Book Review: One Nation Under Taught

One Nation Under Taught:  Solving America’s Science, Technology, Engineering And Math Crisis, by Dr. Vince M. Bertram

This book is by no means worthless, or even bad, but it does read like a sales pitch for the author’s bipartisan organization slightly too infected with contemporary identity politics to actually solve what the author views as a crisis within STEM education within the United States.  To be sure, the author does bring up some valid points throughout the course of the book, but the author’s evident desire to stay in the good graces of political figures leads him to pull his punches and not write the sort of expose that would threaten his abilities to work within the contemporary education system and cheer on fads like Common Core, which the author appears to confuse with a mere attempt at common educational standards across the United States as a whole, done on a state-by-state basis, rather than one of the ideologically driven fads that has led to a wide disparity between high education expenditures and low education achievements in the United States as a whole over the last several decades or so.  In short, this book does not quite hit the target it is aiming at because the author is too interested in selling his ideas to school districts rather than alienating educational elites with the bitter truth about our educational failures and the drastic steps that would be necessary to address them.

This book is a small one at less than 100 pages, and it begins with a foreword by Steve Forbes and an author’s note before its main material.  After that this book, more like a booklet at some parts, discusses how America’s education is failing us in terms of lower salaries and economic achievement resulting from poor teaching (1), how the failures of America to train enough future scientists and engineers and related professions endangers our ability to stay on the cutting edge of research and development around the world (2), why we fail and some obviously biased ideas on how to fix it (3), some ways that the author expresses his conviction that such changes can be made through world class curricula, high-quality teacher training, engaged partnerships with industry, and some results (4), and then a conclusion that adds to the author’s concern for science, technology, engineering and mathematics the same sort of cultural political concerns that have helped to ruin the American education system in the first place.  Either the author appears unaware that he too is infected with the same sort of cultural politics that has helped endanger American education or he is unwilling to be too honest about the problems of such politics for fear of alienating support for funding for his initiatives.

Either way, though, this strange inability to recognize the implications of one’s own understanding threatens the author’s credibility in curing what ails America’s education system.  The author is right that politics is a big problem, but the fact that he touts support from such figures as Bill Clinton and Obama suggests that he is unaware that they (and he) are also part of the political problem themselves.  Likewise, the author shows an awareness that education majors are typically drawn from the lowest achieving students in college campuses, but claims that dealing with only the lowest 5-7% of teachers will be sufficient to increase the benefits of science and mathematics education when far more teachers than that lack certification and knowledge and interest in those areas.  The author’s attempts to make science and math more relevant to students is worthwhile, but his cultural politics are less so, showing the author’s approach to be more of the same calls for more money and more flash and not really addressing the sort of substantive changes that need to be made to improve America’s education by ridding it of leftist political agendas.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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