Independent Institute’s Dr. Bill Evers & Ze’ev Wurman on K-12 STEM Education & California’s Woke Math

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman, of the Independent Institute, about the challenges of ensuring all students have access to quality K-12 math and science education in California and across the U.S. They review the findings of the 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, and international TIMSS and PISA data going back a decade, as well as recent NAEP results that highlight the ongoing educational crisis, compounded by COVID-related learning loss. They discuss some of the time-tested approaches taken by higher-performing countries such as Israel, and those in East Asia and Europe, to prepare students to succeed in STEM, and how state policymakers can address the gaps so America can become competitive with international peers in STEM fields. They share the findings of Dr. Evers’ Wall Street Journal op-ed about the rise of “woke math” in California, and how we can resist politicizing learning. They conclude with a review of a 2020 Pioneer Institute report that found that less than half of all U.S. high schools offer computer science instruction, and that women and people of color were underrepresented in those classrooms.

Stories of the Week: In Massachusetts, supporters of a proposed progressive tax claim the revenue will increase education spending – but will the measure instead harm the economy and reduce state resources for education investments? A program adopted by 19 colleges across the country is facilitating connections between conservative Christian colleges and liberal institutions to address religious and political polarization.


Dr. Williamson Evers is a Senior Fellow, Director of the Center on Educational Excellence, and Assistant Editor for The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy at the Independent Institute. Dr. Evers was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development from 2007 to 2009; Senior Adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings during 2007; and former Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. In addition, he was a member of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education from its beginning in 1999 until it wrapped up in 2014. From July to December 2003, he served in Iraq as Senior Adviser for Education to Administrator L. Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority. His articles have appeared in such publications as Education Week, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Christian Science Monitor, and he is a past member of the editorial board of Education Next. Dr. Evers received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Stanford University.

Ze’ev Wurman is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Chief Software Architect with MonolithIC 3D Inc., and has over 30 years of experience in developing algorithms, CAD software, and hardware and software architectures. He has been a senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education. He is also a Senior Fellow with the American Principles Project and throughout the development of the Common Core standards in 2009-2010, he analyzed the mathematics drafts for Pioneer Institute and for the State of California. In the summer of 2010, he served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated the suitability of the Common Core standards for California. He holds over 40 U.S. patents and earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel.

The next episode will air on Weds., September 21st, with Dr. Niall Ferguson, the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of sixteen books, including Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

WSJ: Don’t Make Massachusetts ‘Taxachusetts’ Again

Inside HigherEd: ‘Mining the Depths of Our Differences’

Get new episodes of The Learning Curve in your inbox!

Please excuse typos.

[00:00:00] GR: Listeners. This is Gerard Robinson coming at you again with another great show on The Learning Curve. Of course I can never do this without my brilliant fearless thought provoking co-host Cara, who always makes sure that she’s bringing her best and today will be no exception. So how are you doing?

[00:00:41] Cara: I don’t know.

[00:00:41] I might have to push back on you a little bit there because I feel like my learning curve this week is a little bit like long or high. I don’t know what the right. I I’m, I’m struggling a little bit GERD. I half there. We’re just, it’s a busy time. This back to school time. Isn’t it.

[00:00:58] GR: It is. And for the listeners who [00:01:00] know that I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, welcome back to the undergraduate and graduate students to the university of Virginia.

[00:01:06] Welcome to the faculty. We’re in person, some students are still online, but wanna say welcome to everyone in Charlottesville, but also to our high school, middle and elementary school students. Who are back to our students who are in micro schools, who are in home schools, private schools, just welcome to everyone it’s that time.

[00:01:24] And as a result, you know, you also being parents of school, age children between pickup drop off soccer and other sports. It’s a lot going. It’s

[00:01:34] Cara: madness. It’s madness, but it’s good madness. So, right. Like, I feel like as parents, we spend a lot of time just like towards the end of the summer, like when are we gonna get these children back in school?

[00:01:43] And then that first week hits and it’s all of the things all at once. But it’s good stuff. It’s good stuff. So happy to be here. And um, even with a, long learning curve, Gerard I’m all ears and I’m, I’m ready to

[00:01:52] GR: go. So here’s a learning curve question. That’s based on maybe regional culture. Do you consider.

[00:01:59] [00:02:00] The day after labor day, the end of summer. And is it okay to wear white? Oh,

[00:02:06] Cara: so I mean, yes, I do consider the day after labor day to be the end of summer. And I have an unnecessary amount of anxiety about these arbitrary codes. Like, can you wear white pants after? it’s pretty stupid. But anybody that knows me well will know that that’s one of the things that I can perseverate on.

[00:02:26] And I’m gonna tell you. That for the first time, this year in my 46 years of life, I wore a pair of white pants the day after labor day, in public two and events. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So I guess I’m just, I’m breaking all rules, Gerard I’m breaking. ’em all.

[00:02:42] GR: So our listeners know that I grew up in Los Angeles and we had really two seasons, summer and spring.

[00:02:50] It was only when I moved to the east coast, DC in particular also a Southern city where I once wore white shorts during the fourth week of September. And the [00:03:00] looks that I received, I thought a, I thought maybe my pants were too tight, which they were not B I thought maybe I don’t know, fly was open or whatever it went.

[00:03:08] You’re wearing white. I said, yeah, because it’s sunny. And so I learned my lesson. I have not worn white, I don’t believe since then, but just had to ask that learning curve, culture question only to find out you’re now breaking the rules. Yeah.

[00:03:22] Cara: I’m breaking rules now, you know, like whatever, I’m getting old, so fine.

[00:03:27] GR: go for it. Well, speaking of breaking rules this leads to my story of the weekend. So mine is from inside higher. Sarah Weisman’s the author and the title is mining the depth of our differences and the subtitle a program seeks to build between conservative Christian colleges and colleges known for liberal ideas.

[00:03:49] The goal is to chip away at religious and political polarization on campuses. Nationwide. So the story starts off. It’s a gentleman named Michael Henderson. He’s a junior at Fisk [00:04:00] university, which is a private H B C U in Nashville. He’s only African American man in the room. And he’s having a conversation about interactions in the criminal justice system, in the room with him or students from Vanderbilt.

[00:04:11] We know is a research. Highly regarded private university and we have Belmont university also highly regarded a smaller school with a strong Christian focus and their conversation was just a broader conversation. About what do we do about racial politicization and political politicization?

[00:04:31] So this didn’t happen in a vacuum. That conversation is a part of a program called bridging the gap. And it’s a program that’s extending this academic year. And the goal is to connect students on different campuses who may be in the same city or geographical boundary, but who are ideologically far apart.

[00:04:51] So bridging the gap started in 20. And it was a pilot that started at Orland college in Ohio which many [00:05:00] will know as a liberal arts institution. Also one of the first institutions in the country to integrate its student body and the partner school was spring. Arbor university, which is a Christian institution in Michigan.

[00:05:12] So a group of 20 students, half from Oberlin, half from spring Arbor received separate training. And then they spent a few intensive weeks at spring Harbor where they met and talked about a range of issues. And the idea was to. We’re getting two different schools, different people coming together to talk well, as of today, what moved from a program as a pilot in Overland college today is spread to 19 campuses across the country.

[00:05:40] And it includes five new campuses this year. Now bridging the gap is actually a program run by interfaith America. It’s an organization focused on interfaith cooperation, and again, it prepares Christian college. Campuses to those with who are campuses know more for progressive ideas, they usually hold [00:06:00] this it’s about a semester long event, but there are also opportunities for students to get together for leadership opportunities.

[00:06:06] So for example, in Kara’s former city of Chicago, there was a leadership summit that was held by. I. Earlier this year fact earlier this summer and a group of 52 faculty members and staff from 36 campuses participated in the program. So what do people have to say about it? So Mary GEIS is a VP strategic initiatives at inter faith America.

[00:06:28] And she says, she thinks the program is great because it provides an alternative approach on how we can engage one another. And she said to her the piece that’s. Missing from our national cultural dialogue right now is curiosity listening and humility. And she’s not far off in terms of what Americans are saying about civility.

[00:06:49] So the author noted one poll. It was a 2021 national poll of 2,513 Americans between the ages of 18 and 20. And this poll was put [00:07:00] together by the Institute for politics at Harvard the Kennedy school of government. Guess what? They found that a third then reported political differences, getting in the way of their friendship to make matters worse.

[00:07:10] There’s a 2022 pew research center report that found that 72% of Republicans. 63% of Democrats felt the other party was more immoral than other Americans, but there are others who say, even though the program’s great, are we getting the right type of students? So you have Jonathan Cooley. Who’s a professor in Oklahoma.

[00:07:31] And he says, are the students who are already prone to want to be involved in a workshop with people to talk from progressive ideas? Are they the ones signing? And he asked this question in line of some of his research, which , focuses on LGBTQ activism. He said, if that’s the case, then the program may not be enrolled in the people who could benefit from it most.

[00:07:52] And then there’s Michelle Dutchman who’s executive director of the university of California national center for free speech and civic [00:08:00] engagement. She said the program could close a dilemma for some campus. There’s who may be hesitant to join a network of schools or questions about LGBTQ or other issues may not receive adequate attention.

[00:08:13] So, it’s in definitely sounds like a program much in need. It sounds like campuses are joining and that’s a good thing. The one thing I would like to say to our listeners that I found interesting about. This is foreign is that the program brings together conservative Christian colleges and colleges known for their liberal ideas where there’s a few things to remember.

[00:08:34] Number one, you have Christian colleges that are not conservative. Yes. Uh, At least politically and not even ideologically, you have Christian colleges, particularly let’s say Catholic colleges that have a social justice mission, and they’ve had a social justice mission long before it became synonymous with woke.

[00:08:52] You have Christian colleges in the north, south, east, and west who are very progressive in their ideas, which you [00:09:00] also have public institutions that may be liberal leaning for a host of reason. Maybe the faculty makeup, maybe the voting population of the student. It overlooks the fact that just because you are a progressive or a Democrat doesn’t mean that you aren’t conservative or don’t have conservative ideas.

[00:09:14] So I think there should even be more dialogue about what does it mean to be conservative and liberal what it means to be progressive or not because we’re putting a big stamp on Christian colleges. I’m sure that will tell the whole story. And we’re saying progressive to public universities. Not sure it’s always the same, your.

[00:09:31] Cara: My thoughts are exactly that this last part that you just said , are my thoughts. Exactly. I mean, it sort of goes to, it’s really interesting. Like it’s a program that’s supposed to promote dialogue and break down barriers and boundaries. Yet we start with labeling people now in large.

[00:09:46] Swath right. At a high level. Yeah. you might have more people who have pretty conservative values who are looking to attend Christian schools and more people with more liberal values looking to attend public [00:10:00] institutions or who end up attending for whatever reason. But I totally take what you’re saying, like by, by assuming that there isn’t diversity within we’re sort of defeating the purpose here that.

[00:10:10] the goal of the program I think is laudable. And the, reasons for it are clear, right? So if you can get , the audience, right. If you can get the right people in the room, and if we can get past this place of labeling everybody one way or another at the crux of the problem, I would say, you know, political differences, I would also say social media, which exacerbates our political differences.

[00:10:29] I would be hard pressed to name one person in my life who hasn’t either, you know, stopped speaking to a family member, stopped talking to a friend or whatever, because people don’t know how to talk to each other. And to the point that you made and the point that article makes people don’t, I don’t know if we don’t know how to listen to one another or we’ve absolutely stopped having any interest in it.

[00:10:51] So I will say. One of the things I appreciate so much about this show and about you as my co-host is that we don’t always agree on [00:11:00] everything. And we have some political differences. We have some philosophical differences and I still find you. And I mean this with all my heart, to be one of the people that I learned the most from to be one of I, and I still might not always agree with you, but I learn a lot.

[00:11:11] And I think that that’s something that I personally feel very lucky to have in my work life, living in a very, very liberal. Part of the country in a very, very liberal city, some might call it one of the most liberal, if not the most which doesn’t always mean progressive things happen. there are some very anti progressive things going on in, the city of Boston and beyond, but it’s something that makes life richer when we can listen to one another, learn from one another and actually agree to disagree. Something I’m trying to mightily to teach my children. But I don’t know if I’m succeeding. and here’s speaking of one of the most liberal places in the country.

[00:11:48] My story of the week, Gerard is about the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And we have to shout this out because this is an editorial by pioneer executive director, Jim Sturgis in the wall [00:12:00] street journal this weekend, which I was all very, very happy to see. And this is about a proposed what we’re calling them millionaires tax.

[00:12:08] The proposal here is that in November, our, legislature is going to consider an amendment to the constitution that adds a 4% surcharge to anybody with an annual income of over a million dollars. Now you can imagine, I don’t, I think maybe. Despite your political, like, no matter what your political affiliation is, this is one of those things that if you don’t make over a million dollars and most people don’t probably sounds like a really great idea.

[00:12:34] Yeah. Tax those folks I would text them. Don’t text me, please. Don’t take it from me, take from them. They can afford it. Right. And you know, this has been something that Senator Elizabeth Warren from the state of Massachusetts and representative Ayanna Presley have been hammering at for a very long time that this would.

[00:12:50] know, it’s sort of proposed as a panacea to all things. But what Jim writes, I think really eloquently here in this piece is that, , [00:13:00] people hear tax millionaires tax the rich and they think, well, of course it’s automatically feels like a really good idea, but what’s underneath it what could happen.

[00:13:08] Right. So, For those who don’t know Massachusetts. Well, I think probably a lot of people know we’re very high income state. We’ve got a lot of great industry here, including biotech and pharma, right? I mean, Moderna, I have friends in my neighborhood who started off working for a little place called Moderna and look where they are now, right.

[00:13:27] With. Putting vaccines in people’s arms among other things, but our budget, we’ve got budget surpluses in this state. we’ve enjoyed a couple really great years. And I’m gonna read to you what, Jim writes, because I think it’s really, it makes a big difference here. He says that the bay state’s budget surplus is.

[00:13:42] Are the product of a competitive tax environment that fuels private sector activity and high taxes, chase off businesses and jobs and undermine the goals that progressive taxers say they want to achieve via public investments. So the point [00:14:00] B here, what do we risk if we go through with. And go back to being known as the great state of tax Massachusetts, which my father, who hasn’t lived in the great state of tax Massachusetts for I’m sure, 45, 50 years.

[00:14:16] will still tell you to this day that he was born here and he grew up here and he left to go to Detroit to escape the craziness of Massachusetts. Not many people will tell you that story today, but I think that the point , that Jim is making. Is really, really important because if we look under the hood, if we look at places like he points out New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, that they’ve really had a fraction of the economic gains that the Baystate has enjoyed, especially in the last couple decades.

[00:14:46] So right now, when. Everybody’s competing for talent. When everybody’s looking for workers Massachusetts, we’re doing pretty well. You know, businesses are opening, things are stable and this is a good place to [00:15:00] come and find a job. And it’s been a pretty friendly environment for those who have innovative ideas and which syncs up really well.

[00:15:07] Right with our research. All of the great research that goes on here. All, I mean, you can, with out, I can stand in my backyard and probably throw a stone and hit five different universities just from Newton, Massachusetts, that doesn’t even speak for the surrounding area. So I think that what Jim points out here is a really big risk to something that sounds.

[00:15:25] Like a pretty good idea. And I will tell you, and I hope he’s listening, Jim, that , my own husband said to me, after reading the article this weekend, you know what, I hadn’t really thought about it. And that guy’s right. he says, and he knows Jim. He said, Jim’s right. And I agree. And he doesn’t always agree, but on this one, he does.

[00:15:42] so we, shall see where it goes. But this is gonna be a big one for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And I’m really proud and happy that pioneer, I. Is having the conversation, opening up the dialogue and getting it out there in such a great national outlet. What do you think.

[00:15:59] GR: I had a [00:16:00] chance to read Jim’s article.

[00:16:01] The day it was published, I sent him a personal email saying it was smart. It was thoughtful, balanced, and provided like really good reasons why we should do something different. So always glad to see Jim’s voice in the public marketplace. I’m a big believer in smart taxes and sewer businesses.

[00:16:19] And I’m so glad you mentioned businesses deciding to leave or come to a state because of Texas. Virginia is one of the best states in the country to do business. One of the reasons Amazon decided to move here.

[00:16:34] One of the reasons we have a lot of businesses in Northern Virginia doing great work because we have a smart tax policy. I remember talking to businesses who decided to leave California, my home state to go to Texas, to go to T. And some of them say we’re leaving because the tax environment and the regulatory environment is so harsh.

[00:16:56] Yeah. That I can’t really be innovative now I’m for [00:17:00] taxes. There’s a role for taxes and there’s a role for tax breaks. And so I think we’ve gotta be smart on how we do it. So kudos to jam kudos to the pioneer Institute and to the board and the funders who support a diverse set of ideas.

[00:17:15] We talk education here. But Taxachusetts in fact is an education issue, K12 and higher ed. Yeah, great

[00:17:23] Cara: article. No, it’s a it’s. Yeah, it’s really important. And, and not even to mention, , the millionaires who could really easily leave the state establish residents somewhere else with lower tax rate,

[00:17:35] GR: like Florida with no state income tax.

[00:17:37] Hello.

[00:17:38] Cara: There you go. That’s where they’re all going, right. As soon as this happens. So just don’t know if it’s very well thought out and glad. Thanks to Jim for making us think. Okay, well, we’ve got more thinking coming up, Gerard, because that’s what we do here and coming up, we are gonna be talking to Dr.

[00:17:55] Bill Evers and Zeev Warman. bill is the director of the [00:18:00] center on educational excellence and assistant editor for the Independent Review. And Zeev Warman is a research fellow at Independent Institute. And we are gonna talk to them about, well, many things education coming up right after this.

[00:18:48] Listeners welcome back. We are here with Dr. Williamson Evers and Zeev Wurman. Williamson Evers is a senior fellow director of the center of educational excellence and assistant editor for the Independent [00:19:00] Review, a journal of political economy at the independent Institute. Dr. Evers was the US Assistant Secretary of Education for planning, and policy development from 2007 to 2009.

[00:19:12] Senior advisor to us. Secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, during 2007, a former research fellow at the Hoover institution. In addition, he was a member of the Hoover institution’s Koret task force on K to 12 education from its beginning in 1999, until it wrapped up in 2014 and task force with which I am very familiar because I was doing my doctoral work at that time.

[00:19:33] From July to December, 2003, he served in. Senior advisor for education to administrator L Paul Bremer of the coalition provisional authority. His articles have appeared in such publications as education week, the New York times wall street journal, Los Angeles times, and the Christian science monitor.

[00:19:51] And he has a pass member of the editorial board of education. Next, Dr. Evers received his BA ma and PhD’s degree in political science from [00:20:00] university. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. Oh, we’re so excited. And I’d also like to introduce Zeev Wurman. He is a research fellow at the independent Institute, chief software architect with monolithic IC 3d, Inc.

[00:20:14] And has over 30 years of experience in developing algorithms, CAD software and hardware and software architectures. He has been a senior policy advisor with the office of planning, evaluation, and policy development at the us department of education. He is also a senior fellow with the American principals.

[00:20:32] And throughout the development of the common core standards in 2009 and 2010, he analyzed the mathematics draft for Pioneer Institute and for the state of California in the summer of 2010, he served on the California academic content standards commission that evaluated the suitability of the common core standards for California.

[00:20:50] He holds over 40 us patents and earned his BSC and MSC degrees in electrical engineering from the Technicron Israel. [00:21:00] Technology in HFA, Israel and Zev Wein. Welcome to the show as well.

[00:21:06] Ze’ev: Thank you for having me

[00:21:07] Cara: too well. Wow. Those are some big bios and I feel like I need to take a seat just after reading all of that.

[00:21:12] So our listeners will forgive if I bumbled anything there. But we’ve got both of you and a lot of questions for both of you. So, Bill, let’s start with you. Going back. Some of our listeners will remember this time. I certainly remember the second part of this going back to 1957 in Sputnik.

[00:21:30] Through to the nation at risk report in 1983, we’ve known, we’ve been talking about this problem forever. That American education has struggled with math and science, right? I mean, it was the red thread. They were going to beat us in math and science. I remember a child of Detroit that the Japanese were getting us in math and science, and that was going to be the demise of the auto industry.

[00:21:51] Can you tell our listeners. How and why American education has this longstanding unresolved problem [00:22:00] with its young people in the basics of stem what’s going on.

[00:22:03] Bill: So, I remember Sputnik by the way. I was young. So the basic problem here is what’s called progressive education. So it’s very fashionable in teacher training programs in ed schools.

[00:22:19] And the idea is to learn through the students discovery the student’s inquiry rather than have a teacher led classroom. Now in math, we have. Research studies with random assignments studies with matched control groups, going back many decades showing that teacher led instruction is much better. And we have of course, a famous study, but.

[00:22:47] Claire at Carnegie Mellon on science, where he shows that you can have one group doing discovery learning and another doing teacher led instruction, direct instruction, and you ask them to [00:23:00] devise a good experiment and you ask them to use what they learned in devising and experiment to evaluate science, fair posters, and the kids.

[00:23:10] My much, much had the teacher led instruction, kids learn more and they master in depth learning as good as the few discovery learning kids who were able to do what was asked for. So we have a solid basis for teaching. Teacher led instruction, not roundabout methods learning the, best, the standard algorithms, the best ways to do it, but because it’s the fashion.

[00:23:44] Teachers won’t do it.

[00:23:45] Cara: I have to say really quickly that I feel like we’re having a moment in this country with the approach to teaching reading. right. So, we know that the science of reading works and phonics works and we’ll see if finally these other pedagogies fall out of fashion as they seem to be in some [00:24:00] states.

[00:24:00] But maybe math needs to have its moment as well. Ze’ev. you grew up abroad and if there’s one thing that, some of us love to do, it’s just compare how terribly American K to 12 education is, is doing in comparison to other countries. So, but you’ve actually. not only had the experience , through your life, but also your professional work.

[00:24:20] So can you talk a little bit about how other countries teach math and science and what we should be emulating, especially in relationship to what bill just laid out for us?

[00:24:31] GR: Sure.

[00:24:32] Ze’ev: I will try. And at least my based on my experience, the virus of. inquiry based. Education is actually has spread across the globe, even though some places more, some places less.

[00:24:48] I sometimes joke that, you know, this is the virus that will save America’s education because everybody will be infected.

[00:24:56] GR: But jokes aside.

[00:24:59] Ze’ev: Israel at, [00:25:00] at least during my days was still much more into teacher led instructions, as bill mentioned just a moment ago, but perhaps something more interesting. When I came to the us, I noticed that here in high school sciences, it.

[00:25:16] Taught, through a year long courses. So you take a year long, maybe general science and a year long chemistry, a year long biology, a year long physics, if you take it. So basically to covers the. For dimensions. So basic for dimension of science, you need four years, but most colleges require two, sometimes three years of science.

[00:25:38] So many students don’t take physics or sometimes don’t take chemistry because they don’t need four years of science. And this is different from what happens in Israel and in Europe then in general,

[00:25:54] GR: You teach

[00:25:55] Ze’ev: all the sciences in parallel. So you don’t have a uniform daily [00:26:00] schedule in high school that for one year you learn only say chemistry science every day, but you have maybe a couple of days that you study chemistry.

[00:26:10] Couple of days that you study physics, couple of days that you started biology, maybe the next year, the weight of the subject changes like more physics or less chemistry or the other way around. So

[00:26:23] GR: each way,

[00:26:24] Ze’ev: nobody graduate high school, really with zero, say physics, knowledge or physical learning.

[00:26:29] GR: And

[00:26:30] Ze’ev: also when you do it in parallel, you can structure the curriculum in a way that one topic supports the other.

[00:26:39] So you need some physics to do some chemistry sometimes. So they try to align them and including the mathematics that is needed to support them. Anyway. So this goes in parallel and I find it much more effective than what we have here in the us is when I take a full year for each subject and then many people don’t just text [00:27:00] for use of everything.

[00:27:01] Cara: Yeah, no, that’s incredibly helpful. And I listen to you speak. I’m thinking my goodness. I wonder if my own education would’ve felt different, but I remember hating certain science classes. not quite, but seeing how they all work together. Would’ve been interesting. I wanna, pivot here, bill.

[00:27:16] So nap data. Right. we’ve got the beginnings of an inkling of what it is. And we, had the first articles that, you know, we know who suffered the most, and it was the kids that we thought would suffer the most during the pandemic. And we’ll get more detail coming up this fall.

[00:27:32] So we know that there’s been a lot of learning loss during COVID and that Nate performance though, as well as like the data that we have from Tims and Piza. They’re also pretty alarming, we’re not doing well overall, so right. You can remember the math wars when states like California and Massachusetts developed high standards for math.

[00:27:51] What are the neat data revealing to us about those standards did and where we should be headed? [00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Bill: Well, we know that between 20, 20 and 2022, math fell seven points overall. , and it’s now at lows that haven’t been observed in the United States for decades. So with blacks, they dropped 13 points.

[00:28:13] Latinos dropped eight points, Asian and white only drop six and five points going back. A few years ago, we have some science data from Nate. So , half of 12th graders near nearly half say they wanna pursue a science career, a career in one of the sciences yet only 22% vision in science, according to name.

[00:28:41] and this is the same. Or even marginally worse than it was in 2015. So there’s no progress being made in, science and math on name. Now you mentioned the COVID and the lockdowns in your introducing of this topic. And this is a, [00:29:00] kind of an excuse that the schools, public schools are offering.

[00:29:05] Oh, well, it’s, COVID. Actually it goes back farther. And interestingly pioneer pioneer Institute published a study by Tedra barber on what happened with common core, which came in in 2010, but didn’t get implemented for. Few years. So say beginning in 2013, and coming up to the time of his study, he shows that common core, which was touted as gonna make America internationally competitive.

[00:29:38] Instead we were drooping. So this kind of loss is not. Only something that comes with Nate. Now, when we had the California mass standards and the similar standards in Massachusetts, I’ll just go over the pre-com core California standards. So between 1998 and [00:30:00] 2013 we tripled the number of people successfully taking algebra one.

[00:30:05] By eighth grade from 50,000 to 170,000, there was five to six times growth for people in low socioeconomic groups for African Americans, for Latinos, almost double. , and the numbers that were taking calculus and high school and all sort of stuff, all. This is before common core began to drag down the performance in math.

[00:30:32] GR: So Z I’ve got a question for you. You have over 40 patents and you’ve worked in technology centered industries in Southern, in actually Silicon valley. So congratulations that you’re the first person I’ve met with 40 patents. Would you talk about how America continues to lead the world in developing patents while at the same time?

[00:30:50] Just lagging so far? It’s international peers as relates to K12 stem education. And what should policy makers do about it they care at all? I [00:31:00] can

[00:31:00] Ze’ev: try to answer the first part of the question. I am not sure about the second one, but I will try a look. us is a huge market marketplace and patents are important in particular where you sell yourself.

[00:31:15] Because if it’s break a patent, you can stop selling. So you have to make sure your patents are valid in places where. Products are sold, invented also and manufactured. So that would be today, mostly China and America. Us and that was happening. However, us has big advantage. We have property rights that are very strong, so that another thing that encourages taking patents in the us, but many patents, especially in recent years, are not actually taken by us educated people.

[00:31:54] I live in the Silicon valley and you look around the table when you sit in an engineering meeting and there is [00:32:00] sometimes no American at all. I mean, American, in a sense that was raised here and educated there. Most of them come from elsewhere, whether it’s Europe or India or China, Israel.

[00:32:13] And we have a, sometimes an American Tru very good engineers sitting around, but typically they’re in minority. Most of the patent in there recent decades are taken people educated elsewhere. so that’s the reason people do it in America, but they’re not necessarily born and raised in America. what can we do about it? Well, I think bill addressed some of it already, which is essentially science education, math education, and not being swayed by feds and fluffy ULA. That’s what we are getting to the fluff rather than serious study.

[00:32:53] GR: Well, speaking of fluff, that’s actually a good transition to.

[00:32:56] So within the last year, you authored a really good piece in the wall [00:33:00] street journal where you let a charge against the rise of woke math in California. Talk our listeners about woke your thoughts about it as relates to math and hard sciences. And, where’s this gonna lead us if we don’t have you, the leadership in politicians or other places, educators, to try to prioritize math and science instruction as math and science.

[00:33:20] Bill: you know, this goes. Begins in the 1990s. Of course there was a version of this in the 1930s, in the United States where people are trying to have some kind of socialist political transformation or racially charge, socialist transformation. And so they wanna hit your ride on K12 education. And so they start introducing.

[00:33:47] What they call social justice, but it just means politicalization of the coursework and they, have this idea that they can turn the students into political [00:34:00] activists by salting the. The curriculum, the problems, the homework, the tests, everything with political issues. So here’s an example from the California standard.

[00:34:12] So teachers must be mindful that are what’s a high priority in California’s educational system. To allow students to examine issues of social justice or they have vignettes. Mrs. Ross has been teaching fifth grade. She’s been focusing on developing her students’ sociopolitical consciousness So there’s lots of this stuff. I mean, you

[00:34:35] GR: have people

[00:34:36] Bill: doing homework where are their problems where they. Pictures of Chava with slogans that they, he, the Cuban communist figure they end up. Supposedly studying the socioeconomic groupings of income and all this sort of stuff in America or traffic stops or mortgage lending.

[00:34:59] I mean,[00:35:00] Even go into map projections. So, you know, there’s the Decatur map projection that you usually see on a wall

[00:35:07] GR: where

[00:35:08] Bill: the continents are stretched up from the equator. And Canada seems super big. Russia seems super big and so forth and they say, well, this is racist. just, it’s a convenient way.

[00:35:23] Taking the curvature of the earth and putting it

[00:35:26] GR: on a flat map.

[00:35:28] Bill: they just dogmatize

[00:35:30] GR: everything. Their theory

[00:35:31] Bill: is

[00:35:32] GR: that

[00:35:33] Bill: the only way time people use math is either in business or in political life or learning about policy and reporting and so forth. So they need to arm. Their students to counter that, to use math or science against the existing racist, white supremacist society, they’re aiming at some kind of impossible, complete equality.[00:36:00]

[00:36:00] They even kind of introduce anthropology thing. So let’s say in a pre numerous non mathematical society. Tribal new Guinea or something like that. People still need to deal with things and have quantities. So they have ways of coping. and so the implication is that because American kids aren’t taught these other ways of coping with that somehow our way of teaching math is racist.

[00:36:29] Bill: the fact is. The mathematics of today, we use Roman numerals, obviously on some things like copyright listings and some clocks and chapter headings and a few things. But basically we, we use the Arabic Hindu numerical system. This is not exactly Scandinavian numbers or something like that. the world of mathematics draws from everywhere, the best in order to have a great mathematical system that can do all the wizardly [00:37:00] things that it

[00:37:00] GR: does.

[00:37:01] Absolutely. when I think about woke math in California, the number of, for example, African American engineers, computer scientists statisticians and others who through just hard work, learn how to do math. And many of them became, or still are members of the middle class society.

[00:37:21] So if woke. Becomes gonna be broke math. Trust me, the conversation will shift overnight.

[00:37:28] Bill: it’s certainly not gonna help struggling students from less well educated families. it’s a highly verbal form of math. So people with. English is not their native language are also gonna be hampered in learning math.

[00:37:43] So they’re not picking it for its efficacy and getting the kids to learn math. Oh, they’d like the kids to learn math, but they primarily want them to be political activists.

[00:37:53] GR: Understandable. Well Zeev, let me shift to you with the final question. So in spring [00:38:00] 2020, you authored a paper for pioneer Institute and the title is breaking the code, the state of computer science education in America’s public schools.

[00:38:09] Would you give our listeners, a brief summary of the main findings of the report and some shocking facts such as less than half of high schools in the United States teach computer science. Girls and students of color are dramatically underrepresented in computer science classes in.

[00:38:27] Ze’ev: Indeed. This report found that the teaching of computer science in high school is. Very uneven and there are not enough teachers and there are not enough girls taking this subject. However, there were other issues that are mentioned reported, maybe even more important. specifically, it’s very much unclear.

[00:38:52] What is computer science in high school? There are many courses that are given at [00:39:00] elementary, middle school and even high school grade. That really a for them computer science is playing with some user interface and painting pictures or putting together some stuff, but not really doing any programming.

[00:39:15] Another way would be learning some basic primitive computer language programming language. But again, this is not computer science that is accepted in colleges yet. Another way would be actually learning some principles of Algorithm data structures, computation. And this is indeed what originally started as the college boards, AP computer science, 20 30, 30, 35 years ago, maybe to middle of 1980s, but a very shortly 10 out that the more.

[00:39:53] comprehensive computer science course by the college board was not in didn’t find [00:40:00] enough people to enroll in. And it was dropped by college board 15 years ago or so, and instead it was replaced by computer science principles, which is really computer science appreciation and computer science appreciation is not computer science.

[00:40:17] Same way as you know, art appreciation is not doing art. so consequently, the whole territory is very uneven and yes, we are missing trained computer science teachers, but it’s not clear that even if we could train them what we would train them in some fluff stuff or some serious computer science to add insult to injury.

[00:40:41] In some sense, very reasonable outcome is that colleges in fact, do not treat student that take computer science in high school as sufficient. And they insist on they retaking computer science courses in college. And it makes sense again, [00:41:00] because the unevenness of the coursework in K12 in a particular, in high.

[00:41:05] finally, there is the issue of girls’ participation in the labor market. So the report touches on two separate issues in a sense in this area. One is that it’s not. Quite clear that indeed there is such a lack of people with computer science education in the marketplace. There is a lot of belief that this is the case and we have H one visa coming from people from India and such, but the majority of those people are doing very low level work in computer science on the other hand, Girls in computer science in the middle of 1980s, around 19 84, 85, there were almost 40% of the computer science degrees today. There are only 20%. What happened? Well, they chose [00:42:00] to go into medicine, into biology, into veterinary science, where there are today, big majorities, but they dropped out of computer science because they clearly didn’t find.

[00:42:11] Interesting or satisfying or whatever, it’s the revealed preferences of this cohort. So pushing for more girls in computer science is maybe not worth it. They just are not interested and they’re interested in other subject also very satisfactory to them. And why.

[00:42:31] Bill: I would just concur with, to E about that, but also repeat for math, his point about course titles. We have all sorts of fancy course titles in math that don’t reflect. The actual difficulty of the classes. So kids are taking more math and seemingly at higher levels, but their actual competency as measured by objective tests is not going up.

[00:42:58] It’s even dropping.[00:43:00]

[00:43:30] GR: My tweet of the week is from the George W. Bush presidential center. And it’s about September 11th. And president Bush said, quote, may God bless the memories of the victims of nine 11. And may he continue to bless the United States of America? Ditto

[00:43:49] Cara: and ditto and, you know, Gerard, before we sign off completely, I wanna say that I was able to go to the George W.

[00:43:56] Bush presidential museum when I was in Dallas recently. [00:44:00] And boy, oh boy. I highly recommend it’s just a wonderful place. And Really moving in, how it brings you back to nine 11. And one of the things that struck me so much, and I think this goes to the story that you opened with and is a note to end on is that it occurred to me in sort of walking through what happened on that day and afterward, especially in the , weeks and month to follow was the way that the whole country.

[00:44:26] Coalesced and came together. mm-hmm last forever, but right. We coalesced, we came together, whether you voted for president Bush or not. And I was really, I was saddened by so many things that day. I was heartened. That we were able to do that at that time, at that point in time. But I found myself questioning whether we are still living in a country where people would be able to rally around one another that way.

[00:44:49] I like to believe we can, but some days I wonder, so we all need to keep , working to that place. And I highly recommend a visit to the museum. Okay. Well, Gerard, next week we are [00:45:00] gonna be speaking with Dr. Niall Ferguson. He’s the Millbank family, senior fellow at the Hoover institution, Stanford university, and a senior faculty fellow at the Belfer center for science and international affairs at Harvard.

[00:45:12] He is also the author of 16 books, including maybe to the. Doom the politics of catastrophe. So Gerard uh, kind of a somber note to end on, but take care. It is always my pleasure to spend time with you and I’ll talk to you next week.

[00:45:27] GR: Take care.

Recent Episodes

Pulitzer Winner Stacy Schiff on Samuel Adams & American Independence

This week for the Fourth of July, the Learning Curve interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff, who explores the American revolutionary Samuel Adams. She discusses Adams’ background, religion, and formative intellectual development, including the influences that Greco-Roman history, the Bible, and Enlightenment thinkers had upon his life and political thought.

Cara and Gerard on Their Time with The Learning Curve

This week on The Learning Curve, Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson close out their time as long-time cohosts of the podcast by sharing highlights and memories from over the last several years. They reflect upon the state of education reform, the growth of school choice, parental empowerment, the impact of the Great Books, and the wisdom of many well-known and influential guests.

Becket Fund’s Eric Rassbach on Religious Liberty & American Schooling

Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty discusses school choice and religious freedom, competing legal philosophies and views of the U.S. Constitution, and why issues pertaining to religion and schools remain so divisive at the K-12 level.

PRI’s Lance Izumi on Charter Schools & School Choice

Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute discusses K-12 education reform, declining test scores, COVID-related learning loss, and the growth of education bureaucracy. He reflects on charter schools, school choice, and how U.S. history and civics should be taught.

McGill Prof. Marc Raboy on Guglielmo Marconi & Global Communications

This week on The Learning Curve, McGill University Professor Marc Raboy, author of Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World, explores how twentieth-century Italian communications pioneer Guglielmo Marconi made his world-changing discoveries.

Donald Graham on The Washington Post, Media, and Educating Immigrants

This week on The Learning Curve, Donald Graham, Chairman of Graham Holdings Company, discusses the history of The Washington Post, his views on changing media in America, and his work in higher education reform and philanthropy on behalf of immigrant youth.

Columbia Law’s Philip Hamburger on Church, State, & School Choice

This week on The Learning Curve, noted constitutional law professor Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law School discusses the legal basis for private and religious school choice, and how American constitutionalism supports parental choice in education.

AEI’s Dr. Diana Schaub on the Founders, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, & Civics

This week on The Learning Curve, Loyola University Maryland professor and AEI senior fellow Dr. Diana Schaub explores the legacies, speeches, and writings of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and how knowledge of U.S. history and primary sources can debunk revisionist approaches to teaching history and civics.

Morehouse’s Prof. Marisela Martinez-Cola on Pre-Brown Cases for Educational Equality

This week on The Learning Curve, Morehouse College's Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola, JD, discusses her book The Bricks before Brown: The Chinese American, Native American, and Mexican Americans' Struggle for Educational Equality, and the long struggle for equal opportunity in American education.

Marquette’s Dr. Howard Fuller on School Choice, Charter Schools, and Race

This week on The Learning Curve, Dr. Howard Fuller, Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning (ITL) at Marquette University, discusses education reform, school choice, charter public schools, race, and the ongoing struggle to provide educational opportunity to all children in America.

Columbia’s Pulitzer Winner Prof. Eric Foner on Lincoln, Slavery, & Reconstruction

This week on The Learning Curve, guest cohosts Charlie Chieppo and Alisha Searcy speak with Dr. Eric Foner, Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author on Lincoln, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Fmr. Mississippi Chief Dr. Carey Wright on State Leadership & NAEP Gains

This week on The Learning Curve, Dr. Carey Wright, former Mississippi state superintendent of education, discusses the dramatic improvements in fourth graders' reading scores in Mississippi during her time there, the importance of early childhood education and literacy programs, the role of literature and art, and the inspiration educators can draw from Mississippi's heroes in the Civil Rights Movement.