Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Education

US Adults Score Poorly On Worldwide Test 745

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-our-cheese-consumption-is-tough-to-beat dept.
New submitter Norwell Bob sends this excerpt from an Associated Press report: "It's long been known that America's school kids haven't measured well compared with international peers. Now, there's a new twist: Adults don't either. In math, reading and problem-solving using technology – all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength – American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results (PDF) released Tuesday."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Adults Score Poorly On Worldwide Test

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @09:52PM (#45077517)
    This is a group of people who collectively voted 90% for Obama or Romney last election.
    • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @09:55PM (#45077533) Homepage Journal
      But the re-election of BHO pretty clearly underscores any negative remark you want to make about the U.S. electorate.
    • Re:Not surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

      by runeghost (2509522) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:13PM (#45078057)
      Out of curiosity, anyone know how the U.S. adults who don't vote for a major party score?
    • Re:Not surprised (Score:5, Informative)

      by Purity Of Essence (1007601) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:36PM (#45078187)

      Only 57% of those eligible voted at all.

    • The No Child Left Behind became a No Adult Left Behind. YAPF - Yet another policy failure, since policies don't actually accomplish anything. You need teachers that can teach the old fashioned way to accomplish something.
      • by The Rizz (1319) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:52AM (#45079811)

        You need teachers that can teach the old fashioned way to accomplish something.

        Old fashion or new fashion, teachers' teaching styles are not the problem. The problem is that while they still teach facts, the often discourage actually thinking. The incessant attacks by both parties upon the idea that children can think are making it so that by the time they are out of school, they can't think.

        Twenty years ago the idea that having an obviously-fake gun in school [washingtonpost.com] would get you in trouble, let alone kicked out or arrested, would be considered completely ludicrous. Be it anti-gun, anti-evolution, anti-whatever, schools have shifted their focus from teaching kids critical thinking and teaching them to question the world around them. Now they teach toeing the line, doing what they're told, and never questioning authority. Zero-tolerance policies are at the apex of this trend; it institutionalizes the concept of not thinking when a situation comes up, but instead doing exactly what you have been told to do. When you tell children that even teachers and school administrators are not allowed to use their judgment, why would kids ever think they should? Add to this the terror-inducing effects of zero-tolerance policies (i.e. "If someone would use a nerf gun, they'd probably also shoot you with a real one!"), and you reinforce the idea that you need to be terrified of everything, and trying to use your own judgment is a bad idea.

        You want to improve things, it's not by going back to old teaching methods, it's by allowing teachers to teach thinking again and not by forcing them to be pawns in the organized "sheltering of young minds" that the administrations seem to be all too happy to go along with.

        • by tburkhol (121842) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:14AM (#45080105)

          You want to improve things, it's not by going back to old teaching methods, it's by allowing teachers to teach thinking again and not by forcing them to be pawns in the organized "sheltering of young minds" that the administrations seem to be all too happy to go along with.

          If there's one thing I've learned from the political narrative in the US, it is that teachers are government employees, too incompetent to tie their own shoes, let alone develop a curriculum and shape young minds. The only people we should trust with such sensitive tasks are the elected members of school boards, and possibly Congress. After all, those people are accountable to the voters, so they're guaranteed to have the people's best interest in mind. Teachers are only accountable to their unions, and we know that "union" is a euphemism for organized crime.

          No, the way to fix our schools is to standardize on one message. In fact, technology allows us very easily to deliver exactly the same content to everyone. My proposal is that we contract K-12 education out to one of the existing MOOC companies and replace all those overpaid "teachers" with an iPad and a room monitor. We could even improve the security of our precious children by training the room monitors in appropriate defensive skills. Or even arming them. Nothing says "education" like a room full of kids being forced at gunpoint to watch indoctrination videos six hours a day. Brought to you by EduKart.

          • by Minupla (62455) <minupla@gmai l . com> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:22AM (#45080433) Homepage Journal

            Take a look at the countries with better education rates then the US. A lot of them have political systems that are more socialized (education, health, etc) then the US.

            If you want to solve problems you need to stop throwing idiology at each other and start thinking.

            My (US born) wife and I were discussing last night. The word "unamercian" is thrown out a lot on conversations about these things. We live in Canada, and can't recall hearing the phrase "uncanadian", as in, it sounds odd to our ears, feels weird to say.

            It's sad that there is a word in the lexicon in a country settled by immigrants and which claims to espouse the ideals of equality which means "You don't belong with us".

            Now back to the topic,

            If there's one thing I've learned from the political narrative in the US, it is that teachers are government employees, too incompetent to tie their own shoes

            Canadian schools are publicly funded, 94.4% of children here are enrolled in public schools (vs private). The US has 90% enrollment in public as opposed to private schools (data taken from statistics Canada and US Institute of Educational Sciences - the latter via google cache due to govt shutdown).

            This suggests to me, given Canada's ranking above the US on every survey category mentioned that the "government is too involved in education" answer is at least not the sole deciding factor in the relative rankings.

            Min

    • We may need more data, as in scores on a wider skill range.

      For instance: church attendance, shooting skills, family values, and moral re-armament level.

      This would help in two ways: first it stands to reason that this would compensate our average scores (making them rise), and secondly it would give Tea-Party voters a chance to shine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @09:53PM (#45077521)

    I was starting to suspect that most people were horribly incapable, but I guess its better elsewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:56PM (#45078291)

      There is a "culture" and almost a celebration of being "stupid" in the popular media favoring the jocks, drugs/gangster "lifestyles" over being "smart" in the "West". I guess expensive post secondary schools (i.e. "colleges" for Americans) doesn't help either.

      The rest of the world that placed a higher value on education (and less on sports) is scoring better. Is that a coincidence?

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @09:54PM (#45077527)

    ...that the Secretary of Education is furloughed right now, or he'd have some explaining to do!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @09:59PM (#45077567)

    Isn't this just one of many signs of the decline of the American Empire? The American oligarchs used to look after their people back in the days when they built their empire but nowadays, the privileged grandchildren of the original oligarchs have forgotten where their wealth and power came from. And so on down the slippery slope...

    • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:21AM (#45078785) Journal
      Sure. The coal mining oligarchs were nice enough to set up company towns with company script for money, and would pay barely enough to live. And if you were sick your whole family would be on the street. They sure looked after their people. And while not every oligarch/family were like this, they all had the same attitude and would do it if they could. The good old days were not that good. The 1950's, 1960s, and 1970s were probably the best era in terms of what you are talking about, but even much of that was marred by civil rights abuses.
  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:00PM (#45077571)
    Most jobs don't involve a lot of math or english these days.

    More whether or not you can socially function and whether you know the basics of using a computer.

    Plumbing, paving roads, being a cashier, managing people, checking meter readings, working an assembly line don't involve much math or English.

    Perhaps society only needs a few people per hundred that are great at math? People don't need math skills to drive a semi-truck or make the donuts or take an order or stock a warehouse .... Similar to how most companies only need a few elite coders?
    • by causality (777677) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:07PM (#45077637)

      Most jobs don't involve a lot of math or english these days. More whether or not you can socially function and whether you know the basics of using a computer. Plumbing, paving roads, being a cashier, managing people, checking meter readings, working an assembly line don't involve much math or English. Perhaps society only needs a few people per hundred that are great at math? People don't need math skills to drive a semi-truck or make the donuts or take an order or stock a warehouse .... Similar to how most companies only need a few elite coders?

      Historically education (especially higher education) was not for the purpose of job training. That was handled by other means such as apprenticeships. Education was for the purpose of personal enrichment and quality of life.

      A nation of people who can effectively work their corporate jobs but believe everything the TV tells them will create a fascist dictatorship. In the USA it will probably be a "soft tyranny" of the "we know what's best for you, or else" type, not the "strong man with an iron fist" dictatorships we've seen in the past.

      • In the USA it will probably be a "soft tyranny" of the "we know what's best for you, or else" type, not the "strong man with an iron fist" dictatorships we've seen in the past.

        It is already a reality, not a probability.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:09PM (#45077653) Homepage

      Perhaps society only needs a few people per hundred that are great at math?

      In fact, the richest and most powerful Americans would probably like there to be not so many people who understand math: Those who understand math can understand how badly they're being screwed by the richest and most powerful Americans!

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:31PM (#45077791) Homepage Journal

        Those who understand math can understand how badly they're being screwed

        I'll let Carlin get this one:

        They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fuckin' years ago. They don't want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they're coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin' retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later 'cause they own this fuckin' place. It's a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. ...The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. ...And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that's being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth. It's called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:09PM (#45077655)

      It would have helped if many of those people whose homes were foreclosed during the housing crisis had basic math skills. . .

      More importantly, math is an exercise in logic. A population filled with people who can't effectively utilize logic can turn pretty ugly when the government is representative/democratic. Just because Joe the Plumber has the skills necessary to be a plumber doesn't mean that his inability to construct a logical argument won't be detrimental to society. A person is more than their job and their value to society ought to be measured by something greater.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ebno-10db (1459097)

        It would have helped if many of those people whose homes were foreclosed during the housing crisis had basic math skills. . .

        Does the same apply to people who were paid millions to play with CDO's, CDS's, and all those other wonderful financial instruments that were part of the housing bubble? Or do you not need math skills if you know that you're going to be bailed out no matter how badly you screwed up?

        math is an exercise in logic. A population filled with people who can't effectively utilize logic

        Speaking of logic, it doesn't follow that people who are bad at the logic used in math, are necessarily bad at other types of logic. Such assumptions can lead to a false sense of superiority though.

      • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:08AM (#45078381)

        How dumb is it to have the bank offer you a loan so you can afford to live in a house you couldn't afford? These people were mostly former renters. That's their frame of reference. The banker, knowing full well the situation and the buyer's mindset, explains, "You will have fixed mortgage payments of $600/mo for 3 years and then depending on interest rates, it can go up or down." The buyer hears, "I will have fixed rent payments of $800/mo for 3 years and then the rent will go up (because it never goes down)." He compares the house he's being offered with what he can rent for that amount and decides the house is a better deal -- because it is. He makes a possibly rational decision that even if he's foreclosed on, he's way ahead taking that mortgage over the $1200/mo mortgage with traditional financing -- $14400 over that three years. He's a RENTER. He was figuring to move every 3 years anyway.

        So what? What did he lose when he stopped making payments after they ballooned to $1200? Nothing. The loan company didn't lose anything either; they MADE money on the fees that they rolled into the note. It's the "smart" people who bought the mortgage-backed securities that the bank fraudulently sold to them as AAA that lost money. They are checking their math over and over and it doesn't add up. They should have studied harder.

  • Color me shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zynder (2773551) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:02PM (#45077601)
    Ha! You mean to tell me that all those kids who 10-20 years ago were getting a shit education grew up to be adults that don't know shit? Say it isn't so! Next thing you'll tell me is that correlation isn't causation and there is some bigger root cause we just haven't figured out yet.
  • by tftp (111690) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:03PM (#45077605) Homepage

    In math, reading and problem-solving using technology [...]

    And why would a common man need those skills in modern USA? Cash registers do all the math for a worker; there is nothing to read and no particular reason to bother, with TV in every room; and the only problem that needs to be solved is how to pay all the bills.

    Those skills are indeed essential - but only if you are innovating, inventing, doing new stuff. However how many US workers can proudly say that they do such things? The US economy is known to be a "service economy" - and those jobs are static, frozen in time, requiring no R&D.

    But if you work for a startup in a significant role, chances are good that you are smart and inventive. You may even read books now and then.

  • by BBF_BBF (812493) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:03PM (#45077607)
    Hmm... kids in the school system are below par, so why would anybody think that adults educated in the same system would suddenly become geniuses?

    Oh yeah, the Americans*, the same group that scored below average. ;-)

    * Yeah, yeah, all you Central Americans, South Americans, Mexicans, Canadians, etc., etc. you know that I mean USAians when using the term "Americans".

  • Does it matter? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:12PM (#45077673)
    Oddly enough, success in today's economy (or any other day's for that matter) doesn't depend very strongly on how well you perform on a multiple choice test. The U.S. has been scoring poorly relative to other countries for decades now, and continues to be the world leader in innovation and productivity. It is no coincidence that Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc., etc. are all American companies, or that the Internet was created in America, not to mention the personal computer, integrated circuits and transistors. Or GPS, or air travel, or (going back a bit) the light bulb and audio recording. Most of the things that make the world the way it is today come from America. And yet we keep scoring worse than the Finns on multiple choice international math tests. I don't think I'll lose any sleep over it.
    • The U.S. has been scoring poorly relative to other countries for decades now, and continues to be the world leader in innovation and productivity

      Imagine what we, as a nation, could achieve if we were well educated.

      • Re:Does it matter? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:32PM (#45077799)

        The U.S. has been scoring poorly relative to other countries for decades now, and continues to be the world leader in innovation and productivity

        Imagine what we, as a nation, could achieve if we were well educated.

        Probably about the same as other better educated countries. Americans are not genetically superior beings, nor is our country specially blessed by any deity. One of the reasons we don't score as well as some other countries is because we don't spend as much time in school. Very few other countries have two month summer vacations, for instance. And, at least for me, summer vacation was the time I was most creative and had the most active imagination. I believe those qualities are essential for innovation. (Remember, Thomas Edison had only three weeks of formal schooling.) Chinese students, on the other hand, spend almost every waking moment in school or doing school work. And although they score very well on international tests, employers frequently complain they don't think outside the box, or innovate as well as their American counterparts.

    • Re:Does it matter? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:38PM (#45077833)

      The US' average education has been going downhill steadily in the last two decades or so. Post-high-school education is becoming damn near unaffordable to all but the wealthy, and even basic "participate in the world" type skills are getting worse.

      Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc., etc. are all American companies

      Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had upper-class parents. Zuckerberg was able to afford going to Harvard, Brin was born in Russia and Page was the son to a famous computer scientist. All you're showing right now is that the upper echelons of American society are going to be fine, and 1st generation immigrants are doing well too.

      the Internet was created in America, not to mention the personal computer, integrated circuits and transistors. Or GPS, or air travel, or (going back a bit) the light bulb and audio recording.

      All of which happened at least 40 years ago.

      Most of the things that make the world the way it is today come from America.

      Not really. Most of what makes the world what it is today came from somewhere else. Paper, rockets, computing and sewers came from somewhere else. We've had a brief supremacy spell after WW2 until about the early nineties. After that, it's been steadily downhill. We're still ahead of everyone else, but this is exactly like a racer thinking he's going to win a race after losing a wheel: he might still be ahead now, but that's not going to last very long.

      And I see this type of short-sighted - actually, less than short-sighted; it is nothing but a snapshot analysis - far too often from Americans. Gloating that their GDP is still tops, that their per capita income is still tops, that they still dominate certain industries... without realizing that the gap is shrinking fast, and that the fundamentals are all wrong.

  • by sidevans (66118) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:20PM (#45077723) Homepage

    (Through the eyes of your average American)
    America - Totally Normal, just slightly lacking on education...
    Japan - Weird People, Known for Sushi, Nuclear incidents and Cosplay girls
    Finland - Freaks, Known for Insane Death Metal Bands and Rally drivers
    Canada - Canadians, Known for not being America
    Netherlands - Druggies, Known for being full of pot smokers
    Australia - Weird People, Known for all being criminals and bush rangers
    Sweden - More Weird People, Known for tall blonde women, word's ending in "ooorgan" and "ski", and families who shower together
    Norway - Must be Weird, Known for very little... I think it snows there
    Flanders-Belgium - Freaks, make chocolate and not get fat
    Czech Republic - Fucking Freaks, Known for street porn and getting mugged when travelling
    Slovak Republic - Nutters, just look at Slovakia on a map, it's worse than cz..
    Korea - Freaks, Known for having a north and south, wait Korea? do they have electricity there yet?

    BTW, I am from Australia - clearly, the more crazy and fucked up your nation is, the smarter it's population is.

  • by fox171171 (1425329) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:30PM (#45077785)
    Me fail English? That's unpossible. - Ralph Wiggum
  • by sien (35268) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:36PM (#45077827) Homepage

    The curious thing about this is that the US leads the world in high technology companies in many areas.

    Perhaps average adult scores don't matter that much. The distributions might be more important. Perhaps in the US there are enough really smart people to create Unix, C, SQL and many other things.

    Also, for the record, I'm a non-American who has lived in the US and Europe. It's fascinating that to an outsider the US doesn't appear to have a surplus of intelligence and yet dominates in IT and many other scientific fields.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:45PM (#45077887) Homepage
    I see this as one of the many negative emergent properties of MBA bottom line thinking. You get thinking that thinks that if you keep training an employee in general ways you will end up with your employee leaving and all your training then was to the benefit of another company. Whereas if your employees are under-qualified they will be terrorized into working as hard as they can every day for slave wages.

    Another effect of this short term thinking can be seen in most universities. If you invest in a top notch football coach and lavish training and whatnot on the team then you will have near instant wins that you can take to the board of directors. But if you invest in STEM and buy the physics department a pile of cool stuff then maybe, just maybe you will have one of your people win a Nobel prize 30 years from now. Some universities have realized that having really smart students and encouraging them to do cool things can result in near instant wins (Stanford, MIT) but few universities are willing to play the long game (Harvard and Yale seem to be which is funny as they churn out the short term mentality MBAs).

    So if you go to a university and want to cure cancer you might have an intellectually interesting time but I am willing to bet that the waterboy for the football team is having more fun. Then on top of that you have the post school job market situation. Again the waterboy will have better job prospects in sales with his BA in sociology than a PhD in Physics ever will. But the MBA or even BA in Business will blow everyone out of the water. Even the PhD who wants the bucks is well advised to jump into something like HFT.

    In the past we used terms like rocket scientist and had idols like Einstein and Feynman. But now the best we can do are a few pop culture TV scientists. There is no moon program, there is no nuclear program, there are no blackbird cool skunkworks capturing the public imagination. But there are sports stars, there are hedge-funds, and their are actors and that is about it.

    Being a nerd has never been the coolest thing in the world but right now it might be at its lowest ebb.

    But back to bashing MBAs. I have been to many companies when I was doing consulting. Fewer and fewer companies are allowing their employees much room for original thought. I have met truck drivers who weren't allowed to change a brake light. I have met IT people who ran a local office yet weren't allowed to deal with the tsunami of malware infecting all the machines because that was not their job. These are systems that were rigidly designed in some central office for maximum "efficiency" that are obviously total BS. You won't get a job in that central office by being an awesome IT person; but if you get an EMBA then you are suddenly VP material.

    If you watch the show Undercover Boss the theme is almost always the same. The top boss is surrounded by MBAs who have completely insulated him from the rest of the company. So by going out into the trenches he discovers that the primary effect of the Managerial Accounting that is thrown at him is that the halfwits at the very bottom of the company know that it is being badly run. Yet the reports he gets indicate that things are running at nearly 100% efficiency.

    So in this culture of only thinking about next weeks metrics how could someone ever think that embarking on a life long learning endevour would result in progress. Instead a culture of us vs them is created resulting in people reveling in their non-sophistication. If anything self-betterment would be a betrayal of your tribe.
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @10:46PM (#45077905)

    ... have the NSA get hold of the test answers for us in advance?

  • Finland (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:19PM (#45078085)

    I bring this up because Finland has been mentioned many times over the last few weeks in various regards to education. Some have pointed to it as great with education because of these scores or because the teachers are better or other things along that line. However all the speakers who say this seem to miss an important point that I had seen discussed in a Finnish magazine.

    And that is the issue of television and movies in Finland are all subtitled, and never dubbed. It seems minor but it's a huge incentive to learn to read. You can not be illiterate in Finland and watch the popular television programs or movies from America. Even Baywatch is subtitled in Finnish and Swedish. Not only do you have to read you have to read at a reasonable speed to keep up. So as a student if the rest of the children are talking about going to see Iron Man 3 and you can't read very well you now have an reason to work much harder.

    What was interesting in the article is that they compared Finland to Germany. Socially the two countries are reasonably similar with roughly similar types of educational systems. However German television and movies are all dubbed, which was pointed out as one possible reason for the large disparity in reading and literacy. From this current report for age 16-65 it shows Finland at number 2, with German below the average and only one step above the United States.

    Anyway, I thought it was an interesting idea. At the very least I think all the effort to figure out what they're doing different in schools from our schools won't cover the whole picture. Naturally, good reading skills improve performance in other subjects like mathematics.

    From the current report listed I note another interesting pattern on page 63, figure 2.1 which is a list of literacy rates (only highly literate nations, it wasn't a survey of all countries). The literacy rates are 1 to 5. The divide between level 2 and 3 was the center of the chart. For most of the countries, including the US, the percentage at level 3 is roughly the same at 40%, with only a couple countries exceeding that. The percentage of people at level 3 seems roughly the same for most countries listed. The differences seem that the higher countries have more people at the advanced literacy levels and fewer at who are below basic levels. I think Finland and Japan here may do well at low end of the scale because overall they have a relatively smaller number of immigrants and transient workers.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Finland has 5 million people.

      The US has 313 million people.

      There are more people in the US with Stanford-Binet IQ's over 133 than there are total people in Finland.

      More people live in the Miami MSA than in Finland.

  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:27PM (#45078137) Journal

    Tax cuts!

"The Amiga is the only personal computer where you can run a multitasking operating system and get realtime performance, out of the box." -- Peter da Silva

Working...