The United States doesn't show well. While the United States makes a fine show of average performance (above level 2, below level 5) , most countries perform in the same capacity. More telling is the fact that the United States falls below the OECD average for top performance and above the percentage average for poor performance. The OECD reports a global average for level 2 and under performance of 23%. 26% of US students are in this category. Top performance in mathematics (operational at level 5 and above) has a global OECD average of 9%. Only 9% of US students reach these heights. See the results HERE.
What are all these levels about and why do they matter? Here is a description of level five student performance:
"At Level 5 students can develop and work with models for complex situations, identifying constraints and specifying assumptions. They can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with complex problems related to these models. Students at this level can work strategically using broad, well-developed thinking and reasoning skills, appropriate linked representations, symbolic and formal characterizations and insight pertaining to these situations. They can reflect on their actions and formulate and communicate their interpretations and reasoning."
And here is a level two performance:
"At Level 2 students can interpret and recognize situations in contexts that require no more than direct inference. They can extract relevant information from a single source and make use of a single representational mode. Students at this level can employ basic algorithms, formula, procedures, or conventions. They are capable of direct reasoning and making literal interpretations of the results. "
So, again, 26% of US students can work from a single source of information to make direct inferences. Less than 10% of our younger citizens can compete within complex situations to formulate strategic goals. This does not bode well for future, national economic competitiveness.
AOTON is a classical education organization that believes strongly in the value of competitive educational skill. Studia humanitatis help show each of us our place in social, political, and ontological existence; these studies provide true moments of reflection when we ask ourselves why the universe is the way it is. The humanities enlarge the spaces we inhabit and support us when we find ourselves walking uneven ground (adversis perfugiium ac solacium praebent).
But science and math tell us how the world works; these disciplines sharpen reasoning and unveil a world of mechanisms and functions whose beauty and purpose are as moving as the best of poems. Success in the sciences is also practical. Men, organizations, and nations compete. This is fact in a world of limited resources and rapacious demand.
National effectiveness hinges on rearing citizens who can manipulate the world's natural resources and physical laws with skill and confidence. Complex reasoning and the use of
"formal characterizations and insight" are necessary. They are not optional. But we must also be ready to remind the educators that the dispassionate and logical algorithms of science and math work best in concert with the lessons of history and philosophy.
Science and technology will change the world with its techniques. This is beyond argument. That the world will change for the better because of these techniques is based on understanding when the right need and right time for change present themselves.
We must give our youth the hammer to knock down walls, as well as point them to sources of wisdom showing where and when to strike with acumen and magnanimity.