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[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
11/03/2008

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


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