This is the third in a series about life in a white country: Poland (see Part I and Part II). The author is a Polish-American who is very familiar with his homeland.
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Notes from a White Country, Part III
By Jack Krak
Polish schools get great results at low cost.
All the children in my son’s class at school are white. And when I say “class,” I don’t mean just the 17 kids in the same room with him; I mean all the children of the same age in the same grade in the entire school. I didn’t have to enroll him in an expensive private school or live in rural Vermont or the Scottish Highlands to get my son into this minority-free classroom. This is just what schools look like in Poland.
I’m writing about education because a recent conversation with a hopelessly naive liberal reminded me that it’s another area dominated by the racially ignorant. She told me that a lack of contact with other races and cultures at schools was a drawback to living in Poland, and that it diminished students’ academic potential. I asked her how students in Japan and South Korea regularly topped international academic competitions. I asked why the most ethnically and linguistically diverse places on the planet, such as Papua New Guinea or central Africa, don’t produce academic champions.
“Well, maybe they do!” was the best reply she could come up with.
Societies with little “diversity” such as Iceland, Denmark, and Taiwan consistently top the lists of measures of academic achievement. Poland is just outside the top ten and consistently ranks above the United States. I’m confident my son will be just fine despite not spending years sharing a classroom with Africans, Mexicans, or children from the Hindu Kush.
How Polish schools are different
Poland has an advantage in statistical comparisons of international educational achievement for the same reason that New Hampshire has an advantage over New Mexico. Poland doesn’t have many non-white minorities, so its average test scores represent the performance of Poles. Only delusional egalitarians could deny that large numbers of students from countries where the literacy rate is under 60 percent or where fewer than a third of children even go to school are likely to drag down the test scores in majority-white nations.
But what makes Poland’s achievements in international competitions more impressive are the advantages it doesn’t have. First, Poland doesn’t have the large education budget that many other high-achieving countries such as Japan or Finland have. Although it spends about the same percentage of GDP as the United States on education, actual outlays per student are about 40 percent of the US figure.
In American school districts, an inverse relationship between spending and results is not uncommon. Boston (87 percent minority, 70 percent graduation rate), Baltimore (90 percent minority, 69 percent graduation rate) and Detroit (98 percent minority, allegedly 77 percent graduation rate after being just 58 percent in 2008) are all examples of school districts that spend above the average to get graduation rates well below the national average of 83 percent. Polish students can score among the top 12 or 15 countries in the world while a third of the students in Baltimore don’t even finish high school despite having about three times as much money spent on them.
Back to things Poland doesn’t have: There are no school buses here, yet somehow parents manage to get their children to school. Good public transportation helps. There is a modest infrastructure for providing meals in schools, but the idea of schools feeding children as a public service to certain “communities” is unknown here. Poles who earn a fraction of the American average income pay for their children to eat at school while half the parents in the U.S. let the government pick up most or all of the tab.
There is no multilingual education in classrooms because there is no population of non-Polish-speaking students large enough to require it. The small number of foreign students who don’t speak Polish can get temporary help, but are expected to catch up quickly and do so out of necessity. The help comes in the form of Polish language classes after school which are limited to five hours a week. No one is allowed to ease into the mainstream gradually through an expensive school-within-a-school.
Deep-pocketed American school districts literally pick students up and take them home, feed them for free, and teach them in their own language if necessary, and Americans still can’t beat the Poles in math and reading tests. Could it be that you just can’t buy academic skills?
American schools spend lots of time, money, and effort because of diversity. There are no metal detectors at the entrances to high schools here, no signs about gun-free zones, or “school resource officers” with their patrol cars conspicuously parked outside. There is no extra level of administration keeping track of whether certain groups are being disciplined or suspended at higher rates than others. No school’s performance is measured according to maintaining the “right” proportions of rewards and punishments among students of different races. Standardized test scores are analyzed in terms of the progress that is or isn’t being made by all students, not for signs of progress in closing “achievement gaps.” Testing here answers the question, “Are we getting better?” rather than, “Is the bottom catching up?” as in American schools.
There are no organized competitive high school team sports in Poland, either. You can debate the social and physical benefits of athletics, but it’s hard to explain to Poles that education budgets should fund football stadiums and travel expenses for teenagers to play games. Polish high schools establish reputations based on the classroom performance of their students and their later successes in life, not through a winning football or basketball team.
This focus on school as a place to learn rather than a place to promote equality or enrich students’ social lives means resources are devoted to books and classrooms rather than to diversity administrators, cheerleaders, and homecoming dances.
How many American students start taking physics when they’re 13 or study several foreign languages? How many have four years of chemistry instead of just one, or take mandatory classes in computer literacy or music? This is standard for most Polish students.
It’s also fair to ask how many American students would gladly take these classes if given the chance but can’t because their schools have to organize remedial English courses instead. I’m sure plenty of high school students and their parents would welcome a more demanding curriculum but have to settle for what they can get in a society devoted to making sure no student gets “left behind.”
Even the inevitable arguments about the content of textbooks is different here. There’s a political dimension to many subjects—the Second World War, the Communist era, the role of the Church, etc.—but in Poland those arguments are largely confined to the interpretation of events or how much time should be spent studying them. Polish textbooks are not full of absurd but obligatory profiles of the marginal contributions of various historical figures just because they are from “underrepresented” groups. While American students learn yet again about how the U.S. Constitution was secretly influenced by the Iroquois Confederacy or the many uses for the peanut discovered by George Washington Carver, Polish students are studying advanced mathematics, literature, or mechanics.
Ethnic homogeneity allows Poles to have common heroes, cultural traditions, and a history of their own, passed down to younger generations through public schools. While support for every aspect of the curriculum is by no means unanimous, Poland doesn’t have to juggle the demands of bickering ethnic tribes demanding equal time for their historical narratives. American school districts have to deal with “demographic changes” and an ever-expanding list of dietary laws, dress codes, cultural standards, religious holidays, and demands for various forms of accommodation but Polish schools can focus on teaching the story of the Polish people. The biggest social issue to spill over into education is probably the presence of crucifixes in public schools, and they aren’t going to disappear any time soon.
|Inside a typical classroom in a Polish school.|
Test results speak for themselves. Poland performs well academically because of its human capital. It simply has better biological clay to work with than the other ethnicities that “diversify” classrooms in America and Western Europe. How else to explain not only Poland’s current performance—despite not having the financial muscle of other high achievers—but its long history of past accomplishments? The discoveries of oxygen, vitamins, and heliocentrism, along with advances in radioactivity and much else have their origins in Poland. American textbooks don’t cover these things because space is devoted to telling students about Cesar Chavez.
Not counting the “soft” categories of Peace and Literature, all of Africa has won one Nobel Prize, awarded to an Egyptian chemist who lived and worked in America. All of Latin America has five. Poland’s number is hard to pin down because of its turbulent history and shifting borders (some winners credited to Poland were ethnically German or Russian), but even under the most restrictive accounting, the number is seven: more than Africa and Latin America combined.
The Polish educational system gets great results because it educates Poles and not Somalis, Guatemalans or Bangladeshis. If you ask a race egalitarian why the nearly two billion people of Africa and Latin America don’t have as many high-level academic accomplishments as little Poland has, you’re unlikely to hear anything better than what I did in my own conversation:
“Well, maybe they do!"
From The American Renaissance (May 20, 2017)
From The American Renaissance (May 20, 2017)