Stupid in America

Stupid in America

Ratings: 7.30/10 from 43 users.

Stupid in AmericaStupid in America is a nasty title for a program about public education, but some nasty things are going on in America’s public schools and it’s about time we face up to it. Kids at New York’s Abraham Lincoln High School told me their teachers are so dull students fall asleep in class. One student said, "You see kids all the time walking in the school smoking weed, you know. It’s a normal thing here."

We tried to bring “20/20? cameras into New York City schools to see for ourselves and show you what’s going on in the schools, but officials wouldn’t allow it. Washington, D.C., officials steered us to the best classrooms in their district. We wanted to tape typical classrooms but were turned down in state after state.

Finally, school officials in Washington, D.C., allowed “20/20? to give cameras to a few students who were handpicked at two schools they’d handpicked. One was Woodrow Wilson High. Newsweek says it’s one of the best schools in America. Yet what the students taped didn’t inspire confidence.

One teacher didn’t have control over the kids. Another “20/20? student cameraman videotaped a boy dancing wildly with his shirt off, in front of his teacher. Watch this free online documentary and make up your own mind…is the American school system producing stupid citizens?

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102 Comments / User Reviews

  1. I have developed an educational system that I’ve loosely titled My Ideal K-12 Public School Curriculum. It is IMO the only thing that separates the Commonweal from our real freedoms, those that come from individuals able to think actively for themselves. Here’s what I propose, in brief:

    There should be three pillars of the curriculum. I call them a troika, but you’re welcome to use whatever word you wish so long as it fits. The pillars, the teaching of which which must be instituted as early as possible in the education of every sentient human, are: (1) Philosophy, (2) Critical Thinking, and (3) the Art and Science of Formulating Effective Questions. The second and third pillars are actually subsumed under the first: Philosophy gives everyone the ability to participate in democracy.

    When I say ”philosophy,” I don’t mean reading obscure texts and then being tested on what you’ve read. No, I mean the actual DOING of philosophy by implementing a version of the Socratic method. Children as young as can be are so engaged whenever they ask ”Why?” Unfortunately (both for them and for society in general), their first teachers — in most cases, their parents — are ill-equipped to accommodate them, to sit down with them and engage in the exercise of curiosity.

    Instead, parents shove distractions at them — like television and video games — in order to avoid thinking with them. Or they use this time-honored answer, ”Because I said so,” or even worse, the abbreviated ”Because.” There is no better way to stifle curiosity; those methods teach that curiosity is unwelcome, sometimes punished, sometimes simply avoided or ignored altogether.

    I’d like you to listen to this 62-minute interview by Drs. Eric Thomas Weber and Anthony Cashio of Philosophy Bakes Bread with Dr. Jana Mohr Lone, Director of the University of Washington Center of Philosophy for Children: You may be amazed; you will certainly be engaged.

    Discussions about the ideas about which children are already curious, as well as those that introduce new concepts for them to contemplate — all facilitated by instructors trained in the art of discourse — teach even the youngest minds how to think critically, pose relevant questions, obey social rules of politeness and respect, stimulate even the shyest or most insecure personalities to participate (if not actively, through vocalizing, then introspectively, through silent contemplation) and encourage the curiosity with which we’re all born.

    I submit that active critical thinkers will be eager students rather than reluctant, often hostile ones. They will pepper their teachers with piercing questions and participate eagerly in the process of learning. They will develop into active readers and writers. School, for such individuals, will be FUN!

    But will their teachers be up to the task of fielding incessant questions? K-12 schoolteachers, typically the growing child’s second instructors after their parents, are underpaid, underfunded, and undereducated. They prefer silent classrooms in order that they can follow required lesson plans that ”teach to the test,” then administer tests that require no more than rote memorization followed by dutiful regurgitation, often in the form of fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice interrogation. Essay questions are reluctantly offered and just as reluctantly ”tackled” by students whose curiosity and love of learning has been trained out of them. And, of couse, essays take so much more time to grade, time being just one of the many essentials that these teachers lack.

    I’ve only just touched the surface of my troika defense. I’ll sum it up by saying that school, and its attendant requirements, should be the most fun that a child can have, as well as being the most rewarding, invigorating experience any educator can engage in.

    This curriculum will inject truly educated minds, prepared to reason, contemplate, and participate in democracy into our Commonweal. I can find no errors in my reasoning. If you can find errors, I beg you to engage with me. I love being wrong, for how else can I learn? That was Socrates’s belief and the main reason he sought out experts to learn from.

  2. From outside the US, an opinion.

    (Not quite) everything I see from US television seems to me to be made for those with a mental age in single figures. With grossly restricted vocabulary and a stress for the cost of everything to be regularly included, as in when there's a hurricane or tornado the damage is seldom rated in any terms other than that of $$$...

    With vocabulary used including such streetsmart-teen terms as "cool" and "insanely" as modifiers, is it any wonder that linguistic levels of everyday-use American English is, to U.K. ears, banal beyond tolerance?

    It's like being projected into a noisy classroom of low-forehead entitled chimps with IQs in midrange double figures. I'm only a modestly educated Brit whose education certainly didn't resemble how education is portrayed on US television, and the impression gained fromUS TV shows seen here is that you're a country of dim and microcephalic infants whose thought processes are so restricted that I suspect that conversation with such might feel like "trying to nail jelly to the ceiling".... It'd take a massively conscious effort to think down to the subterranean levels they appear to inhabit.

    And as for American "documentaries" - those are so low level that I could write far more high level scripts myself with even my basic U.K. education.

    I'd imagine that private American schools will have standards rivalling ours, with students receiving high level training in critical thinking just as I received in my standard state school here. Or possibly higher?

    But the VAST majority of American youngsters will never see such schooling.

    And it is showing, every time the man in the american street is interviewed about - anything. He can typically struggle to string more than half a dozen meaningful words together before having to stop to regroup his "thoughts".

    Watching such is somewhat like having a window into the life of another and slightly inferior species... Whose general knowledge could certainly be surpassed by any average ten year old here.

    It's become an accepted part of general awareness that Americans are as a rule loud, ignorant and commonly arrogant beyond bearing.

    For that, you can blame your exported TV output and your tourists, which latter are invariably heard *long* before they're seen... Which can generally be taken as a portrayal of approximate accuracy. Otherwise, being advertising-driven, it'd fail spectacularly.

    To summarize. As long as you show yourselves to be ignorant, undereducated and measurelessly dim, you'll get scant respect from us.

    After all, you elected The World's Stupidest and Most Arrogant Fool to be POTUS. The man with those nuclear codes. He actually had access to those. Trump. It'll take decades of massive remedial effort to repair the hyper-damage you did to your own international standing by his election. And then failing spectacularly to nail him for his crimes. In any other country, unbelievable. But in the USA, standard stuff.

    It is tragic. We're witnessing the accelerating downfall of what promised to be, in the early 20th century, the hope of a better world to come. The rot started, or at any rate became visible to all the world, at Dealey Plaza - in 1963.

    And that rot is an increasingly-accelerating process, with another truly massive boost happening in what became standardised as 9/11.

    Just as the Soviet Union fell apart from failing to learn from its mistakes, so - it seems - is the USA blindly careering towards its own horrific downfall. And after that, the Western world will enter a period of open-season for the extremist opportunists from the East. Which I'll be glad not to see. Being old, one can say what one likes and doesn't need to feel any need to please anyone. I'm old enough to care only for the truth, but I wholeheartedly wish that the truth were otherwise.

  3. People say the system has failed, while the elites consider it a resounding success, as it has produced the infantile, consumer drones, "their ideal citizen". Obedient, submissive, incapable of challenging power and who have no clue on what basis to do it.

    Like climate change and everything else, we were forewarned that this was coming and did nothing
    The problem is white people are good at blame shifting and are full of BS

  4. Yes, American schools have failed completely. They failed me 60yrs ago. Most teachers go from student to teacher without ever having another job. They have NO life experience. They have been taught by people afraid to leave school and get a job. The requirements to be a teacher should include 10 years of living and working a normal job before teaching. The facts speak loudly. That Trump is president, says it all. AMERICA IS THE HOME OF IDIOTS AND FOOLS.

    1. Perfectly stated. I worked as an educator for 12 years and you are absolutely correct. We have teachers who only became teachers because they never wanted to leave school No concept of the real world And l was a teacher I know first hand these teachers went from mommy and daddy’s house to college to teaching and just made a career out of school. I had to leave Went back to work in the private sector ( where I worked fit 20 years before teaching ) it should be mandated to work in the private sector for at least 5 years before you can be a teacher

    2. Boy. this comment sure didn't age well. lulz! But like you said "They failed me 60yrs ago."

      Trump is a genius compared to the corrupt dolt you've offered up.

  5. This documentary makes too many generalizations and some of the "facts" are blatantly false. I agree schools have issues, bad teachers and greedy, ignorant administrators do exist, but so do highly professional, creative educators. It's never one size fits all, even in public schools.

    1. As of your comment, this documentary was roughly 12 years old! I would *hope* that some things have improved enough to make some of the facts they put forth no longer true anymore. Maybe do a little research before commenting next time.

  6. The American educational system has always been broken. It's just that now it's gotten so broken that even stupid people can see it.

  7. Just accept, that most of american people just are stupid, and live on. You can't change your self because most american people just are stupid. Just Live with that.

  8. John Taylor Gatto explains the truth in his books Dumbing Us Down, Weapons of Mass Instruction, and History of Education. Schools are made to control the masses into being manageable consumers addicted to entertainment and fantasies. Tests don't prove ****. The literacy rates and Math literacy rates in America is HORRIBLE for a make citizens with 0 critical and creative abilities! Why? College debt ring a bell?...You guys cry about too many hood rappers or stupid rappers like Riff Raff when those same artists are more paid and creative than most people give them credit for.

  9. As an American myself, I can say American education sucks. What really irritates me is how the rest of the world teaches foreign language in primary school, but in the US they teach it in middle and high school. Why? It's been proven that younger children learn languages faster and easier, but somehow that isn't enough to change the system. I've had six years of French language classes and I'm still not able to properly understand or speak it. I have a feeling that if I had been taught French when I was young instead of when I was 14, things might have been a little different. Now it seems like those years have been a big waste of my time.

    And Common Core can go f*ck itself, what a load of bull.

  10. I didn't know that those kind of documentaries existed, the kind which reconsiders things we generally take for granted, a sociological study on real issues in some parts of our society and those should be taken into account to reshape the world for the best.

  11. I love John Stossel because he comes with the facts. I've been watching him since the '80's. When I was searching to buy this 20/20 special I came across a "Media Matters" review of this documentary. They slammed it as "skewed" and "misleading". I wouldn't trust anything from that source because they couldn't have watched the same documentary I watched. I see them as having the bias. You rock Stossel, keep it up.

  12. No informed and educated person will be surprised at the findings of this documentary. Mr. Stossel might have gotten to the 'root of the problem' by testing American teacher's skills AND knowledge against their European & Asian counterparts.
    Those results might prove shocking to many, and answer the essence of Stossel's enquiry!
    Ortega y Gassett saw all this ignorance unfolding, ('REVOLT OF THE MASSES', c.1945) , over six decades ago. Since that time we have seen the universities' relentless evolution into profit making enterprises, with big budgets and fat salaries to athletic departments, heads, coaches, and useless, nominal professors.
    Decades of dedication to glorifying sports at the expense of learning , has also reared the ideologues of the materialistic and martial society we have become.
    The entire American educational apparatus should each, carve Dante's admonition over their entrances: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here".

  13. funny, and... educational.

  14. Huh......... now I'm kind of REALLY glad I was homeschooled. Even though I started in 6th grade, it made all the difference.

  15. school is less about knowledge and more about
    control, training people to be a specific way and aspire to specific
    things, pecking orders regarding intelligence, social power for example
    are learnt in school, imo mainly to divide people into controllable

  16. Try teaching a classroom of gr. 7 or 8's with 40 kids in them. Hormones are raging; it's like teaching in a can of sardines. Part of the answer is the culture of respect, pupil-teacher ratio, educational assistants for the slower kids. Pay is only part of it. Teach teachers how to teach and make sure their subject expertise is used. Don't ask a teacher to teach evolution if that teacher is a die-hard creationist. Specialization is the best approach. Learning should be fun for elementary school, but let's face it, is your job going to be fun all the time? You're there to learn not always have fun. Parent divorce rates screw kids up. When parents are working 8 to 10 hrs. a day, they don't have much time to spend with their kids, so the onus is on the teachers to raise a lot of these kids. I hate to say it, but, private schools get to pick and choose students because it's run like a business. Sad state of affairs, but that's reality!

    1. Give unto Cesar what is Cesar's and unto God what is God's. If your employer says evolution is an accepted science that will be part of the curriculum then all teachers working for that employer must teach it or choose a different place to teach. Point blank. Making the case that learning isn't always fun is worth while and quite true and what is also true is teaching isn't always fun. However, if you're a teacher that means teaching what you don't agree with just like it means , for the student , learning what you're not interested in. Just get it done.

  17. Its sad but I think this may be a major part(outside of American foreign policy) of what makes Americans rather disrespected on an international basis. I think that there is a general perception that Americans only know about themselves and very little about the rest of the world. I'm Canadian, and while I personally have never been to Europe I know many that have and when people learn that you are Canadian as opposed to American you are treated very well. Again, I really believe its the US governments history that most find repulsive. I just don't think people like a braggart and the US seems to think its the best whereas most nations are much more humble.

  18. The system is similar in Canada from what I have heard. One of my psychology professors was in teacher's college, and she was saying that one of her colleagues was happy that the troublemaker with ADHD was suspended for a week because someone from the school board was coming to grade her. It's a disgrace that teachers have to worry about their jobs when sometimes they just don't have the resources to attend to everyone in the classroom.

  19. This is just a disgrace.Thank god i don't live in America.

  20. impressive 'tache

  21. Nakor420 is correct in every way of his/her comment. Thank you for posting that.

    With that being said, this reporter is a hack. The true reason why the United States has such low scores is the fact that the United States education system counts the scores of VERY student. Whereas, in other countries such as Japan, Russia, some countries in the continent of Africa (just to name a few) only count the scores of their brightest students or students within the general education classes. The United States isn't as bias or discriminate.

    This reporter hasn't done any through research on the matter and is the stereotypical, same ol' story of spreading hate and shame on the United States. He forgets that the best country to be in if you have any type of disability is the United States. Some parents from other countries come to the United States when their child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or has a Specific Learning Disability because they know that the best programs for those disorders and disability is in the United States. The US has the best ESE (Exceptional Student Education) program in the world. I can tell you from personal experience that if I were born in Cuba, I wouldn't have moved forward at all because they don't have such programs for people with disabilities. It's truly a sink or swim situation in that country and Cuba isn't alone in this mentality. Lots of countries throughout the world believe in this method. So to those who are insulting the education system of the U.S., please do some research...REAL deep research and not a hack job one like this idiot reporter has done.

    Another thing. I work within the education system and I can tell you that the scenes this reporter is showing are only the extreme, exceptional cases. Not all students behave or act in the matter as shown in this video. That also goes for teachers. Unfortunately, the media LOVES to over-exaggerate a story to gain viewers and rantings, so they'll always show the extreme cases, which are at times extremely rare. There are excellent and wonderful teachers and students. Sure there are a few (pardon the phrase) bad apples and unfortunately it's the bad apples that gets all the attention. After all, no one wants to hear good news about student success and inspirational teachers. It's the bad news that gets the highest rantings, thus more money. Don't get me wrong. There are students who just don't care, but that's only two or three students out of a classroom of 30 - 40 students. And yes... there are bad teachers too whom I sometimes ask myself where the hell they went to get their degrees at or at least know where they got their nasty, bully-like personalities from, but like the students there are only a small number of teachers who are bad.

    Finally I want to add that the creators of this documentary are idiots. The title is very misleading. It should have said, "Stupid in the U.S." He and many other people forget that Canada, Central and South America are also Americans, because Geography and World History point out that Central, North and South America are known as the Americas. I think the reporter needs to check upon his own education before acting all high and mighty. He shouldn't be going about insulting any nation, especially when he himself is an idiot for not having basic History and Geography knowledge. >_>

  22. A large portion of the problem is that it's popular to be stupid. Kids think it's cool to be ignorant, and they have no respect for their teachers. Of course this stems from bad parenting in many cases, but popular culture is MORE to blame. Rap music makes kids think it's "cool" to be a gun toting drug selling ebonics talking thug. If a rap "artist" spoke in proper english, do you think they would sell records? No, they would go under because that's not what's cool. There are exceptions of course, but most kids in public school don't want to LEARN, they just can't wait for school to be out. Look at the footage in the school hallways, you can see the punks with their pants hanging around their ass and all that bs. Those kids aren't there to learn.

  23. John Stossel? Talk about stupid.

    1. Such a compelling argument you make. You have convinced us all.

  24. America wants a military next to none, and she has it.
    America wants a system of 'education' providing year after year young men with no prospects to volunteer as cannon fodder, and she has it.

    Shame on us!

  25. I am a homeschooling mother of 5 and to be quite frank I was quiet disheartened with the public education my 2 children received several years ago (yes, my school is an A plus school whatever that means!). I decided to homeschool and my children are doing exceptionally well and I don't have the concerns of bullying, school shootings, drugs, peer pressure. I myself attended public school for 2 years and I can attest that it was horrific! The things that went on..............

  26. wow. this docu is really misleading.

    #1 california spends 50K a year on each incarcerated prisoner and this docu thinks that we shouldn't spend more than 10K teaching a student? maybe that's why they become prisoners!!

    #2 it doesn't take into account parenting - the mother should have been helping her son learn to read. the private program was doing HER JOB, that's why he learned and that's why she liked it... it takes the job out of her hands and she can pass the buck.

    #3 parenting should also start to teach kids how to learn and what behavior is acceptable while in school. schools are NOT daycare and teachers are NOT parents. you can't expect teachers to discipline your children when you won't.

    #4 if you don't want the responsibly of disciplining children and actually parenting them, the by all means, use your reproductive freedoms and don't have kids!!! but if you do don't shove them off on the school system.

    i watched 15 minutes of this one and had to shut it off, watching it after the 'how the kids took over' docu, and the same issue still stands - parents need to be parents. if not, feel free not to reproduce.

    1. I'll throw you for a loop here and say that I completely agree with all of your points, but I think you are misleading yourself if you think valid questions were not raised as well.

      #2 Some parents can't read very well and/or may not have the time or ability to actually help them learn to read.

      #3 I agree with you, but again I think you're assuming too much about the parent's ability

      #4 This does address the previous two issues, but on the one side you have the republicans fighting the reproductive freedom of women in general and on the other you have the same problem, of people not being intelligent enough to know better than to have kids in the first place. We should be offering a free pack of beer for every vasectomy...that should help make a dent in the problem =)

    2. 2.) Baloney! My mother taught me to read in English and she didn't even spoke the language, much less read and write it. She used audio books (today they are audio cds and mp3s). She would asked that I repeat whatever the reader said and point to each word so I know how that word looks like. She would listen carefully how I pronounce each of the words. She would use the the audio tape as a guide to hear if my pronunciation was correct. This was how I learned and practiced to read at home after school. My mom wasn't a teacher or anything, just a typical immigrant young home maker, yet she knew that in order for me to move forward and be more independent she had to talk with teachers to find out what would help her daughter to read. She knew that school alone wasn't going to help me over come my disabilities. She knew that I had to be home schooled after public school. This is simple common sense. If parents know that their kids need extra practice and teaching, they ought to speak with teachers to see how they're child is doing. Many people may just see me as a substitute teacher, but I take my job very serious and I do speak with parents after school, when they come to pick up their child, to tell them how their child is doing. I even show them the assignments their child did and how they did during the actual discussion and demonstration part of the lesson. Many parents will ask me what they can do at home that may help their child. That's what parents need to do... take responsibility.

      3.) Parents need to be parents...otherwise don't be a parent. Tie the tubes or cut off the balls, if people can't take the pressure or responsibilities to properly raise a child.

      4.) Again that's baloney. >_> My state is generally a Republican state yet abortion clinics and planned parenthood programs are still occurring and running smoothly. Republicans aren't as close minded as the media wants us to think. If that were true than why did a Republican government paid my abortion (the child was dead and had to be removed)? Don't stereotype all government officials. Yes there are many rotten eggs in government at the moment, but there are quite a few who do good. They can't do everything, because their hands are tied and they have bosses of their own whom they have to please, but when let loose they do good for the country.

      I think you're just giving people excuses to be lazy and ask other people (strangers) to take responsibilities for their problems and help with the consequences they created. If people can't take the responsibilities of the consequences of having sex, than they shouldn't be having sex in the first place. After all, condoms break and birth control pills can be a dud. They need to know that sex leads to having kids. PERIOD!

      I'm with Sieben Stern on this one. Schools aren't daycare centers and if people can't take responsibilities for what they created, than they should go to a Planned Parenthood clinic or any other clinic that provides any birth control method. Though I would take the extreme route. If the individual knows he or she can't parent kids or are incapable of properly raising a child, than he or she ought to do everyone a favor and get sterilized.

  27. @Romulus, "Want a simple solution that I personally guarantee will work? Sterilize everyone in the bottom decile of the IQ distribution. Start today and in 20 years or so, America will be an infinitely better place to live."

    That's called Eugenics, and it was the basis for the Holocaust. They were actually sterilizing people into the 1970's, in America, due to this movement. There are still lots of low IQ people here, so maybe, that's not the best solution. haha!

    1. Very true. Two geniuses could still have a child who is cognitively or intellectually disabled, so Eugenics is a lie and would never work.

    2. A TDF IQ test? Now that would be a good laugh!
      A TDF IQ test? Do religious questions count?

  28. I hate the part where the one guy comes to your house to check if you live there and not live outside the district...there are people living in different towns that still are about to attend my school

    Then again...I live in Canada, so everything might be different

  29. One of the guys I car pooled to Central High was in the machine shop program. I recently found out that he is in prison for life, for attempted murder in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Ohio. He built a bomb and put it under his ex-wife's car and blew her and her boyfriend up. Apparently the machine shop skills were put to good use.

  30. I took auto shop at one high school for two years and did the other work at my local school that had no vocational programs. This was in 1971-1973

    One day I took my friends Mustang in because a crankshaft bearing was defective. A kid in class who owned a Mustang took the starter from my friends Mustang (which I had removed) and put it on his car. He also stole Willy Wonka Peanut Butter Scrunch bars from a local store he broke into at night and sold them out of his locker. He knocked the air out of me one day after I took to long to give him his 5 cents.

    Our teacher was shot and killed at school the next year. Eventually they closed Central High School in Columbus, Ohio and a movie called Teachers was made there.

    Years later I briefly dated a woman who had her jaw broken trying to break up a fight between 8th graders.

  31. A child's success in school begins and ends at home. My parents were at my schools checking on my progress every chance they got, forced me to read in front of them daily and I had to show them my homework each night when completed. One day when I came home and said I didn't have any homework my mother was at school the very next day pitching a bitch. My teachers knew that if they didn't instruct me there was going to be hell to pay. I doubt if many parents go to such lengths today.

    1. My mother was the same way and she didn't know the customs or language of United States. She only knew Spanish and yet she was still able to teach me how to read in English using audio tape (the 1980s) books. She would also communicate with my teachers on how to further my education (I had suffered from sever Learning Disabilities). She even created index cards to expand my vocabulary and everything. She would also make up homework or ask the teachers if they have extra worksheets for me to practice the skills of that day. She was pretty much a warrior when it came to my education. She even defended me whenever I was insulted or put down by general ed teachers because of my disabilities. My mom didn't know about IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or early intervention or anything of that nature. She just knew that I could learn and that all I needed was more practice and time than the other kids.

      We're lucky to have parents would went on the extra mile. I know I owe my life to my mom, because she went through that extra mile and over mountains with me. I'm a special ed teacher (currently a substitute) mainly because of her. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now.

  32. @Ron Burgundy
    Indoctrination stations!
    I am glad to be homeschooled

  33. All you people that deny there's a problem need to look at who started the public school system and why. They did it for a reason, to keep people Dumb. Even in Canada where I'm from school is a terrible place to put a child, there's often no choice here either.

  34. @Ron burgundy
    I totally agree with you, the war on drugs is a lot like the prohibition.
    the moral here is:
    when you demonize something and mention how horrible it is constantly, then people will (naturally) be attracted to it
    Many people have been arrested and will have a permanent scar on their criminal record, just because that decided to smoke marijuana.

  35. The dumbing down of people is intentional, you can't control masses of well educated people. The war on drugs makes the problem worse and that's why the drug trade is encouraged by making a market for criminals to exploit. If drugs were legal to buy the criminal element would have no power and money related to drugs but our schools hammer the Idea that laws will help somehow. If everyone knew what America is doing to itself and world there'd be a revolution but instead there's just a bunch of dumbasses selling drugs to get ahead and that brings violence. Don't believe me? Look at how much better Portugal is doing since they decriminalized drugs, they have less violence, AIDS, Overdoses in only 5 years all the negative consequences of drugs have been reduced. Look at Holland, they have far less Pot users yet you can go to a Bar and smoke it without getting arrested.

  36. Listen, to what john stosal says at the end "We hope it starts a debate" and it has who's to blame? YOU

  37. I went to Detroit Public Schools and although the teachers and resources were not as good as those offered in other richer cities in Michigan, any student who wants to learn could definitely do so, a pool or fancy learning equipment are not necessary for learning. All you need is a teacher, a classroom, some books and simple school supplies, and students willing to learn. This documentary seems to do a good job blaming everyone, except the students themselves. My peers in high-school were very disrespectful to their teachers, many barely did their homework, and saw school as a place to socialize not as an institution to learn. I focused on my studies and went on to attend a very prestigious university, irregardless of going to one of the worst high- schools in America. I'm not special or especially hard-working, its simply because these kids in these poor neighborhoods do not care about their education (I lived in one all my child-teenage years). Maybe one could argue that schools could do a little more to make the students feel passionate about their education, I believe this is a task more suited for parents. But perhaps schools should do more with respect to security and safety. In my high-school it was not uncommon for students to go to the hospital due to the injuries they sustained from fighting and the administrators weren't doing a good job preventing bullying.

  38. fluoride in the water supplies .. mercury in the fillings ... wood alcohol in aspartame .. just to name a few ways Uncle Sam and Corporate fascism has been dumbing us down .. add to this bad influence from mass media and entertainment sources owned by the same evil entities .. voila

  39. 12:43....a cop in the background?

  40. blame the parents. why can't they spend 5 minutes a day teaching their own kids how to read?

  41. This is why my mother homeschooled me.
    I have a friend in public school, She is 2 years older then me and it is almost painful to be around her when she has to read something, I am 12-years-old
    Public schools are pathetic

  42. @ Mandaz Really? Like most ignorant Americans you expect a one problem/one solution situation... really? Tenure is the problem??? That is by far the least problem in public education, how about funding, budget cuts, cuts in music, art, and physical education, standardized testing, the crazy amount of money that one disabled kid costs the school, the lack of exceptions from parents on their children, student-teacher ratios, etc. are far more likely to negatively impact learning... perhaps you need to spend a day in a classroom before you start popping off and blaming the overburdened underpaid teacher!

    1. I agree with everything except for "the crazy amount of money that one disabled kid costs the school"... not that I disagree that it doesn't cost money to educate a child with disabilities (lets use people first terms), because it does cost money. I disagree with placing it as a blame. It reads as if you have a problem with general schools educating students with disabilities. I can assure you that special schools aren't for every child with disabilities and should only be an option in the most extreme cases (sever cognitive and intellectual disabilities, sever Emotional and Behavioral disorders, etc). The purpose for special education in a general school is to ultimately mainstream and help assimilate the student with disabilities in becoming a productive, independent adult in our society. Special schools, by large, can't do that, because they don't give students with disabilities the chance to socialize with the general public, thus preventing important social skills which will benefit that child later as an adult.

      Also having that student with disabilities in a general school would also help the general students to be aware and understand the various of people in their community. They wouldn't be shocked or surprised when they meet someone with a disability(ies) when they start socializing outside of school. I knew a few students in my University who never met someone with a cognitive disability and they would act really mean towards this one guy at the computer room who clearly had a cognitive disability. I had to step in because doing nothing is just as bad as what those adult children were doing to him.

      It's because of those reasons why I've decided that if I do have a child and he or she is born with a disability, that I would place him or her in a general school and would provide him or her the support he or she needs. It will also enrich the society, because one could never know the gifts and talents that a person with disabilities may bring up that will benefit the whole society.

  43. We are is not the teachers cheating their students, it is the parents inability to parent, turn off the fu*king xbox, take the phone, instill discipline in their child(ren) ... Sorry but I work with variety of schools, it is clearly a parent-child issue... parents don't want to accept responsibility and they are creating kids who are unprepared for school muchless life!

  44. We are is not the teachers cheating their students, it is the parents inability to parent, turn off the f@#$%^& xbox, take the phone, instill discipline in their child(ren) ... Sorry but I work with variety of schools, it is clearly a parent-child issue... parents don't want to accept responsibility and they are creating kids who are unprepared for school muchless life!

  45. This whole doc is highly suspect. A lot of it seems very driven by sensationalism and captialist propaganda- not that there's anything wrong with capitalism, but it appears to be at the expense of rational discourse. It's raising important issues, but its biases are preventing it from coming across reasonable.

  46. I'm definitely a believer in the free market. I believe that competition does inherently make systems more efficient at whatever it is they do, be it manufacturing a product, providing a service, or serving a social function. As such I'm a strong supporter of the voucher system, where education tax dollars are divided up equally between students and then the family gets to decide which school they take their kids to. Eventually the absolutely terrible ones will go out of business. And even if the worst, most entrenched teachers' unions and administrators aren't banned outright, they will eventually drive their failing schools into the ground.

    Even though I do believe in free markets, I also believe that education is a service that everyone should have equal access to, therefore the state will always have a role to play. I AM NOT in favor of completely privatizing our education system. The state should still continue to operate public schools. Obviously the state will still collect the taxes and distribute the vouchers to everyone.

    I don't think that teachers' unions should be dismantled entirely, but to pretend that the unions in their current form are not destructive to our education system is ridiculous. As it stands, a teachers' union's job is to protect teachers' employee interests from admittedly incompetent administrators. But ultimately teachers are employees of the state and are there to serve the community. Unions will universally favor seniority over merit and they will seek to work against the removal of all teachers, including the incompetent ones. These qualities are part of the problem, not the solution.

    I do recognize that today's teacher unions exist as a defense against school administrators, who are just as broken as the unions. But to counter failing, counterproductive, entrenched administration with failing, counterproductive, entrenched unions leaves the students as odd-man-out and getting the worst of both worlds. I would guess that across the board at least 10% (if not much more) of all non-teacher school employees can be fired outright and the saved budget money can be used to improve teacher pay (with the raises based solely on merit). The most important thing IMO is that school administrators need to have serious, honest external oversight. I would also suggest that administrators are only hired for X (say 2 or so) years at a time and they need to justify the continuation of their employment to these government overseers (and the taxpayers) on a regular basis. If parents are taking their vouchers elsewhere, failing administrators will be automatically filtered out of the system.

    Just a few thoughts, hopefully I came across as a bit more balanced to the more left-wing readers than Stossel. I agree in general terms with his assessment, but I do recognize that full privatization is not the answer and that an education should be available to everyone, not just the plutocracy. I just want to make sure our society is able to provide a GOOD education to everyone.

  47. @ w.g. We do not have a "free-market system"
    Its called soft-fascism or where Corporations dictate government policy like corporate-welfare, corporate personhood rights etc. Check out the docu. The Corporation and you will see how businesses like Enron exist. It is quite illuminating.

  48. The main problem with education is one word, TENURE! Can anyone think of any other job in America where you can recieve job security after working somewhere for a certain amount of time? I believe when tenure is earned it makes teachers unmotivated and feeling the need not to work as hard. Why should they? They never have to worry about losing their job.

    1. I disagree with that...though 9 months ago that would've been true,but now with the Senate bill being passed tenure is no more. Plus the benefits of being a great teacher, such as pension, retirement, merit pay etc are all gone. I understand that some teachers do abuse the tenure, but teachers such as myself who do everything we can for our students and go over hills for our job, we really appreciate that tenure. After all, we're not rewarded with any merit pay (that's a joke, because where is the money for that? In the pockets of the extra administrators we don't need), the least we good teachers could have is that tenure. I don't want to be fired because little Jimmy isn't completing his homework. Homework is for home, fire the parents or guardians who aren't on top of their childs' education.

  49. America has a lot of problems but the education is the biggest , put a kid from america and a kid from poor countries to make a ecuation . I bet on the poor kid , this is because he wants to make it to have a good life , and the other already has it .
    Maybe the education from parents is the problem.

  50. The issue does not revolve entirely around union operations. Plainly this is part of it but teachers run the gamut of superlative to downright rotten. The school system in Canada is largely the same (go to the local school) and the teacher's union is very strong. However if you note in the brief flash of international rankings Canada is 7 US is 25. I don't know what the difference is. The US has always had a strong anti-intellectual bias and of course there is the religious element which automatically precludes any freedom of thought.

  51. I would just like to state not ALL children are stupid in America; Just America is willingly leaving them behind so they can remain a non-moral militant state. I am American and in my experience of this horrible system they go through; I experienced Advanced Placement then the shift to No Child Left Behind where i ended up in a summer school math; one of my strongest fields. Its the teachers union; which is necessary to keep the wages reasonable in this world; and inability to get rid of bad teachers. Any industry (yes education is a business) needs growth and *dead-limb* replacement to thrive. Now I'm not saying that parents are not responsible to help their child's education since they are responsible for at least disciplining them; but our problem is in the whole equation.

  52. People need to stop complaining and start taking responsibility. It seems like no one wants to take accountability for anything. I went to a public high school in a wealthy suburban area where standards were high, and i think the main difference between where i went and where these kids go is that everyone is held accountable in my community, no excuses. The parents are involved (my mom was such a ***** about grades but it worked), the teachers don't accept failure, and arguably most important of all the kids want to learn because they realize the kinds of benefits it provides them later in life. The blame game isn't played and everyone is involved. With respect to public schools in general, they can work - ive seen it first hand. but everyone needs to get in on it and do their part.

  53. Traditional schools are a failure. There are many reasons, but while we all debate the causes our children continue to suffer. I and millions like me, are choosing to get out of the system and home school our children. Not for isolation, or religion, but because we want them to have a better education and we know that we can't do any worse, and in most cases can do better than traditional schools. Home schooling was a fringe movement, but now as more and more parents are discovering there is much more to learning, and wanting to learn then being chained to a desk at the mercy of red tape, standardized tests, and unionized teachers.

  54. I have to say that John Stossel is the most un abashed super capitalist ever and I think his 'documentary exposes' (if you can call them that) are so right-wing biased it makes me sick.

    Having said that there were some valid points. I LOVE the idea of government money being attached to the kids and not the schools! I think that's such a revolutionary and awesome idea that should be implemented.

    However, I DEFINITELY agree with everyone here who's talking about culpability of the kids and the parents. That's a BIG issue and, as someone who came out of public schools, you can definitely see it everyday you go there.

    I must say though that (not to toot my own horn) I've always been above-average in the academic field and had a great love of learning. I used to read 2-3 books at a time and love learning but part of the problem is that 1) not enough teachers are engaging or even competent and 2) the curriculum is unchallenging. High school in particular almost completely destroyed my love of learning and since deciding to go to college (which I almost didn't do) I have just recently returned to reading 2-3 books at a time. I failed geometry 3 times and got the same teacher every time except the last time I finally passed. Now I'm doing advanced algebra and other types of intensive math and science and designing circuits. Furthermore, I understand everything I wasn't in geometry now.

    So it really is a combination of problems not just one thing.

  55. No wonder most Americans seem intellectually obtuse.

  56. The teacher's union is scary - very scary.

  57. The hate-Box parents through at their kids probably doesn't help anything. I really don't think children should be on xbox live. The community is just too negative and vulgar. I spent my childhood riding bikes, playing in the woods, visiting the lake, fishing, playing backyard sports... Kids just need to be more active. Kids these days are a mess. My little brother is a prime example of bad parenting. My parents spoiled him. Now he is obese and plays about 8 hrs(thats low balling it) of xbox daily. He eats what ever he wants, whenever he wants. He's an emotion wreck... and my parents do nothing but through money at him. It's a sad story but maybe he will have a realization and fix himself. Parents and teachers alike need to wake up...

  58. this program is so filled with partisan spin it is upsetting. capitalist extremists who are just trying to produce a video that average parents will want to watch. Notice how it never blames parents or there stupid children. The thought that people would believe all this is alarming. The part about monopolies being inherently wrong is just....inherently wrong. You think that following these suggestions wouldn't just breed more inequality?

  59. The issue is that all these public schools think that all kids learn exactly the same as every other kid, after watching this I'm extremely grateful to go to a quaker school with nobody telling me what I have to be and I can learn at my own pace.

    1. "nobody telling me what I have to be and I can learn at my own pace."

      That is what I'm fighting for at the school I'm working at. I practice it too, because some teachers may need an example on how to do that without their quotas being compromised or being behind.

      I'm also fighting against the idea that students with disabilities are the only ones who need a paraprofessional to help them. Sometimes students in the general ed program need a mentor too.

  60. You can say what you want, but if the kid is "stupid", the parents are at fault. Kids should know basic writing skills before they go to kindergarten. Parents should be more involved in there child's education. Don't just throw a tv and an xbox at a kid. Turn off the tv. What does tv teach kids?

  61. The problem is American culture, look at it; always flashy with no thought and no outcome. In America if you are smart you are demonised for it, whereas neanderthals throwing around pig skins and shopping is applauded.

    The children in Sweden don't have these problems and they are free to experiment without punishment. American kids don't want to learn beacuse why should they? You can get lots of spending money without using your brain, Americans have been taught they don't need to learn because they are already "the best at everything" yet every world polls out there says they are lagging from their hospitals and living age, to their schools and infant mortality rates.

  62. guys im 14 and even i can understand that the real problem is the Russian and my parents firmly believe in beating me and are fairly strict and you know what my grades are ....All A's and i have been skipped a grade up, by the end of this year i will be going on to early college......some of the kids in my class have called their moms on theyre cellphones at the front of the class and cussed them out with the teacher watching,the teacher did nothing...i swear it pisses me off so bad i just want to take some of my classmates put them over my and spank the s*** out of them

  63. Want a simple solution that I personally guarantee will work? Sterilize everyone in the bottom decile of the IQ distribution. Start today and in 20 years or so, America will be an infinitely better place to live.

    1. When was your sterilization done? And how are you tracking improvements in America during that period?

  64. The system could use some re-working. But kids need to start studying and trying hard. You can only learn if you want to. Clearly they aren't interested.

  65. The problems in public schools can be easily solved in one school year. Simply charge per student on a sliding scale forcing each family to give up a part of the income or public assistance for their children to attend school and watch how fast behavior would improve and how many fewer children would be left back. Because there is no sacrifice for the education of their children many parents fail to understand the importance of it nor do they feel the need to participate in the child's acquisition of it. Start making families pay something and the changes will be dramatic and overnight.

  66. Eh, Australia also has it so where you are zoned is where you go, and as you could see by that chart on this program, or ig you want to Google, Australia does much better than America, so that can't be much of a contributing factor.

  67. I love how one of the kid's mom is like "he's 18 and he's on a 4th grade reading level." Well....where the F*** were you the whole time??? What a joke. It starts at day one of birth.

  68. Rip
    August 21st, 2009 at 17:17


    No, only Americans are.

  69. This isn't just a problem for the US. In Britain we have similar problems too. My take on it all:

    Scumbag parents = scumbag kids. People should be made to take a parenting course before being allowed to breed.

    How can anyone expect teachers to want to even bother when yobs behave like this and have no intend to learn or better themselves.

    Not a very good doc but the issues are relevant.

  70. This documentary might have some bias, for instance the interview time dedicated to the teachers union side was much more limited then the opposing view. And though they showed statistics early on on the effects of money on performance, they fail to show any statistics on how much better charter schools do.

    But those here who have said that this is right wing propaganda are completely off the mark. Let us look at the Belgium example used here. The Belgians have a great system because they mix open market competition and social support systems in a constructive, balanced way. They provide state money for each student to spend on education, so the education is state funded much like in the US and even the former Soviet Union. But they use the open market efficiency principle effectively in that they allow the students and their parents to decide how and where this state money is spent.

    The documentary is not advocating privatization off the school system, where the rich would go to best schools and the poor to the worst. they advocate the money being allotted to the student and not the school system to make schools compete and thus be more efficient. Of course this is an oversimplification many other regulations would need to be put in place to prevent the income of rich parents to skew the prices of schooling making 6000 - 9000 only enough for the worst schools while the rich pay twice what the state provides to go to better schools. There are many issues to address but this generally they make a very valid point.

  71. Absolutely incredible that in America today we as a society can not help every student with an education. I truly believe that it does stem from the teachers. I know all of us have had a sub-par teacher at one point in our lives. It is just sad that parents can't do anything about it and when they do they send school hitmen out to spy on families.

    what a sad day in America

  72. This is obviously a flawed expose that relies heavily on anecdotal evidence. Echoing what a lot of people have said, there are so many areas here to consider- more than just the "high school failing our kids." Now granted, there might be some truth to that, but the problem is certainly deeper. There has to be some accountability expected of students and parents, period. Take the kid who couldn't read here- maybe he's better off learning in an isolated setting, and how do we know school failed him and he didn't fail school? It's dangerous to make that distinction without seeing the CHOICES he made, day-to-day. That's the way it used to be anyway, before we started excessively coddling our youth. And where was his dad?

    I'm sure at those same schools that were featured, there were AP courses and highly motivated students. And often times those students come from stable, supportive backgrounds. It's not a coincidence, it's a strong correlation. It's all very darwinistic if you ask me, and naturally/rightfully so. Simply stated, a kid has to want to be there, and I've found that a percentage of students, regardless of what the school does, will be turned of off before even entering the building. Thus the problem is also sociocultural in it's nature (the dismantling of the nuclear family, MTV culture, poverty, etc.). And my guess is that Belgium (or wherever) spends more on education than they do on war/defense.

    Having said that, most schools operate on an antiquated paradigm that needs to change as our population does. But to throw this all on the backs of schools is a mistake.

  73. in response to "slightlyobsessed", and in agreement with "R"...

    "legintamet", "amarican", "salution", "whide", "isses"...are you serious? I am also assuming that these comments are posted by adults and college students, I myself am a college student and have a problem with the education system. I was fortunate enough that my parents were able to take me out of public schools and place me in a private high school. I had attended public schools my whole life, and english is my second language, I am fluent in both spanish and english, and took up french in high school for four years, I worked, was involved in my church, played football and wrestled, and I was still able to do fairly well in school. After high school I attended a university of the state and was amazed at the level of intelligence that some people are accepted into college with, I know that I am not the brightest crayon in the box, but what are students doing going to college if they are just going to goof around in class and not do their homework?...America's education system is going down the drain. The main reason that the gap between the rich and poor is getting bigger is because of the lack of education, and there is a lack of education because parents are not as involved in their children's lives as they should be. Most will say that I have no idea of what its like to be a parent, and its true, but I do know that if your child gets to be 18 and he can barely read children's books that you as a parent just did not care about his education when he was younger. As for the teacher unions, are you kidding me? Teaching is supposed to be about the joy of passing on knowledge to what will be "the future" of America. What kind of future can I look forward to for my children? Will I have to homeschool them to prevent from wasting their one and only opportunity at an education? Something must be done about the problem facing our education system...

  74. America needs most of its students to be very bad. If it helped all kids get out their maximum potential the whole economy would crumble. Who would work in factories? Who would do all those tiresome underpaid and often dangerous jobs only the undereducated would?
    A city needs only a small amount of doctors/lawyers etc and a huge amount of "slave-like" workers. The rich could not be rich if they didnt have a huge amount of people making their money for them with hard labor.
    In my opinion this is not 100% an issue of money and competition. It is the very structure of the nation's society that does not want people that are educated.
    All this of course is just my opinion from what I know and have seen/heard.

  75. I think it's telling that some of the comments here, presumably written by adults, contain blatant errors: "legintamet," "there freakin ‘right’."
    Are you serious?

  76. It's a combination of factors and mainly I think it's because we just don't value education in our society. At least, not like we once did. We are now the 400 pound gorilla on top of the world that no one wants to mess with so this arrogance and ignorance just saturates itself into the culture over time. People think, "why should I have to learn anything?" And they are not ashamed of their ignorance because no one will challenge them or tell them they're wrong for thinking that way. I remember going to school and the kids that tried or were intelligent were made fun of. You were more popular and cool if you acted dumb, skipped school, disrupted the class, etc. School was just a place where people went to socialize and didn't care about their education.

  77. It might also be worth noting that all the kids interviewed in Belgium spoke better English than some of our own kids - and that's their second language.

    1. Actually English is our 4 th language here in Belgium. We first speak Dutch, French and German. Those are thaught from the start of basic school on. English only starts at high school.

  78. .. reward teachers who teach better.. and hire teachers who are passionate and filter out those seedy ones before they start texting your sons and daughters.

  79. I like the Belgium solution, I mean isn't it more democratic giving people a choice? Why is it so harmful for the money be attached to the child?

  80. I think its a legintamet issue, but a crappy documentary. THe narrator seems to belive the problem with amarican schools can be fixed with a bandaid. I never like commentators who belive they have the salution to a nation whide problem. However I feel that there are many isses with education, if anyone knows of a decent, less biased documentary let me know.

    1. watch sir ken robinson speak. thers a bunch of his lectures on youtube. brilliant rational man. funny too.

  81. This was informative but it was hardly a fair representation. There are multiple problems contributing to the failure of the students in America. For instance the mother who complained that her 18yr old child wasn't learning... I have to wonder what she did besides complaining to the school about it. The mom who was complaining that she had to teach her son in kindergarten how to spell his name herself; aren't parents supposed to teach their child the basics before they even enter the school system? Teaching a child to spell his name isn't "extra" parenting, it's basic parenting.

  82. More right wing nonsense from John Stossel. This "doc" is just another example of the spin he's gotten away with on 20/20. Gov't is bad, teacher's unions are ruining your children, but if we all just go for vouchers we'll be saved. Stupid. If teachers didn't have their unions, they would be vulnerable to the whims of administrators. And if free market competition is the answer, explain Enron. How'd that work out for everybody?

  83. The root of the problem is "NO DISCIPLINE!!!"

    These kids have no, absolutely NO fear of repercussions.

    Sad parts is, if we re instituted real discipline tomorrow, it would take 10 years to reverse this trend.

    we're doomed with this generation to come.

  84. This was very informative. Yet another poignant issue for America to fix. It reminds me of my high school experience... kids shouldn't hate school, they should embrace it. Bad education breeds cynicism and ignorance in children.

  85. That kid didn't even try to learn until his 18th year, or when his mother saw the 20/20 add and manipulated the program to help her lazy kid finally learn. I don't believe it, is his mother illiterate, she couldn't help him? crap cop out.

  86. And we wonder why a numerous amount of punks think they HAVE to sell crack to survive, and its there freakin 'right' to do so, what a joke. America will be classed as a third world country in a matter of decades, its too bad Canada might follow, as it does in most issues, other than the promotion of arming the public with human killing guns.....MAN KIND IS STEADILY AND QUICKLY GOING DOWN.