Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The System Isn't Broken

I've been saying for years now (and even put it into one of my first posts on this site) that the entire educational system is not broken. We keep hearing about how all schools are a mess and how the only way to fix things is to demolish the whole system and start over. This simply isn't true. Anecdotally, we all know that there are great public schools and even public school systems out there. I was the product of one myself. We also know that if there's an achievement gap there have to be some schools that are working otherwise instead of a gap we'd just have everyone on the bottom rung of educational achievement.

It's not that the entire school system doesn't work. For most people it works pretty well.

Not content to just have you take my word for it, here's some data. First, the United States ranks second of all the countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita and GDP per employed person. In terms of GDP per hour worked, the U.S. is fourth in the world. Obviously, we're somehow managing to produce an effective, efficient workforce. Not only that, but we're the world leader in patent applications. We file twice as many patent applications as the next closest country. So not only are we effective and efficient, we're also innovators.

Does any of this sound like a country with an irretrievably broken education system? If the entire system were really failing, would we still be able to produce as well as we do as a country?

I don't think we would. I'll say again, the system as a whole is not broken. What is broken is the schools that serve low income students in urban and rural settings. There's no question that we have an achievement gap and that it needs to be closed. We just don't need to blow up the whole system in order to do it. Rather, we need to target our efforts on those schools and school systems that aren't working. As our president-elect might say: this is a job for a scalpel, not a hatchet. We need to keep that in mind when we talk about education reform.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said! Thanks for the insight:)