The educational system in the United States is in dire trouble and there seems to be little real hope of effective reform in the near future. Our country’s once top-flight educational system has been in a state of decline for decades and we are rapidly falling behind many other developed countries. This decline in the state of the educational system in the United States has been caused by numerous problems within the school system, as well as a series of cultural problems.
While we like to think that good schools and motivated teachers will solve all of the country’s educational problems, this is not actually the case; a majority of student achievement is determined through cultural and socioeconomic factors which originate with the student’s family. There are numerous environmental factors which contribute to educational success, but a good family environment and reasonable access to the staples of living are paramount:
- Parents who invest time and effort into the education of their children (ex. helping with homework or instilling good study habits) are far more likely to raise children who succeed in schools than parents who are too busy or disinterested to provide this involvement.
- Children who receive proper amounts of food, sleep, medical services, and exercise are more likely to succeed in academics; hungry, tired or sick children often have a hard time focusing in school, regardless of its quality.
- Children who grow up in cultures which put large amounts of pride and effort into educational achievement (ex. Chinese or Jewish) are statistically more likely to achieve because they are pressured to work hard.
Unfortunately, the terrible economic circumstances of many Americans and the hobbling of many social programs aimed at helping children (ex. Head Start) have made it much harder for parents—even if they are dedicated—to provide the things that may have positive academic effects. In our tough economic times, parents are often trying to keep food on the table, and are simply unable to contribute enough time to their children’s’ early education. When coupled with the cuts to early education during the recent austerity craze, this reduction in time for children is very damaging to long-term academic achievement—children are placed in front of the TV, rather than receiving the attention that helps them develop their vocabulary and early academic skills.
Environment and culture are two major factors in determining the likelihood of educational achievement, but the educational system where the student learns is also very important. It is very difficult to change the culture or environment where children grow up, but it is more possible to improve the school system which they attend in order to give them the best chance at success. Unfortunately, many schools in the United States have been failing to provide this support and the children of the United States have been suffering.
While standardized tests are extremely iffy on their ability to measure academic ability, they are the tool that is used to measure international educational standards. According to the 2010 PISA report by the OECD—the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is a group of the most developed nations—the USA currently ranks 14th out of the 34 OECD countries. More specifically, American students rank 14th in reading comprehension, 17th in science and 25th in math.
As the richest nation on earth, the USA should not be ranking this low on education and the PISA report illustrates that there is a very real problem with our current educational system.
In the United States educational system, many things have eroded the quality of our schools and threatened to reduce our ability to educate our next generation. Such problems are numerous, but the major ones are: The push to privatize/voucherize schools, reductions in school funding, inadequate math/science programs, a dependence on flawed standardized tests, and massive disparities in educational quality between locales. These problems are systemic, not local, and must be fixed at a societal level if the United States wishes to improve the quality of its educational system.
Article prepared by Marc Rosenberg