A09: White Paper: Joseph Passalacqua – Updated

The Topic Background: The American Education System:

America’s education system, although the most expensive in the world, is falling behind in comparison to other countries.  Our education system places too much emphasis on standardized testing, and is showing little to no results in improving global test scores.  If we focused more on students’ creativity, through a broad selection of classes and programs, we could eliminate standardized testing and place students in courses that could help lead innovating ideas and programs for our future, as well as improve global test scores without the pressure the current education system places upon students.

Working Thesis:

America’s education system, being the most expensive education system in the world, pushes students towards a standardized idea of what each student should be, avoiding a broader selection of classes and programs, preventing students from becoming what they want to be in life.

Notes of Counterintuitivity:

The United States hold’s the worlds’ most expensive education system, spending roughly $800 billion each year on education (Yahoo! Finance.)  Of the top 20 education systems in the world, the United States is ranked 17th. Japan, the second most expensive education system, spending five times less than the United States, is ranked 4th on that same scale. Per student, the United States spends roughly $7,743.  Japan spends less than half of that amount, with only $3,756 spent per student.

Our country focuses heavily on standardized testing with most of our education focused on learning topics and subjects strictly based off of what is found on these tests.  Using a global standardized test between 34 different countries, the United States, although spending a high amount on education, is only producing average scores, ranked 17th, 14th and 24th out of 34 countries in science, reading and math, respectively.

Cultures found in other countries also focus more on education, with parents and educators holding high respect and social status for the well-educated.  There is no clear connection between a teachers’ salary and their quality of work.  A tenured teacher who has been around for a while does not always equate to a better teacher.  Placing focus towards finding higher quality teachers as well removing tenured teachers who show little interest in education and care little about the welfare of their students could show improved test scores as well as reduce our high government spending on education.

With little focus on the arts in schools, there is a noticeable pattern with almost every students’ education.  Take a handful of students, new to a University, all graduating from high school at the same time and make them take a test on the basic concepts learned in high school, being math, science and reading.  The results more than likely will show similar scores among the students.  Our countries current focus on education around the can be compared to a production line, focusing on teaching the same concepts, over and over until the information is hammered into the student’s memory. Placing a focus on the arts as well would show much different results between students.  Provide all of those students with identical higher education, and make them all apply for the same job after graduation.  There will be nothing to distinguish one from the other and the person hiring them will have great difficulty in choosing a new employee. Placing focus on the arts as well will help students break from the assembly line and show creativity, accentuated through art and dance classes, that can lead to innovation and new ideas for our future.

Where am I going:

For years I have always thought that the education system in our country was flawed.  Many high schools all offer similar education styles, but nothing really stands out among them.  I always found that there was really no way to improve upon a persons education once their courses are selected in high school.  Obviously, an honors student will be put in more pressing classes, but how is one to become an honor student without already being placed there from middle school?  Through personal experience, simply asking a guidance counselor to put someone into an honors course, when grades are in line with the current honors students, isn’t enough.  There was no way for me to enter the honors courses in the past. I imagine the same goes for higher education.  Students in the honors program are provided with advantages over the average student, being given more difficult courses that push a students’ intelligence, as well as provide them funding for their education and a higher social status throughout the university with things such as exclusive housing that far exceeds the quality of the average students’ options.  Where students exceed in math and science, other students may exceed in video production or theatre.  But there is no “honors” course for those students, no matter what their GPA may be.  They are the students whose creativity can help lead to new ideas in the future. They’re pushed to the side when a student comes along who has more knowledge on how to work an expensive calculator and how to calculate the molar mass of H2O. There is still a lot of research I need to do before I can make a strong argument.

Annotated Sources

UK Education Sixth in Global Rank

Pointing out that spending has an effect on a students intelligence, the article is quick to point out that culture has a much higher effect on education.  Asian countries are highlighted in the article as having parents with higher expectations for their children and their education.  The article also highlights the top 20 education systems in the world (United States ranked 17th.) Finland and South Korea top the list.  With many differences between the two countries, the one thing their education systems have in common is the importance and underlying moral purpose of a good education.

What’s Wrong With America’s Education System?

This article focus’ mostly on America’s education system, rather than various systems throughout the world.  Much of the focus goes towards the high spending of our country.  Test scores noted in the article show the US as having average scores.  The article also shows us a glimpse into Finland and Singapore, whose education systems show higher global test scores, with different attitudes towards teachers who start with higher salaries and allowing the teachers to receive their masters degree’s all while still receiving a salary

U.S. Education Spending VS The World

This blog post uses an easy to understand info-graph to break down the U.S. total spendings per year, as well as annual spending per student and various test and literacy scores in comparison to 12 other countries around the world.  The graph mostly shows the U.S. in worse condition than many of the other 12 countries shown.  Commenters of the post provide other details, such as how America’s private schools are known to show higher test scores, while spending 1/3 to 1/2 less than the cost of public schools.

Can This 17-Year-Old Save America’s Education System?

This article focus’ on the perspective of a 17 year old student, author and international speaker.  He believes that education should focus on grouping children by ability, vs age, abolishing standardized tests, paying teachers more, and teaching critical thinking, creating thinking, collaboration and risk-taking, or as he calls them 21st century classes.

America’s Education System is Backwards

 This article speaks about the current structure of the U.S. education system.  The author see’s no problem with how elementary education is structured, but believes we need to implement new ideas into the current courses offered in middle and high school.  The author doesn’t truly believe a student in high school will find a new discovery in biology, for example, but believes the implementation that students can discover new ideas would stress the analysis of the topics and help students to question the subjects more.  The author also points out that schools should focus more on a students passion, specifically saying that “If they are interested in the sciences, they should be allowed to pursue the sciences, dedicate their life to it, and have a dedicated curriculum for the pursuit of this idea. If it is the polis, they should also have a dedicated curriculum for the polis and gain a greater understanding of the concept of the state in a free society. If it is iron working or sales, then our education system needs to provide a way for these students to pursue that passion.”

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4 Responses to A09: White Paper: Joseph Passalacqua – Updated

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Joey. There’s a lot here to chew on. Before we get to your thesis, we need to know what it means to “fall behind” other countries. What’s the measurement that defines whether or how an education system is performing? More importantly perhaps, if the system did show success at improving test scores, would that be evidence that the students were receiving a better education? Or merely that they could be trained to perform better on tests? Furthermore, it’s really hard to prove the theory that encouraging creativity produces innovative ideas, especially if we’ve never measured innovative ideas before.

    I say these things not to object, but simply to point out that your job will not be easy (unless readers already agree with you).

    Your thesis pretty much demands that you describe exactly which few options for development are offered to students, and which are being denied them. Be prepared to answer what courses or programs you propose for children that they aren’t getting now.

    What’s the value of the overall spending number if we don’t know how many students are educated, Joe? $800 billion is surely a lot of money, but maybe France spends more per student? Maybe Japan does? By a lot?

    I’m glad to see there’s a global test, so that one of my questions can be answered, but now we have to ask two new questions: 1) If standardized tests are the best way to measure learning, why should we resist them? 2) Do students whose creativity is encouraged perform better than those who “learn to the test”?

    You lose your focus when you add arguments about the regard in which teachers are held and what they’re paid. You’d do better to focus on the qualities you propose we insist on in teachers devoted to nurturing openness and creativity.

    I didn’t know we were talking about “too few art classes” until just now. Is that what you mean by nurturing creativity, Joe, or is it possible to teach students to think openly about math and science as well? I would think a student who knew how to devise a good experiment would be a better scientist than one could recite the atomic weights of all the elements by heart.

    Hmmm . . . I liked the thesis better when I thought it argued for problem-solving and innovation across all disciplines. I completely agree that skills nurtured in pursuing the arts can contribute to overall academic achievement and a broader intelligence, but you’re making an argument about what courses should be offered, not how material should be taught.

    Let’s face it: art history, even painting, can be taught to achieve good scores on standardized tests.

  2. jpassalacqua says:

    Professor Hodges,
    I have updated the post, however I believe I need more feedback and will be asking you about that very soon.

  3. davidbdale says:

    I’m surprised to see so much color still in the body of the WP, Joe, but I’m happy to see the annotated sources and links.
    Grade Recorded.
    If you further revise, be sure to comment here that you’d appreciate another look.

  4. davidbdale says:

    Joe, I returned here to read your White Paper for the purpose of helping with rebuttals and find it still very “colorful.” I also notice you’ve made some corrections but left the color behind. Why don’t you return the color to black when you make corrections. That way, we’ll both be able to see where you want additional guidance on improving the text where you don’t know what’s wrong or how to fix it.

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