But I offered a suggestion, something that should, if taken up widely enough, would help reverse this depressing trend: Demand math. Demand that serious mathematics be taught in all our schools so that most kids have a shot at placing Algebra I in high school. All such students would potentially be on track to take Calculus in high school. And it is from students that take Calculus in high school that our increasingly shallow pool of engineers is drawn.
Someone named "mister.thorne" had a different idea, which he left in the comments:
I've got a good solution to this problem, and it goes like this: make public education universal and compulsory.There is no Blogger profile for "mister.thorne," but I don't suppose I'd be far wrong if I were to guess that Mr. Thorne is a public school teacher, probably in an urban setting.
If the government has the authority to tell 18-year-old men that they have to go to war, then it has the authority to tell 12-year-old boys and girls that they have to show up for public school, whether their parents like it or not!
That way, all the educated folks who care about the education of their children will -- once again -- begin to care about the education of all children (including those that their kids will have to live with).
Also this: if we live in a world where a grown man can make millions playing a game, then a public school teacher should earn at least ten times as much.
A public school teacher in Chicago, for example, has a very tough time. Many of the brighter kids are diverted from the public schools to Catholic schools, like those my kids attended, or Lutheran schools or other private schools. Many of those who are left come from households where education and learning are not valued. Those who come to school to learn must often cross disputed gang territories. Your kid may risk a 'C' in Chemistry; some Chicago kids risk death just going to school.
But instead of trying to lift his kids up, Mr. Thorne would bring other kids down. Instead of excellence, he would opt for uniformity. Mr. Thorne would mandate attendance at our failed public schools in the hopes that they would fail a little less. And perhaps, for a time, they would.
But the decline of America, if steep now, would become precipitous. And for what? So that "educated folks who care about the education of their children will -- once again -- begin to care about the education of all children (including those that their kids will have to live with)."
I like to think I might be numbered among the "educated folks." And you better believe I care about the education of my children. But, Mr. Thorne, if I also didn't care about the education of all children (including those that my kids will have to live with) I wouldn't be decrying the state of education generally. I never stopped caring. Even if you ascribe to me the most selfish, petty motives, and say I only care because I pay your salary already, through my real estate taxes. Even if that were the only reason, Mr. Thorne, you would not actually have to destroy my family's best chance for success -- private schools -- in order to command my attention and concern.
If it weren't already obvious, Mr. Thorne's last comment, about teacher salaries, would have given away his profession. But I do not hold this against him. Mr. Thorne, I agree with you that professional athletes make far too much money. But the highest paid among them don't make but a small fraction of what the CEO's of so many of our recently failed financial institutions made. At least A-Rod had to produce to get his salary.
But, yes, I agree with you, Mr. Thorne, that a wiser society would invest more in its future and pay teachers more than they now receive. Still... public school teachers in Chicago make decent money and, unlike say lawyers in private practice, public school teachers have a public pension. Underfunded, yes, but it is there: And public school teachers can retire young enough to take other jobs and add a second career salary on top of a generous pension.
And Catholic school teachers, like my Long Suffering Spouse, make less than their public school counterparts. (And in Chicago, their pension was just discontinued.) Nevertheless, on average, Catholic schools produce better results: Better test scores, admission to better colleges. You, Mr. Thorne, would argue that they have the cream of the crop to work with and I, believe it or not, will concede you have a point. (But, trust me, some of these supposedly cream-of-the-crop students are pretty curdled.)
My point is that money alone is not the answer. A national commitment to -- a national insistence on -- true excellence, to realizing the maximum potential of every student, is the ultimate answer.
But that's too big to grasp today. Today, young parents, look at your kid. Will he or she place out of Algebra I in high school? If not, why not? Start with this.