According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (also known as the “Nation’s Report Card”), there have been steep declines in math and reading scores among American fourth and eighth graders, according to The New York Times.
These declines are the largest ever recorded in the history of the assessment, with math scores plummeting in all states except Utah and nearly 40% of eighth graders performing below basic achievement levels in math.
Reading scores have also dropped to levels not seen for over 30 years.
There has been speculation about the reasons behind the significant decline in academic performance among U.S. students during the pandemic, with some attributing it to the shift to online learning.
However, it is important to note that this decline was not solely caused by the pandemic. In fact, academic performance in the U.S. had been steadily declining for years before the pandemic.
Schools have attempted to mask declining student test scores and grades by implementing policies and curricula that are easier and cater to a perceived “dumbed-down” student population. This approach to education often results in students’ minds being “stuffed” with information that is not immediately useful or applicable, leading to a lack of critical thinking skills and the inability to apply knowledge in real-world situations.
Essentially, this approach leads to students’ brains becoming overloaded with so much useless information that they no longer have space to fit important and helpful information. In this way, knowing too much can be just as harmful as knowing too little.
It is also important to recognize that every student learns differently and that a one-size-fits-all approach to education may not be effective for all students. Some students may benefit from visual learning, while others may prefer a quiet environment or individual learning. By failing to consider these differences and instead adopting a uniform approach to teaching, schools may inadvertently make education more challenging for certain students.
The American education system has a lengthy and fragmented structure, with many students spending upwards of 18 years in school if they choose to attend college or university. This extended period of education is intended to prevent students from questioning the world around them and maintaining a level of ignorance. A more effective education system would encourage students to engage with and critically consider the world around them, rather than stifling their curiosity and desire to learn.
Schools have recognized that there is a limited amount of content that can be taught effectively over the course of a student’s education. As a result, a significant amount of time is spent repeating information and teaching basic concepts that could be grasped in a shorter period of time. This takes up valuable time and energy that could be spent learning high-income skills and contributing to the economy.
American students are often required to devote their energy to completing assignments and taking tests, rather than learning skills that could be applicable in the near future. Students are forced to accumulate random facts in their minds that are not immediately beneficial.
Many students struggle to retain information for long time periods. The mental strain, long study sessions, and potential financial burden of obtaining a degree may not be justified if the knowledge gained is not retained. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of the education system and whether it truly prepares students for success in their future careers.
The state of education in the U.S. is reflected in the job market, where many large companies prefer to hire workers from other countries over American citizens.
Students who have undergone the American education system may struggle to secure good job opportunities due to a lack of qualifications compared to those from countries with more vigorous education systems.
Recent data analyzed by the Seattle Times found that a significant portion of the tech industry in Silicon Valley is comprised of foreign-born workers. Specifically, 71 percent of tech workers in Silicon Valley are foreign-born, while 50 percent of tech workers in the San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward area are foreign-born. These numbers are largely the result of the H-1B visa program, which brings over 100,000 foreign workers to the U.S. annually.
This trend has significant implications for American graduates in STEM fields, who must compete with foreign workers imported by outsourcing firms and major tech companies. Each year, nearly 500,000 Americans graduate with degrees in STEM fields, yet they may struggle to find employment in the tech industry due to the formidable competition they face.
American workers are not competitive in the job market in large part because the American education system is broken. It is clear that longer education does not mean better education. A revamping of the education system is urgently needed. One option could be shortening K-12 to K-10 and providing options for on-the-job training.