"That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow."
So said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 'Wake-up call': U.S. students trail global leaders, MSNBC.com, December 7, 2010]
Every three years, the Paris-based Paris-based OECD holds its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of the reading, math and science skills of 15-year-olds in developing and developed countries. Gurria was talking of the results of the 2009 tests.
Sixty-five nations competed. The Chinese swept the board.
The schools of Shanghai-China finished first in math, reading and science. Hong Kong-China was third in math and science. Singapore, a city-state dominated by overseas Chinese, was second in math, fourth in science.
But the "brutal truth" is that we invest more per pupil than any other country save Luxembourg, and we are broke. And a closer look at the PISA scores reveals some unacknowledged truths.
But, looking down the New York Times list of the top 30 nations, one finds not a single Latin American nation, not a single African nation, not a single Muslim nation, not a single South or Southeast Asian nation (save Singapore), not a single nation of the old Soviet Union except Latvia and Estonia.
And in Europe as in Asia, the northern countries (Finland, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Austria, Germany) outscore the southern (Greece, Italy, Portugal). Slovenia and Croatia, formerly of the Habsburg Empire, outperformed Albania and Serbia, which spent centuries under Turkish rule.
Among the OECD members, the most developed 34 nations on earth, Mexico, principal feeder nation for U.S. schools, came in dead last in reading.
Steve Sailer of VDARE.com got the full list of 65 nations, broke down U.S. reading scores by race, then measured Americans with the countries and continents whence their families originated. What he found was surprising. [PISA Scores Show Demography Is Destiny In Education Too—But Washington Doesn't Want You To Know, December 19, 2010]
Asian-Americans outperform all Asian students except for Shanghai-Chinese.
White Americans outperform students from all 37 predominantly white nations except Finns, and U.S. Hispanics outperformed the students of all eight Latin American countries that participated in the tests.
African-American kids would have outscored the students of any sub-Saharan African country that took the test (none did) and did outperform the only black country to participate, Trinidad and Tobago, by 25 points.
America's public schools, then, are not abject failures.
They are educating immigrants and their descendants to outperform the kinfolk their parents or ancestors left behind when they came to America. America's schools are improving the academic performance of all Americans above what it would have been had they not come to America.
And from the PISA tests, neither does any other country on earth.
The gap between the test scores of East Asian and European nations and those of Latin America and African nations mirrors the gap between Asian and white students in the U.S. and black and Hispanic students in the U.S.
"America's educational woes reflect our demographic mix of students. Today's schools are filled with millions of youngsters, many of whom are Hispanic immigrants struggling with English plus millions of others of mediocre intellectual ability disdaining academic achievement."
"To be grossly politically incorrect, most of America's educational woes vanish if these indifferent, troublesome students left when they had absorbed as much as they were going to learn and were replaced by learning-hungry students from Korea, Japan, India, Russia, Africa and the Caribbean."
Weissberg contends that 80 percent of a school's success depends on two factors: the cognitive ability of the child and the disposition he brings to class—not on texts, teachers or classroom size.
A nation weary of wasting billions on unctuous educators who never deliver what they promise may be ready to hear some hard truths.
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Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.