I saw Tom Friedman recently, he was coming out of a movie theater (Money Ball if I had to guess given his age and the film options) next to the restaurant I was exiting.
He offered a piece, How About Better Parents? over the weekend wondering if parent involvement was a reason that the US scores lower on international standardized tests than we expect. His article implies that our lower scores are caused by a lack of parental involvement; basically saying that Americans must have a culture and home life that doesn’t value learning and education.
While Friedman cites some studies that show more parental involvement (early reading with kids, involvement with homework, etc.) has a dramatic impact, nowhere does he offer statistics that US parental involvement is lower than other countries.
“But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.”
Again, while he highlights what we knew intuitively (parental involvement improves educational outcomes), nowhere does he state or cite a study that says US parents are less involved.
In fact, the link that he does provide to the cited PISA study is only a 4 page pdf and it appears that the US in not in the sample.
Friedman used a bait and switch: shows us data that exists (US scores lower on rankings) and then shows us a report and analysis that does not include US data.
While this is a bit off of our traditional topic, its important because it highlights how international studies and statistics are thrown around and tied to things, but without substance. This kind of stuff influences policy debates constantly.
The real question: Why would Tom Friedman do this? Shill for teachers unions? Really believes we don’t value learning and wants to make it a policy issue? Is just a hack that wants to belittle the US educational system?
Would love to know more from Mr. Friedman. At least now I know what to say if I see him coming out of My Week With Marilyn.