Speaking Tuesday at a Washington Post Live event on child literacy, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) was asked how America’s educational system has become “so mediocre” compared with those in the rest of the world.
He responded, “I think both parents started working. And the mom is in the work place.”
Laughing off the controversial nature of his remark, the governor said “I can just see the emails tomorrow” and was quick to walk back his comments adding, “it’s not a bad thing … it’s just one of the small features.” But, the rise in families with two working parents was, importantly, the first and only concrete reason the governor named.
Ignoring for a moment the fact that Governor Bryant seems to think that working women demonstrating ambition, hard work, financial independence, work-life balance, and healthy equal partnerships with their husbands might negatively impact the education of their children, let’s explore some of the reasons for America’s educational decline that Governor Bryant may have neglected to mention.
Might it be that in Finland, for example, the top-rated educational system according to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), teachers are required to get a three-year master's degree and teaching positions are so competitive that only one in 10 applicants is accepted?
Or maybe it’s the fact that American schools are funded by local property taxes meaning the rich neighborhoods have rich schools and the poor neighborhoods have poor schools, while in countries like Finland, schools are funded nationally according to the number of students.
Or maybe it’s the fact that the American educational system is completely dependent on standardized testing for both student and teacher performance evaluation, while many of the top international performers have abandoned this system as an expensive and irrational way to fairly assess performance.
Or maybe it’s that all Finnish students are provided with free hot lunches, so no student goes hungry throughout the school day.
Governor Bryant didn’t mention any of those reasons for the decline of the American education system. But, I’m sure Mississippians are comforted knowing their governor is doing everything he can to solve the "real" problem behind their failing education system.