Every Child Left Behind.

Gee, what a surprise:

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which are being released on Tuesday, show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which gathers and analyzes the data in the U.S.

We are number one! We are number one! We are number one! In…defense spending.

U.S. scores have been basically flat since the exams were first given in the early 2000s. They hover at the average for countries in the OECD except in math, where American students are behind the curve. Meanwhile, some areas—Poland and Ireland, for example—improved and moved ahead of the U.S., while the Chinese city of Shanghai, Singapore and Japan posted significantly higher scores.

Poland and Ireland are kicking our asses. But it’s totally okay because we are number one in defense spending!

The stagnant U.S. results are certain to spark more hand-wringing by politicians, business leaders and policy makers concerned that American students are not keeping pace with counterparts in other countries.

Oh, please. Bullshit. This decline has been going on for a very long time; it’s nothing new. Educating the rubes is just not a priority for America’s Owners or their puppets in Congress. We spend more on prisons than education.

Priorities: we have them.

It’s all good though, because we are number one in defense spending. And illiterate rubes make excellent cannon fodder for imperialist wars.

This entry was posted in education, USA, war by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

8 thoughts on “Every Child Left Behind.

  1. Iris, who gives a stuff about math? You could count the number of people who use the math they learnt at school on the non-opposable digits of one hand. it’s a fraud.

    OK You need some basic arithmetic which you can get by the end of grade 4. he rest is just busy work.

    If young minds need to be stretched they can learn how to play chess, cards, Sudoku or noughts and crosses.

    Filling school time up doing the dirty work of universities destroys a good childhood.

    Most of the math taught in secondary schools could be picked up in a couple terms in university for those who have the math gene.

    Same applies to science. Just more maths, consigning most high school students to purgatory before their time. Tell me one person you know who goes around using the laws of Hooke, Boyle and newton every day. It’s bullshit.

    Judging school performance on something as useless as maths and science scores is, well, just useless.

    If you don’t have the maths gene it doesn’t matter.

    Let’s rate kids on their ability to change a tap washer, run a mile, make their bed (with hospital corners) drive a car and chop wood.

  2. Well said Iris, and thank you for calling it out. This one makes my blood boil hotter than most…

    Kel

    On Dec 4, 2013, at 8:54 AM, perry street palace wrote:

    WordPress.com Iris Vander Pluym posted: “Gee, what a surprise: The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which are being released on Tuesday, show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from”

    • Kel, who cares? Who uses maths? Maybe American kids are spending their time at school doing something more worthwhile. Maybe they’re learning how to make things with their hands, or they’re outside racing around, or they’re reading books. (I suspect many of them aren’t learning much at all – at least much that’s important in the grand scheme of things.

      Maths has been superseded by the calculator, the computer and the electronic spread-sheet to the point where only a few geeks and engineers need to know much of it. Most of it was always an irrelevant waste of brain space, learning something you’d never use in a million years.

      Why are we teaching kids something they’ll never use? Why are we lying to kids when we tell them that maths is important? The amount of maths most people use you could fit on a postage stamp.

      For my part the fucken thousands of fucken hours I fucken spent fucken slaving over fucken maths and science (more maths) in fucken high school was a complete fucken waste of time. The best thing I ever learnt was my tables – but arithmetic doesn’t count does it?

      Let’s cast off our collective belief in the great fraud that every kid has to be a slave to maths and science and get on with the real education for a real life.

      Maths is for people with the maths gene. Children who don’t have it shouldn’t be subjected to 12 years of slavery cooped up in a cage in school while it’s stuffed down their throat and then have buckets of shit dropped on them because their maths scores aren’t as good as those of kids in Japan, fer chrissakes.

      A lot of these kids in China and Japan don’t have a life.

  3. #someoneiswrongonmyblog

    @John Miller: “math gene”? Bwahahaha! Citation seriously fucking needed.

    Let’s rate kids on their ability to change a tap washer, run a mile, make their bed (with hospital corners) drive a car and chop wood.

    Hahahaha! Now those are some critical skills for 21st century Americans. Hospital corners. *snort* D00d, you are just too fucking funny.

    Scientific illiteracy and innumeracy, of course, lead to global warming denialism, unchecked religious worldviews, a nation of rubes ripe for propaganda, frauds and cons, and, not coincidentally, presidencies like George W. Bush’s. Science and math are disciplines that teach critical thinking, and Lard knows citizens need more of that skill and not more of, say…beds made with hospital corners? *snigger*

    Here’s a recent Richard Carrier piece on innumeracy, which he correctly notes “can create all manner of problems, from falling for Christian arguments or not understanding scientific arguments to building or reinforcing false beliefs about political, cultural, racial, religious, or economic facts.” Read it, and see if you can (a) understand it, (b) point to precisely where you disagree with him, and (c) refute that with an argument that comprises something more substantive than “Waaah! Mommy I don’t like math! I wanna go outside and plaaaaay! Waaah!”

    For my part the fucken thousands of fucken hours I fucken spent fucken slaving over fucken maths and science (more maths) in fucken high school was a complete fucken waste of time.

    Obviously.

  4. Iris, I’ll lay you London to a brick you can’t do my year 11 1961 maths exam.

    http://www.johnmiller.com.au/maths/index.html

    This is the nonsense that lies at the heart of the great maths fraud. It’s just another faith-based swifty passed on without critical examination from one generation to the other.

    100% of kids cooped up in cages doing the stuff that only 1% of people need to know is a very inefficient use of educational resources and time. Anyone with a good grounding in critical thinking could work that out. I seriously doubt that the correlation between maths literacy and critical thinking is all that high.

    I can understand the logic of teaching arithmetic, accountancy and logic itself, but maths should (largely) be the preserve of higher education. Every trade, every profession can teach its own brand of maths to those who need it.

    As for Richard Carrier, he’s talking out the back of his neck. If maths is so important in the role of critical thinking then how come such a high proportion of the mathematically literate people of North America are Christians? The great philosophies that have driven the cause of democracy, the rule of law, equality of the sexes, abolition of slavery, tolerance of minorities, racial tolerance, respect for gender difference … (you name it) weren’t worked out using mathematics and weren’t worked out by maths geniuses. On the contrary.

    As for the myriad skills that are important in daily life, I’ll give you an example. My wife has a rental property. She received an account from the letting agent for $100 for an electrician. On enquiring why there was a need for an electrician to go to the property she was told that it was to replace the starter in a fluorescent light. The tenants were both smart Alecs, both mathematically literate but not smart enough to fix the light, fer chrissakes. Critical thinking, bah humbug!

    I’m literate, I’m numerate enough to have passed the exam (above) and have sufficient critical thinking skills to declare that Abraham was a schizophrenic, Lot a paedophile, Moses and Saul of Tarsus criminals and maths a waste of valuable educational time for most high school students.

    And yes, I did work out how make a living by going outside and playing. I chose to become a PhysEd teacher.

  5. I seriously doubt that the correlation between maths literacy and critical thinking is all that high.

    And I’m sure you will be able to provide a citation for that statement. Oh, lookie: I found one: it’s an analysis of multiple studies. Based on that research, the author states:

    Mathematics is empowering. Mathematically powerful students are quantitatively literate. They are capable of interpreting the vast amounts of quantitative data they encounter on a daily basis, and of making balanced judgments on the basis of those interpretations. They use mathematics in practical ways, from simple applications such as using proportional reasoning for recipes or scale models, to complex budget projections, statistical analyses, and computer modeling. They are flexible thinkers with a broad repertoire of techniques and perspectives for dealing with novel problems and situations. They are analytical, both in thinking issues through themselves and in examining the arguments put forth by others.

    John Miller again:

    As for Richard Carrier, he’s talking out the back of his neck.

    Oh? Do tell.

    If maths is so important in the role of critical thinking then how come such a high proportion of the mathematically literate people of North America are Christians?

    LOL! There is no way you understood Carrier, because your question is such a sterling example of the problem of innumeracy. Here’s a clue: A high proportion of Americans are Christians. A certain percentage of Americans are mathematically literate (however we define that). Perhaps you could answer your own question at this point. Going further: U.S. mathematical literacy is plummeting, relative to other countries. Are countries producing superior math literacy more religious, or less religious, overall, than the U.S.? That is the better question. And as Carrier notes:

    Thinking mathematically is important. It catches and corrects many mistakes. It causes the right questions to be asked. And it helps get the right answers. Experts have been saying this for years.

    Here is the data from the study I wrote about. You can find religiosity data yourself (e.g. from the CIA World Fact Book). Do your homework on that and get back to me.

    The great philosophies that have driven the cause of democracy, the rule of law, equality of the sexes, abolition of slavery, tolerance of minorities, racial tolerance, respect for gender difference … (you name it) weren’t worked out using mathematics and weren’t worked out by maths geniuses. On the contrary.

    You are correct, sir! Math is not philosophy! Math is amoral! What you’ve done here is called a category error.

    Early math skills—which we know are predicated upon variables like access to books in the child’s home, teacher training in mathematics, and time spent on math instruction—are correlated with later academic achievement in reading skills (such as comprehension.*ahem*); math skillsimplicate seemingly unrelated skills such as language- and knowledge-based abilities, reasoning abilities, and processing speed, as well as, interestingly enough, behavior regulation—for example, oh…I dunno…someone compelled to write repetitive rants on a blog post (and link to a fourth, in which we see teaching math hilariously analogized to religious indoctrination), all without a single citation to back up his unsupported opinions, where decades of reputable research points to the exact opposite conclusions?

    And we haven’t even touched on neuroplasticity, which declines with age. (Neuroplasticity explains why, for example, the younger one is, the easier it is to learn new languages. Just FYI: there is no “foreign language gene.”)

    I did work out how make a living by going outside and playing. I chose to become a PhysEd teacher.

    Good for you. But how do you keep score? Measure student progress? Maybe you’re terrible at it. If you were, how would you even know? Hell, even coaching a baseball team requires proficiency in statistics. Hey, should 90% of students who are less gifted athletically than the top ten percent be excused from wasting their valuable educational time in gym class? Just curious.

    It seems I was right to conclude that your “argument” is, in fact, “Waaah! Mommy I don’t like math! I wanna go outside and plaaaaay! Waaah!” After this exchange, I think we can all conclude that you have absolutely no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

    But thanks for providing an exemplary specimen of the problems associated with innumeracy.

    • ‘Mathematics is empowering. Mathematically powerful students are quantitatively literate. They are capable of interpreting the vast amounts of quantitative data they encounter on a daily basis, and of making balanced judgments on the basis of those interpretations.’

      Iris, most people just need a bit of simple arithmetic and a calculator to successfully navigate the wilds of modern life. For most of them it’s just a matter of ‘PIN or sign!’ They don’t have a cheque book so they don’t have to balance it every month. The bank sends them statements. They only read the bottom line.

      What are these ‘vast amounts of qualitative data’ that you’re talking about? I’m trying to recall what ‘vast amounts of qualitative data’ I had to navigate around yesterday. There wasn’t any; no ‘complex budget projections, statistical analyses, and computer modelling’, just me sitting down replying to emails, writing a couple of articles and giving a seminar on how to fix up a crook back.

      Today I have to take the car to the garage, write to a few people, make a few phone calls, tends to one of my websites, do some gardening and then go out for tea. My father serviced his own car. I choose to let an expert do it.

      If at any time during the day I require a mathematician I’ll hire one.

      But back to my main thesis, the time I spent in school doing maths is not commensurate with the time I spend using maths in my life now. It just frustrated the hell out of me. What I did learn I’ve forgotten. I do not understand one question from the year 11 maths exam. My score if I did it now would be 0/100. I believe that applies to the high proportion of people.

      I do not believe my current level of innumeracy in any way affects my ability to think critically about a wide range of issues. Numeracy has absolutely nothing to do with the issues I think about. I even dog-ear the pages of books so I can remember the number of the page I was on.

      Trying to pump maths (like my year 11 maths exam) into people like myself (of below average intelligence) is a waste of valuable educational time and just switches these people off education altogether. There are other things to learn, other ways to stimulate the thinking process. This stimulation goes on in the tech studies class while kids are making things, it goes on in the cooking class. Decisions, decisions. It goes on while kids are racing down the field and the court trying to work out what they are next going to do with the ball. What sort of reasoning is involved here. What sort of processing speed?

      The maths power elite despises people who work with their hands, including those who turn down their beds in hotels and hospitals.

      Iris, let me tell you a story of the most famous person to come out of Whyalla, the town I came from. It’s on the west coast of South Australia.

      There was a boy a couple of years older than me who went to the same church. He was fascinated by cars. It was all he thought about. I don’t think he excelled in school – probably because there wasn’t a subject on cars. He left school early to become a panel beater, just to be around cars.

      What he had though was a unique ability to tune motors and the unique perceptual motor intelligence to drive fast.

      He told his father that he wanted to be a racing car driver. His father thought it best that he channel this ambition into go-carting – and took it up himself.

      The boy became an Australian go-cart champion and to cut a long story short he ended up winning the Singapore F1 Grand Prix in 1971, won Le Mans in 1983 and came third in the Indianapolis 500 in 1981. Not bad for a boy from the sticks who left school at the end of year 11, without great mathematical distinction.

      This boy ended up with world-wide fame.

      The second most famous person from Whyalla was an unassuming boy whose intelligence resided in his hands and feet. He won three Magarey medals, (1968, 1970, 1973) but I doubt, Iris, if many of your readers would know just what a feat of sporting intelligence that involved.

      I do admit that quite a few maths geniuses that have escaped from Whyalla Technical High School over the years.

      Iris, there are many intelligences and mathematical intelligence is just one of them. From the top of my head there’s maths, literacy, verbal/linguistic, artistic, physical, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

      Believing that maths is the primary gateway to life success by most people is the intellectual arrogance that the maths power elite believes in with a religious fervour.

      Cooping kids up in cages, head down and arse up doing maths, cramps more intellectual style than it liberates.

      In the meantime Iris, how did you go with the maths exam?

      Regards and best wishes

      John

  6. Christ, you’re thick.

    Iris, most people just need a bit of simple arithmetic and a calculator to successfully navigate the wilds of modern life.

    No one is arguing that everyone needs to be able to perform advanced calculus and trig functions every day to succeed in modern life. If that’s your point, congratulations: everyone in the world agrees with you (including, I’d venture, these mysterious “maths power elites,” whoever they may be).

    In less than ten minutes on Google Scholar, I was able to find and document for you that early math skill implicates all kinds of seemingly unrelated aspects of learning and intelligence, such as reading skills, language- and knowledge-based abilities, reasoning abilities, processing speed and behavior regulation (all on the first page of results, BTW). Any one of those aspects alone would be reason enough to teach schoolchildren math; young brains are extraordinarily plastic, and teaching kids math has multiple cognitive impacts on diverse aspects of learning. Reasoning ability, for example, implicates problem solving, critical thinking and decision-making. These are indisputably important life skills—even for Phys. Ed. teachers! And it turns out reasoning ability improves when we teach kids math.

    What are these ‘vast amounts of qualitative data’ that you’re talking about? I’m trying to recall what ‘vast amounts of qualitative data’ I had to navigate around yesterday. There wasn’t any.

    You then say:

    no ‘complex budget projections, statistical analyses, and computer modelling’, just me sitting down replying to emails, writing a couple of articles and giving a seminar on how to fix up a crook back.

    Today I have to take the car to the garage, write to a few people, make a few phone calls, tends to one of my websites, do some gardening and then go out for tea.

    You really cannot grok where evaluating vast amounts of qualitative data, processing speed and reasoning ability are absolutely critical to your ability to drive a car on the road? (To say nothing of champion racers. Hello?) Or how about operating your computer software? What if your email isn’t working—how do you go about troubleshooting it? These activities all require sets of cognitive skills that turn out to have a significant correlation with… learning fucking math.

    I do not believe my current level of innumeracy in any way affects my ability to think critically about a wide range of issues.

    The irony gods are laughing so hard they’re pissing themselves.

    Numeracy has absolutely nothing to do with the issues I think about.

    It clearly does. Your innumeracy is why you cannot grok the research I’ve cited, the arguments I’m making, the questions I’ve asked you, Richard Carrier’s essay, and probably a whole lot else. Your innumeracy is why you maintain demonstrably false beliefs about the utility of teaching kids math, in the face of evidence of its benefits. IOW, you are wrong, and even after it has been pointed out to you in excruciating detail exactly why and how you are wrong, you just keep repeating your ridiculous opinions. It’s incredibly frustrating, of course, but worse than that it’s boring.

    My father serviced his own car. I choose to let an expert do it.

    Complete non-sequitur—unless of course we analogize it to replacing fluorescent bulb starters. But then you’re not supporting whatever point you think you made. The rest of your comment is also completely irrelevant, so I’ll just point to a few of your more, um, interesting statements.

    Trying to pump maths (like my year 11 maths exam) into people like myself (of below average intelligence) is a waste of valuable educational time and just switches these people off education altogether.

    Citation(s) needed.

    There are other things to learn, other ways to stimulate the thinking process. This stimulation goes on in the tech studies class while kids are making things, it goes on in the cooking class. Decisions, decisions. It goes on while kids are racing down the field and the court trying to work out what they are next going to do with the ball. What sort of reasoning is involved here. What sort of processing speed?

    OMFG. Decision making? Processing speed? THESE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SPORTS? Wait, are you absolutely sure you’re a Phys. Ed. teacher? Because WOW.

    The maths power elite despises people who work with their hands, including those who turn down their beds in hotels and hospitals.

    Citation needed. Also: a working definition of “maths power elite.” You sound like a conservative. That would explain a lot, actually.

    Iris, there are many intelligences and mathematical intelligence is just one of them.

    No argument here.

    From the top of my head there’s maths, literacy, verbal/linguistic, artistic, physical, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

    And it turns out many of them are linked to… learning math skills! Huh.

    Believing that maths is the primary gateway to life success by most people is the intellectual arrogance that the maths power elite believes in with a religious fervour.

    Citation needed. Who says that? Seriously, WHO? I want to know: who, anywhere, ever, said “maths is the primary gateway to life success by most people.” (Also: we need a working definition of “life success,” but frankly that’s the least of your problems.)

    Cooping kids up in cages, head down and arse up doing maths, cramps more intellectual style than it liberates.

    Citation(s) needed.

    In the meantime Iris, how did you go with the maths exam?

    Why on earth would I take your 11th grade math exam? What would be the relevance of my doing so to anything under discussion here? Again, you cannot be stupid enough to think I or anyone else is arguing that everyone needs to be able to perform advanced calculus and trig functions every day to succeed in modern life…can you? I’ll just note that you have not done one single thing I’ve asked of you, e.g. research religiosity and math skills, provide citations for vapid concepts like a “math gene” and similar unsupported assertions, or answer relevant questions such as “should 90% of students who are less gifted athletically than the top ten percent be excused from wasting their valuable educational time in gym class?”

    Do I really have to block you to stop you from further embarrassing yourself here?

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