The latest word on the quality of America’s public education system comes from Hilton Head Island. In addition to being one of the most affluent communities in South Carolina, Hilton Head’s schools are usually noted for scholastic achievement.
At the beginning of this new school year, juniors at Hilton Head High School were given a comprehensive American history examination. Fifteen-year-old Stephanie Mayer outscored all of her classmates with a grade of 95, and to score 95 out of a possible 100 points does indeed reflect a solid knowledge of American history. This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that Stephanie is a German exchange student who, prior to taking the test, had been in the United States for only one month.
When I read about this, I immediately wondered how Stephanie’s classmates would fare if they were tested on their knowledge of German history.
Stephanie’s achievement has made her a Hilton Head celebrity. A newspaper printed an interview with her, accompanied by her photograph. But she couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The test was easy, she said, and multiple-choice questions make it easier to score higher. "We don’t have multiple-choice in Germany. Here, almost every test is multiple-choice." The test was also easy for Stephanie because she had studied the same U.S. history two years ago in Germany. In fact, she claimed that most of the classes she is taking at Hilton Head High, are subjects she studied one or two years ago at her school in Bavaria.
Stephanie finds that she is spending less time on homework here than in Bavaria. The schools in Germany cover 10 subjects a week compared to four subjects a week at Hilton Head High. Also, her teachers notice that she is not like most of their students. They claim she has "a different attitude toward homework, teachers and school — she’s just a serious student."
One of the reasons this young woman is attending school in America is to learn Spanish, a course that isn’t offered in Germany. In addition to her native tongue, German, Stephanie also speaks fluent English; a language that many native born Americans seem to struggle with. Also, because she wants to attend college in yet another country, she will probably learn another foreign language, possibly French.
I suspect the schools in Bavaria stick to basic instruction and avoid the trendy educational fads so popular in American public schools. And, from Stephanie’s school demeanor, we can assume that Bavarian schools don’t have the discipline problems that we do and I doubt that their students have to pass through metal detectors to get into the school building.
This incident speaks for itself so I won’t elaborate further. However, I want to leave you with two quotes, which I find interesting, and you can make of them what you will.
First, the Mission Statement for Hilton Head High School:
"The mission of Hilton Head High School is to equip each student to become a productive, responsible citizen in a complex, technological age that requires lifelong learning."
Second, the aims of education from the Bavarian Constitution:
"The paramount aims of education are the fear of God, respect for religious conviction and for the dignity of human beings, self-control, a sense of responsibility and willingness to take responsibility, helpfulness and open-mindedness for all which is true, good and beautiful."
Gail Jarvis [send him mail] a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of the voluntary union of states enumerated by the founders.