The Demographic Challenges Ate My Homework

by Mark Steyn

I don’t quite buy Jason Richwine’s insouciance about the wretched U.S. scores on international education rankings:

While the U.S. gets mediocre scores, it also has demographic and socioeconomic challenges that the more homogeneous European and East Asian countries do not.

Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are also “settler” nations, yet all significantly out-perform U.S. schools on these charts. If the argument is that those countries have less insane immigration policies (which is certainly true), the upcoming amnesty is only going to make those challenges even more challenging.

As for “homogeneous” European countries, it’s correct that the general population of Continental states remains more homogenous than America, but the school population certainly isn’t. By 2009 in Antwerp, for example, 40 per cent of grade-schoolers selected Islam for their confessional class*, versus 26 per cent Catholic. Yet Belgium is up there with the PISA “top performers.” Even Russia, which has “demographic and socioeconomic challenges” from the Caucasus to Siberia, outperforms the U.S. on math scores, albeit by a single point (482 to 481).

And the U.S. taxpayer spends more per pupil than his counterparts in Russia, Belgium, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand (and that’s before you add in a trillion dollars of personal debt for pseudo-university). To achieve the same lousy math scores as the U.S., Slovakia spends a third of what we do.

These scores accurately reflect a system that is lavishly funded but utterly mediocre. No point sugar-coating that.

[*clarification: religious studies]

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