An op-ed piece in the NY Times, Clueless in America, provides some chilling facts regarding how poorly educated American kids are, on average.
Excerpt describing Bill Gates' view:
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”
Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed — cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”
Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.
Let's talk about No Child Left Behind.
No Child Left Behind is not really about the children, it's about the parents. Parents don't want to accept that their children might be merely average, or heaven forbid, below average. So we lower standards for all children to save the egos of the parents. I say it's not about the kids because the kids know which of their classmates are bright and which are dim.
So now, smart kids are not being challenged and will naturally become bored and find other ways to occupy their time. And by keeping children who should be left behind, and in particular, kids who are serious troublemakers, in the same class with their age-group peers, we invite them to drag down the other students. Recently, nine third-graders were busted for plotting to attack their teacher. As a teacher friend pointed out, it was unlikely that all the kids were really bad kids, but that there were probably one or two that influenced the rest. Turns out Mom was right when she said, "You lie with dogs, you come home with fleas."