, because after a measly 3 years, (at least in my area), they cannot be fired. In other words, they gain lifetime employment after the first 3 years. My input may sound harsh, but I speak from personal experience. I went to public school all through 9th grade, and to call a spade a spade, it was absolutely disgusting - they could simply care less about anything my family and I, the customers, had to say. I am now in private catholic school, which is a definite improvement.

I consider the public schools here completely corrupted. I could not stand it any longer, and so I switched to private school. What amazes me, is how blatantly twisted the public schools are. In middle school, during PTA meetings (my mother was a member), the principal would talk about his teenage years, and how his main concerns were getting caught drunk and getting a girl pregnant. In high school, the first day we heard a speech about employee cooperation at taco bell, and how we should model after it. These are our role models??!! You must not believe me, but it is all true. It only seems to deteriorate over time. My old friends from public school now tell me they have done something called "integration" - this is where, by law, one disabled child is REQUIRED to be in each and every class....I think this is horrible, because my friends say it takes about 15 minutes of the class to set them up (these are severely disabled children), and the other kids make fun of them.

I think...eventually...the whole thing will collapse in on itself. There will be a point where it becomes so bad, somebody will have to do something. But we should not wait until that point! It is horrible....I cannot understand, how has the education system come to be like this? I think a great deal of it has to do with what I said before, how public schools have very little responsibility.

It is simply not part of our value system, sad as it is! Look how hard Asian students work compared to American students. Or, I have met a Swedish friend over the internet, who as an 11th grader, like me, can practically speak fluent English, whereas I can speak the Spanish of a two year old. Something in the ATTITUDE of the nation is not right.

It is very sad I think, I hope by the time I have kids, these problems will have been identified. Until then, I am glad to see that there are people such as you starting critical discussions on such subjects. Your comments are very insightful. May I ask, what you do for a career, and what has set you thinking, i.e., sparked your interest in this area? I'd like to hear what you think about my ideas :) --Katie


I had my homeroom students (7th graders) respond to 'Why are we worse in math and science than foreign students?', and these are their responses:
1. We (as students) are not trying hard enough.
2. Well, I think more people down here take for granted and more foreign people don't have school, so they don't take it for granted as much.
3. I heard that in other countries they study fewer topics but in more depth, while we study more topics, spending less time with each one.
4. We should try hard on tests.
5. Sometimes, we don't understand some of the stuff.
6. Sometimes, the classes are boring.
7. Maybe, they have a higher level of education than us.
8. They learn quicker than us.
9. They're smarter than us. That's all.

A response from another:

I agree that this is a good idea that Ms Clay had. Maybe that this will cause the students to think more about the fact that others are applying themselves differently. Will our students then try to work harder? Who knows. Some, possibly.

A NEW TEACHER SPEAKS - 50% would fail

Dear Michael Hodges,
I am a high school math teacher in Cleveland. I am a second year teachers, so I do not have the many years of experience like others, but I can use my age to make a point in answering you question. When I was 13, (only 10 years ago), I got my first television. It was then that I played Atari, nintendo and all of the other video games that have come out in time. I can't imagine not having those games and other types of enjoyment when I grew up. I do know however that in 1955 or the generation before mine, many people didn't even have a television. The problem is this - we are in the generation that has a lot more entertainment for our youth. Take the computer that you are working on. How many students do you think play on the computers? Of course only the students who are probably the productive students in school use the computers, but the time that they are spending on the computers could be time that they are reading their math books, like they did many years ago. How many high school kids spend time on America on line? Realistically, there are just so many other choices of things to do for students, that doing homework rates very low on the list of things to do.

It is also ironic your question because at my school we were just discussing how the standards have dropped as we know our students are not working as hard, but that is politics. We would have problems trying to justify keeping the standards we did from 25 years ago, and fail 50% of the student body. Well, as I said, I am only 23 and a new teacher, but this is my belief and to me, it makes a little sense. If you have any other thoughts, please feel free to respond...Thanks, David

A Teacher Reports Students Afraid (or too lazy) to Compete with Asians

From newsgroup Shiela K. writes:
I have heard that many white high school students avoid applying to certain colleges such as UCLA and UC Berkeley (I live in California) because those schools have student populations that are largely Asian. White students have been heard to remark that they don't want to go to such schools because they know that the Asian students put in more effort, and they don't want to, so they don't want to compete with these students. Thought you'd like that story, since you're collecting them. Sheila.

Michael Hodges wrote: >Hi Sheila,
>your comment<<White students have been heard to remark that they don't want to go to such schools because "they know" that the Asian students put in more effort, and they don't want to, so they don't want to compete with these students. >>

>I was surprised to read this. 'Afraid to compete.' Sad if many think this way. To think that high school graduates would be afraid to compete bothers me, and makes me wonder of the core reason.

Sheila responds, again: Maybe "afraid" was a poor choice of words. It would be more accurate to say that they don't want to bother. Knowing that they plan to put in less effort than the Asians at those schools, they know that in comparison they will not appear to be very good students. This doesn't spur them to want to compete. It spurs them to avoid the situation by choosing a different school.

Not only I have heard students make such comments within my own hearing, but I've had parents tell me that their children had said these things and I've read articles about this phenomenon in the newspaper. Fortunately, not all students feel this way. But certainly enough that it is remarked upon. Sheila K. 11/23.

Why must teachers sneak-in Phonics against administrative orders?

Question: from newsgroup on 12/26/98: wrote in message: I'd like to know why the phonic system of teaching children to read was dropped from public schools in favor of a system that does not work. As a child, (I'm 60+), I was taught phonics in my public school. Just wondering.
A comment from another party: It is about time that school systems get back to the basics. There has to be many reasons that American educational scores are dropping when compared to other nations...could it be the liberal feel good educational programs are not working. Phonics should be part of every school program in every state.. Wayne
A teacher answers: I have been teaching for 22 years. I sneak phonics in. All my grade ones can read in a second language which is what I teach...immersion. SNEAK it in...... if I did not they would not be able to...our system is whole language. A whole group of us do it on the sneak! I agree with you but we cannot change anything. I hold the bar high for both my high school and college courses.  But because of this I have had to take a great amount of abuse from students, and parents.  I have had parents that flat come up to me and tell me that I am too hard--I am not even teaching to the same level of difficulty that I was accustomed to in my high school years.

Lower Standards and Money - a system of mediocre expectations

Mr. Hodges - I agree with MOST of the assessment that you have with public education. I have taught HS now for six years and college for two. I agree the standards today are much lower than even when I was in HS, and I graduated in the early nineties.

I believe the actual problem is advocates. Advocacy groups have forced us to lower the bar to the special needs students, and I don't just mean special education students. I mean students that have depression, students who are pregnant, students that have anxiety; speaking of the special ed students. We are constantly being forced to adapt a strong curriculum to the infirm. We are being forced to teach to the lowest common denominator.

You speak of money.  The money is not reaching teachers. The money is going into these programs to reach, in what I consider the unreachable. The money is going into programs that only effect a small portion of the student population. Teachers are now being forced to pass special education students. Parents and advocacy groups can override a teacher's recommendation to hold back a student. In special education you cannot give a student a failure score unless you have made in what the court believes, overwhelming attempts to get the student to pass.  You have to modify the curriculum, you have to call parents, you have to modify the tests, you have to modify everything, and then --you had better pass them. Or risk being sued for breaking the child's civil liberties.  An administrator in the know stated to me that every special needs student takes up to ten times the amount of money as does the regular student population. That means if a school district spends $4,000 on a regular student, a special needs student would have $40,000 spent on them. This is where that cash is going.

Teachers are now being encouraged to pass regular students if they have tried. The newest learning theorists, out of fear in my opinion, are now stating that no child should fail IF they gave an effort. This is a direct result of the modern climate that we should coddle emotional needs. So it is, in my opinion, the fault of parents that have been indoctrinated by the current system of mediocre expectations. How can you force one student in the class to excel, when setting right next to him is a student who barely does a thing in class and is going to pass. The saddest point of this is most of the special education students are over-diagnosed by zealots, and they know their rights like a lawyer knows where every E.R. is in town. I had one my very first year stand and tell the whole class to fake their mastery tests, get diagnosed special ed, because, "I do not have to do half the work that you all do.and he still can't flunk me." Respectively. TL Pennington - 2/17/2005

New Teachers and Math - from a parent of a teacher - - 2006

Bravo on your report about textbooks at I'm not directly involved in today's education system, but I agree that everyone should be alarmed. My step-daughter is an elementary teacher who completed her own university education a few years ago. While she was taking a mathematics course, she called me one day for help with her homework. I had recently married her father, so I wasn't a participant in her earlier education. When she described her math homework, I was confused. These could not be college level math problems - they seemed more appropriate for 6th grade!!  I thought perhaps she was taking a class about how to teach elementary mathematics, since she was majoring in education. Sadly, that was not the case. She was truly calling me for help with simple algebra "word problems". My reaction angered her, and she never called me for help again.  A few years later, she graduated with A's and B's on her transcript, and now she is regarded as one of the best elementary teachers in her district. While her classroom management skills are excellent, I don't see how she can give her students a decent dose of mathematics. 23 Feb. 2006

Retired Teacher and Grandmother - - 2008

- young people are more unprepared for life in the real world every year -

I am a grandmother, a teacher, and a life long observer of behavior. I have read and used information from your web-site previously, but have never sent a comment until now. I spent a good part of my Christmas Break observing and interacting with young people between the ages of 3 and 24, some of them related and other who are not. One thing that I observed is that a majority of these young people can not THINK for themselves. They can not formulate a well thought out answer to a 'What If ' question. When I tried to engage the young people between 14-25 in a discussion, the majority of them did not know how to respond or interact in a discussion. When I asked them 'What If' questions, in regards to our conversation, the number one response was 'I don't know, or how am I suppose to know'. 

Armed with this bit of informal information, I went into our small rural community to ask young people questions and try to engage them in discussions about current events. The majority of the young people I spoke to, had no idea how to think outside the box that public education had put them in. They did not know how to engage in a discussion, the majority of them had no idea what was going on in the world around them, presidential campaign, Iowa Caucus, the assassination of Bhutto in Pakistan, they had that deer in the headlights look, when I tried to discuss these issues, they also had no idea how to find out more information about a subject. If I could get them to engage in a conversation, a lot of them thought I was a nut case, they were eager to learn but they were totally clueless

Our educational system has so watered down what is being taught in the name of filling in bubbles on a standardized test to get Federal Dollars, that our young people are more unprepared for life in the real world every year. They can answer a multiple-guess question, or write a paragraph to some irrelevant prompt, but they can't think, they can't question, they can't discuss.

I teach in a virtual classroom. I left the brick and mortar classroom so that I could watch my 3 year old granddaughter, government daycare is not in the cards. I have a profound issue with the standardization of education and the government push to try and standardized kids, and work with various non-profit organizations to end NCLB, the worst thing to hit education in years. I am going to continue to work on engaging my students in meaningful discussions that will provide them with the foundation to think, to question, and keep themselves out of that BOX. Patricia Lang, Colorado <>

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