Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: It was disturbing to see the newspaper use a US win in math as an excuse to rail against public ed. The reporter is a staff intern, "a rising junior at Principia College, double-majoring in English Literature and Political Science and minoring in Spanish language."]

Submitted to Christian Science Monitor but not published

To the editor

The US won the Math Olympiad, but American educators just can't win: Instead of telling us how these young people did so well and celebrating their accomplishments, the Monitor's report of the Olympiad reminded readers that US math scores are not at the top of the world. The article then presented suggestions for improvement in math education ( US wins Math Olympiad for first time in 21 years. Is math education improving? July 19).

We are always interested in improving our teaching methods, but pedagogy is not the main problem. The main problem is poverty. Study after study shows that when we control for the effects of poverty, American academic performance, including performance on math tests, is among the best in the world. American scores are unspectacular because of our rate of child poverty, now an astonishing 25%, is far higher than the poverty rates in top performing countries.

Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and underfunded libraries, often without librarians.

The best teaching in the world will not help when students are hungry, ill, and have little or no access to books.

Stephen Krashen

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.