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Shocking Report Explodes 5 Myths About American Education

We're number one? Hardly. The entire idea of American exceptionalism should be called into question.

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Myth #4: We provide excellent early childhood education.

Worried about creeping socialism? Look no further than Head Start and other pre-school programs we throw money at. Isn’t this where the Nanny State begins?

Blinded by anti-government ideology, we fail to notice that the rest of the world invests much more in their young people, especially the very young: “On average across OECD countries, 84 percent of pupils in early childhood education attend programmes in public schools or government-dependent private institutions, while in the U.S., 55 percent of early childhood pupils attend programmes in public schools, and 45 percent attend independent private programmes. In the U.S. the typical starting age for early childhood education is 4 years old, while in 21 other OECD countries, it is 3 years old or younger.”

Even more telling is the fact that we tend not to employ professional educators for our very young. As the report delicately puts it: “In addition, education-only early childhood programmes in other countries are usually delivered by a qualified teacher and have a formal curriculum, while in the U.S., the situation can vary.” Vary indeed.

So where are we ranked?

  • 3-year-olds (in early childhood education): 25th of 36 countries
  • 4-year-olds (in early childhood education and primary education): 28th of 38 countries
  • 5- to 14-year-olds (all levels): 29th of 39 countries

Myth #5: We have the highest percentage of college grads in the world.

OK, we may have some issues with early childhood education, who pays for college, upward mobility and public support for higher education. But, as the politicians tell us, we are going to win the global competition for knowledge-based industries and jobs, precisely because we have the best universities and the most college graduates.

While it’s difficult to compare global colleges and universities (and while I’m certain that we do have some of the very best elite institutions), it is possible to compare the number college graduates among developed nations. Again, we suffer by the comparison: “The U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education (42 percent).” Those are our young people. That’s our future. And the richest country on Earth can’t even win the competition for the highest percentage of college graduates?

So aren’t we number one in something?

Yes, we are and it’s revealing. We’re number one in 55- to 64-year-olds who finished high school. We boomers actually went to school – 90 percent of us finished high school while the OECD average is 65 percent.

That statistic takes us right to the heart of this story – how during the post-WWII era the United States invested in its people. The GI Bill of Rights provided free higher education to more than 3 million returning GIs. Enormous investments in education helped us catch up with Sputnik and win the race to the moon. The super-rich faced high tax rates so that we could pay for education, a national highway system, and the defense budget. Unions were supported by the federal government and moved wages up across the board. And the burgeoning civil rights movement began to bring the promise of America to African Americans. The middle class was rising. We went to school. And we created the fairest income distribution in our history.

Then, we tossed it away as we forgot the lessons of the Great Depression and our collective response during WWII. We deregulated the rich and they tore our country apart.

You see, none of these myths apply to the wealthy. Their kids get plenty of early childhood education. Their kids don’t attend run-down schools. Their kids don’t run up debts in order to go to college. In fact, our elites are positioned perfectly to thrive in a global economy. They can attack public schools, teachers unions, big government and not suffer the consequences. Frankly they don’t give a damn about our international rankings. The rich are quite happy for the rest of us to swallow the myth of American exceptionalism, even when reality shows how exceptionally bad we are at providing decent education for all of our people.

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