I RETIRED FROM TEACHING three years ago. So I finally have time to do a little writing. If you follow education news these days you have to know public school teachers are being fed a steady diet of abuse by critics. When U. S. students are compared and ranked, internationally, based on test scores the results are depressing.
It has to be teachers, right? Not long ago, Glenn Beck lumped teachers’ unions in with Islamic terrorists. Seriously. The movie Waiting for Superman made it look like teachers were a bunch of slugs. Here in Ohio Governor Kasich acts like we’re Vikings intent on ransacking the State Treasury.
I talk to teachers these days and find them more discouraged than at any time since I first became interested in a career in education. So my blog will always be a defense of good teachers—but never bad ones.
There’s a difference, which most of our leaders and almost all of the critics seem to forget. Take Arne Duncan. He says education reform is “all about the talent.”
He means it’s all about teachers.
Trust me: I’m a liberal. I voted for President Obama and always knew he had a valid birth certificate. But I’d like to sock Mr. Duncan, his Secretary of Education in the jaw. (Same goes for Davis Guggenheim, producer of Waiting for Superman, by the way.)
If you listen to critics this is what you hear: We have a “school crisis” on our hands. How do we know? We know because our students finished 25th in math in 2006, when students from thirty nations were tested. Worse, we spend more on education than almost all the countries that beat us. See: America’s teachers are lazy and overpaid.
Here were the bleak math results in 2006:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
- Slovak Republic
- UNITED STATES
Study that list a bit and it can seem depressing. Our poor students were just baffled when it came to multiplying decimals and transforming common fractions into percentages. Who else could you blame? It had to be teachers.
In my case, I looked at that list for a long time and wondered. Was America going to math hell in a hand basket?
WHAT OTHER PROBLEMS WERE CRITICS MISSING? Was it just America’s teachers who were failing? Or was there a broader cultural failure to concern us?
What about doctors?
Time magazine provided the first hint of danger in a brief comparison (December 12, 2008) of health care systems round the world. After that, I was on the story like Woodward and Bernstein, or maybe just Woodward, since it’s just me.
Health care costs in the United States ate up 16% of GDP, the highest figure in the world, a per capita cost of $7,026. Life expectancy was 77.8 years.
Japan spent 7.9% of GDP, or $2,690 per capita. Yet the Japanese lived an average of 83 years.
Numbers don’t lie and the more numbers you study the more lying you don’t see. School reformers like Secretary Duncan assure us that if we collect enough data and tie test results to teacher pay we can save American education. Maybe we can collect enough data to save hospitals, too. In southern Minnesota people live into their 80’s. People in eastern Kentucky live a mere 72.6 years.
What’s needed, clearly, is a system to rate doctors and nurses in Minnesota “excellent” and medical people in Kentucky “failing” or under “academic watch” or some category of that nature. Or we could fire all the Kentucky medical people and get some real professionals in there to clean up the mess.
In fact, to get a picture of how our oncologists and proctologists are doing, let’s gather some data. Compare life expectancy in the same countries that beat out our brains in math.
Here were the dismal “health care” rankings for 2009:
9. New Zealand
20. United Kingdom
24. UNITED STATES
25. Czech Republic
27. South Korea
So, what do simple lists prove? If America’s teachers are failing, a truth the media universally accept, then this chart proves that U. S. doctors are lazy and overpaid idiots—and they aren’t even unionized.
(Thank god they don't have tenure!!!)
So, Mr. Duncan, if you ever do get punched in the nose by an angry, retired teacher, head for Canada if you want good affordable health care.
And don’t mention our terrible doctors to Glenn Beck.
He’ll only start crying.
(For even MORE chilling statistical evidence go to: “America's Teachers Stink Up the Place Again.”