Last December, I wrote about the PISA scores. They're international education assessments, and the US didn't do very well. NAEP is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a division of the Department of Education. Yesterday, they published their results of how 4th, 8th and 12th graders fared in the arena of history. Last month, it was civics. They test every few years nationwide.
Take a few minutes and check out the sample questions in the 9 areas in which NAEP tests. With the exception of art and music, which are representations of the idea not the test, you'll see that the questions are reasonably straightforward and things that kids should likely know at those three grade levels. As you finish each sample test, you'll be able to see the type of scores that are generated by the people who'll be in charge in 30-40 years. Check especially US History, Civics, Math and Science. Prepare to be appalled.
Two other education stories for today. After 30 June, the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer be serving chocolate or strawberry milk, only plain. LA is the second largest school district in the US after NY. Strawberry milk has the exact same sugar content as an equal amount of Coca Cola. (Or any cola.) Imagine:
Soft drinks were banned in Los Angeles schools in 2004. But if you think that means kids are protected from too much sugar at school, think again. Children are regularly able to select a school breakfast that contains more added sugar than a can of soda. A popular breakfast offering of Frosted Flakes doused in chocolate milk with a side of coffee cake and a carton of orange juice contains 51 grams of added sugar (or 79 grams of total sugar counting those that occur naturally in the milk and the juice).
LA serves more school breakfasts than NY: and for a lot of kids, it's LA school breakfast or nothing.
In Philadelphia, City Council is debating whether to charge 2 cents per ounce for sugared soft drinks sold in the city. It failed last year, and probably will again this year. Another option is raising property taxes another 10% over last year's increase. All to fund the schools. It is rather high: a 2 litre bottle of soda goes on sale for 69 cents. With the tax, it would be an additional $1.34.
I believe that something needs to be done to fund schools, raise the nutritional content of food and beverages served in schools, and OF COURSE to raise knowledge levels in all grades. But I lack sympathy for the people who protest a soda tax, or a potato chip tax......don't get me wrong, I know that sales taxes are recessive and thus disproportionately affect the poor. But this is truly a case of the chickens coming home to roost. Sin taxes go all the way back to the Puritans. Really:
Puritan New England was awash in laws attempting to control sin, and the means varied from taxes to outright prohibition. These were known as sumptuary laws, defined as the regulation of extravagance in food, dress, tobacco use, and drinking on religious and other grounds.
So long as only some people are taxed, the bar has been set. Oh, cigarettes are bad, let's tax them. And alcohol. And cars costing more than $40,000 (which expired in 2002). Now soda, then chips. Get enough PETA members onto a City Council and you'll see a dead animal consumption tax.
The problem is that since taxes are for public spending, the public should pay them. Education of our children benefits all of us, whether we currently have kids in school or not. The cost of a lack of education is incalculable. Why put it on the backs of those who can least afford it? Taxes are necessary, and it is wrong to not share the burden.