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Quality of US education


SlavicWolf
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Germany does not have too many Jews either since WW2, same for Switzerland. And they are still at the top amd their economies perform better than most economies in the world, aside from third world countries that have higher growth rates as they are catching up. Neo-Marxist equality of outcome is not what an ideal education system should aim for. Tell me - what's the point of teaching math (even such basic staff as pre calculus) to people who will never use it even a single time in their lifetime once they leave school? Isn't that a waste of money? There are lots of people (which includes, unfortunately, roughly 80% of the population) who have neither brains nor interest to learn such stuff, so wouldn't it be better to separate them early and teach them a trade so that they can earn $ for a living and (if the education is public) repay the cost of their education in taxes? How does the top 1% of students in Finland compare to the top 1% of students in USA?

 

BTW: Ancient Chineses stagnation was mostly due to cultural limitations. Medieval European universities were centered mostly on natural sciences and were private. Chinese institutions were state run and had only one goal - to produce scholar-officials for the state's bureaucratic system. They only taught Confucianism and no math, medicine or whatever. So it's not surprising that there was stagnation.

Edited by SlavicWolf
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Tell me - what's the point of teaching math (even such basic staff as pre calculus) to people who will never use it even a single time in their lifetime once they leave school?

 

1. How can you possibly tell if someone will use math later in life? (except by ensuring they don't by withholding the education) We don't even know some of the jobs that don't exist now but will exist a decade or two down the road.

 

2. There are many instances of people "using math" that they don't even recognize, and many more opportunities to do so even beyond that, where they would be hampered by innumeracy.

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There are many ways to learn math. One can go to an university and attend open lectures, one can learn at home from books or the web.

 

If the entire education system was in private hands, there would be no problem - all schools would be financed by private capital and everyone would pay for his/her own education. Flexibility would be higher as well.

 

The problem is that in all countries schools are mostly PUBLIC - financed by money stolen from citizens. So if that's the case, the entire education should be structured in such a way to give as much benefits to the economy as possible with as little expeditures as possible, not to produce graduates who are forced to learn things they don't want to learn that won't even benefit neither them nor the society as a whole.

 

IMHO Germany should be a role model for all countries. Elementary school last for 4 years after which most kids go to either vocational or technical schools. High schools (Gymnasia) are reserved for the best students - only about 28% of students go to them.

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BTW: Ancient Chineses stagnation was mostly due to cultural limitations. Medieval European universities were centered mostly on natural sciences and were private. Chinese institutions were state run and had only one goal - to produce scholar-officials for the state's bureaucratic system. They only taught Confucianism and no math, medicine or whatever. So it's not surprising that there was stagnation.

 

This shows incredible amount of ignorance. The curriculum in medieval times in Europe were certainly not centered around natural science, at best one could call it natural philosophy (as natural sciences as such have not emerged yet) and was mix of philosophy, occult, alchemy, medicine(-ish) and theology. It certainly did not have rigorous curricula and depending on who your mentor was, you may get some knowledge in nature (probably astronomy) or not. Advances and innovations in that time were often more due to individual scholars rather than due to university-like structures as they exist today.

In ancient China three forms of (large) schools existed: district schools, national academies and private academies. Throughout history smaller entities were also known, of course, but they were not listed or known as organized corporations as equivalent medieval European universities in starting in the 12th century or so.

 

In any case, the first known private academies in China were reported to be appear in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and spread from that time. Curricula were diverse, as one could imagine though there was a strong emphasis on classics (as there was on philosophy in Europe). But this did include (in various times) books such as "The nine Chapters of the Mathematical Art", which was a collection of various scholars spannign the time of around the 10th-2nd century BCE (it does not get much more classical than that). It is also amusing that you mention Confucianism, as Confucius was probably the example of a private educator.

It is true that the focus especially of imperial exams during various dynasty was often closer to what one would call a liberal arts, but then the same could be said for many European counterparts. Natural sciences departed from philosophy quite some time later. One thing to highlight are probably the Islamic traditions (including Spain) which appear to have a stronger focus on astronomy and mathematics.

 

Nonetheless, within the various schools and academies and private tutors philoscience (which could include e.g. taoism, which also teaches quite a bit about herbal medicine). While I do not have sources about specific curricula, famous Chinese inventors went through the education route, and then became known for their expertise in e.g. mathematics, engineering, etc. Zhang Heng, for example (78-139) was a polymath that studied at the Taixue (an imperial university). He did calculate pi to 3.1466 and laid the foundation for mechanical basics picked up by later inventors and developed among others probably the first seismometer. I do not have a full biography handy, but just from those snippets I am kind of sure that he did learn one or two things more than just poems during his time as a student.

It is generally noted that there was a decline of teaching quality in the Qing dynasty, in which there was a notorious absence of natural sciences which have been much more prominent in Europe at that point. However that was 1644-1912, hardly medieval or ancient.

 

Finally, I have no clue what you mean with ancient Chinese stagnation. Chinese history is (if one reads about it, of course) incredibly dynamic and only for certain cultural reasons remained its identity (of sorts). Yet, through millenia China was a powerhouse in the region and a leading force on a world-wide scale. The silk trade was part of the dynamics that led to the rise (and fall) of empires and thoroughly shaping middle eastern and European history. China did lost out on key innovations that proved to be crucial during the industrial revolution and finally lost its powers to superior technology, but that is hardly stagnation if one look at it over a historic scale (instead of a ideology-driven goggles).

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Wow, I didn't know you have such a wide knowledge. Regards.

BTW: By stagnation I mean Ming dynsasty and and onwards. Compared to Tang and Song which were very innovative and dynamic, Ming appears to be far less so.

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This impression comes from the fact that the preceding dynasty was so prolific and well-known to European history (Marco Polo playing some role in that). That, in turn was because the Yuan dynasty was a Mongolian rule and during that time they pretty much ruled over the known world and threatened the rest. A lot of interaction happened within the greater mongol empire.

After overthrowing the Mongols there were more isolationist and conservative policies, concomitant with fewer technological advances than preceding dynasties. But again, many factors, including preceding Mongolian rule contributed to that. While this was the first time (probably) that advances in China were slower than their European counterpart (or, if you will, Europe was catching up), there were advances. Just at a slower pace.

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Germany does not have too many Jews either since WW2, same for Switzerland. And they are still at the top amd their economies perform better than most economies in the world,
You said old school Germany - they aren't as rigid in their curriculum now. .

 

Switzerland has never had a rigid curriculum, but rather varied and local control of its schools. Also, like every single other high-performing educational system that has ever existed in the modern world, it is largely funded by taxation and low cost to students.

 

 


There are many ways to learn math. One can go to an university and attend open lectures, one can learn at home from books or the web.

Good luck with that.

 

 

 

If the entire education system was in private hands, there would be no problem - all schools would be financed by private capital and everyone would pay for his/her own education. Flexibility would be higher as well.

- - - -

IMHO Germany should be a role model for all countries.

You are going to have to make up your mind, there, in two ways

 

- Germans support their educational system almost entirely by taxation, with very low tuition and fees in even the upper level universities. Not only that, but young people only go to school for half days - most elementary schools don't serve lunch, because they end before 1:30 in the afternoon. Furthermore, Germans have a unique vocational education setup in which private corporations are required to hire school age youths as apprentices, and pay them for their half time work while they go to school the rest of the time.

 

- you want students separated by talent and capability, but if you require that they pay their way they will be separated by family income - the rich will be in your classrooms, and the poor elsewhere, regardless of ability.

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I meant that for those countries that do not want to make education private Germany should be the role model.
There are no modern industrial States that want to - or could afford the damages if they did - revert to the old systems of educating only a few of the rich people's children and the occasional charity case in reading, writing, and arithmetic. You are recommending that all modern industrial States adopt Germany's setup.

 

So the countries whose schools outperform Germany's should convert their systems to Germany's (there are about a dozen such, including Canada and Australia and New Zealand as well as the obvious Scandinavian and Oriental educational powers),

 

and places like the US should adopt such German features as almost entirely tax-subsidized college education with no time limit, half day elementary schools, mandatory hiring of the less academically talented teenagers as well-paid apprentices by local businesses, mandatory instruction in at least two other languages (usually including Latin) for the college bound engineer, and so forth.

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Who said that reverting back to private education will mean regress? As long as there is demand, there will be supply. In pre-industrial world access to information was very limited (books were expensive) and most of the population was engaged in subsistence agriculture anyway so there was no need for them to learn advanced stuff.

 

But everything has changed since then. Your stance it's like saying that we can't have private IT industry because then computers will be accessible to only a few rich people... IT industry is in private hands and electronics has become ubiquitous.

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Who said that reverting back to private education will mean regress? As long as there is demand, there will be supply. In pre-industrial world access to information was very limited (books were expensive) and most of the population was engaged in subsistence agriculture anyway so there was no need for them to learn advanced stuff.

 

But everything has changed since then. Your stance it's like saying that we can't have private IT industry because then computers will be accessible to only a few rich people... IT industry is in private hands and electronics has become ubiquitous.

 

Electronics has become cheap because it's deflationary. Not so for education.

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How would you describe the quality of US elementary and high school education?

 

 

You said old school Germany - they aren't as rigid in their curriculum now. .

 

Switzerland has never had a rigid curriculum, but rather varied and local control of its schools. Also, like every single other high-performing educational system that has ever existed in the modern world, it is largely funded by taxation and low cost to students.

 

 

Good luck with that.

 

 

 

You are going to have to make up your mind, there, in two ways

 

- Germans support their educational system almost entirely by taxation, with very low tuition and fees in even the upper level universities. Not only that, but young people only go to school for half days - most elementary schools don't serve lunch, because they end before 1:30 in the afternoon. Furthermore, Germans have a unique vocational education setup in which private corporations are required to hire school age youths as apprentices, and pay them for their half time work while they go to school the rest of the time.

 

- you want students separated by talent and capability, but if you require that they pay their way they will be separated by family income - the rich will be in your classrooms, and the poor elsewhere, regardless of ability.

 

 

Since I have some experience with the German system (though a bit outdated) I would like to respond to some aspects here. Overall, in first year Uni you will see a distinct difference between German and and US students. The distribution in the US is much broader and you will have to adjust first-year lectures towards the lower end. This is especially true when mathematics is involved, even at a very low level.

 

That is not to say that the US system is absolutely abysmal, they are pretty much middle of the pack when it comes to OECD countries, but certainly not the top performer. It should be noted that in the old system the top-tier school track (gymnasium) was aimed to provide an education level somewhat close to a two-year bachelor. Now that has changed quite a bit, concomitantly with adding a bachelor system to university.

 

The vocational part was an important element, however it applied to the mid- and lower tier secondary schools and there was to my knowledge no system that a) had a mixed vocational system with school, you go to a company after school and b) the companies are not forced to take them in, but there were incentives to do so.

 

The German system has one serious issue it shares with the US system but for totally unrelated reasons. In the US the high schools are heavily financed on the local (district level). As such it is harder to perform well coming from these schools. In Germany, surprisingly there is also a correlation with parent income and academic attainment (though more moderate IIRC, but I may be misremembering), despite the fact that universities are practically free (they are rolling back fees almost everywhere and even then it was not more than maybe 100-500 euros per semester).

 

One of the criticisms was that the split in secondary schools happens too fast (at age 9-10) and even worse, it is not solely based grades or tests (and there was some heavy discussion whether grades have any meaning at that age where developmental differences are vast), but teachers also take their family and socioeconomic background into account. The reasoning (which is faulty imo) is that a student from a working class will lack the family support to attain academic achievement. That being said, there is a chance of students switching tracks later on, however people tend to perform within the context they are given, so extra effort is required to be able to switch.

One could blame parents for following the recommendations, but quite obviously the class thinking is still well and active in Germany. There is quite a lot of criticism surrounding the German system, but for ideological reasons it is not going to change.

 

It should also be noted that the German system has alternatives, though the tripartite system is the biggest element.

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