Of all the factors that go into sustaining a vibrant culture, a thriving economy and a conscientious electorate perhaps none is more important than having a solid education system. One look at the state of ours leaves little mystery as to why America is wanting in all three of those areas.
Attempts to spend our way out of the problem have been unsuccessful. The U.S. shells out more on education than any country other besides Switzerland—an average of nearly $150,000 per student over the course of a 13-year school career, more than double what we spent 40 years ago. But we have little to show for it.
In 2009, the U.S. ranked 17th in reading, 31st in math and 23rd in science, bested in all categories by countries like Estonia, Iceland and Slovenia. China ranked first across the board.
Meanwhile, the education gap is widening between rich and poor, and barely half of high-school students in America’s largest cities graduate on time.
Our country is facing a crisis of education, and like any other crisis—be it an earthquake or a terrorist attack—this crisis requires a unified response that pushes the envelope and makes tough, and sometimes controversial decisions.