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					stupid in america

learning how--and how not--to apply the
principles of comparative analysis





POLS 373 Foundations of !
Comparative Politics!

                       

professor timothy c. lim
  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice



viewing questions

•  what is stossel’s main argument? What are his!
   subsidiary arguments?

•  what specific variables does he identify?

    –  what is the dependent variable? The!
       independent variable(s)?


•  what comparative strategy does he use?!
   does he use comparisons in a logically!
   valid and systematic way?

•  what type of evidence does he use?

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



the comparison: international math and literacy tests


           stossel’s argument suggests that countries with high math !
          (science and literacy scores) must have competition-based !
                                          school systems: is this true?



      here are some countries with “school choice” (or competition-
       based) systems: netherlands, sweden, denmark, chile, hungary,
        czech republic, germany, new zealand, canada (depending on
                                                           province)

international
rankings for
mathematics,
science and reading
on the 2006 PISA


the impact of
competition-based
systems: from this
table, we can see that
many competition or
choice-based schools
systems rank high, but
many other “monopo-
lized” systems are also
ranked very high!


 what does this
        tell us?

        a little comparative checking tells us that, while
“competition” may be a factor in educational achievement,
      it almost certainly is not the only factor (or potential
                              independent variables) at play


      a good comparativist knows that more comparative
                                   analysis is necessary

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



the comparison: schools in the u.s. and belgium



       now let’s examine stossel’s comparison of the u.s. educational!
           system and the belgium educational system in more depth





                                 vs.

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



the comparison: schools in the u.s. and belgium





    was the comparison between the u.s. and belgium compelling and
                                                                  

       logically sound? did it make sense and support the argument?
  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice



the comparison: schools in the u.s. and belgium 


      to determine whether a comparison between the united states and
       belgium is appropriate, we need to know more about belgium: we
                                             need to do some research



      without too much trouble, we can find out some interesting facts
              about belgium, facts that may or may not be relevant to the !
                                              argument made by stossell 

  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice



the comparison: schools in the u.s. and belgium 


                                         consider the following information


         
 belgium is an overwhelmingly catholic country (75%) with two major
                ethnic groups, the flemish (58 percent) and the french-speaking !
                                                         walloon (31 percent)

      there is a big educational gap between the two ethnic groups: the flemish
                          population does much better than the french population 

        the flemish have the highest scores in the world, while french-speaking
                                         children in belgium are only “average”

  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice



the facts: belgium


       
 belgium has a population of 10.5 million (versus over 300 million in the
          u.s.); still, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world

                           belgium has the highest tax rate in the world (55.6%)

             belgium ranks very high in terms of income equality (13 out of 99
                                             countries--the united states is 60th)

      belgium’s immigrant (foreign born) population is slightly lower than in the
                                              united states (12.1% vs. 12.9%)

       belgium’s per capita GDP ($33,500) is slightly above the oecd average,
                                but substantially lower than the u.s. ($43,800) 



     are any of these facts of potential significance? why?

  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice



reprise: another look at the!        Unit (rank)                                   Math Score*

international rankings
              Taiwan                                               549
                                     Finland                                              548
                                     Hong Kong                                            547
from the table, which countries!
cry out for more analytical"         South Korea                                          547
attention? 
                         Canada                                               527

that is, what cases do we want to!   Belgium                                              520
learn more about? why?
              United Kingdom                                       495
                                     Norway                                               490
what sort of additional "
comparisons make sense !             Latvia                                               486
(think about both an!                Russian Federation                                   476
appropriate logic and strategy)
     United States                                        474
                                     Source: OECD and U.S. Department of Education
                                     * Test of 15 year-old students on the most recent PISA exams
  stupid in america!
  the comparative method: some practice





additional comparisons?

one country that cries out for!
more analytical attention is !
finland: another european country,!
but one that scores much higher!
than belgium in all areas--math,!
science and reading (finland is!
#2, #1 and #2 respectively)

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice





additional comparisons?





      
      
so what makes finnish kids so smart?

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



what makes finnish kids so smart?


      most analyses of finland’s educational system conclude that the
       keys to finland’s educational success are well-trained teachers
   (teachers receive free graduate-level preparation with a stipend) and
                                                   responsible children


                                   it also has a government-funded !
                                 system, with few funding gaps among !
                                                              schools

                                                               more …

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



what makes finnish kids so smart?


  students do not start school until the age of seven; school years are
    short; there are no “gifted programs”: and students are assigned to
                                  the same school from age seven to 16




         so, what does the finnish case tell us? does it support or
       undermine stossel’s argument? why do you think stossel did
                                  not include finland in his report?

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



other comparisons?


     a study on the impact of competition (or school choice) should, if
                                possible, also examine domestic cases

   in the united states, there happens to be a near-perfect “test” case
                in milwaukee, which implemented a voucher program in !
                                                         the late 1990s




                 what type of comparative strategy can we use to
                                    examine the milwaukee case?

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



other comparisons? the milwaukee case


   “fifteen years into the most expansive school choice program tried in
   any urban school district in the country, milwaukee’s public schools
        still suffer from low achievement and miserable graduation rates,
         with test scores flattening in recent years. violence and disorder
          throughout the system seem as serious as ever. most voucher
            students are still benefiting, true; but no milwaukee miracle,no
                     transformation of the public schools, has taken place.”



 source: sol stern, “school choice isn’t enough,” city journal (available at http://www.city-journal.org/
                                                                  2008/18_1_instructional_reform.html 

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice




summing up


    stossel is not necessarily wrong: competition-based schools may
   improve educational quality; however, it is clear that his comparative
                               research design is fundamentally flawed

    To “know” whether Stossel is right, wrong, or something else, we
      need better, more systematic and logically sound comparisons



                                                                more … 

 stupid in america!
 the comparative method: some practice



summing up


   a good comparative framework will show that the issue is far more
     complex than stossel suggests: we know (with almost complete
    certainty), for example, that “monopolistic” school systems are not
                                                      automatically bad

    to make a case for or against stossel’s argument, we need more,
                            better, and deeper analysis and research

            most importantly, perhaps, we need intellectual integrity !
         and honesty (we could apply this same criticism to m. moore)


				
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posted:10/10/2011
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