Honoring the teachers of America. National edu...

Honoring the teachers of America. National education association; 1857-1957. United States postage, 3 cents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking of thought or the lack of it in the United States at present, the OECD Survey of Adult Skills has found that American adults are, as a group, below average in both literacy and “numeracy”, or math.

What is most disturbing is how poorly young adults in America are faring. A summary of the survey states, “American 55-65 year-olds perform around the average, but young Americans rank the lowest among their peers in the 24 countries surveyed.”

How to account for this? The report makes clear that young people in Finland are doing far better, near the top, in both literacy and math skills. And lately the Finnish system of public education has been getting a lot of press. The Finns have mandated smaller class sizes, increased teacher pay (and prestige) while requiring that teachers earn Master’s degrees. In other words, Finland has invested in the public school system and is willing to pay teachers what they are worth in exchange for high standards of teacher education and classroom effectiveness.

Privatization, standardized testing, cutting funding is not the Finnish way, and the results are quite remarkable. Wisconsin under Gov. Walker is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to education, reducing the money and morale of Wisconsin’s public school teachers as it pursues ever more ways of increasing aid to private schools. It is the direction that is all too common across the nation. So it is no wonder, really, our young are below average, when so many of the older adults in charge are in need of an education about education.

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