With the relatively recent addition of Betsy Devos as President Trump’s Secretary of Education, there have been mixed reviews about the Michigan native’s intentions for America’s education system. Several of her supporters agree with her stance on charter schools and school choice, while dissenters say her views on current educational practices just don’t make sense. While both sides may have their points, the bigger question the American populace is asking is perhaps more important than individual opinions of Devos’ competence: is America’s education system really that bad?
According to many outlets, the answer, surprisingly, is no.
In recent years, America has come under fire for its inability to “keep up” with other world powers. Many students from other countries seem to excel in math and sciences, speak multiple languages by the time they graduate, and command high-power positions in the workforce of their respective nations after their schooling. American students, on the other hand, have frequently been considered, for lack of a better word — dumb.
But, for all that America seems to lack on the educational front, a few interesting facts point to the notion that schools may just be doing a better job than critics often give them credit for. For starters, a recent report by Forbes indicates that America has won far more “Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and economics since World War II than any other country, by a wide margin.” Additionally, a report by the Bloomberg Innovation Index shows that the “United States ranks first” in creativity and innovation. Add to the mix the fact that states like California, Florida, and New York are widely considered some of the most innovative places on the planet, and an interesting theory presents itself; while the American education system’s nationwide curriculum may not be up to par with other developed countries, the way it teaches its students to think may far surpass even the most intelligent of nations.
According to reports, while several of the world’s top education programs focus on a rigorous, competitive approach to learning (South Korea’s education program, ranked No. 1 in the world, is also one of the most competitive learning atmospheres on the planet), the freedoms America affords its students seems to encourage more of an independent, creative mindset when it comes to learning. In fact, a recent report claims a high school in Prince William County of Virginia may soon allow its students to select their own classes and teachers. While this seems relatively unheard of at the secondary school phase, the same report surprisingly indicates the high school wouldn’t be the first school in America to endorse the practice.
While things like a student being able to select his or her own teachers or even design his or her own class schedule don’t necessarily seem earth-shattering, it’s the concept of choice that promotes independence and creativity, according to analysts. Ironically, other countries seem to understand the importance of fostering both mentalities, though they themselves may not practice it. In a rare, ironic statement shared on North Korea’s heavily-monitored official web page, the regime that is notorious for stifling both independence and creativity acknowledged the importance and correlation between the two.
“Independence, creativity and consciousness, the essential characteristics of man are closely related with each other and displayed in man’s activity in an integrated manner. Independence is closely related with creativity…. Independence is a factor which displays creativity and a guarantee for the realization of independence.”
While experts do acknowledge that many regions within America’s educational system need to do a better job of preparing future generations for the reality of business in a digital age, they also claim that the flexibility the system provides (specifically in terms of higher education) for a student to learn the way he or she wants to is unparalleled, and will continue to allow American students to excel for years to come.
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/AP Images]