Effect Measure

Bush doctrine: no child travels ahead

The good news in 1995 was that American students performed better than Austrian students in advanced mathematics among students finishing highschool. The bad news was that Austria as the only on eof 16 countries American students finished ahead of, and in physics they didn’t even do that. They were dead last. A couple of weeks ago Science magazine reported that the Bush administration wasn’t going to let that happen again:

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), says it is bowing out of 2008 TIMSSA, an advanced version of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study given quadrennially to younger students, because it can’t fit the $5 million to $10 million price tag into its flat budget. Officials also question whether the target cohort–students finishing secondary school who have taken advanced mathematics and physics courses–is comparable around the world.

But many leaders in the mathematics community believe that the Administration opted out because it feared another poor U.S. performance would reflect badly on its signature education program, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. (Science, Vol. 317. no. 5846, p. 1851; subscription required)

Mathematics educators, from the American Mathematical Society to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, are pissed. The budgetary amount is so tiny in the federal budget (amounting to about 30 minutes worth of the cost of the War in Iraq) that it is a laughable excuse. The real answer is obvious to everyone. We’ll do badly. Again.

You don’t make a problem go away by refusing to acknowledge it. And you won’t make the country more able to take its place in the world community of scientists and engineers by undereducating its students. It’s not just the teaching of evolution in biology classes or pursuing stem cell research or political interference in climate science. The US is falling farther and farther behind in the bread and butter educational infrastructure for high school students: pre-calculus and calculus, modern physics and chemistry, concepts of biological information, computer science.

Science won’t be hurt. Science based in America will.


  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    October 9, 2007

    If trying to figure out obscure LaTeX error messages wasn’t depressing enough. . . .

  2. #2 david1947
    October 9, 2007

    “No Country Left Behind”. But Bu$hCo don’t like being on the receiving end of their own policies for the rest of us.

    There are always multiple ways of achieving a stated goal such as “No Child Left Behind”, and this reaction only serves to underscore which one they chose: hold everyone back to the speed of the slowest students. The program seems to be based on what has to be the most ignorant of simplifying assumptions: all children have the same learning capabilities, so differences in their performance must be due only to teaching and testing not also being the same everywhere. So tests designed to see how good the best are have to be anathema to this admin.

    In this community, I know no more need be said.

  3. #3 C.P.
    October 10, 2007

    If Americans, as a whole citizenry and not selected educated communities, cannot agree that the earth revolves around the sun and dispute evidence that man did not exist concurrently with dinosaurs, then it comes as no surprise that whatever tests that might further embarrass our nation are dissolved.

    It may be only a matter of time until math books are banned and replaced with Bibles.

  4. #4 Flaky
    October 10, 2007

    Looking at the bigger picture, it is easy to see that it is actually in the neocons interests to keep most of USA ignorant and uneducated. They want a country, where only the ‘social elite’, i.e. the exceptionally wealthy (who are more likely to share their outlook), has access to proper education. Herding uneducated masses is always a lot easier than dealing with people, who aren’t so easily manipulated.

    They might even see it as a kind of charity. Dumbing USA down to make people more ready to accept the kinds of low-wage jobs that have been moving over to South-America and Asia.

  5. #5 Dunc
    October 10, 2007

    You don’t make a problem go away by refusing to acknowledge it.

    Well, now we know you’re never getting a job in the Bush admin…

  6. #6 386sx
    October 14, 2007

    The real answer is obvious to everyone. We’ll do badly. Again.

    But of course. How did those people ever get elected. Oh yeah I forgot, they lied to everybody.