About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Bush administration chickens out on international tests
The latest example of how Bush & co. simply disregard reality is an article in this week's Science magazine, reporting that the administration has bowed out of the next round of the advanced version of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS-A), scheduled for 2008. The TIMMS-A compares how well high school students from 16 countries who take advanced courses (hence the “A” in the acronym) in math and physics do. The reason this is important is that this group includes the students most likely to become the next generation of scientists and engineers, something obviously crucial for a country competing in the global economy.
But you see, in 1995 – the last time this international study was conducted – the US ranked dead last in physics, and next to last in math. Not exactly an encouraging performance, although of course, Bush can't be blamed for it . Nonetheless, the Bush administration apparently wishes to avoid a repetition of that abysmal failure, because it would cast a significant shadow over its much-trumpeted “no child left behind” program, which has already repeatedly been criticized by educators (i.e., by those who actually know about teaching).
Of course, the official excuse for why the US is not participating in TIMMS-A 2008 is not that the Americans are chickening out of an international comparative study, but that, you see, we don't have the money to contribute to the funding of said study: $5-10 million dollars! That's at the same time that we are spending hundreds of billions (with a “b”) every year on Iraq. Give me a break.
Patsy Wang-Iverson, coordinator of a group advocating for the participation of the US to TIMSS-A, said that “if we don't do it now, we'll lose track of an entire generation of reform efforts.” But that's precisely the point: no data, no basis for complaint. Could it be for a similar reason that the same Bush administration has long decided not to count civilian Iraqi casualties during their insane war? Inquiring minds can't help wondering...