"If the U.S. is going to catch up to the rest of the world, it has to be now. But frankly, it's not looking good."
This is the first line in a newly released video from Michelle Rhee's education reform organization StudentsFirst. The Olympics-themed clip is part of the organization's campaign titled the U.S. Education System vs. the World and is meant to show how poorly our kids are doing in math and reading compared to the rest of the world. Rhee spoke about the campaign on Meet the Press on Sunday. She said:
The Olympics are going to start in 5 days. It's a time of incredible pride for this country. Our young people are out there, number one beating everyone else, and yet educationally our kids are 25th out of 30 developed countries in math. Nobody is paying attention to that fact.
The video is circulating around the web and hasn't received the best reactions from education experts. Here are a few of the negative comments:
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, tweeted:
Educator and blogger Gary Rubinstein wrote:
So just because we have a higher percentage of students doing poorly on the PISA does not mean that we have lost our competitive edge.
One other point about the Olympic analogy is that it assumes that these two ‘events’ math and science, are the two most important ones. Surely there are some events in the summer Olympics that the U.S. does not dominate. But we do quite well in the ‘important’ ones like the swimming and the gymnastics. Likewise, U.S. students dominate in the ‘important’ events throughout our history, like having creativity and going on to win Nobel Prizes.
Rhee has always been a controversial figure in education, but despite these reactions, the video makes a good point: We are falling behind other countries in math and reading and we need to catch up. On Meet the Press, Rhee tied education to the economy and stated:
One thing that people are missing is that we are never going to be able to fix this country's economy in the long run until we fix our public education system. If we were just able to cut the number of high school dropouts in one year in half, we could add $45 billion dollars to the country's economy. Why aren't we having conversations around that?
As part of the campaign, you can join Rhee by pledging to be a part of the movement to transform schools.
How do you feel about StudentsFirsts' new video? Share your thoughts in comments.
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Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com