Category: Educational Choice

9973TressDunceCapThe New York Times reports on a study that found that young adults in the United States not only fare poorly in math and science compared with their international competitors — something we have known for years — but also now in literacy.

More surprisingly, even middle-aged Americans — who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world — are barely better than middle-of-the-pack in skills. Arne Duncan, the education secretary, released a statement saying that the findings “show our education system hasn’t done enough to help Americans compete — or position our country to lead — in a global economy that demands increasingly higher skills.” The study is the first based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition comprised mostly of developed nations, and administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries.

The great irony of this story is that the United States spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education from pre-kindergarten through the university level — the fifth highest in the world — yet the results don’t match the spending. What is happening? Why are we spending more and more money on education and producing less competitive students? I offer the following thoughts:
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UntitledIn the U.S. there are approximately 4,500 colleges and universities (2,774 4-year institutions and 1,721 2-year institutions). Most of the institutions that were founded prior to 1900 began as Christian colleges, though only about 970 schools are still religiously affiliated. Out of those 970 sectarian schools, 570 are distinctively Christian.

America has almost as many Christian schools as the entire rest of the world combined. But that’s quickly changing. As the Chronicles of Higher Education notes, in the developing world there is a renaissance in Christian higher education:
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While our educational system in the United States served us well at one time, Sir Ken Robinson says it’s not working for us anymore. In this short video, Robinson talks about what’s wrong with education, and some possibilities for making it better.

Catholic Education in the West: Roots, Reality, and Revival

Catholic Education in the West: Roots, Reality, and Revival

Catholic education has played a major role in the development of Western nations, yet it is in many places in crisis. To bring about renewal, it is necessary to revisit the subject with an eye to fundamental questions. What is the purpose of education? What is distinctive about Catholic education? What is the right relationship between schools, parents, Church, and society?

Every now and then I run across a series of studies that makes me wonder if white progressives are among the most narcissistic cohort of professionals in America. There seems to be this pervasive myth that simply being around white people adds value to the flourishing of blacks in America. This myth often extends to interpreting data along axes that are nothing less than insane. For example, it is often (mis)believed that when black students are in schools that are predominantly black they do not perform as well because of the “segregation.” Though it has been demonstrated that there is no such correlation, many white progressives seem to believe that the presence of white people is somehow a cosmic advantage for blacks. That is, blacks need to be around white people so that their lives will improve.

Much of this narcissistic progressivism comes from a pervasive misunderstanding of what drove the Civil Rights movement. Many progressives seem to believe that in the 1950s and 1960s blacks were fighting to be around white people in order to experience “the good life.” This is far from the truth. In fact, the Civil Rights movement was a fight for equal treatment under the same laws without deference given to whites. It was a fight to end discrimination so that all Americans, regardless of race, could exercise the exact same freedoms. Perhaps this may explain why there seems to be a sense of surprise and shock in a Huffington Post blog entry explaining that blacks who were attending segregated schools have better overall health and well-being than those in integrated settings:
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Today at Public Discourse, I explore the dubious connection between educational attainment and upward income mobility, arguing instead that a focus on cultivating social capital would be far more effective than the conventional wisdom: “Stay out of trouble and stay in school.” Staying out of trouble is still a good idea, but staying in school — when it comes to higher education — is becoming less and less effective on its own at predicting economic improvement.

In addition, while I believe education to be desirable for itself, I do not think that one can turn a blind eye to the great cost, decreased quality, and decreased utility of higher education today. I write,
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abrahamkuyper1One of the great misconceptions about Christian higher education is that Christian colleges are places where Christian young adults go to withdraw from “the world.” A closer look at some historical roots of Christian colleges prove otherwise. For example, in the work of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), a Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, journalist, and statesman, we see that Christian colleges are not places of withdrawal but education centers of preparation for a life of living in a pluralistic world — a world with more similarities to Daniel’s Babylon than Europe’s 16th-century Christendom.

In the book Wisdom and Wonder Kuyper offers perspective to help Christians understand that a university education that presupposes and integrates the Triune God across the curriculum can solidly develop the Christian minds of young adults. Kuyper believes that if it is true that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19), then divorcing higher education from the knowledge of God will produce knowledge that is likely to appear as foolishness to God. Christians, then, in ways consistent with honoring God, need to create additional educational opportunities so that Christians do not abandon higher education and retreat to the asceticism of church life: Christians should be trained properly for participation in public life. This is one of the many reasons Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches have invested so much institutional capital in maintaining colleges and universities. Kuyper explains:
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choiceopportunityfront1Last week, as the country was remember MLK’s dream of children being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, Attorney General Eric Holder was suing the state of Louisiana because he’s more worried, as the Wall Street Journal says, about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate.

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.
For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

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