To the Editor:
Gerald W. Bracey makes a common error in his effort to prove that America’s education system is doing better than naysayers would have the public believe (“Education’s ‘Groundhog Day’,” Feb. 2, 2005). His argument, essentially, is this: If our schools are so bad, how come our economy is so good?
Our economy is stronger than that of other advanced countries because it is freer. Let me provide an example. Mr. Bracey cites one-time economic powerhouse Japan to make his case: “A few years after A Nation at Risk appeared, the economy of high-scoring Japan slumped. It has yet to recover. Japanese kids still ace tests. They finished sixth in math and second in science in PISA 2003, and second, second, third, and fifth in the four rankings in TIMSS 2003. But somehow their stellar performance with tests doesn’t grow Japan’s gross domestic product.”
Japan cannot compete with the United States—whatever the skills of its young people—because it protects 90 percent of its businesses from outside competition. This protection has crippled its economy.
The United States is not immune to protectionist folly, but most countries are an order of magnitude more protectionist than we are. That is what’s behind our economic dynamism.
There is one industry, however, that we zealously protect from competition: primary and secondary education. Fortunately for us, so do our global competitors.
But what if we were bold enough to give the dynamism that makes the rest of our economy strong free rein in the crisis-laden, constantly-spinning-our-wheels world of K-12 education?
A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as ‘Dynamism’ of Economy Doesn’t Extend to Schools