A comprehensive, 22-year study of the United States education system found that 64% of everything taught and tested was wasted. The content categorized as "wasted" was either "immediately forgotten" or "never used." Meanwhile, content was categorized as "useful" if it either helped "eventually improve a student's quality of life" or "lead a student to be a better steward of family or community."
Broadly, the subject of "Math" topped the "useful" list. It did very well through eighth grade, according to the report, averaging at around 88% useful. Then, once "geometry" and "calculus" were introduced, the percentage dropped precipitously to around 12%. Writing also did very well initially, but also dropped with "poetry" and "analysis of classics."
"It is important to realize that this study only measured what was in the curricula, not what the students actually learned," said one superintendent. "We educators take a broader perspective, and look at the development of the entire child. For example, we view the school bus ride as a critical part of social adaption, and necessary for the complete student experience."
"We were very disappointed in the methodology," agreed the CEO of one standardized test producer. "Just look at page 53. Advanced biology was only considered as it impacted a student's eventual health and scientific accomplishments. The study did not measure the inherent intellectual curiosity demonstrated by high school students in their pursuit of biological excellence for its own sake, nor for advantages of mastering facts about biology as a competitive differentiator in applying to colleges."
Still, others see an upside in the findings. "This means that there is a huge opportunity," said one Governor, "to reduce the school budgets of my state by about 50% and not impact the quality of education. This represents a saving of hundreds of millions of dollars."
The authors of the report agreed. They cited their conclusions, noting, "This is a bigger opportunity in terms of re-allocating national resources than health care. By a factor of ten."
The financial savings may be controversial however. One parent commented, "The study misses the point. I need to have my four children out of the house most of the day." Many other parents surveyed agreed, for reasons ranging such as "professional development" and "income generating." Many economists agree that they cost effective "day caring" of all kids, regardless of what is taught, allows for both more earning and spending that positively impacts the GDP. "We could be teaching kids about Beethoven and Egyptian history all day, and as long as we do it relatively cheaply, the economic return is significant."
The Provost of a major private university also added, "the report misses the tone of the country right now. Parents want their children spending more time in school, not less. And politicians want to be seen as pro-education. If people believe that longer school days now will lead to greater economic success in the future, we should meet this market requirement."
A principal added, "Spending money on education makes people feel better - this is comfort spending in a time of economic stress, especially if what is spent is community money. Not every parent can afford a nice home, but everyone can lobby hard to build a comprehensive school campus, where their children spend more of their time anyway."
The President, when asked, took a more moderated approach. "I don't see getting rid of two thirds of all school programs. That is just not going to happen. Instead, we must aggressively shift the curricula, from having students sitting in classroom learning Roman history to have students instead sitting in classrooms learning about applications of advanced technology. I will be creating a panel to make recommendations how to best make this transition. But," the President cautioned, "these will only be recommendations. It is ultimately up to the schools themselves to best decide what and how students need to learn."