By Fareed Zakaria
The United States has high levels of education and a large percentage of its workers in adult learning and training programs, and it spends lots of money on all these activities. And yet, it does worse than many countries with few advantages and resources. (And no, it isn’t just because of immigrants. About half of the OECD countries now have a larger percentage of foreign-born adults than does the United States)
What we learn from this study is really just an extension of what we have discovered in the PISA results. The biggest force behind falling American rankings is not that the United States is doing things much worse but that other countries have caught up and are doing better. The U.S. system of education and training is inadequate in the new global environment.
And things show no signs of improving. The bipartisan backlash against the Common Core — a set of national standards agreed to by governors — is a tragic example. Parents raised on a culture of low standards and high self-esteem are outraged that the tests show that many American schools are not teaching their children enough. (The tests must be at fault because they know that their kids are brilliant!) Some liberals and teacher groups are upset with the emphasis on testing (though Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, has endorsed the Common Core). And Republicans now oppose it — despite having championed it only a few years ago — largely because the Obama administration also backs the project.