Are Stagnant Academic Standards Related to Fear of Climate Change?

PISA Academic Ratings 2018. Source PISA

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

US academic standards are stagnating, despite huge investment in trying to improve the education system. Maybe its about time politicians and academics started asking why.

‘It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts

An international exam shows that American 15-year-olds are stagnant in reading and math even though the country has spent billions to close gaps with the rest of the world.

By Dana Goldstein Dec. 3, 2019Updated 11:47 a.m. ET

The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe.

And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency.

The disappointing results from the exam, the Program for International Student Assessment, were announced on Tuesday and follow those from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an American test that recently showed that two-thirds of children were not proficient readers.

Over all, American 15-year-olds who took the PISA test scored slightly above students from peer nations in reading but below the middle of the pack in math.

Mr. Schleicher said that differences in school quality affected the performance of American students less than it affected the performance of students in many other nations — meaning that in the United States, there is more achievement diversity within schools than across schools.

Some education leaders said they saw no reason to drastically change policy directions.

Read more:

The PISA report is available here.

Why do I think this stagnation might be related to climate activism?

Last September, a prominent Australian drug rehabilitation specialist testified before a government committee that fear of climate change and lack of economic security is contributing to the drug epidemic.

… Fifth, efforts to reduce the demand for powerful psychoactive drugs in Australia have had limited benefit and require a new focus. Unless and until young Australians feel optimistic about their future, demand for drugs will remain strong. Young people, understandably, want more certainty about their future prospects, including climate, education, jobs and housing affordability. Change will be slow and incremental, like all social policy reform. …

Read more:

What do you say to convince a child to study hard and do their homework, if they believe the world is about to end?

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December 4, 2019 6:21 am

And even so, come out above the UK

Curious George
Reply to  Phillip Walker
December 4, 2019 7:55 am

The UK has to eliminate a lot of mathematics to catch up with the US.

Reply to  Phillip Walker
December 4, 2019 12:31 pm

Phillip Walker

Dragged down, sadly, by Scotland (under the SNP devolved government) Wales (also a devolved government) and NI, effectively with no government!

Reply to  Phillip Walker
December 5, 2019 4:19 am

whats the percentage of NON english kids in the uk now though?
reckon thats part of the story for aus as well
and might be time to ditch the phones n majority pc based stuff n go back to book they actually have to read and cant divert to a more fun webpage etc

Reply to  ozspeaksup
December 5, 2019 2:56 pm

No problem. Just do as Sweden. Simply eliminate non-native kids from the tested population. Improved the result quite a bit!

December 4, 2019 6:35 am

But let us not lose sight of the fact that while the brains of our children may be withering away, their little texting thumbs are able to move at speeds approaching the speed of light, while at the same time, exerting several grams of pressure.

December 4, 2019 6:51 am

Missing Germany , but not wondering about 😀

Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 6:53 am

Sinking standards are “in-your-face” obvious to anyone who really looks at the situation. With the atrocious actions in education over the last 30 years (in the U.S. and Canada), they couldn’t possibly result in anything differently.
Preposterous ideas like no homework, no exams, no marks, inclusion, rampant socialism, overreaching control by special interest groups, and so forth have been the catalyst for massive decay in the educational system(s). Public schools have become nothing more than very expensive anti-education baby-sitting services.
As a retired educator, I know first hand that there is more than enough money put into education; it’s how it is used which is causing the problems.

Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 7:23 am

Yep. What you learn is limited by how hard you work.

Chinese parents are notorious because they pressure their children to work hard. The standard joke is that the Chinese treat an A the way anyone else would treat a D. “You got 98%. What happened to the other 2%?”

We need better parents. These days, when little Johnny does something that would get an adult chucked in jail, the teachers and principals are afraid to do anything. If little Johnny gets punished, his irate parents and their lawyer will be there within about 5 milliseconds. If they can find an excuse to raise a human rights complaint, the problem is unwinnable for the school.

Reply to  commieBob
December 4, 2019 7:53 am

The “B+ again” meme is funny but true. Check some out on youtube

Reply to  commieBob
December 4, 2019 3:01 pm

It’s the same here in Australia Bob. My son suggested that my grandson needed to clean his room to earn his pocket money. My grandson told him that he learned at school that he has rights, he said to him “I’m not your slave, and I should be getting pocket money regardless”. This coming from a twelve year old.

Teachers don’t teach children the way they used to and that’s partly why respect has broken down. Children are virtually being taught that they’re not responsible for themselves or their actions.

These young people are turning into adults and they’re still looking for handouts, still don’t think it’s up to ‘them’ regarding the life they might lead. Oh wait that’s leftist thinking. After all the government will look after them. Won’t they?

Reply to  Megs
December 5, 2019 4:24 am

grandson needed to be told neither are the parents slaves to HIM
and stop doing his room and washing till he wakes up;-)

Reply to  commieBob
December 4, 2019 6:08 pm

They also spend about 6 days per week in school and days are longer.

Reply to  Scissor
December 5, 2019 2:00 am

When the official school day is over they go for tutoring. link

Having said the above, my experience is that the Chinese students arriving more recently to North America aren’t as hard working as they were when I started teaching. On the other hand it could just be a few idiots whose nouveau riche parents want to get rid of.

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 7:24 am

Dale Mullen-I think you should delete rampant socialism in your long list of reasons why – seeing that China beats us all!

Dale Mullen
Reply to  Andy Espersen
December 4, 2019 9:32 am

China may beat us all but the reason(s) for the inclusion of socialism is because of the (beginner’s) version practiced in the US & Canada. As we are not yet up to full steam, our version is more centered around ideas that whatever we do wrong is someone else’s fault, whatever we need is not our responsibility but rather government’s; we are taught that we do not have to do anything which is uninteresting, difficult, or in any way will impede our enjoyment; etc.
In short, we are being taught NOT to take responsibility for ourselves. This in turn leads the masses to what they believe socialism to be all about (the reason it has never worked before is that they didn’t do it right, etc.). Won’t they be surprised…

Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 11:16 am

Dale, Sowell summed your thoughts up well.

“We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.”

Thomas Sowell

Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 5, 2019 2:16 am

You forgot that “The government will always provide”.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Andy Espersen
December 4, 2019 9:40 am

And we know that their test scores are representative of a cross section of the Chines population.

Robert Stewart
Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 8:08 am

Since 1963 the power of the unionized educational system has grown without check. In the state of Washington, the teacher’s union basically controls both houses of the legislature. Couple that power with mythical thinking, and you have a recipe for failure. The concern over the math curriculum has been a political issue since the 1990s when over 200 prominent mathematicians and math teachers, including Jaime Escalante, published a one page ad calling for a change in the philosophy controlling the teaching of math. This was not heeded. Geometry is now taught by requiring the student to memorize formulas, rather than learning how to derive them. Phony science is employed to support the current approach. Critics of this misapplication of psychological knowledge are ignored, even when they are the leading experts in the area. One consequence of this neglect is those students who rely on the public education system get no introduction to deductive reasoning, which was the whole point of studying classical geometry.

We are blessed with alternatives to the public curriculum, including online sites that are freely available to students who are motivated to look beyond their indoctrination, and a growing charter school movement. But this leaves the vast majority of our children at the mercy of the ideologs. This may explain the improved performance of the upper decile. Our public schools are a catastrophe for the 90% who do not, or cannot, take advantage of these resources.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Robert Stewart
December 4, 2019 10:19 am

Robert, the state of Commifornia is controlled by the teacher and prison guard unions; thus the school-to-prison pipeline that DemoKKKrats decry so loudly! Not content to destroy the once great state with ridiculous laws and taxes; the Dims are subverting the intelligence and sanity of our children with Progressive religious indoctrination in lieu of math, science and reading. At least the kids will know how to put a condom on a banana or cucumber, and they will be accustomed to having trannies and child molesters in the classroom. SUCH PROGRESS!!
Apparently teaching students WHAT to think instead of teaching them HOW to think does not improve scholastic abilities. As a single carpenter dad in the 90’s and on, I always worked hard enough to keep my daughter in private school so she wouldn’t be subjected to the insanity I could see growing then that has now blossomed into the religious cult of Progressivism we now have! The Church of Climatastrophe is one sect of Progressivism, along with transgenderism and cultural Marxism; all deny science, history, reality and human nature! Will civilization survive?

Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 9:28 am

In order to optimize government largesse — in the form of nearly unlimited school loan availability, Academia has raised tuition costs as much as the extra demand made possible…while lowering entrance requirements as much as possible…while also relaxing promotion and graduation requirements as much as possible.

Then Academia at large calls most real business persons greedy capitalists — these businesses that produce goods and services that people wouldn’t buy if they were not good enough…and that are purchased without huge government subsidies.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  DocSiders
December 5, 2019 4:04 am

You got it, DocSiders, …….US public schools have morphed into being ….. public funded “not-for-profit” profit making businesses of extorting tax monies from real property owners ,….. and with said profits being distributed as “Revenue sharing” among all employees.

Larry Vaughn
Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 4, 2019 1:07 pm

There are also a lot of Individuals who are in teaching positions that should not be. I a retired science teacher was dept chair to 8 teachers, 3 of them should have be doing something else one a PHD.

Reply to  Dale Mullen
December 5, 2019 4:22 am

new idea is now to include the slow/health issue type kids into main classes
not going to do either group any favours

Carl Friis-Hansen
December 4, 2019 6:57 am

Mathematics and science appeal has degraded through out many decades. Industry needs well educated and enthusiastic engineers, but there has been a tendency that industry is less fashionable, humane and interesting in the former top industrialized countries, like the US and western Europe.
Engineering appears much more in fashion in China, where a lot of “new” technical development is going on. US and Western Europe still have technical development, but not at the same rate as china.
This could be at least one reason for the education quality deficit and in there is most likely Climate Change idiocy with it’s inherent hate to big industry (except for mobile phones, of cause).

Curious George
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
December 4, 2019 7:58 am

Thinking people are difficult to control. Are we witnessing a mass production of slaves?

December 4, 2019 6:57 am

Or maybe giving everyone an A*+ with knobs on doesn’t actually raise standards

December 4, 2019 6:59 am

We haven’t spent millions to improve test scores.
We’ve spent millions to increase the salaries of teachers.

Reply to  MarkW
December 4, 2019 7:30 am

While teachers as a whole have gotten financial gains, it pales in comparison to the salaries of the administrative assistants that supposedly are there to help allow the teachers to perform. These administrative assistants are usually at a ratio of 10:1, or greater, in many school districts to the actual teachers.
The standard of teaching to the lowest common denominator has only produced less and less as the years pass.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Ken
December 4, 2019 12:03 pm

Right on! Also, when I was teaching in the ’70s, I saw the ranks of administrators swell to support unfunded programs, at the expense of traditional core programs. They addressed the issue by discouraging tenure and relying on part-time instructors who often didn’t have the time, or even an office, to hold office hours. I knew one person who had part-time jobs at five different campuses and spent more time commuting than teaching.

Reply to  MarkW
December 4, 2019 11:21 am


+1 x’s 1000!

December 4, 2019 7:00 am

No, this is a stretch.

It’s mainly due to immigration.

But liberal dogma of all flavors is leading to a malaise that discourages ambition. Heartiste was musing on this earlier this week.

Orson Olson
Reply to  DrTorch
December 4, 2019 7:52 am

You are not wrong, Dr. California leads on new immigrants and the bottom of education rankings. Coincidence not!

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Orson Olson
December 4, 2019 9:42 am

You mean that you think all those highly educated climate refugees pouring across the border don’t score well on the tests?

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  DrTorch
December 4, 2019 8:15 am

It’s mainly due to immigration.

I was told by a reliable source that due to the “forced” and “illegal” immigration that there is one Public School District in New York State whose enrollment includes students that speak seventeen (17) different languages.

“DUH”, why permit those foreign speaking students to enroll in public school, let alone mandate that they enroll, …… if there is no “subject” qualified Teachers that speaks the language that said student(s) can understand?

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
December 4, 2019 3:53 pm

Because the the amount of money each school received is based on warm bums in seats, learning is not required.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  MarkW
December 5, 2019 11:35 am

OOPS, I forgot, …. you are correct, ……. and iffen the student is diagnosed as “learning disabled”, which they are if they can’t speak English, …. then the State gives the school $3 instead of $1 for each enrolled student.

Robert Stewart
Reply to  DrTorch
December 4, 2019 10:22 am

I disagree. The text books and curriculum are very different from those we used in the 1950s and 1960s. Geometry texts, for example are 500+ pages with loads of pictures, and no methodical introduction to geometry. The first few chapters review arithmetic, then a quick introduction to algebra, and then loads of memorization of nomenclature. Students memorize results but are not required to derive them. The generalized Pythagorean Theorem is presented as the “Cosine Law”. Students are expected to memorize this formula but many have no comprehension of what all the “letters” mean. It is a disgrace.

December 4, 2019 7:28 am

Stagnant? You’re in the top 15. Just holding place requires a lot of effort.

That said the constant “doom porn” from the CAGW crowd on media, in the schools (especially there) does make some young people anxietious and depressed. To all the youth out there I can only say “IGNORE IT”. It is nonsense and has been going on for a long long time.

In the 70s I remember being quite down over “Limits to Growth” (we’re all gonna die), cold war going hot any minute (we’re all gonna die) and the ice age returns (we’re all gonna die).

Those in government, media and academia who are spreading this “fear porn” need to be held to account for all their WRONG predictions. I take great pleasure in pointing this out repeatedly to them.

December 4, 2019 7:29 am
and only going down hill.

Doc Chuck
December 4, 2019 7:36 am

“Some education leaders said they saw no reason to drastically change policy directions.”

Readers, we don’t need no stinkin’ readers! They’ve got ‘Alexa’, don’t they? And numerate, scientifically alert citizens could more readily discover the fatal flaws in our contrived climate narrative that dismiss those drastic changes in policy directions we have in mind for them. Besides, our formula for ‘hope and change’ sells best among the dispirited who are happy with any crumbs from our table. So hey, what’s the problem? I’ve got my own loaf!

Earl T Hackett
December 4, 2019 7:38 am

When I went to high school we were introduced to Beer’s Law. Ask anyone today what it refers to and they’ll probably say something about the local pub. The Beer-Lambert Law describes the adsorption of light passing through a medium. It’s an easy exercise to apply it to the solar spectrum and you will quickly realize that we can pump as much CO2 into the atmosphere as we want and it will have no significant impact on retained heat. This is probably not taught today for obvious reasons.

James A. Schrumpf
Reply to  Earl T Hackett
December 4, 2019 7:27 pm

That’s because CO2 absorbs IR in only three bands, or wavelengths, and they can only be blocked once, is that correct?

It’s like nailing sheets of plywood over the three windows in a room: once all the light is blocked, more plywood won’t make it any darker.

Bill Powers
December 4, 2019 7:39 am

The problem is and has been for going on 50 years that the Government run and or funded Education system has been turned into Socialism Indoctrination Centers where speech is controlled and math and science have been made “New”

To articulate that education is failing ” …despite huge investment in trying to improve the education system.” is to give the left the argument that if we only invested more money into our Propaganda Ministry we might get better control subjects populating our society – oh wait I meant more money into our education system means smarter students.

Reply to  Bill Powers
December 4, 2019 9:16 am

Governments schools in most of the West were based on the Prussian system which was built from the ground up to indoctrinate kids, not educate them. Indoctrination isn’t a recent thing, it’s been the goal of schools for a hundred years or more.

So no-one should be surprised that kinds don’t come out of schools educated, only indoctrinated in the latest fads. What is surprising is that parents keep sending their kids to the schools to be turned into little Marxist NPCs.

Joel Snider
December 4, 2019 7:40 am

Perhaps because all they’re teaching is progressive-agenda – climate change is only the replacement religion for an oppressive doctrine being forced. It’s literally the definition of insanity to expect anything else.

December 4, 2019 7:52 am

The dismal mathematics score for the US is by design — numbers are the easiest thing for the left-stream media and academia to manipulate & control. With little math skills, the public isn’t going to bother or be capable of looking into the validity of numbers. Look at the surface temp records (numbers) & how that’s been corrupted & manipulated. The Mannomatic hockey-schtick was just a biased/corrupted result of numbers & statistical methods.

Justin Burch
December 4, 2019 7:55 am

Science has basically been discredited by the entire global warming alarmist scam. We are told scientists have a 97% consensus and that all scientists agree and that anyone who does not agree is a crank in pay of big oil. Contrary views are not even permitted to be spoken much less answered in open debate. Science has been degraded to one more authoritarian centralist elite that lower peons cannot even question. Data corruption and statistical fixing to get the only acceptable result is common place. Science as the search for truth has been destroyed. And we scientists have no one to blame but ourselves for jumping on the band wagon in order to get grants and avoid being fired and allowing ourselves to be silenced if we disagree.

Reply to  Justin Burch
December 5, 2019 9:52 pm

My first contacts with univ teachers and researchers were overwhelming unimpressive. In fact most didn’t seem to be able answer any non obvious scientific question on their subject.

I took me a while to accept that I wasn’t just unlucky. Most people in academia aren’t impressive. There are simply a bunch of really mediocre people there doing barely passable jobs teaching the basic stuff for example. It pains me to write that.

December 4, 2019 8:03 am

Look no further, the culprit is of course CO2 :
– too much CO2 in the classrooms !

December 4, 2019 8:04 am

“An international exam shows that American 15-year-olds are stagnant in reading and math even though the country has spent billions to close gaps with the rest of the world.”

Most of those “billions” are spent on increased school administrative infrastructure, i.e. ‘middle management’ driven by a huge government bureaucracy. Neither workforce care about diminishing academic education or effort through their infernal meddling.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  ATheoK
December 4, 2019 12:45 pm

“YUP”, …… administrative infrastructure.

Each year, US Public School Boards or Districts are obligated to publish their “year end” Budget of Revenue and Expenses.

If one “check out” said Budget of the School System that they are paying taxes in support of, ….. they will surely find out that the “lion’s share” (70-80%) of the total Revenue collected is being expended on salaries and entitlements for the Administrators and Teachers.

And quite a few expenditures will be for non-school/non-educational functions.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  ATheoK
December 10, 2019 6:27 am

Mom, I don’t want to go to the school!

Billy, you have to go to the school – you’re the administrator!

December 4, 2019 8:14 am

One only need look at the texts used in high school for English (Reading), Math, Chemistry, Physics and Biology in the 60’s and compare them with what is being taught today. . After retiring, I thought I would take some courses in Mathematics and Physics to keep my mind sharp and exercised. After looking at the synopsis of several courses I decided on a course that looked interesting. I then decided to look at the textbook to see what was being taught. I was utterly amazed that this course, a second year, Sophomore class level course was basically the same as one that I had used in my Senior year in High School in 1960. As my sister was teaching Advanced Placement (AP) courses in HS I asked her If this was the case or if I was biased due to my present level of knowledge. She told me that I was correct! That she teaches AP Calculus and Biology which earn college level credits for all state colleges and that these courses are actually LESS difficult than the courses that we took in in the College Prep track in High School.

Joel O’Bryan
December 4, 2019 8:25 am

Common Core, an enabling dumb-down for Gen Z and Millennials for Climate Change deceptions.

December 4, 2019 8:52 am

If it has got anything to do with fear of climate change then most British pupils mustn’t have fallen for all of Greta’s greetings. (Greetings in the Scottish sense.)
UK scores have risen.
In reading, the UK is 14th, up from 22nd in the previous tests three years ago
In science, the UK is 14th, up from 15th
In maths, the UK is 18th up from 27th

John Robertson
December 4, 2019 9:29 am

Public Education,as run by our bureaus,is child abuse.
Every child is sentenced to 12 years.
If they are motivated and smart,that will be 12 years of crushing boredom.
Indoctrination never seems to inspire great thinking.
Good little citizen? Good little soldiers?
What good is learning mathematics in a “math is hard” society?
Just think,in Canada we have “free healthcare” that absorbs half of government income.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  John Robertson
December 4, 2019 9:57 am

But that “free healthcare” isn’t really healthcare. It’s once-in-a-while doctor visits. I have friends on the Canadian side of the border who wait months for an appointment that I could get in a week or two. When they have major health issues they come across to take care of it in the US. I have never heard of it working the other way. Some of the indoctrinated Canadians may disagree, but I’ll bet you can’t show me an example of better health care for the average person in Canada than for the average person in the US.

John Robertson
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
December 4, 2019 1:25 pm

Sorry,that was a sarcastic “Free Healthcare”.
Yes it is a truly wonderful bureaucracy which organizes wonderful waiting lines for the idiots,us,who actually pay taxes.
A service denied differs how from a service infinitely postphoned?

Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
December 5, 2019 1:14 am

Most sick people require immediate medical attention.

The art of medicine consists in distracting the patient while nature cures the disease. – Voltaire

December 4, 2019 9:49 am

Emerging instructional technologies (VR and Free Video Libraries of expert lecturers) will compete very favorably with “brick and mortar” schools with live instructors and white boards.

I’ve recently taken some very high production value VR (Virtual Reality) based course work (CE) that was far better and more interesting than anything I was ever offered in either undergraduate or graduate school course work. It was very entertaining and memorable.

The Universities had better keep their eyes on their rear view mirrors…things are gaining on them. And those things are cheap !!

December 4, 2019 9:54 am

I don’t think we can blame climate change. We can blame low expectations, identity politics, victim culture.
People who recently set this new school up believe they have a way forward. Their first year results are exceptionally good, ranking among the best in the Britain.

Reply to  Mark Pawelek
December 4, 2019 11:18 am

Not bad. For starters, they refer to children, adults, and people, not colors, sexes, etc. The focus is on education, community, and performance, not activism, exclusion, and statistical inference.

December 4, 2019 9:59 am

There are also perverse incentive in public education. Poor student performance is often used to justify increased school funding and teacher pay. The US would look much worse if looked at education results vs dollars spent per pupil.

HD Hoese
December 4, 2019 10:09 am

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, only 37% of white high school graduates tested as college-ready, but colleges admitted 70% of them.” I guess this explains a lot, saw this in the 1980s, started earlier, when systems were developed to let the excess in, Education courses, General Studies, student evaluations during the course, etc., and new ones now I never heard of. I used to tell them that we would be happy to have them back when they were better prepared. A few did, but it was a difficult time to do it.

December 4, 2019 10:54 am

“Young people, understandably, want more certainty about their future prospects, including climate, education, jobs and housing affordability.”

Ironic that all of the listed prospects will be doomed by the climate change hoax. With the trillions being consumed by the fictional man-made climate change and its proponents’ demands, there will be no jobs or affordable housing. As for education, a well-educated populace is the last thing the hoaxsters want, especially, when it comes to math, science and critical thinking. That would harm their fight to indoctrinate the youth to unquestioningly accept their doom propaganda.

Reply to  KcTaz
December 4, 2019 11:16 am

I’ve been a member of an astronomy club since the 80’s. I’ve met members of the general public who’s scientific literacy ranges from knowing almost nothing to people who could almost qualify as a scientist. It’s been my impression that the more literate a person is in the sciences, the less likely they are to be frieghtened by all the climate doomsters out there.

Reply to  KcTaz
December 4, 2019 11:21 am

The ignorant are easily mislead and frightened by climate change. Look at the top countries in science. They’re doing pretty well, with little to no climate hysteria. The U.S. is near the bottom, lots of hysteria.

Elle Webber
December 4, 2019 11:04 am

China comes out on top. Well, how many non-Chinese speaking immigrant children do you think deluge the Chinese school system? I would hazard a guess that every child in their schools comes to school being able to speak the official language, unlike US/Canada/Europe where classrooms are filled with children who need to be taught to speak the official language before they can be taught to read it. Moreover, any Chinese children with learning problems, dyslexia, poverty issues, drug addictions, etc will not be attending school by the time they are 15 years old; thus these kids’ lack of reading ability will not be counted in the official statistics.

I doubt the Chinese allow students to skip school on Fridays to attend protests.

Reply to  Elle Webber
December 5, 2019 3:08 pm

“I would hazard a guess that every child in their schools comes to school being able to speak the official language”

Actually no. There are several different “chinese languages”. The writing system is common, however.

December 4, 2019 11:09 am

I’ve been a member of an astronomy club since the 80’s. I’ve met members of the general public who’s scientific literacy ranges from knowing almost nothing to people who could almost qualify as a scientist. It’s been my impression that the more literate a person is in the sciences, the less likely they are to be frieghtened by all the climate doomsters out there.

December 4, 2019 12:08 pm

Education in the United States has two or three competing problems to overcome.

First, colleges of education tend not to attract the brightest or most motivated students. Most see the education field as the “safety valve” to get out of school with a degree. There are exceptions, but that just proves the rule as we used to say.

Second, activists have compelled the politicians to require nearly half of the day to teach social justice issues that are not the purvue of the education establishment. That means fewer hours devoted to the reading, writing, arithmetic, and logic in the day.

Third, parents are not preparing the students to attend school. When we have screens babysitting from the time a child can focus their eyes, rather than meaningful interactions with our young, the student has a stunted ability to focus on deep-thinking tasks.

There are many other problems, like bureaucratic creep and administrator bloat, but those three are the most egregious.

Fred Middleton
December 4, 2019 12:22 pm


William Astley
December 4, 2019 12:47 pm

The Left lie about everything.

Liars and repeaters of lies are clueless spreaders of chaos.

Young people are turned off on an education, as education has become a silly game where the objective is to get and keep students and what is taught is zero help in getting a job.

This is a discussion of the scam of Grade Inflation.

As the objective is to get and keep students,and students all want honours, the solution is give them all honours.

The great university con: how the British degree lost its value

Never before has Britain had so many qualified graduates. And never before have their qualifications amounted to so little.

“This narrative is useful. It allows government ministers to tout the UK’s influence, university management to pay themselves befittingly, and students to appear exceptional. And with each year, it is propped up by record grades. The numbers are remarkable and little understood. The proportion of students getting “good honours” – a First or 2:1 – has leapt from 47 to 79 per cent: at 13 universities, more than 90 per cent of students were given at least a 2:1 last year. And Oxbridge is leading the charge: 96 to 99 per cent of its English, history and languages students get “good honours”.

Damian Hinds, the former education secretary, offered an anodyne response on 12 July, following the publication of the latest figures. “Artificial grade inflation,” he said, “is not in anyone’s interests.”

But it is. Grade inflation is the inevitable outcome of the system universities operate under. There is little reason to suspect that the system is about to change, or is even understood. “The logical conclusion of the current drift is that by 2061, 100 per cent of people [will] get Firsts,” says Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham. In fact, if the next 20 years are like the past 20, it won’t take half that time.”

The Depraved and MOST Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
December 4, 2019 1:04 pm

Smart phones make stupid people.

Smart phones make people stupid.

John Robertson
December 4, 2019 1:31 pm

Sorry I wondered off topic above,yes indeed,the failure of our state run education system is the direct cause of the Catastrophic Climate Cult.
For a people without reasoning skill and a grasp of history are perfect targets for a scheme that preys on mass ignorance and hysteria.George Carlin said it best..”50% are dumber than average”.
Power through politics consists of stampeding the herd,in the direction of your desire.
Now we see the desires of the Fools and Bandits, perhaps we will reward them as they deserve.
Forcing from them exactly what they demand of us,would be very entertaining justice.

December 4, 2019 2:54 pm

Very complex sampling methodology between schools, city vs rural, within countries, between countries, different languages, etc. Different sampling gives different results. Plus there are “adjustments”. Read the methodology. Different cultural norms, freedom has some drawbacks as well. No denying that the educational business is, however, on the decline in our USA. Easy entry and low standards have been the rule for a very long time. Politics is also a problem.

michael hart
December 4, 2019 3:58 pm

Much of the effort made, and choices taken, by young people as they move through the education system are not entirely irrational. By the time they are 15 many students will be aware that studying maths, science, & engineering is perceived as harder with rewards not necessarily matching the work required. Yes, some people do earn a good living in these fields but they can see plenty of people who don’t.

…And when their teachers never got very far in these subjects then it becomes a vicious cycle rather than a virtuous one. More than a decade ago (perhaps two decades) I recall reading that one government in the UK decided to do something by hugely raising the pay of maths teachers to as much as ~£60,000, which actually gave me pause to wonder if I should switch careers. I just looked up the average current salary of UK maths teachers and found it to be £30,235, so that seems to be another promise broken by politicians.

Bill Parsons
December 4, 2019 4:50 pm

Estonia average teacher salary = 1,380 Euros/month.

Average teacher salary in Colorado = $4,000 / month.

Kids are in schools roughly the same length of time / year.

Most people there are bilingual in a foreign language, most commonly English and Russian.

Surfer Dave
December 4, 2019 5:28 pm

I will state a possible cause – environmental pollution in the food chain is damaging the brains of the citizens. Glyphosate in particular, but tied in with the obesity and diabetes epidemics it seems clear that there is mass poisoning going on in the USA. Under those circumstances spending on education won’t improve the outcome, which is what you are seeing.

Reply to  Surfer Dave
December 5, 2019 4:37 am

having seen what was passed as a good lunch for usa kids at school Im amazed that any at all manage to pass.
ketchup rated as a serve of vegetable from memory
oh lawdy!

a class ful of hyped up kids then the sugar slump later

December 4, 2019 5:57 pm

Meanwhile in Australia – “Australian students have recorded their worst results in international tests, failing for the first time to exceed the OECD average in maths while also tumbling down global rankings in reading and science.”

It really shows when I comment on other blogs about thing scientific.

Kent Gatewood
December 4, 2019 6:31 pm

Does the Chinese student in Shanghai adequately substitute for students across China?

Are Malay And Indian residents of Singapore scoring the same as the Han?

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Kent Gatewood
December 4, 2019 7:37 pm

There could be some sampling errors.

The outfit that set up PISA is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, out of France. On their web page the OECD express urgent concern for sustainability, collaborative decision making and especially “climate change financing” which they expect from members.

27/11/2019 – Donor countries must do more to bring development finance in line with climate goals, raising the share used for climate action and reducing to zero the amount that supports new fossil fuel activities, according to a new OECD report.

Would it be a surprise of any kind to see tendentious questions on their science…. What portion of Man-made global warming is a result of humans: a) 80% b) 90% c) All d) None

For countries like China, which refused to participate in the testing as a single entitity, PISA will allow regions or cities within that country to participate as a group. Hence the BSJZ (China). BSJZ is Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang – presumably higher-socio-income blocs. A “rigorous selection process” is used to pick the participating schools from among all possible, and the individual student from all those schools are selected at random.

What reason does U.S. have to be a member of such a group?

December 5, 2019 12:17 pm

well if you think its normal to not have a life as a child and study all day and night, then sure go ahead and aspire to be like the Chinese.

Spare a thought for why so many Chinese migrate out of China.

December 5, 2019 5:40 pm

A main driver of poor success in school is lack of a loving, devoted mother and father living in the same home as the children. They can teach kids the really important stuff they need when they are 2-4 years old. If there is one sound theory that has come lout of Psychology/Psychiatry is that through guided development of parents in the ages 2-4 kids develop the basics for needed social skills and form the basis for their growing up and their adult personality.
It takes a female and a male parent in order to establish for the kids how the world works and how they can fit in it. A very dedicated single parent can handle one or maybe 2 kids and get similar results.(Thomas Sowell for example).

Johann Wundersamer
December 10, 2019 6:11 am

Eric Worrall:

What do you say to convince a child to study hard and do their homework, if they believe the world is about to end?

“Plant a tree.”

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