Our generation faces a “Sputnik moment,” said President Obama in a speech at a North Carolina technical college. He called for investing in math and science education, as the U.S. did in response to the Soviet challenge.
But the Sputnik-inspired National Defense Education Act, which increased federal math and science spending after Sputnik, did not raise math and science scores, writes Andrew Coulson on Cato @ Liberty. He’s got graphs.
I remember Sputnik. There was lots of talk about Ivan being smarter than Johnny. The “new math” was supposed to fix that by teaching conceptual understanding — lots of Venn diagrams — instead of rote learning.
Now Korean and Finnish kids are beating Ivan and Johnny. (See the PISA story.) If it was just the Asians excelling in math and science (and reading), we could say it’s Confucian culture and the willingness to work very, very hard. But the Finns are notoriously mellow. And what about those Canadians and New Zealanders? It shouldn’t be all that hard to emulate Canada.