How can a lack of money explain our declining test scores when America continues to spend more per capita on education than almost any other country? Yet, the more we spend, the lower the test scores we get back in global competition?
Some insist the persistence of poverty in an affluent America is the cause of these declining test scores.
Yet, have we not fought a 50-year war on poverty since LBJ's Great Society? And not only have countless trillions of dollars been spent, the poor in America receive benefits of which the world's poor could only dream.
America's poor receive free food, free health care and free education for their children from Head Start to K-12. The poor get subsidized housing and subsidized incomes. They are exempt from federal income taxes. State programs and private charities pick up where the feds leave off.
Yet, if poverty explains the dismal performance of America's students, why are they being lapped by Vietnamese 15-year-olds?
Do the Vietnamese have a higher per capita income than we?
Is there less poverty and more emphasis on education in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City than New York City and Washington, D.C.?
Is home environment behind the disparity in test scores?
Forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock, but for Hispanics it is 53 percent and for African-Americans 73 percent.
Looking again at those PISA test scores, other than East Asia -- China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam -- hardly any other nation of Southeast or South Asia, the Arab or Muslim world, Africa or Latin America, is in the top forty in academic performance.
And, in these test scores from a diverse world, we can see mirrored the academic performance within our own diverse nation.
Just as East Asians and Europeans excel in the PISA tests, so, too, do Americans of East Asian and European descent dominate test scores and excel in educational achievement, while our Hispanic and African-American students trail.
At top universities like Berkeley, Stanford and in the Ivy League, too, Asian and white Americans are overrepresented in the student bodies.
Yet, Hispanic and African-Americans are more than 30 percent of the U.S. population and 35 percent of those in our public schools.
Increasingly, these minorities will represent the nation in international academic competitions.
Where, then, are the grounds for optimism that we can turn this around?
And if we cannot, ought we not accept the inevitable?