Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Higher Education in the U.S. vs. Europe


Matthew Yglesias says:

I’m a bit surprised to learn that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was ringing the alarm bells about the state of American schools by saying that we’re “behind Denmark and Finland” in terms of the percent of younger working-age adults with post-secondary degrees.

Countries like Denmark and Finland are basically poster children for the interrelatedness of social policy concerns, something conservatives are usually keen to deny preferring instead to believe that if we just squeezed teachers harder the schools would be great. But the child poverty rate in Denmark is 2.4 percent and in Finland it’s 2.8 percent. In the United States it’s 21.9 percent. And of course poor children do substantially worse in school than do non-poor children.

Of course, the first issue here is whether we should focus on trying to get as many people as possible into college — as George Leef has demonstrated on this blog, there’s really no evidence that we see any benefits for doing so.

But more to Yglesias’s specific point is an argument I make in my review of Charles Murray’s Real Education: Despite the widespread assumption that U.S. education fails in international comparisons, when you compare U.S. whites to majority populations in other developed countries, we do fine.

Our problem is that we do a terrible job educating blacks and Hispanics. Therefore, when looking for examples to follow, we should be seeking out countries that do a good job with minority populations, especially blacks and Hispanics. Neither Denmark nor Finland fits this description. There is absolutely no point in changing our policies to match those of a country that educates white kids about as well as we educate white kids.


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