May 5th, 2014
11:15 AM ET

Why world is overtaking America

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

The single biggest force behind falling American rankings on education and skills is not that the United States is doing things much worse, but that other countries have caught up and are doing better. The American system of secondary education and adult training is clearly 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, many American schools are not teaching their children enough.(The tests must be at fault because their kids are brilliant!)

Some left wing groups and teachers’ groups are upset with the emphasis on testing (though Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, has actually endorsed the Common Core.)

And Republicans now oppose it, despite having championed it only a few years ago, largely because the Obama administration also happens back this project.

Here's another quote from French economist Thomas Piketty's big book: “[T]he principal force for convergence [of wealth]-the diffusion of knowledge-is only partly natural and spontaneous. It also depends in large part on educational policies.”

In other words, if America really wants to reduce inequality, it needs to reform the system, spend money where needed – such as early education – and get to work at it now.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show

soundoff (352 Responses)
  1. SeanZ

    A liberal Journalist, .... CNN.... a Liberal network.

    May 6, 2014 at 9:40 am | Reply
  2. HM8432

    We stopped believing we're exceptional as a nation, and people, and our socialist public schools backed that misassumption up.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:02 am | Reply
  3. francois

    The challenge seems to be the emphasis on standardized-testing to validate progress, leads to programs designed to parrot the expected test questions, as opposed to teaching the concept of critical thinking. Those goals are not mutually-exclusive, but my observation is that children are being trained to recite test answers, without being taught the underlying concepts. This is why I withdrew my children from government-operated school systems and started to home-school them.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:32 am | Reply
  4. Liberal Garbage

    Liberal GArbage

    May 6, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply
  5. sly

    Who needs education in America when we have Republicans spending $10 trillion to murder 500,000 arab women and children while they hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Iraq.

    Besides, we have American Idol and Survivor and Duck Dynasty and Fast Food to ensure that all Americans grow obese like Crook Christie and Paula Dean.

    Education is just for Democrats, who still see the need to develop intelligent solutions to difficult problems. Anyone ever remember hearing any proposed solution from any Republican? Oh yeah "Shut Down American Government forever" – I do remember that proposal that was adopted by all Republicans. Yeah, it lost.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Reply
    • mfh

      Your hatred is showing. Its too bad you don't realize its both parties. Both are corrupt to the core (pun intended). Each lies, each takes money from corporations, each takes kick backs to their party from banks, each has an elite group controlling them. And you, are filled with hate and under their control.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Reply
      • sly

        No my friend, no hatred, but when 500,000 civilians are murdered for an obvious lie I do get angry. Especially when our foreign murders caused 3000 Americans to die on 9/11.

        And no, I'm not under any corrupt government's control. WE are the Government. Each 2 years, we elect a teacher or lawyer or community worker or a mayor or our next door neighbor to go to Washington to represent us.

        There is no "They' in government. Only 'We'. Our American leaders are US. Time to stop blaming 'Them' and look in the mirror.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
      • fq

        false equivalence, friend. its more than obvious that republicans have done far more damage than democrats. we're still reeling from bush mishaps even though he's been gone for almost a decade. obama has cleaned up at least 60% of his crap, but then idiot americans blame him for not bringing back all jobs, even though we don't live in an absolute monarchy where he can raise his magic wand and make jobs appear out of thin air.

        false equivalence won't work here, sorry.

        May 7, 2014 at 7:26 am |
    • NattySG

      RIGHT.....it was American POLICY that forced those poor young men into flying those planes filled with innocents into the Towers. They of course had no choice; no have/do any of the other terrorists you (by extension) wish to excuse.

      It was them we were there to kill....and did so admirably.

      May 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Reply
    • modocer

      Your political blindness leads you to think the war in Iraq was a Republican action because a republican was President. you are ignoring the calls for aggressive action comiong from Democrats as early as 1997, while Clinton was still in office, and the fact that nearly all of "who's who" in the Democrat Party supported the decision to invade Iraq. The liberal mantra is to simply say that these esteemed democrats were lied to, and ignore the fact that each member of Congress is responsible for doing the due diligence necessary before supporting any legislation/action. If they were lied to, then they are idiots.

      May 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • Dr veruju

        There is some considerable evidence that Israel was behind it.

        May 7, 2014 at 2:33 am |
    • sly

      natty - of course it was US attacks that caused 9/11.

      Bin Laden told us he planned 9/11 as a response to our CIA murdering 500 Iranian civilians on a regularly scheduled daily commercial flight. We simply shot down their version of United Air Lines.

      Goes around, comes around. The reason terrorists attack the US is because we've bombed 30 nations in 35 years.

      May 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • victordelprete

      ^ And here, you see, is the problem.

      May 7, 2014 at 8:32 am | Reply
    • Frank

      You're an idiot. Please, no more stupid comments from you.

      May 7, 2014 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • RG

      Sly, Are you replying to wrong post? This is regarding Education. Stick to the topic or go drink and sleep.

      May 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  6. Michael, Chapel Hill

    The common core is hard core against American values.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • Freedom Storm

      Common Core is Communist Core

      May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  7. Michael, Chapel Hill

    Eliminate inequality? You are disputing your own Darwin.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  8. Freedom Storm

    In a word: Obama

    May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  9. Thor

    Yeah Fareed, education is of utmost importance in this day and age. Look at what happens when a bunch of dummies base their votes on skin color..... America is indeed dumb.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Reply
    • just me

      I am not a democrat by any means, but reading all this, I hope Hillary wins in 2016 just so I can watch the lunatic fringe explode and see what excuses they come up with for why they lost, and how once again they will "block everything the president tries to do" like they did when Obama was elected (what a great way to run the "govmint" !)

      May 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  10. think quicksand!

    The world is overtaking America for one primary reason: Americans have been sinking into a quicksand of their own making for over 30 years now. This quicksand is called the 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception. Yes indeed, education is one way to empower ourselves to clamber out of this morass, but building character is another way that is sorely needed as well. Character is composed of: morals, values, integrity, decency & hard work. Playing smoke-and-mirrors games with ourselves and the world, is not going to fool anybody anymore!

    May 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  11. think quicksand!

    The world is overtaking America for one primary reason: Americans have been sinking into a quicksand of their own making for over 30 years now. This quicksand is called the 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception. Yes indeed, education is one way to empower ourselves to clamber out of this morass, but building character is another way that is sorely needed as well. Character is composed of: morals, values, integrity, decency & hard work. Playing smoke-and-mirrors games with ourselves and the world, is not going to fool anybody anymore!!!!!!!

    May 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  12. outside observer

    It's amazing how an article on education in America becomes a discussion on War, oil, etc. What does any of this have to do with education? Sure, it relates to budgets but the problem goes much further. Again, everyone wants to throw stones and not look inward. This is not a Party problem; Democrat or Republican. It's happened over decades while both party's were in power. We all share blame in this.

    One thing's for certain – unless both Party's work together, no positive change will come.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  13. Jerry Okamura

    What are the odds that if you do not want to be "overtaken" and you have to ability to prevent yourself from being "overtaken", that you will be overtaken?

    May 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  14. Marty

    I disagree. Why should young people in America want an education. Food, clothing , housing are provided by the Government. If I attend college I'll have some expense that I'll have to borrow money and possible repay. Everything I want is free!
    In less than 5 generations Americans have returned to their "ROOTS".

    May 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Reply
    • just me

      Marty... those on the governments dime (and for clarification, I am all for getting people off of it who shouldn't be on it or are gaming the system – and there are a lot of those, but there are people who genuinely need a helping hand, and we should give that hand) are not getting a lot of money or anything so its not like they have a good standard of living (unless they are gaming the system then see my comment above). Just like everything else (including the pentagons budget, social security and Medicare, etc...) – I say to the government – clean up your own shops, eliminate all the waste and fraud BEFORE you come to me talking about cuts to programs, etc...

      May 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Reply
    • paulii

      Your sheets are showing.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Reply
    • Gazork

      Marty, what solution do you propose, survival of the fittest? That will eliminate those whom you consider to be below your standard.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  15. James

    Keep in mind Fareed is an advisor to Obama and has written several of his foreign policy speeches. Fareed believes we should abolish our democracy and establish a KING. Both Obama and the Democrats together with the liberal media want us to believe America is in decline so that we will "change" what we have into a Dictatorship.

    May 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • Gazork

      James. Is this your opinion or can you substantiate your statements as fact?

      May 6, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  16. ronmexico99

    Has anyone tried the math portion of this crap????? Common Core takes this already difficult subject and makes it nearly impossible to comprehend. I work in IT, know many math majors and feel we've solved our fair share of complex math problems but this stuff sucks. New math was a 60's & 70's abysmal failure that dropped math literacy rates everywhere it was tried. Calling it Common Core and training the teachers in this "new method" is not going to change the fact that it doesn't teach math. It teaches an irrational approach which is confusing to people who don't already understand the concepts you're trying to "shortcut" around.

    May 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  17. Tom

    So many people do not remember that the Trilateral Commission in its assumption for a World Banking System put forth one requirement that must occur: THE UNITED STATES MUST DROP BACK TO THE WORLD AVERAGE. This was in the material of this project in 1970 at a World Conference of the Commission. That was the year we sent ot World Debt for the first time and has been down hill ever since. We are not getting to the area where we could see a World Government with a World Money system WHICH PLACED IN PLACE WITH THE UNITED NATIONS. Look it up for yourself and be surprised. This is no surprise but a fact set in place many years ago. The UN and its World Banking System of two banks was set in place by FDR before 1940 and completed just before the end of the second World War. Look this up for our self. Put in force by Brendon Wood under FDR in 1944.

    May 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  18. Joemama

    Problem #1–our kids are educated by our government. Sell all of those schools to the highest bidder, give every person a voucher commensurate with our per-pupil costs, and watch as families are actually able to choose the schools that provide the most value to their kids.

    May 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  19. Alfred E

    Just where is Sarah P and Mitt R when we need them?!

    May 6, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  20. Bob

    All that matters is that we can always say we are the best, and a majority here will either believe it or find some way to rationalize complacency.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  21. Michael Marshall

    This is definitely not good when it comes to the direction of the U.S. The argument about taxing the rich doesn't even compare to this problem. Education is the problem.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  22. Dr veruju

    Other countries have some respect for their citizens and citizenship.
    The US is run by a secret cabal that is hell bent on turning the country into a slave labor camp.

    May 7, 2014 at 12:22 am | Reply
  23. William

    It'd be interesting to know how US teacher compensation compares to countries doing better..... I think I know the answer already.

    May 7, 2014 at 1:03 am | Reply
  24. ErstO

    Testing is good, but if all we are doing is teaching students to pass a common test we are not really teaching.

    Teaching involves not merely memorizing answers, it involves understanding the problems so the student can come up with their own answer.

    We need to move back were students are taught all subjects and allow them to fail on some, some may excel on math, some may excel on science, some may excel on literature other subjects. Its finding that one thing that works per student that is part of teaching.

    To expect all students to excel in all subjects and pass a common test is the real problem. And what works in Vermont may not work in Alabama.

    If we are really worried about our children and grand children we need to stop using education spending as a political football, and invest for the long term, not the sort term of how many students pass a common test.

    May 7, 2014 at 2:02 am | Reply
  25. Jeff Funk

    One funny thing about Thomas Piketty's book is that the Kindle Version is more than 20 USD. It is clearly not a book for people with low incomes.

    May 7, 2014 at 2:42 am | Reply
  26. Andrew

    As a person that has traveled and spent time working in many countries, there is something wrong with the food in US. Look what it does to our bodies, it is doing to our minds too.

    May 7, 2014 at 3:38 am | Reply
  27. Timely

    Testing is nothing new. Growing up in NY in the 60's we had the state regent not to mention midterms and finals. Standardized testing is a good approach to determine of all kids are being taught at the same level. My question is what about the actual teaching process and the material being taught. Teachers should not have to concentrate on just anticipated test material. Testing must leave room for teachers to innovate. Just using the same test with the same type of questions is not enough.

    May 7, 2014 at 8:39 am | Reply
  28. common core won't solve the problem!

    I have 2 daughters in the public school system right now. One is in 4th grade and one in 7th grade. Common Core was implemented this year. All I see is a short division or long division math problem is now being represented, pictorially, in 4 different additional ways. So instead of my 4th grader doing that math division problem in 5 minutes max, it is taking her 25 minutes to show her work, in writing, and by drawing pictures, for a total of 5 different ways to solve the same math problem (the original way plus the 4 new ways)! Do we really believe that this is going to educate our kids to a much higher standard? We have to be kidding ourselves! To be honest, the average kid in both my daughter's classes cannot even write one sentence, in English, without at least 1 grammatical error and 2 spelling errors! Yeah, we are in big trouble..... Asian kids are trouncing our kids easily................ 🙁

    May 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • so what will really solve the problem?

      I truly believe that the root of the problem is that "good living" made us soft, caused us to "back slide" and become lazy and of poor character. The only way for America to rise up again, is for our society to start to move away from the 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception. The opposite of back sliding is forward climbing, a much harder thing to do, because it requires all of us to get off our duffs, wake up, smell our own stink, stop blaming every thing on your neighbor, your senator, other nations, other people, terrorists............ and start to look in the mirror rather closely, at ourselves.......... Character is composed of: morals, values, integrity, decency, hard work. That's what we all need to work on developing. Then we all just might stand a chance. Teaching our kids new ways to do long division is just a patsy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • we need to improve our common core

        You have nailed it, my friend. We have grown rotten to the "core". We need to work on improving our "common core", meaning our character, how we interact with other nations, how we interact with mother nature and the environment, how we interact with our own family. Our "common core" has grown kinda rotten lately. So instead of shoving new ways to do long division down our kids throats, how about we shove better morals and values down our own adult throats? Our politicians are merely a microcosm or "representation" of who we are, so if they have supposedly grown "rotten", then so have we, that is to say us, you and me, not them, us, you and me. Ahem. So guess who has to change for the better, to make this world a better place?

        May 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
  29. wake up America

    I have 2 daughters in the public school system right now. One is in 4th grade and one in 7th grade. Common Core was implemented this year. All I see is a short division or long division math problem is now being represented, pictorially, in 4 different additional ways. So instead of my 4th grader doing that math division problem in 5 minutes max, it is taking her 25 minutes to show her work, in writing, and by drawing pictures, for a total of 5 different ways to solve the same math problem (the original way plus the 4 new ways)! Do we really believe that this is going to educate our kids to a much higher standard? We have to be kidding ourselves! To be honest, the average kid in both my daughter's classes cannot even write one sentence, in English, without at least 1 grammatical error and 2 spelling errors! Yeah, we are in big trouble..... Asian kids are trouncing our kids easily......

    May 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  30. wake up America

    I truly believe that the root of the problem is that "good living" made us soft, caused us to "back slide" and become lazy and of poor character. The only way for America to rise up again, is for our society to start to move away from the 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception. The opposite of back sliding is forward climbing, a much harder thing to do, because it requires all of us to get off our duffs, wake up, smell our own stink, stop blaming every thing on your neighbor, your senator, other nations, other people, terrorists............ and start to look in the mirror rather closely, at ourselves.......... Character is composed of: morals, values, integrity, decency, hard work. That's what we all need to work on developing. Then we all just might stand a chance. Teaching our kids new ways to do long division is just a patsy!!!!

    May 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
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