Sunday, February 8, 2009

Has Education in the U.S. Deteriorated?

There is an interesting thread on Wordcraft about the deterioration of the education in the UK, particularly related to the English language (writing a sentence, spelling, and the like). It got me thinking about education in the U.S. I posted that I don't think our education has deteriorated, but has it? I think students rely too much on spellchecks and the Web for their research for papers. I don't think phonics and grammar are a focus anymore, though perhaps it was too much of one in the past. Where I think U.S. education is falling down the most is in mathematics and science. It's an interesting question, though.

One problem with American education is tenure. In most school districts, teachers can get tenure by just going to work and not getting into trouble for 2 years. Bingo. You're there for life. That's not the case for higher education, of course. There you have to show real production with great student evaluations, articles published in peer-reviewed and well-respected journals (books don't even count because they aren't peer-reviewed) and research grants, as well as evidence that you're nationally or internationally respected (i.e., letters from national and international experts in your field). It gets harder and harder every year to receive tenure in higher education. Why is it so easy in K-12? Professors who are tenured (and many don't get it; if you don't, you're gone) in higher education most likely follow through with their research programs because they're productive, driven and the best (theoretically). None of that's true for teachers in K-12. They didn't have to do much to get tenure, so they just keep going with how they started. Some are ambitious and work on self development. Others don't, and that seems to be okay. In a sense, tenure is very different in the U.S. in higher education versus K-12.

I know there are those who will disagree violently with this, and that's why I didn't post it on Wordcraft. However, in my opinion, we in the U.S. do well with higher education, but our K-12 education could improve. After all, how many international parents send their kids to our public grade schools or high schools, versus our public colleges? While not a perfect example because of the age differences, it is an example; many parents send their younger kids abroad to school.


Bruce Price said...

I think this is too mild. Of course, it has deteriorated. The interesting question for me is why? I believe there's been an intentional dumbing down for ideological reasons. Our educators are still drinking Dewey's kool-aid.

Kalleh said...

I believe it is lack of competition. I very much support the voucher system, or something similar. Don't get me wrong, I am a died in the wool liberal, so of course I voted for Obama. However, I think the liberals are wrongheaded in their steadfast support for a system that gives automatic tenure, for no good reason, after 2 years. It goes against everything else we know about motivating our workers. I have to ask Obama, and others like him, why they don't send their own children to the public schools. But we all know, don't we?

Nice to see someone new here!