Thought of the day

There are very few non-ivy league colleges and universities that are actually any better than the average run-of-the-mill school (at least education-wise). People think that if they spend $35K a year on their education, they must be getting far better professors who are able to pass along their knowledge far better than other professors at other schools. It isn’t really true. Some of the more expensive schools may have better resources for courses where that matters*, but the education one receives from a state university in, say, Idaho, is not significantly different from the education one receives just about anywhere else. Moreover, very few people even care about a person’s place of education once that person gets into the “real” world.

*If a person majors in sociology, the greater resources probably won’t make a huge difference. However, a person who majors in a lab-based/heavy science may see some notable benefit in terms of equipment.

Our failing schools

It isn’t possible to list and discuss every single problem public schools in America face today. It would probably even be unwieldy to discuss just a small percentage. But there are some big issues that need to be tackled.

Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.

This presents an obvious issue: teachers aren’t telling students a fundamental truth about the world. That’s more than a shame and we need to correct it. First, fire every single biology teacher that professes creationism to students. Second, give the teachers that are too timid or ill-prepared on the topic better tools. (I don’t know why a biology teacher should be ill-prepared to teach something so basic to an entire field, but here we are.) There are plenty of computer programs, textbooks, popular books, videos, documentaries, etc out there that can bring evolution to life for students.

But there is a deeper issue here. We have national standards for education that just aren’t being implemented. Sometimes it’s because the standard is only recommended, other times it’s because of bad teachers, and still other times it’s because of conflicting local standards. I know how popular it is to claim that local governments should be putting forth their own ideas on education, but it isn’t that black and white. There are necessary levels students need to be obtaining in order to be prepared for higher education. When local governments are given too much power, we often see lower standards.

That’s no good.

There is an expectation on the higher education level that students often are not meeting. This either slows down introductory courses or forces students to take sub-100 level classes in order to catch up. It’s a waste of money and time. Part of the solution has to be better implementation of national standards. This is what colleges and universities across the country need. It is at that level that the tempo is being set; we need to force our primary and secondary schools to meet that challenge.

And if anyone wants local control, by all means, draft proposals that require students to exceed far beyond anything our national standards might demand.

The original study can be found here. Thanks to Nancy H for the links.