04
Jan
11

US Finally Reaches… Average. Ho Hum

Here’s a disheartening story I read from Education Week:

American students’ science performance climbed to the average for leading industrialized nations, while their mathematics performance remained below the average, despite gains in that subject from the last round of testing in 2006, based on results released today from a prominent international assessment.

In reading, meanwhile, U.S. performance was roughly flat compared with earlier testing cycles, with 15-year-olds staying at about the average for the 34 nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In a conference call with reporters, Stuart Keraschsky, the deputy commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said the results from the 2009 administration of the Program for International Student Assessment offer some reason for encouragement, at least in science and math.

“The needle doesn’t move very far very fast in education,” he said. Still, he suggested that the changes seen in achievement in those two subjects “were moving in the right direction.”

Read more…

Frankly, I’m pretty tired of hearing how horrible we’re doing in science when it’s based on a world opinion that doesn’t reflect the US population. We as a nation are much more conservative, democratic, freedom-minded, capitalistic than most of the social-democratic (at best) world. We are arguably losing the battle for democracy and capitalism in Europe. We are not respected today as we were when the US rode to the world’s rescue during WWII, so I’m not sure how relevant it is to consider their opinion of our scientific achievements.

Consider the following facts:

  • According to Pew Research, the public has a much more negative view of U.S. success in science than scientists do themselves. Only 17 percent of the public consider U.S. scientific achievements the “best in the world,” compared to 49 percent of scientists. And 31 percent of the public considers U.S. scientific achievements to be average or below average, compared to only 6 percent of scientists. Also, the percentage of the public who consider science/medicine/technology to be the country’s greatest achievement in the last 50 years has fallen from 47 percent in 1999 to 27 percent. Maybe perception is greater than reality and Americans are believing the world’s claim that we aren’t accomplished scientists–when in fact, we are.
  • In 2009, President Obama didn’t help the situation by promising to reclaim American prominence in science, what Americans heard was we are no longer prominent. By what measure are we not world leaders in science? Perception is greater than reality when it comes from a voice Americans respect.
  • According to QS World University Rankings 2010, American universities garnered ten of the top twenty spots as best Science university in the world.
  • QS World University Rankings also place seven out of fifteen top slots for computer science and technology with American universities:
science universities

7 out of 15 top science universities are American

  • According Unesco, one-fifth of science researchers are American, a number equal to all of Europe:
science researchers

One-fifth of science researchers are American

So, the public doesn’t think–and our President agrees–that we aren’t leaders in science. Can anyone prove that to me?

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