Troubling world test results prove US teenagers as clueless as they appear

Credit: The Rabbit Hole

Credit: The Rabbit Hole

Are any thinking adults really surprised by the low rankings of America’s 15-year-olds in science, math, and reading, as compared to their peers around the world?

Not me, because any public interactions I have had recently with teen-agers as either store clerks or servers in restaurants are consistent with the findings of this disturbing PISA test released on December 3rd and reported in the media.

What exactly is the PISA test? The official explanation is as follows:

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that allows countries to compare outcomes of learning as students near the end of compulsory schooling. PISA core assessments measure the performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading literacy every 3 years. Coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA was first implemented in 2000 in 32 countries. It has since grown to 65 education systems in 2012.

Here are the complete test results in a pdf file, but continue reading for the highlights.

If you are an American concerned about our nation’s future – you should be because our texting obsessed, video-game loving, Facebook fanatic 15-year- olds, failed to rank in the top 20 countries in the three tested subjects of science, reading and math.

In fact, the United States placed 36th on the mathematics literacy scale with a score of 481. The top seven spots were all Asian with Shanghai-China the clear winner. Here are the scores of the top ten nations:

  1. Shanghai-China 613
  2. Singapore 573
  3. Hong Kong-China 561
  4. Chinese Taipei  560
  5. Korea, Republic of 554
  6. Macao-China 538
  7. Japan 536
  8. Liechtenstein 535
  9. Switzerland 531
  10. Netherlands 523

The U.S. did slightly better in science, earning a country ranking of 28 with a score of 497, but not even close to the scores of the top ten.

  1. Shanghai-China 580
  2. Hong Kong-China 555
  3. Singapore 551
  4. Japan 547
  5. Finland 545
  6. Estonia 541
  7. Korea, Republic of 538
  8. Vietnam 528
  9. Poland 526
  10. Canada and Liechtenstein 525

In reading literacy, the U.S. earned its highest ranking of 24 with a score of 498. Here again are the top ten:

  1. Shanghai-China 570
  2. Hong Kong-China 545
  3. Singapore 542
  4. Japan 538
  5. Korea, Republic of 536
  6. Finland 524
  7. Ireland, Canada and Chinese Taipei 523
  8. Poland 518
  9. Estonia and Liechtenstein 516
  10. New Zealand and Australia 512

So what do these low U.S. rankings mean? Should we blame the teachers, school boards, parents or the students themselves?

Do American students have too many distractions away from actual school work like sports, and other extracurricular activities?

As a nation do we spend enough money on education?

I believe the answer to the last question is ”yes.” For according to a recent report covering the year 2010 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) here is the reality:

In 2010, the U.S. spent more than $11,000 per primary school student and more than $12,000 per high school student. When all levels of education spending were included, the U.S. spent a total of $15,171 on every student – more than any of the other 34 nations covered in the report.

It appears that the USA spends the most per student, but as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) we only spend 7.3 percent of our GDP with the average being 6.3 percent of the 34 nations in the report. Five countries spend more – Denmark (8.0%), Iceland (7.7%), Korea (7.6%), Norway (7.6%), and Israel (7.4%).

Bu what if we spent even more of our GDP on education, would America’s 15-year-olds then perform better on the PISA test? In my opinion, highly doubtful, and here is when I travel into politically incorrect territory.

My theory, just a theory, based on personal experience, is that the smartest people I know either have no children or maybe one, but two seems to be the maximum.

So could our real education achievement problem be that the less intelligent people are having more offspring than the intelligent ones?

That is a concept you will NEVER hear discussed in any education forum.

After all, if someone does not have the brain capacity to learn physics, no expensive classroom or highly paid teacher is going to turn that kid into a physicist. Unfortunately, I know this from personal experience as someone who struggled through Algebra II.

The societal effects of what happens to a nation when the smartest people do not have kids and the less intelligent have many, is taken to its comical, future extreme in the 2006 movie Idiocracy.

Watch that movie and then comment as to whether you see Idiocracy playing out around you in real time. Then, maybe our nation’s low PISA test rankings will begin to make more sense.

Meanwhile, looking at the top of the PISA rankings, I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago with a friend, who at the time, was the China expert to the Secretary of Defense.

Having purchased online what I thought was an American-made computer, I was upset when the box arrived with the label, “Made in China.”

So I asked him why, and his three-word answer was, “start learning Chinese.”

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About Myra Adams

Myra Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign creative team and 2008 McCain campaign Ad Council.

Writing credits include PJ Media, Daily Beast, RedState, and Daily Caller.
Email: Myraadams@Bizpacreview.com
Follow Myra on Twitter @MyraKAdams

  • Nuff_said2

    My daughter goes to Suncoast and the kids there function at an outstanding level. The scores are dragged down by illegal immigrant kids who don’t even speak English and urban kids who couldn’t care less. I submit that there is a wide swath of traditional middle class kids and above who Wow!!! Well done!

    • Nuff_said2

      Disqus went crazy at the end of this. I could add anything after “who” and it added the “Wow” comment.

  • robbiedobbs

    Of course American teens are looked at as dumb. We are trying to teach them to use god in the classroom, instead of using the scientific method and empirical evidence. BTW the scientific method was developed before the bible was even written. Anyways, American teens are too occupied watching Justin Bieber and following twitter than reading a book, or trying to HELP other people. America is no longer the greatest country in the world. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can get back to working hard to make it great again.

  • robbiedobbs

    All chinese students can speak english to a certain extent, a lot of them fluently. American teens cant even speak english correctly.

  • Loves2Teach

    Being a teacher of middle school students and having taught at the Junior College Level, I think the biggest issue is the value in education. I live in a community where we are the minority. I teach students who know little to no English, yet their scores tend to out do many of the average students. Why because they understand its a privilege to be here. Until we make an effort to see there is value in the education system versus treating it like free baby sitting, I don’t see it changing. Schools need more parental and community involvement and support to succeed. It truly does take a village to raise a child but too many people are only concerned with themselves. Education is not an entitlement, though it is treated like one.

  • EliseR

    Myra Adams, Are you seriously advocating that less intelligent people have more kids? What does that say about people who don’t believe in birth control, like many Catholics and fundamental Christians?

    • Myra Adams

      I am not “advocating” that less intelligent people have more kids. I thought I made it clear that it was just a general theory and personal observation based on my own experience living for decades in the USA.
      Please do not twist my words.

      • EliseR

        OK. Please explain your theory in more detail. If you think less intelligent people have more kids, what do you think about people who don’t believe in birth control and have large families? Do you think these people are less intelligent than people who have fewer children? (Because that IS what your words imply.)

        • Myra Adams

          I really do not like generalizations and obviously this is one. However, there is much hard factual data to back up my “theory.” For example, among secular Jewish women.
          Their births rates are extremely low and that is thought to be because many pursue high-level careers requiring advanced degrees. Orthodox Jews in America on the other hand are having many more children than the average but that is because of their religious beliefs.But they are a small minority. Factually speaking, and you can do research to find this info, the higher the educational attainment of the woman, the less number of children she will bear.
          That is almost common sense.

          • EliseR

            So wouldn’t your “theory” support increased access to birth control and family planning, which is against the teachings of the Catholic church (and other religious groups)?

            One could also argue that it is not simply a matter of less intelligent people having more children, but of more educated people being able to provide more financially for the children they have. Greater affluence generally leads to more opportunities for children.

          • robbiedobbs

            Myra, perhaps it’s time to give up when you are losing on your own website… just saying

  • Mindmech

    Just remember. There was a study done by Zajonc and Markus called “Dumber by the Dozen” which suggested that the more children in the family, the lower the collective IQ of the family. It is a theory that seems to be getting more and more valid.

  • Arden Hale

    Yes….perhaps that isn’t the question we should be asking. First off taken by individual country the United States has the largest GDP or any nation. So…why would be chasing any of the countries mentioned? The liberals tend to idolize nations with an economy the size of California. We’re an economic and technological juggernaut. Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed or lying. As for education, the public schools aren’t fixable. Eliminate them if you want to improve.

  • robbiedobbs

    Myra you said we spend enough money on education, yet our teens are becoming dumber. That is extremely contradicting. First off, Chicago has closed more than 50 schools in the last 2 years. Due to BUDGET CUTS. Secondly, shouldn’t we increase the budget by decreasing budgets elsewhere? THE MILITARY for example. You are quite old (not trying to be mean). I think older people are the least qualified to discuss education problems, and it should be young people (like myself, I’m 26) who make education decisions as we are the ones with the most recent experiences. No offense, but you are WRONG. (just my opinion)

    • Myra Adams

      “Myra you said we spend enough money on education, yet our teens are becoming dumber. That is extremely contradicting.”

      Really? Contradicting? That very FACT is what is contradicting. I am just reporting the news. The fact that the US spends more money per student than any country in the world and the kids are falling far behind their international peers means that SOMETHING has gone terribly wrong. The point of this piece was to provide the data and ask questions. My own politically incorrect “theory” is just that,my own theory.

      Now you are free to disagree with it and I thank you for taking the time as a BizPac reader to do just that!
      As for your statement that I am “old” … I read somewhere that 58 is the new 40 so that makes me feel ready for prime time. Additionally, having been born in 1955 I have been able to experience and remember some of the world’s most thrilling and chilling events of the 20th century and that has given me a perspective on life and politics that you at 26 do not yet have. (But when you are 58 I am sure you will feel the same compared to a 26 year old at that time.)