Archives for category: STEM

Tom Ultican writes a warning about a program called the National Math and Science Initiative.

“The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) was founded by a group of Dallas area lawyers and businessmen. Tom Luce is identified as the founder and Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and present US Secretary of State, provided the financing…

“Tom Luce is a lawyer not an educator but his fingerprints are all over some of the worst education policies in the history of our country. His bio at the George W. Bush Whitehouse archives says, “… Luce is perhaps best known for his role in 1984 as the chief of staff of the Texas Select Committee of Public Education, which produced one of the first major reform efforts among public schools.” The chairman of that committee was Ross Perot.”

Luce can claim credit for Texas’ expensive and wasteful obsession with testing and data. Hundreds of millions of dollars—maybe billions—were squandered by Texas in pursuit of data and scores. Thanks, Tom Luce.

Ultican writes:

“Mark Twain said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” For Ross Perot, the founder of Electronic Data Systems the problems in education looked like data problems. He and his Chief of Staff, Tom Luce, decided standardized testing and data analysis were the prescription for failing public schools. Unfortunately, standardized testing is totally useless for analyzing learning and public schools were not actually failing.

“Tom Luce was also directly involved in implementing NCLB (a spectacular education reform failure) while serving at the US Department of Education.”

So Luce helped deploy billions of dollars more in data gathering.

Now the NSMI is promoting Luce’s philosophy of teach to the test and bribes.

The fact that these policies have failed dramatically for 15 years at the national level and for 30 years in Texas does not slow the momentum of their advocates.

Tom Ultican left a career in Silicon Valley to become a high school teacher of physics and mathematics. He is one of our most perceptive critics of the role of technology in schools, having lived in both worlds: high-tech and high-school.

In this important post, he lays waste some of the most pernicious frauds of our times.

There is a great deal of optimism about the tech market in schools, but none of it is about making schools better. It is about making money for investors.

He begins:

Last year, IBIS Capital produced a report for EdTechXGlobal stating, “Education technology is becoming a global phenomenon, … the market is projected to grow at 17.0% per annum, to $252bn by 2020.” Governments in Europe and Asia have joined the US in promoting what Dr. Nicholas Kardaras called a “$60 billion hoax.” He was referring specifically to the one to one initiatives.

An amazing paper from New Zealand, “Sell, sell, sell or learn, learn, learn? The EdTech market in New Zealand’s education system – privatisation by stealth?” exposes the promoters of EdTech there as being even more bullish on EdTech. “The New Zealand business organisation (they spell funny) EDTechNZ, indicates on its website that educational technology is the fastest growing sector of a global smart education market worth US$100 billion, forecast to grow to US$394 by 2019.”

These initiatives are fraud based agendas because they focus on advancing an industry but are sold as improving schools. Unfortunately, good education is not the driver; money is.

He writes:

The trumpeting of a “STEM shortage crisis in America” is and always was a hoax. This same con is deforming public education. The new Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards were motivated respectively by Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Louis Gerstner (IBM). As a result they devalue humanities and glorify science and engineering based on this same fraudulent STEM claim. There must be a thousand charter schools that advertise themselves as STEM academies.

Here in California this same lie is being used to promote yet another attack on local control of public schools. In July, Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando) announced new legislation that would create a State authorized STEM school for 800 students. It would be privately managed and sited in Los Angeles county.

The news organization Capital and Main stated, “For a district that is already the largest charter school authorizer in the nation and is still gun-shy after recently fending off a takeover attempt by billionaire school choice philanthropist Eli Broad, any scheme that promises further stratification is an existential threat.”

Eli Broad wanted a STEM school to call his own but paid for with public money, and the state’s two major newspapers thought it was a grand idea to let a billionaire get a school just because…he is a billionaire:

It seems the fourth estate no longer ferrets out fraud and corruption but is instead complicit in these nefarious plots.

In the age of Trump, investigative reporting doesn’t matter. Nor does principle. Money matters.

Of course, technology can be well used, but what is happening today is that technology is being used to replace human contact. That is a mistake and a fraud.

Hi-Tech and digital initiatives are careening down a dark road. Because of the extreme power of hi-tech corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others, the development of education technology is being driven by their needs and not the needs of students. Students have become their guinea pigs as they release one untested technology after another into America’s classrooms.

Technology has a potential to enhance education but it also has the potential to cause great damage.

A century ago, there were people taking correspondence courses and getting great value from them. Today, the modern equivalent of the correspondence course is the online class.

However, students at screens like correspondence students will never achieve equal benefit to students with a teacher, because the teacher-student relationship is the most important aspect in education.

Teacher-student relationships are different than those with friends, parents or siblings. My personal experience was that I felt a genuine selfless lover for my students and we communicated about many things; often personal but mostly academic. I also felt a need to protect them. In America’s public schools, a student might have that kind of close relationship with more than 40 adults during their 12 years in school. This is where the great spark of creativity and learning leaps from teacher to student.

I have put students at screens in my career, but I never found great benefit in the exercise. On the hand, I have found technologies like graphing utilities to be highly beneficial, but it was the interaction with my students that was of most value for deep learning, enhancing creativity and developing a love for learning. If technologies destroy these relationships then they become a net evil.

Here is his ominous conclusion. We ignore it at our peril, and the peril of our youth:

A faculty colleague of mine said, “the last thing 21st century students need is more screen time.” I believe Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen would enthusiastically agree. She recently wrote an article for Atlantic magazine describing the dangers of screen time to the current teen generation she calls the iGen. Based on her research she said,

“Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.)”

“The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”

“There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.”

“In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.”

Obviously, many of our institutions have been corrupted by the immense power of concentrated wealth and especially by hi-tech industries. The money being chased is enormous, but there are more of us. If we educate ourselves, our families and our neighbors we can reform these greed driven forces into forces for good, but we need to pay attention.

Eli Broad will go down in history–if at all–as a selfish billionaire who used his money to destroy public education wherever and whenever he could. He graduated from public schools in Michigan, but instead of gratitude, he wants to ruin the public schools that helped him succeed. He promotes privatization. He has an Academy for superintendents where they are taught top-down, undemocratic methods; most are failures. He should be ashamed of himself. But billionaires know no shame.

Rally and Protest to support STEM schools, defeat ‘boutique’ school bill AB 1217

LOS ANGELES – Educators, students, parents and graduates of district STEM schools will rally TODAY at 4 PM on the front steps of Helen Bernstein High School, home of a successful STEM program, to protest AB 1217, which is co-sponsored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra and State Senator Anthony Portantino. The proposed bill would give away local authority to a boutique, privately-run STEM school in downtown LA.

Assembly Bill 1217 is a secretive, last-minute bill to create a publicly funded but privately operated STEM school, bypassing the local School Board, parents, and educators. If approved, it would take about 800 students from LAUSD but would not operate under the district’s purview. Citing accountability and funding concerns, the California Department of Finance opposes AB 1217 (see attached report). The bill would take away essential per-pupil funding and resources from the 142 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs already run in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The backers of the bill include Billionaire Eli Broad, who for years has bankrolled various “some kids, not all kids” schemes to kill the public education system that serves all students in favor of unregulated, unaccountable charter school operators. Ironically, Broad and his cohorts, like the California Charter Schools Association, just spent millions of dollars to buy the LA School Board election — and now he is driving a heavy-handed attempt to circumvent the same board just a few months later. Read LA Times story.

“This bill is an insult to the STEM programs that are in existence at LAUSD schools,” said Ben Kim, who teaches AP Calculus and AP Statistics at the STEM Academy @Bernstein. “Our STEM schools are doing amazing work, despite operating on shoestring budgets. Why don’t they fund these programs before allowing a billionaire-backed school to open up, without proper oversight and accountability?”

TODAY’s protest follows a recent campus visit from newly elected board member Nick Melvoin, who praised the STEM @ Bernstein. The visit was then followed by a board vote to undercut funding at the same school, which is in his district. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the LAUSD School Board voted 4-3 against George McKenna’s resolution opposing AB 1217. Divisive politics is what Nick Melvoin claimed to be avoiding as he voted along party lines, upholding the ‘billionaire bloc’ vote to deny local opposition to the state bill.

“The 4-3 school board vote shows that they are still beholden to their donors,” Kim said. “In their visit to our school, they tell us they support us. When it comes down to it, nice gestures mean nothing if they won’t fight for our public schools.”

Read Capital and Main story.

Speakers will include: UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, Dr. Ruth Montes (STEM graduate), current STEM students and educators, community members and parents who will call on Portantino, Bocanegra and Melvoin to save LAUSD’s STEM programs and kill AB 1217.

PRESS AVAILABILITY (English and Spanish interviews available)

What: Rally against AB 1217
When: Monday, Aug. 28, 4 p.m. To 5 p.m.
Where: STEM Academy @ Helen Bernstein High School
1309 N. Wilton Place
Los Angeles CA 90028

UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, represents more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals who work in the Los Angeles Unified School District and in charter schools.

The Trump administration disbanded a federal advisory panel on climate change.

One way to deal with climate change is to pretend it isn’t happening, and to refuse to listen to any scientists.

The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.

The charter for the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment — which includes academics as well as local officials and corporate representatives — expires Sunday. On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting administrator, Ben Friedman, informed the committee’s chair that the agency would not renew the panel.

This is in keeping with the administration’s hostility to science. Remember this when you hear Secretary DeVos urging students to study STEM courses. She doesn’t mean it. She wants them to study religion and learn science from the Bible.

Valerie Strauss describes the accomplishments of Betsy DeVos in her short time as Education Secretary. Most would think that such a list would cover less than a page, because none of her priorities has been enacted into law. Fortunately.

But don’t be fooled. She has used the “bully pulpit” to send her message: Choice. Choice. Charters. Vouchers. Charters. Vouchers. Tax credits. Charters. Vouchers. Choice. Choice. Choice.

She has also intervened in telling states how to fix their schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is contrary to the letter and spirit of the law. Then there is the fact that she doesn’t have a clue about how to fix any school, other than closing it down and giving everyone a voucher to a private or religious school.

She has made clear that civil rights enforcement is not high on her list of priorities. In cases of rape, she and her designated Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights have aligned themselves with the alleged perpetrators, not the victims.

She even endorsed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change. The irony, of course, is that she claims to be encouraging girls to go into STEM fields (aided by that great scientist Ivanka Trump), even as she denies the science of climate change, of evolution, and of anything that is not in accord with her religious views.

A reader who identifies as Democracy challenges John Merrow’s claim that this is the Golden Age of education journalism. He challenges the Education Writers Association’s “public editor,” who wrote about a STEM crisis caused by the low test scores of American students. I would add another point. A nation can be globally competitive and can lead the world without having every person proficient in STEM subjects. I don’t know whether the percentage of scientists, engineers, technicians, and technologists should be 20%, 30% or 40%, but it certainly need not be a majority. Athletes, musicians, philosophers, historians, and artists are probably not expert in STEM subjects. Nor are truck drivers, legislators, governors, and officials of the U.S. Department of Education. Professor Hal Salzman of Rutgers, an expert on labor markets and public policy, has already debunked the idea that there is a shortage of STEM graduates. In fact, he has written, there is a shortage of jobs in the STEM fields, not a shortage of skilled people. Also, Sharon Higgins, an Oakland blogger, wrote a post arguing that there is no STEM crisis, citing credible sources. Journalists should be aware at the very least that not everyone agrees with the reformers’ claim that the sky is falling. There are indeed two sides.

 

 

Democracy writes:

 

 

John Merrow says that “Education reporting has never been better…”

 

 

He’s wrong.

 

 

To take but one example, here’s a piece by Emily Richmond, “the public editor of the Education Writers Association.”

 

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/05/data-girls-stem/483255/#article-comments

 

 

This was my comment about that article:

 
_____________________________________________

 

According to Emily Richmond of the Education Writers Association, “just 43 percent of U.S. eighth graders tested met or exceeded the benchmark for proficiency” on the newest NAEP test, the Technology and Engineering Literacy assessment. This is important, Richmond asserts, because “it’s one of the few means of comparing student achievement among states.”

 

 

Then Richmond poses this question, answer, and explanation:

 

 

“Why does this matter? These are skills that experts say Americans must have if they are to compete in a global marketplace. U.S. students typically have middling performance on international assessments gauging math and science ability.”

 

 

The implications are far-ranging. Emily Richmond, a national education reporter, is telling, or at the very least, strongly suggesting to readers that Americans students just can’t cut it – they aren’t “proficient” – and American economic competitiveness in the “global marketplace” is threatened.

 

 

This claim is the very same as that made for the necessity of the Common Core State Standards, which were funded by Bill Gates. Interestingly, the Education Writers Association is also funded by Bill Gates, along with conservative groups like the Kern, Dell and Walton Foundations.

 

 

But the claim is demonstrably false. America is already competitive in the global marketplace (it’s #3 in the World Economic Forum’s latest competitiveness rankings), and when it loses its competitive edge it’s not because of student test scores but because of stupid economic policies and decisions.

 

 

But Emily Richmond says nary a word about this.

 

 

Nor does she make any mention at all that there’s a glut of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs in the U.S.

 

 

A 2004 RAND study “found no consistent and convincing evidence that the federal government faces current or impending shortages of STEM workers…there is little evidence of such shortages in the past decade or on the horizon.”

 

A 2007 study by Lowell and Salzman found no STEM shortage (see: http://www.urban.org/publications/411562.html ). Indeed, Lowell and Salzman found that “the supply of S&E-qualified graduates is large and ranks among the best internationally. Further, the number of undergraduates completing S&E studies has grown, and the number of S&E graduates remains high by historical standards.” The “education system produces qualified graduates far in excess of demand.”

 

 

Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote this stunning statement recently in the Columbia Journalism Review (see: http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php?page=all ):
“Leading experts on the STEM workforce, have said for years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors.”

 

 

So why the STEM emphasis?

 

Benderly continues:

 

 

“Simply put, a desire for cheap, skilled labor, within the business world and academia, has fueled assertions—based on flimsy and distorted evidence—that American students lack the interest and ability to pursue careers in science and engineering, and has spurred policies that have flooded the market with foreign STEM workers. This has created a grim reality for the scientific and technical labor force: glutted job markets; few career jobs; low pay, long hours, and dismal job prospects for postdoctoral researchers in university labs; near indentured servitude for holders of temporary work visas.”

 

 

As Michael Teitelbaum writes in The Atlantic, “The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/the-myth-of-the-science-and-engineering-shortage/284359/)

 

 

Teitelbaum adds this: “A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher…All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more.”

 

 

But Emily Richmond says nothing at all about any of this.

 

 

Richmond suggests that we should we should worried that “just 43 percent“ of 8th graders met NAEP proficiency levels, as if 8th graders hold the key – somehow – to American economic competitiveness. That supposition alone is pretty baseless. But what about those NAEP proficiency benchmarks?

 

 

Here’s how Gerald Bracey described the NAEP proficiency levels in Nov. 2009 in Ed Leadership:

 

 

“the NAEP reports the percentage of students reaching various achievement levels—Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The achievement levels have been roundly criticized by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (1993), the National Academy of Sciences (Pellegrino, Jones, & Mitchell, 1999); and the National Academy of Education (Shepard, 1993). These critiques point out that the methods for constructing the levels are flawed, that the levels demand unreasonably high performance, and that they yield results that are not corroborated by other measures.”

 

 

Bracey added this:

 

 

“In spite of the criticisms, the U.S. Department of Education permitted the flawed levels to be used until something better was developed. Unfortunately, no one has ever worked on developing anything better—perhaps because the apparently low student performance indicated by the small percentage of test-takers reaching Proficient has proven too politically useful to school critics.”

 

 

And then this:

 

 

“education reformers and politicians have lamented that only about one-third of 8th graders read at the Proficient level. On the surface, this does seem awful. Yet, if students in other nations took the NAEP, only about one-third of them would also score Proficient—even in the nations scoring highest on international reading comparisons (Rothstein, Jacobsen, & Wilder, 2006).”

 
The National Academy of Sciences called the NAEP proficiency standards “fundamentally flawed.” NAEP’s original technical evaluation team reported that “these standards and the results obtained from them should under no circumstances be used as a baseline or benchmark.”

 

 

NAEP’s governing board fired the team.

 

 

The General Accounting Office study of NAEP assumptions and procedures and proficiency levels found them to be “invalid for the purpose of drawing inferences about content mastery.”

 

 

Yet, Emily Richmond tells readers that “These are skills that…Americans must have if they are to compete in a global marketplace. “

 

 

Richmond makes no effort whatsoever to educate the public – her readers – on how badly flawed NAEP is. Does she just not know?

 

 

One thing NAEP seems to measure fairly well is income inequality. Or, to put it a bit more precisely, research has found that between half and two-thirds of the variance in student academic performance on NAEP is explained by a cumulative family risk factor, which includes family income, the educational attainment of parents, family and neighborhood housing conditions, and the ability to speak and read English. Richmond says only that there are “gaps…between students from low-income families and their more affluent peers.”

 

 

It’s reasonable to expect that a person leading an Education Writers Association would do a better – more accurate – job of presenting testing information to the general public.

 

 

One can hope….

Reader Alice responds to the court victory of VirginiaSGP, who succeeded by lawsuit in getting the ratings of Virginia teachers released and plans to post them on his Facebook page. VirginiaSGP is Brian Davison, apparently an engineer, who believes that these test-based ratings are true measures of teachers’ worth.

 

Alice comments:

 

“While I obviously cannot psychoanalyze Brian, I recognizer a lot of a STEM ego in Brian’s diatribes. As a recovering STEM- a-phile, I recognize the inability to recognize that not everything that matters can be numerically measured.

 

“Dealing with humans rather than machines, or in my case, neutrons, is very different and more complicated. Neutrons follow the laws of quantum physics. Neutrons make no decisions. They are consistent. Humans follow no laws of the physical world. Humans make decisions every moment of every day and those decisions are based on a myriad of factors that are not limited to whether they have eaten that day or gotten enough sleep. None of those factors can be measured and put into a VAM or SGP model.

 

“Coupled with the STEM ego is a denigration and misunderstanding of social science research. I have done both types of research. STEM research is cleaner. It is elegant and mathematically beautiful. This is the Gates MET study that Brian consistently quotes. Social science research is messy and depends highly on the assumptions made and the model used because all of these focus on a different aspect of humanity. It cannot be anything else and be of any use to educators. But it looks less “rigorous” than STEM research. But those of us in the field know the rigor.”

 

P-Tech is one of the most celebrated schools in recent years. President Obama hailed it in one of his 2013 State of the Union speech. He and Arne Duncan visited the school and repeatedly praised it as “proof of what can be accomplished” if we have the courage and will to do it. P-Tech was created as a partnership between the New York City Department of Education, IBM, and the City University of New York. I don’t take pleasure in reporting that their praise was premature. I would like to see P-Tech succeed. But it is very annoying when the President and the Secretary of Education go out on a limb to hail success before a school has ever graduated a single student.

 

Gary Rubinstein reports that P-Tech has been a huge disappointment despite (or perhaps because) of the overpraise it received.

 

In an earlier post, he says, he noted that only 2% of the students at P-Tech passed the Geometry and Algebra II Regents’ exams. Defenders explained that the pass rate was so low because students in sophomore and junior years were taking the tests for practice.

 

Now, he writes:

 

I recently followed up on my P-Tech research and found that New York State has revamped their data page extensively. Now all the data including the number of test takers is all available with a very user friendly interface. The P-Tech state data page can be found here.

 

I’m focusing on Algebra II since P-Tech is an engineering school where students attend for six years to earn a high school degree and an associates degree and a job offer from IBM. Since Algebra II is taken by advanced 10th graders I figure that P-Tech should be able to get a good percent of their students to eventually pass this test.

 

The first thing I checked was their 2014 scores last year again. They had 128 students take that test, which went against their claim that they made all their freshmen and sophomores take the test. If that were the case, it should have been about 300 test takers. In 2014 only two students passed that test with a score over 65 and four other students got between a 55 and a 65. Pretty brutal — but not as bad as how they did a year later.

 

In the most recent Regents administered last June, P-Tech decided to only allow the students who were most likely to pass the test, knowing that making too many unprepared students take the test would affect their passing percent. So last year only 41 students took the Algebra II Regents. Of those 41 students exactly one student passed and one other scored between 55 and 65. That’s it. The 39 other students all failed with scores under a 55.

 

Rubinstein notes that P-Tech, having received so much hype and praise, is now spreading across the country. Some 40 more P-Techs are in the pipeline in other states and in New York City.

 

Shouldn’t school officials wait for experiments to prove themselves before they replicate them?

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Qin, a junior at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, received a perfect score on the AP Physics examination. He was one of only two students to earn a perfect score. Nearly 23,000 students took the test.

 

Seminole is not a magnet school or a charter school. It is a regular public school.

 

Jimmy is in the International Baccalaureate program at Seminole.

 

Beyond physics, Jimmy’s interests include politics and economics. His favorite magazines are “The New Yorker”and “The Economist,” while his favorite newspaper is “The New York Times.”

 

Jimmy also plays the piano and cello. He’s a member of the Florida Young Artists Orchestra, where he is the principal cellist and has performed as a soloist four times.

 

 

If it were up to the “reformers” in Florida’s legislature, Seminole High School would not exist anymore. It would have been given away to for-profit charter entrepreneurs and turned into a lucrative real estate deal.

Fareed Zakaria warns that fears about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are greatly overblown.

Zakaria comes close to acknowledging that the “crisis” rhetoric of so-called reformers is a myth,or as Berliner and Biddle called it years ago, “a manufactured crisis.”

The demand fo expand STEM is often accompanied by disdain for liberal education, writes Zakaria:

“If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. From President Obama on down, public officials have cautioned against pursuing degrees like art history, which are seen as expensive luxuries in today’s world. Republicans want to go several steps further and defund these kinds of majors. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.”

But, he writes, to de-emphasize the humanities would be a huge mistake:

“This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Zakaria then makes a point I have made again and again to those who lament international test scores:

“In truth, though, the United States has never done well on international tests, and they are not good predictors of our national success. Since 1964, when the first such exam was administered to 13-year-olds in 12 countries, America has lagged behind its peers, rarely rising above the middle of the pack and doing particularly poorly in science and math. And yet over these past five decades, that same laggard country has dominated the world of science, technology, research and innovation.”

Sweden and Israel have poor scores on the same tests, yet are high on investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation. There are characteristics that are more important than test scores:

“They are flexible. Their work cultures are non-hierarchical and merit-based. All operate like young countries, with energy and dynamism. All three are open societies, happy to let in the world’s ideas, goods and services. And people in all three nations are confident — a characteristic that can be measured.”

The defining characteristic if a successful society, he concludes, is its ability to hone creativity and critical thinking skills. And for that, both the sciences and liberal arts are necessary.