Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Five Ways to Fix America’s Schools

AMERICAN education was once the best in the world. But today, our private and public universities are losing their competitive edge to foreign institutions, they are losing the advertising wars to for-profit colleges and they are losing control over their own admissions because of an ill-conceived ranking system. With the recession causing big state budget cuts, the situation in higher education has turned critical. Here are a few radical ideas to improve matters:

Raise the age of compulsory education. Twenty-six states require children to attend school until age 16, the rest until 17 or 18, but we should ensure that all children stay in school until age 19. Simply completing high school no longer provides students with an education sufficient for them to compete in the 21st-century economy. So every child should receive a year of post-secondary education.

The benefits of an extra year of schooling are beyond question: high school graduates can earn more than dropouts, have better health, more stable lives and a longer life expectancy. College graduates do even better. Just as we are moving toward a longer school day (where is it written that learning should end at 3 p.m.?) and a longer school year (does anyone really believe pupils need a three-month summer vacation?), so we should move to a longer school career...

One measure of the degradation of our public conversation is the manner in which statistics are mangled by advocates of education. The benefits of an extra year of schooling are extra-ordinarily questionable. "better health, more stable lives and a longer life" may be correlated with incrementally more education but correlation does not imply causation.

Further, perhaps the author had a miserable childhood, but recalling my own, I find it easy to imagine a three-month summer vacation comes with measurable benefit.

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