I hate to burst the bubble of America’s rah-rah-nothing-wrong-here types, but this country needs improvement. From the Minneapolis-St. Paul News come this list of where America really ranks:
- The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
- The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
- Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
- "The International Adult Literacy Survey…found that Americans with less than nine years of education ‘score worse than virtually all of the other countries’" (Jeremy Rifkin’s superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
- Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
- "The European Union leads the U.S. in…the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
- "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
- Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).
- Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28 percent last year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China. Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56 percent, Indians 51 percent, South Koreans 28 percent (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). We’re not the place to be anymore.
- The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]…37th." In the fairness of health care, we’re 54th. "The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
- "The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens" (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that’s the company we’re keeping.
- Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That’s six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
- "U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet it’s the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood poverty.
- Twelve million American families–more than 10 percent of all U.S. households–"continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).
No, this isn’t America-bashing. It’s a call to arms.