The scores are in from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, which, every three years, tests 15-year-olds from the world's most advanced countries. For the United States, the report card is dismal. The U.S. ranking has fallen to 17th in reading, 21st in science, and 26th in math. Florida, one of America's diverse mega-states, competed separately in the PISA exam, and scored below the U.S. average.
In the academic Olympics, the American superpower is a mediocrity.
Ranked one through seven in test scores in reading, science and math were Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China, Taiwan, South Korea, Macau-China, Japan. Also well ahead of the United States is Vietnam.
By and large, Western Europe has moved out in front of us and our close competitors are the Slovak Republic and Russian Federation.
Fifteen-year-olds in two ex-Soviet republics, Estonia and Latvia, also posted grades in math and science superior to those of America's young.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls the PISA test scores a "brutal truth" that "must serve as a wake-up call" for the country. Excuse me, but how many wake-up calls do we need?
In October 1957, we got our first when the brutalitarian and backward superpower built by Josef Stalin beat America into space. Two months later, our answer to Sputnik, a three-pound satellite, was to be launched by a Vanguard rocket from Cape Canaveral, to get us back in the race. It got four feet off the ground, when the rocket exploded.
Egg all over our face, we were rescued from national humiliation by the Redstone Arsenal rocket crew of Wernher von Braun who built the V-2s that had rained down on London. Von Braun put an 80-pound Explorer into orbit, and we were back in the game. While the first manned space flight was made by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, America, under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, took command and put an American on the moon in July 1969.
Meanwhile, the country was on fire over the issue of education. In LBJ's Great Society legislation in 1965 came the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which poured enormous amounts into our pubic schools. In 1983, came "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform," the report of President Ronald Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education. Conclusion: America's schools, even then, thirty years ago, were failing the nation.
Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, we got another surge in spending with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
How can a lack of money explain our declining test scores when America continues to spend more per capita on education than almost any other country? Yet, the more we spend, the lower the test scores we get back in global competition?
Some insist the persistence of poverty in an affluent America is the cause of these declining test scores. Yet, have we not fought a 50-year war on poverty since LBJ's Great Society? And not only have countless trillions of dollars been spent, the poor in America receive benefits of which the world's poor could only dream. America's poor receive free food, free health care and free education for their children from Head Start to K-12. The poor get subsidized housing and subsidized incomes. They are exempt from federal income taxes. State programs and private charities pick up where the feds leave off.
Yet, if poverty explains the dismal performance of America's students, why are they being lapped by Vietnamese 15-year-olds? Do the Vietnamese have a higher per capita income than we? Is there less poverty and more emphasis on education in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City than New York City and Washington, D.C.?
Is home environment behind the disparity in test scores? Forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock, but for Hispanics it is 53 percent and for African-Americans 73 percent.
Looking again at those PISA test scores, other than East Asia — China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam — hardly any other nation of Southeast or South Asia, the Arab or Muslim world, Africa or Latin America, is in the top 40 in academic performance. And, in these test scores from a diverse world, we can see mirrored the academic performance within our own diverse nation.
Just as East Asians and Europeans excel in the PISA tests, so, too, do Americans of East Asian and European descent dominate test scores and excel in educational achievement, while our Hispanic and African-American students trail. At top universities like Berkeley, Stanford and in the Ivy League, too, Asian and white Americans are overrepresented in the student bodies.
Yet, Hispanic and African-Americans are more than 30 percent of the U.S. population and 35 percent of those in our public schools. Increasingly, these minorities will represent the nation in international academic competitions.
Where, then, are the grounds for optimism that we can turn this around? And if we cannot, ought we not accept the inevitable?
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
To The Daily Sun,
To paraphrase President Reagan; "There you go again". I am speaking of the latest news from the N.H. Dept. of Transportation's Commissioner Chris Clement, where he said, "Four years ago, I said we were at a tipping point. Two years ago, we were in a crisis, and now, we are facing a catastrophe."
This was caused when the Republican-controlled Legislature repealed an annual $30 surcharge on the registration of all cars and trucks which took away $90 million dollars of that biennium and since then an additional $45 million this past year. Not only does this Republican House and Senate like to never increase taxes regardless of the health of the state but they also like to take away existing revenues earmarked for the DOT.
Senate President Chris Morse said "I continue to oppose any increase in the tax or tolls, this economy in New Hampshire is fragile at best."
My thought was, "Exactly"!
When are those in office going to connect the dots and see that the price of asphalt and gas to name just a few have greatly increased over 19 years and taking away the revenue source for the DOT more than exacerbates the problem?
A few months ago I attended a meeting hosted by the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton and fellow presenters from the DOT and the Lakes Region Planning Commission where they explained the changes they had to make to the DOT's 10 year plan because of this loss of revenue, which was $135 million.
One member of the audience was my House Rep. Colette Worsman and she offered this advice to the DOT: "I'd like to propose a two year moratorium on the new 10 year plan until I can get a committee together and come up with a different priority list for the DOT". I could not sit back so I said, "I thought it was an outrage that she and my Senator, Jeanie Forrester, who was also in attendance ,voted to do away with the surcharge, and now she knows better than the DOT as to where and how their budget should be fixed."
I find it very interesting that some of those who run for office (a government job) and get elected hate government. They do not come up with solutions to the many financial problems and obligations the state is responsible for, only ways that make matters worse.
Folks, please start paying attention to what is going on at the state level it impacts you immensely.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:24
To The Daily Sun,
Obama's TWENTY days of Christmas.
Day one — He gave us none other than HIMSELF.
Day two — He gave us the liar Obama.
Day three — He gave us Obama the nation divider.
Day four — He gave us the arrogant Obama.
Day five — He gave us the incompetent Obama.
Day six — He gave us Obamacare.
Day seven — He gave us a website that wouldn't work.
Day eight — He gave us insurance cancellation notices.
Day nine — He gave the majority of the MIDDLE CLASS higher health insurance costs.
Day ten — He gave millions restricted health care access (you finally discovered what Obama already KNEW, you couldn't keep your doctor or hospital ).
Day eleven — He gave us a five person death panel (accountable to no one) to restrict your access to the latest life saving services and pharmacology.
Day twelve — He gave us syringes with do it your self euthanasia instructions.
Day thirteen — He gave us $17 trillion in debt to hand down to our children to pay off through lower living standards.
Day fourteen — He gave us a RECORD 47 million welfare dependents to feed and house because he REFUSED to focus on FIXING the economy.
Day fifteen — He gave us 20 million unemployed with the lowest percentage of the prime working age people with jobs in 40 years.
Day sixteen — He gave us his refusal to reform Medicare, Social Security or SS Disability. All three programs desperately BANKRUPT.
Day seventeen — He gave us more rules, regulations and handcuffs to throttle and restrain business and job creation than any president in history.
Day eighteen — He gave us back General Motors and stuck taxpayers with a TEN billion dollar LOSS to save UNION JOBS (votes) while NON-UNION workers got pink slips.
Day nineteen — He gave us one of the most divided, unhappy, and venom-spewing electorates in modern history accompanied by gridlock and total political dysfunction.
Day twenty — He gave us a windmill so we could light our tree.
Give your self a Christmas present EARLY next year. Please vote Democratic incompetence and insanity out of office in November. The Senate is easily within Republican grasp!
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:19
To The Daily Sun,
It never ceases to amaze me how journalists fall for the wind industry's clean energy spin — without even a hint of a query. Are journalists blatantly misleading readers? How can journalists ignore the abuse the wind industry has on rural communities around New Hampshire, New England, nationally or internationally? Thanks to journalists the abuse will continue, effectively without critical scrutiny.
The wind industry knows exactly what they're doing to our community, because they've done it a thousand times over the past 20 years. Has a journalist ever stopped to think about the imbalance in financial resources? Or how it will effect our wildlife? Or how it will effect our watersheds? Or our peoples health? Or how it will effect tourism? Or how it will effect our property values?
Do we, as residents, have a voice in any of this? It is private land after-all. Do we have a right to tell our story "in the press" to be read by the people of New Hampshire? Or are journalists simply looking at it from another point of view — that being: resident concerns would be same if a nuclear plant, biomass plant or hydro plant were to replace the words "wind developer"? Are our concerns destined to go on deaf ears — is this done by design?
NHWindWatch.org is a tiny organization that survives on donations. They are an tiny organization that has the backing of the majority here in Grafton County. They are under constant attack from wind developers who seek to destroy our community. Developers have the power, the money, the lawyers and the federal government to boot.
NHWindWatch.org is made up of volunteers.
Journalists are the paid professionals and the publicly-traded wind developers are the story. We, the residents, have voted against further wind development in our area. Yet all we hear in the media is how residents are more concerned about the aesthetics of wind farms. Am I missing something — or is this being done by design? There are many more important concerns than aesthetics. Why aren't legal battles, issues or problems in states like Massachusetts, Vermont or Maine being discussed, introduced or explained to our residents here?
Many people ask me why I'm so vocal on this matter? It's because I have a vested interest in this community. There's no wind farm development proposed near me. I will only see one from 15 miles away. Why I continue to do this, is for the genuine concern about the harm that will come to the people living near them.
It's hardly rocket science.... I just care.
I sometimes wonder why it is so hard to get people to understand that night time noise in a quiet country environment is going to disturb the sleep of some people, and that if they cannot turn off the source of the noise, that they are going to become sleep deprived over time which will then harm their health. I have genuine concern for the wildlife and our watersheds as well. I also have concern for our tourism revenues, many businesses I know depend on them. And I know Mount Cardigan will take a hit on tourism, it's 5,000 visitors are being talked about now.
Every great story comes from an old saying: "follow the money". Think about who is financially benefiting from them and who are the losers. Who's threatened by the truth coming out? And those political parties they donate to?
Shouldn't we be talking about the people who have been driven from their homes in Massachusetts because of the known health damaging effects of low frequency noise pollution and then silenced? Shouldn't we be talking about bat testing units being placed in thickly wooded areas on the ground? Shouldn't we be talking about noise measuring monitors being placed underneath very big trees, on the opposite side, to falsely show low noise levels during summer months? Shouldn't we be talking about how the new 500 foot turbines will be even more damaging?
Start caring. Ask questions and demand answers — and pound the table until you get them. It's your community too.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:14
To The Daily Sun,
On Saturday, during the Laconia Holiday Parade, one of my students experienced a medical emergency while marching in the parade. The student is doing much better, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who came to our aid in helping by giving up their jackets on a cold day to the student. Thank you to the Laconia Police officers who helped, as well as the medical people and doctors at LRGH. Also, thank you to Frank Weeks for stopping and helping us and to Janet Breton for watching the band when they arrived back at Gilford High School. It's reassuring to know how many people showed their concern and jumped in to help us.
Thank you so much!
Gilford High School Band Director
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:10