Monday, May 26, 2014

Dumb and Dumber

Virtually all of the bottom ten states in terms of education are red states.  Only Nevada voted for Obama in 2012, but it has a Republican governor.  The criteria is based on SAT scores, median household incomes and percentage of bachelor's degrees, which are pretty easy to come by these days with the plethora of expanded junior college programs.  It really makes you wonder how certain states can be so dumb, but then most of these states also rank at the bottom of traditional measures of education, such as high school graduation rates, education budgets and pre-school enrollment, completing a vicious cycle.

Mississippi was the last state to make schooling compulsory in 1917.  Massachusetts, which ranks at the top in most education lists, was the first state to have compulsory schooling in 1852.  Unfortunately, states have been allowed to adopt their own standards, rather than establish a national criteria.  Even the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act explicitly forbade the establishment of a national curriculum.  As a result, these standards vary considerably from one state the next.

Common Core is a recent attempt to bridge the gap by presenting a national core curriculum, which 44 states adopted in 2009.  However, there has been a concerted effort by right wing groups to push red states to drop Common Core, so it would seem that there are those in these states who prefer remaining dumb.  Bobby Jindal appears to be caving into this pressure, after having agreed to the Common Core initiative 5 years ago.

The problem is that ignorance is so endemic in many of these states that it will take decades to remedy it.  There is no tradition of excellence except at individual schools.  The majority of the schools in these states are mired in petty local and state politics, unable to move beyond parochial constraints.  Many of these kids go on to get vocational education and do well for themselves but their horizons are limited, and these limitations are passed onto the next generation.

Eagle Stadium, Allen, Texas
If states devoted as much attention to education as they do sports, maybe we would see a rise in education.  The amount of money being spent on high school sports programs these days is staggering, like the $60 million football field in Allen, Texas.  The allure of athletic company contracts like in college athletics is too irresistible to pass up.  One could only hope that private companies would take the same interest in funding math and science programs, where American students typically struggle the most.

Instead, the dumb get dumber while the smart get smarter, as the gap between states in terms of education continues to grow.


  1. What happens when you don't believe in public education.

    Wish I had a good book to recommend, but I've been trying to catch up with a stack of other reading lately.

    I read the Charlie Chan book when it came out and really enjoyed it (I think I mentioned it here at the time). And I, too, am waiting on a copy of Capital and some other books on the economy. I met a business professor from Stanford who is worried the economy is going to collapse again because they didn't do anything to fix it the last time and it's only getting worse.

    And then Bo mentioned Robert Michael Pyle, so had to pick up a couple more of his books. Leaving for Denver in the a.m. Will take him along.

    Hope you and the family are having a good summer.

  2. Great to see you drop in av. Hope you find time to enjoy the summer between books. a good one on the current state of education is

    Death of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch