Every kid is unique, an individual with his or her own talents, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. A "common core" set of standards that are strictly limited to fields of study deemed most important ignores this fact and forces the child to deny their individualism and conform.
Other countries and those you mentioned, are doing better with regards to education, and it seems reasonable that their economies would in fact improve as well. However, it is not their very structured educational system that is necessarily the cause for student improvement, but the fact that these countries, regard the teacher as one of the most important professions one could enter. This means not only does the teacher garner much respect among the community but is also rewarded financially. If you pay the best salaries, you get the best teachers. But here, teachers are paid with public funds, at rates determined by gov't. rather than by direct market compensation based on performance. Instead of using tax dollars to fund a common education system, return those tax dollars to the people and allow licensed individuals to teach more specific and advanced subjects outside of a managed school building. Parents and students then decide what course of study they would like to pursue and would pay the teacher directly. The teacher would then not only be able to determine his/her own value, but would also have greater control over the teaching process. If discipline problems arise, the teacher simply refuses his/her service to that student. If the teacher is not doing a good job, no parents will enroll their children with him/her. But the collectivist mind will ask " what about the poor that can't afford to pay for education?" I would argue that humans, especially those with the desire to teach, are on the whole compassionate. If teachers could make 6 figure salaries they likely would be willing to accommodate hard working students by charging less than for those that could afford his/her rates. If this benevolence did not happen on its own, rather than forcing it with the hand of gov't, then, if we just quit spending money to fight terrorism and the war on drugs, and trying to build a fence that will keep thinking motivated humans out of our country, and used those funds to drastically increase compensation for public school teachers we would see an immediate improvement in education.
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