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American Students May Underperform in Math and Science, but MMM, MMM, MMM, Can they Sing!

November 24, 2009

Obama shaking hands with South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak

President Barack Obama came to a startling realization last week while in South Korea: the educational system in South Korea is better at teaching kids math and science than ours is. In fact, when it comes to those subjects, the differences are truly startling. American students rank 21st in science and 25th in math compared with students in other countries, and they rank even lower vis-à-vis many Asian countries such as Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

CNN reported on the President’s tour of South Korean schools. Obama was visibly impressed with both what he saw and with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s explanation of why his country’s children excel:

Lee Myung-Bak: Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education.

The dropout rate for South Korean students is negligible, while ours has tripled in the past 30 years. South Korean children spend more time in the classroom, and while in school, they study hard. Obama concedes this fact:

Barack Obama: There is a hunger for knowledge [in South Korea], an insistence on excellence, a reverence for science and math and technology and learning.

So what does the President propose in order to get American students back on the right educational track and give them the skills which will allow them to take advantage of “expanding opportunit[ies] for all Americans in a world where education is the key to success?”

Will he order that the American educational system,which has been so politicized and imbued with liberal ideologies that both the curricula and the educators have been corrupted, be immediately and radically reformed? Will he begin to purge textbooks of leftist and politically correct content designed (and so carefully selected and presented) to have the greatest effect on impressionable young minds? Or, perhaps he will reign in the teachers’ unions, which have become increasingly more powerful and vocal in lobbying for non-educational issues?

None of the above.

The President, as usual, has taken the wrong approach to the problem. His answer is the “Educate to Innovate Campaign (EIC),” and he has enlisted the aid of that premier educator of children: Big Bird.

Obama explains that, EIC will be a two-year initiative focused on “Sesame Street,” where kids will be taught about math and science with an after-school program focusing on robotics. There will even be a national “lab” day to “provide students with hands-on scientific learning,” he proudly announced.

This program is about “expanding opportunity for all Americans in a world where education is the key to success. That used to be what we were about,” Obama said. “That’s what we’re going to be about again.”

If that’s the plan, then we’re in a heap of trouble.

  1. Sam Deakins permalink
    November 24, 2009 4:21 am

    Big Bird and Arne Duncan…birds of a feather.
    How many Ludacris’ and Lil Kim’s hippin’, hoppin’ and hoin’ does South Korea have?

    • HeatherRadish permalink
      November 24, 2009 5:46 am

      They have their own pop music culture and stars…but they don’t waste class time on it. The parents would revolt.

      Trouble is, we’re on the second or third (fourth in some families) generation of parents content to let the government decide what constitutes an education. I’m not even sure how many of them realize “playing with robots” isn’t learning to become proficient in mathematics.

  2. November 24, 2009 4:57 am

    But I can sing: The Jewish Defense League Marching Song

    This is the first time I tried to play a piece by ear and sing at the same time. When I was a kid a thought everyone could read musical notation. Now, I find that even famous rockstars cannot read music; e.g., Mick Jagger.

    I can also play piano, too: The Stars and Stripes Forever

    Anitra’s Tanze

    Those talents and $1.89 get me a cup of coffee.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here!”

    • Laurette permalink
      November 24, 2009 11:09 am

      Sure, when you were a child everyone could read notation, perform quadratic equations, and play ball like Babe Ruth. Don’t be ridiculous. For your information, plenty of great musicians could not read notation. Ever heard the tenor Ezio Pinza? He was a musical illiterate. And the authors of most of the world’s folk songs never wrote down a note.

      • F. Swemson permalink
        November 24, 2009 5:12 pm


        Regarding folk songs:

        You might find this somewhat entertaining

        • betty boop permalink
          November 24, 2009 8:07 pm

          Brava, Swemson! Tom Lehrer? Mahvelous, dahling. Thanks! Glad to know there’s a sense of humor out there!

          • F. Swemson permalink
            November 24, 2009 8:19 pm

            Thank you M’Lady;

            It’s nice to know, that I’m not the only one here who appreciates such arcane humor…

            I’ll try and sneak a few others past Mr. Swindle….


  3. jjay permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:20 am

    And let’s see… what WERE those budget comparisons of what we spend on education to what we spend on the military?

    We spend more on OUR OWN MILITARY expenses in South Korea than we spend on education in this country. We spend more on ADVERTISING for recruitment to the military than we spend on EDUCATION in this country, much less on advertising to RECRUIT OR PAY COMPETITIVE SALARIES FOR TEACHERS in this country. We spend more on TRAINING MILITARY RECRUITS to go and pull a trigger or guide a drone to bomb innocents than we do on TRAINING TEACHERS to take on the inner city challenges of getting kids interested in learning useful skills, trades and service jobs unless it’s ‘service’ in the military.
    And you have the apparently shrinking intelligence to question Obama about why he hasn’t corrected a misguided policy in one year that has been going on, sanctioned and/or conveniently ignored by Congress and the American consumer for more than sixty years?
    Open those inquiring eyes my friend. You got lots to learn and more responsibility to correct this travesty than you may have thought.

    • betty boop permalink
      November 24, 2009 6:16 am

      Oh, of course, jjay. Blame Bush. Perhaps in S.Korea, the citizens are capable of an original thought. That does not take more spending for lazy, well-fed left leaning teachers who teach nothing but propaganda. Just a culture that places intelligence and learning at the forefront instead of licking old wounds and tearing apart their own culture. It takes a culture looking ahead, not one burning all it’s bridges and annihilating it’s own success. Wanna see our future? Go watch Mad Max. Better yet, read Ayn Rand. If you can.

    • Mik permalink
      November 24, 2009 6:45 am

      ay. Who has controlled the educational system for the last sixty years? First your numbers are absurd. Are you saying that the Federal Government spends less on education that on advertising? I even doubt that, but let’s accept your premise. Now we have to add what all 50 states and all local governments spend on education. I guess you did not study math in Korea, or logic.

      I have taught HS Science in one of the areas that have attracted the most Korean immigrants in California. I can tell you that they care little for all the social engineering of the last 60 years. They have come to the US, because only a select percentage of students make it into the science and engineering programs in their homeland. So we get the second 10% of the students. In general, with limited English they kick the “American” students butts. Why? Because they spent the first 10 years of their time in school, drilling math facts, solving algebra problems, and advancing through the Math curriculum as fast as they were able. While our kids were learning about contraception and hate crime legislation. Oh by the way, they tend to be excellent in the arts as well. Ink, pencil, water color, music – not sure if the discipline of the arts feeds their academic success or if discipline in general feeds them both.

    • Cas Balicki permalink
      November 24, 2009 6:48 am

      I wish the Department of Education and the NEA would get their act together and teach students to turn caps lock off. Now that would be money well spent!

    • November 24, 2009 7:52 am

      Oh, please … we spend enough on education in my state to send every child to the best private schools. The problem with education in America is that somewhere along the line we decided the purpose of the education system was to provide jobs for teachers, feeding troughs for piggy administrators, votes for politicians, and indoctrination centers for a left wing radical agenda of free sex and minority group think …. anything and everything but teaching children the real things they need to know to survive and thrive as adult citizens.

      During the Clinton administration, the Dept. of Education purged schools of classic literature and replaced much of it with pc drivel. Classroom time that should be spent on science, math, financial literacy, reading, writing, civics, history, is spent on birth control, sex education and politically correct tolerance of everything except the ideas that our nation was founded on. I’ve designed educational materials and sat in on meetings where the focus was on how to “dumb down” content for inner city minorities so our product could be sold. I’ve worked with teachers who could cite every educational theory yet understood nothing about how individual children learn. I’ve worked with teachers who could weave magic in a classroom, yet were frustrated by the bureaucratic limits placed on them. I’ve watched valuable programs eliminated or diluted to swill for fear of litigation. I’ve been in classrooms where the cost per student exceeded $20,000 per year not counting state subsidies to run the school system as a whole, where high school students were forced to share 5 yr old text books. I’ve been in others where the school provided the latest and greatest in technology and quality materials and a tenured teacher sat in front of the room reading from a text in a monotone without raising her head once, while students passed notes and threw spitballs.

      Teachers are chosen based on ethnic parity with the student body, rather than an ability to teach, or until passage of No Child Left Behind, basic knowledge, let alone passion for, the subjects they are teaching. They are paid based on letters after their names and time on the job rather than merit. Funds that should be focused on student materials are diverted to pay for supervisors and diversity facilitators, security officers and social workers. Teachers are banned by union rules from offering outside instruction for struggling students or keeping students after class for disciplinary reasons. Teachers complain they are forced to “teach to the test,” and call for their elimination. State education departments dumb down the tests to improve their statistics. Special interests never seriously consider re-designing tests so that they reflect useful content and thinking skills. The system is broke, not because of lack of funds, but because those funds are controlled by political special interests rather than the consumers of public education – students and their parents.

    • Bill permalink
      November 24, 2009 8:16 am

      JJAY, its not America’s fault for our childrens education failure…it’s the parents fault because they fail to monitor there progress.As a parent it’s your job to make sure the child studies, does homework, and ask questions about what they learned today. We now have a society of “single parents”…these are kids who happened out of a sex act and not a family. Your suppose to have 2 parents…not one. There’s a reason for that…it’s called Mother AND Father. I am a strong believer in a family unit. You could have the best teachers in the world teaching here, but if the parents don’t care, and the kid don’t care…they’ll never learn.

      • F. Swemson permalink
        November 24, 2009 5:27 pm

        Bobbi & Bill

        Actually it’s the liberal/ progressives and the welfare state they created that’s at fault here…

        So many of the poor, never bothered to learn anything at school, because they knew they were going to be getting their gub-mint check, and welfare housing…

        So how could such people possibly encourage their kids to learn in school, when they don’t even know what the concept means.. What do you think the current high school drop out rate is?

        In some states it’s over 50%

        And here’s another little tidbit that ties this all together:

        Among youth ages 16 to 24, Hispanics accounted for 41 percent of all current high school dropouts in 2005. However, they only made up 17 percent of the total youth population.

        Once again, the liberal/ progressives who claim to want to help the poor, are actually their worst enemies, because they discourage ambition and initiative in order to keep them subservient to them as they hand out more unearned benefits to them to get their votes, & we’re footing the bill as usual.

    • In the Know permalink
      November 24, 2009 11:33 am

      Your BS isn’t even funny anymore. Your comment about spending allocations is patently false, as is your accusation regarding educational practices over the last 60 years. It is evident you believe educational motivation rests on teachers. You are dead wrong. Children emulate their parents.

    • Jonathan permalink
      November 24, 2009 12:52 pm

      Hey jjay,

      What’s the annual cost of educating a kid in America versus the cost in South Korea?

      Adjusted for inflation, etc.

      Would you care to make a bet that we spend MUCH more than the Koreans do?

      There is no problem with American education. It accomplishes exactly what the Left intends for it to accomplish. Academics is secondary.

  4. Kent Clizbe permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:42 am


    What is the correlation between expenditures and student achievement?

    Korea spends $6,700 per pupil in its education system, and finished 2nd in an international math test.

    The United States spends an average of $9,900 per pupil. Our students placed 26th in the same international math test!

    The amount of money you spend on schools does NOT correlate to student achievement.

    Student achievement requires a national culture that rewards and respects academic achievement.

    Korea’s culture does that. Ours does not.

    This is an issue of cultural decay and decline. It is an issue of a Progressive takeover of the key elements of America’s culture.

    We are seeing the results of a sustained effort to bring America down to size.

    Is 26th far enough?

    Can we go back to where we used to be now?

    Could Arne and Barrack leave us alone? Could the NEA just be happy with its current riches, and let us teach our children?

    It will probably take a lot more effort than just asking the NEA and its minions to leave us alone. But it’s past time to start that effort….

  5. frank permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:51 am

    Its not the education system its the culture. Take any kid coming from China, Japan or Korea put them in an
    American school and watch them not only learn but beat the tar and feathers out of the Amaerican kids.

    • betty boop permalink
      November 24, 2009 6:23 am


    • Mik permalink
      November 24, 2009 6:47 am

      but we worry about the unfair pressure that Mom and Dad place on the kids. The expectations are too high. Poor kids. They have to be successful. Can you imagine? How arrogant of their parents

  6. Carterthewriter permalink
    November 24, 2009 8:04 am

    After reading an article written by Dr. Mike Adams entitled “A Generation of Sociopaths” I came to the conclusion the emphasis to achieving is no longer a goal in our educational system.

    At some point in time, our children must learn to become responsible adults, but if the government doesn’t think its citizens are responsible adults, how can our children learn to respect their parents? Simply put; they can’t and don’t.

    Then, too, the examples of unethical behavior within those in Washington have not been very positive.

  7. John Redman permalink
    November 24, 2009 8:11 am

    Basic axiom of Mathmatics: Stupidity is the first derivative of liberalism.

    • peachey permalink
      November 24, 2009 2:29 pm

      Why John, that is so accurate and true. Thanks for a good chuckle. I will credit you as I use it in the future.

  8. Elaine B permalink
    November 24, 2009 9:01 am

    The Department of Education will spend $78 billion in 2009, or $667 for every U.S. household. It employs 4,100 workers and oversees more than 2,050 pages of regulations. That doesn’t include the taxes property owners and others pay in local property taxes to fund schools.

    In 2008, the Department of Education spending of $68 billion was more than double the level in 2000 of $33 billion.

    The No Child Left Behind Act increased spending for K-12 from $20 billion in 2000 to $37 billion by 2005.

    And still our children still underperform.

    How much money will ever be enough when more and more of it doesn’t seem to make any differences?

  9. Kenneth Gareau permalink
    November 24, 2009 10:22 am

    This country would be far better off leaving the tax dollars allocated to the Federal Department of Education in the hands of the people. Neuter the teachers unions and really privatize the schools in each state.

    The Department of Education adds nothing to our children’s education but is extremely effective at sucking the dollars from each of us for providing us with a bureaucratic nightmare.

    When are we going to learn that the control of government closest to the people works best and can be changed far faster and easier than a centrally planning large federal one.

    All the above comments are true but until we get states rights back again we will never correct the problem.

    Let’s re invigorate the Tenth Amendment!

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      November 24, 2009 10:33 am

      Good point. It is easier to control the state legislators than those we send to Washington. That is too apparent now, too. They’re all tax happy, though.

      • Kenneth Gareau permalink
        November 27, 2009 12:34 pm

        To: Carterthewriter.
        You are mostly right. We are succeeding in Arizona, albeit the constitutionally and conservatively challenged governor is really not conservative or a true constitutional supporter, in cutting spending and not raising taxes to solve the budget deficit. Governor Brewer just recently reversed her increases in certain areas and cut back spending by about I think, 300 million dollars more. We just have to keep the pressure on, letting them know we are watching, and will vote according to following the constitutions of the states and the Federal governments. I really sense that if 2010 plays out as bad for those ignoring the constitutions of both, as I think it will, those in power will have less BS to back their incompetent spending decisions on. We just must never give up!

  10. November 24, 2009 10:58 am

    I maintain that American education stands or falls not on budget figures or fancy new teaching programs but on the strength of the family unit. It’s been my experience that when parents are actively involved, education occurs regardless of other factors. Parents who put firm demands on their children as well as their schools usually get results.

  11. November 24, 2009 11:21 am

    If money would solve problems American would have NONE!
    We have bought into being Politically correct to the degree we’ve lost all common sense.

    Here’s a great example.
    We are about to get a bill rammed down our throats that will fine or imprison if we do not buy health coverage as mandated by our government, yet the man who is the master mind behind 9-11 is going to have the same trial and rights american citizens have in our courts.

    Seems to me we are more concerned about offending Islam than we are of offending the American people.

  12. jjay permalink
    November 24, 2009 11:30 am

    Wow! Hit some raw nerves didn’t we ?? Thanks for all the responses folks.

    What we have, as is unfortunately usually the case, a lot of one dimensional points being made, including some of my own.

    There is NO DOUBT that spending tax dollars is NOT the only solution to education or ANY issue we face. We Americans as the ultimate consumers have a much too difficult time in realizing complexities. However, we ARE one of the richest nations in the world and we have the resources to make our educational system the best.
    To too few of us, it is OBVIOUS that we need to know where, how and when to spend those precious dollars.

    Culture, as one example brought up several times in response, cannot be extricated from education. They are intertwined in ways that are crucial to any society. Our lack of student achievement is NOT and NEVER WILL BE separate, all the blame of one or the other. As an instructor of over 35 years, it is one of those hurdles that has to continually be challenged in students. Life is NOT that simple. Our problems do not emerge from ONE cause. We are a complicated society and too many of us refuse to learn how to deal with more than one cause at a time.

    This venue is one of those limiting our ability to think dimensionally rather than simplistically. Consumerism cannot be separated from it. Look at “Twitter” and ‘texting’ that encourages shallow responses and little space for reason, only off the cuff, curt remarks.

    Generalities as in, “blame Bush” and “In general, with limited English they kick the “American” students butts.Why? Because they spent the first 10 years of their time in school, drilling math facts, solving algebra problems, and advancing through the Math curriculum as fast as they were able. While our kids were learning about contraception and hate crime legislation. ” should have not place in anyone’s logic. These are great examples of over simplification and making answers appear to be where they are not.

    First of all, I never mentioned Bush and have intentionally laid the fault at any and all who have held political office in the past “60 years”. Besides, everyone knows Cheney planned his presidency since his days with Nixon and Reagan. He was in control of the White House decision for at least six years. AND one does not blame a moron for being a moron.

    Second, I have taught many ethnic groups and have found too many variances in abilities, motivation and skill to lay a gross generality to as the above statement on any ethnic group. That’s just too easy a way out folks. Life is not that simplistic, thank God!

    Third, of course the Department of Education spends billions, which goes to the states, which some have said are easier to control. Well, get out there and control those dollars then. Someone closer to you is making those decisions. If it’s that easy, DO IT! The real point is the disparity between where our money goes. Right now, our culture says it is better to send our youth overseas to kill and be killed in wars, not matte how many lives we lose –
    INSTEAD of spending the same amount of dollars on building nations with schools, farms, businesses one at a time.
    NO AMOUNT OF LIVES LOST is worth that kind of effort to this nation.

    Fourth, the same goes for Unions. They gave us many of the living standards we have today. They certainly are NOT perfect, but when operated by locals as they should be, they defend and protect workers rights. They create problems, no doubt, but they are not the sole cause of the problems with education as some would have us believe. They usually need to be addressed on an individual issue basis as does every challenge.

    And last, for now, when educators are respected and treated as politicians treat themselves and paid as our government has recently paid private contractors (with no-bid contracts – thanks again Cheney) to do work for our government (with no consequences for shoddy work, by the way ), then our culture will begin putting the amount of emphasis on education perhaps where it should be. That might include as in many nations, a full, free education for any child or adult who desires it.

    If you got this far, thanks again for your time and thoughts.
    Enjoy your coming holiday.

    • Jonathan permalink
      November 24, 2009 1:00 pm

      So, what will become of you when the dollar collapses, jjay? However can you educate kids without your huge precious entitlement state?

      You spent a lot of time saying nothing. Just criticizing any contrarian ideas. UNTIL, you finally suggested a big fat pay raise for teachers. So that they get paid as much as politicians and “Cheney’s subcontractors.” The opinion of a lot of people is that YOU GET PAID TOO MUCH FOR WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH ALREADY.

      It doesn’t work that way in socialism, jjay. You of all people should know how much teachers make in Cuba. And government employed doctors, for that matter.

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      November 24, 2009 4:11 pm

      Typical response is that we are the richest nation in the world. Then what is Obama doing in China, bowing for his health, no, begging for more credit. Make sense, man: slipping the dig against Cheney along the way: Typical, sir.

  13. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:10 pm

    Hey JJay, after reading your second response, I appreciate the way you broke down your opinion. Obviously, your a Democrat, and thats ok, I’m not upset by your thoughts. I must admit, I originally figured you to be a pinhead, but after weighting what your wrote, your an intellegent person who put alot of thought into his answer. And you enjoy your holiday too.

  14. peachey permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:45 pm

    It’s ok jjay, I will just out to the money tree in my back yard, gather up as much as I can and take it down to the LA Unified School District offices where the administration budget is 29% and the Teachers Union (along with police and firefighters) has bankrupted this state. The key word is “victim”. When the victim mentality is removed, performance and exellence emerge. I currently like in a state that has gone belly-up thanks to the teachers union, so please don’t tell me about the plight of the poor teachers and the buffoons that are allowed to teach because they cannot be fired. If you want to meet people that deserve more money just go into a shopping mall, a hospital or any other business. Your point of view has no footing in view of the past history of communism and Marxist history. If you want to talk about corrupt contracts, just look to the unions. Why do you think that the teacher’s unions are so opposed to school vouchers???? Because, it would allow disadvantaged kids the opportunity to attend private schools where the education is superior to the public education that costs significantly more per pupil. Unions helping the workers stopped 40 years ago. Now they are greedy, malignancies that have created wealth among a few to the detriment of the majority. Just look at the “healthcare” bill. It is a pay back and the assurance that union leaders will be rewarded and paid their giant retirement packages. Wow, such a deal.Oh, that’s right, I will be forced to pay for it.

  15. Elaine B permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:38 pm

    The day public education was mandated was the beginning of our decline.

    Since then, children have been taught merely what the state believes is necessary for people to become future revenue for the government or one of millions of government workers needed only because the state has taken over the responsibility of teaching and raising our children.

    As the state has destroyed the family unit and taken over the role of parents, the only education children can realistically receive is the indoctrination of those who happen to be in power. Those in power never hope that children will learn to think critically and independently, be responsible and self-sufficient adults, or hope to become anything other than a commodity useful only so long as they can bring in more revenue to keep the state the all-powerful entity with absolute control.

  16. Edward Stillwell permalink
    November 25, 2009 2:39 am

    Haven’t we been hearing this same retoric on an annual basis ever since “sputnik” was launched? Some things will never change.


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