"That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow."
So said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Every three years, the Paris-based OECD holds its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of the reading, math and science skills of 15-year-olds in developing and developed countries. Gurria was talking of the results of the 2009 tests.
Sixty-five nations competed. The Chinese swept the board.
The schools of Shanghai-China finished first in math, reading and science. Hong Kong-China was third in math and science. Singapore, a city-state dominated by overseas Chinese, was second in math, fourth in science.
Only Korea, Japan and Finland were in the hunt.
And the U.S.A.? America ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, producing the familiar quack-quack.
"This is an absolute wake-up call for America," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "We have to face the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investment in education."
But the "brutal truth" is that we invest more per pupil than any other country save Luxembourg, and we are broke. And a closer look at the PISA scores reveals some unacknowledged truths.
True, East Asians -- Chinese, Koreans, Japanese -- are turning in the top scores in all three categories, followed by the Europeans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders.
But, looking down the New York Times list of the top 30 nations, one finds not a single Latin American nation, not a single African nation, not a single Muslim nation, not a single South or Southeast Asian nation (save Singapore), not a single nation of the old Soviet Union except Latvia and Estonia.
And in Europe as in Asia, the northern countries (Finland, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Austria, Germany) outscore the southern (Greece, Italy, Portugal). Slovenia and Croatia, formerly of the Habsburg Empire, outperformed Albania and Serbia, which spent centuries under Turkish rule.
Among the OECD members, the most developed 34 nations on earth, Mexico, principal feeder nation for U.S. schools, came in dead last in reading.
Steve Sailer of VDARE.com got the full list of 65 nations, broke down U.S. reading scores by race, then measured Americans with the countries and continents whence their families originated. What he found was surprising.
Asian-Americans outperform all Asian students except for Shanghai-Chinese. White Americans outperform students from all 37 predominantly white nations except Finns, and U.S. Hispanics outperformed the students of all eight Latin American countries that participated in the tests.