Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: Alfie's argument is one that should be repeated

and repeated. Use his letter to good effect in

your local media.]

Published in Boston Globe

To the editor

JAY MATHEWS ("Grade change," Ideas, Oct. 26)

rightly points out how misleading is the claim

that US students perform worse than their

counterparts in other countries. In the final

presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer

prefaced his question about education with the

statement, "By every international measurement,

in math and science competence from kindergarten

through 12th grade, we trail most of the

countries of the world." Remarkably, neither of

the candidates pointed out that this assertion is

flatly untrue.

Mathews not only debunks claims about US

students' performance but also shows that test

scores fail to predict economic success. Why,

then, would we worry about our country's standing

as measured by those scores? And why would we

focus on our relative standing? To say that

American students are first, or 10th, on a list

provides no useful information about how well

they can think or how good our schools are, much

less how vibrant our economy is. Exclamatory

headlines about how "our" schools compare to

"theirs" suggest that we're less concerned with

educational quality than with whether we can

chant, "We're number one!"

Even more disturbing, a focus on competitive

rankings implies that we view the academic

improvement of children who live elsewhere as bad

news - a position that is both intellectually and

morally indefensible.

Alfie Kohn

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.