In the midst of the third presidential debate in Florida, which was supposedly about foreign policy, President Obama interjected a few words about American education.
The rationale was not unreasonable. A better educated America will be a better performing and more internationally competitive America.
“Let’s talk about what we need to compete….let’s take an example that we know is going to make a difference, and that’s our education policy,” said the president.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with what we hear from politicians, what we hear sounds so logical, so compelling. If only it had anything to do with reality.
According to the fractured political logic on education, which is not much different from what we hear regarding most areas of public policy, the reason we have failure is we’re not doing enough of what already isn’t working.
In the case of education, we’re spending a lot of money and not getting results. So the problem must be, in the brilliant political take on matters, we’re just not spending enough money.
“I now want to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math and science,” said the president. “And those teachers can make a difference.”
But, Mr. President, what information do you have that leads you to conclude that more teachers can make a difference?
According to information recently published by “Face the Facts,” a project of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, over the last decade, the federal government spent $293 billion and states spent a combined $5.5 trillion – money targeted to improving academic performance - with no discernable change in reading and math scores. “A quarter of high school seniors don’t meet basic reading standards and a third fall below basic math proficiency.”
Throwing money at education may make those who get the money better off, but there is little if any evidence that it makes any difference at all in improving academic performance.
Recently I sat down and interviewed one of my heroes – Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Outside of his work, Dr. Carson’s passion is education. As someone who grew up in a Detroit ghetto, who’s mother was a domestic who could not read, he has some idea what it means to start with nothing and achieve the American dream.
But listening to Carson, whose latest book is entitled “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great,” you get a much different take on what is wrong with education and our nation today than what we hear from politicians.