Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

In late September, President Obama announced a goal. Noting that American students average out in the middle of the pack, vis-à-vis students worldwide, in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), he pledged to recruit 10,000 STEM teachers over the next two years.

This was put in proper context by Andrew J. Coulson, on a Cato website. He displayed two graphs. One compared employment rates versus enrollment rates in public schools. The enrollment rates have slightly risen since 1970, while the employment rate has skyrocketed. In the other graph, the inflation-adjusted cost of a K-12 education contrasts with achievement scores for reading, math, and science during the same period. The costs skyrocketed, while the test scores had barely moved.

Perhaps students should be encouraged to apply a little math to this.

From economics we have the concept of diminishing returns. For each expenditure of input, smaller increases are expected of output. So, if we’ve been increasing teachers and administrators during this period, but the scores have neither diminished nor increased, this suggests a number of things, chief being that, well, expenditure of funds on public schooling is not the chief variable in improving knowledge or achievement. Not now, anyway.

So why would we increase expenditures?

Could the expected returns be political rather than academic? Could President Obama care more about teacher union support, say, than what kids actually learn?

Far be it for me to suggest this. Let the data alone do that.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Murray Bass says:

    Public education continues to fail students(not grade wise,performance wise) They do not build the foundations for learning. Langusge literacy_ the ability to read and math literacy.
    I head a non profit Tools of Learning for Children which helps preschols teach kids to read. The program we use, Frontline Phonics works. It is fun and almost all of the 2000+ kids in the program are reading vefore they are 5 years old. We ned to get government out of the education business and restructure our education priorities. Then demand that every child become literate. throw out the old curriculum which has failed our kids. Help teachers succed and weed out those who can’t get the job done. We know how to teach kids the basics they need to succeed in life . We just aren’t doing it.

  2. Cletus Tauer says:

    Your analysis is excellent but you completely miss the point. The problem with public education is that it has been nationalized. Catholic Social policy includes the Principal of Subsidiarity: All political functions must be executed at the lowest level of government possible. We must get rid of the Federal meddling in education and even much of which is done at the State levels. I was educated first in a single room school and went on to help create the computer revolution which, in fact, is a cause of our current generation’s lack of Math skills. School Boards must report to the parents, not to teacher’s unions or Federal agents. Its Common Sense!

  3. bruce stark says:

    This sounds like Obama took a page from Ike’s songbook. The same thing was heard after Sputnik was launched. Throw money at the administrators, not the teachers and some will trickle down to the students.
    Our education must be destroyed in order to save it.

  4. Dagney says:

    “Could the expected returns be political rather than academic? Could President Obama care more about teacher union support, say, than what kids actually learn?”

    You betcha!

  5. Drik says:

    Don’t confuse a liberal politician with facts. Facts don’t get them reelected.
    Everything has gone downhill since the state power was given up in the 17th ammendment. The state was to help balance out the control of the government. With it’s power gone, the people have no one else to stand on their side against the imperial government

  6. Paul Jacob says:

    Cletus — It wasn’t my subject here, but I’m with you on the problem of “nationalizing” education. You might enjoy a recent commentary, “My Child Before My Country,” here:

    Decisions should, indeed, be made closest to home.

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