Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Getting the Sputnik Era’s ‘Where We Stand’ Wrong

October 14, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In his Commentary “Where We Stand: Echoes of Sputnik and a Call to Action” (Sept. 24, 2008), Ronald Thorpe commits two errors, one of them rare, the other all too common. The rare one happens when he asserts, “The United States once led the world in math, science, and other critical subjects.” This simply is not true.

When international academic comparisons began in the 1960s, the United States was average or below average, depending on topic and grade. The fact is that these comparisons say nothing about the quality of education in various countries, nor do they bear on global competitiveness. (When Japan sunk into 15 years of economic stagnation and/or recession, for example, Japanese kids continued to ace tests.)

The all-too-common error occurs when Mr. Thorpe claims that “the Russians had beaten us to the punch in space exploration by launching Sputnik.” Wrong again. As I wrote in an online Commentary for Education Week (“The Sputnik Effect,” Oct. 2, 2007) and detailed more extensively in the October 2007 Phi Delta Kappan (both pieces written for Sputnik’s 50th anniversary), the United States could have beaten the Russians by over a year—but chose not to.

I suggest that Mr. Thorpe produce a documentary to help dispel the terrible myths about Sputnik, from which the schools have never recovered.

Gerald W. Bracey

Alexandria, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the October 15, 2008 edition of Education Week as Getting the Sputnik Era’s ‘Where We Stand’ Wrong

Events

Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read