The Death of ‘American Exceptionalism’


Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

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Welcome back My Dear Shoevians to The Other Shoe. It is with a heavy heart, and with much trepidation, I write this article and bring it to you, My Dear Shoevians. The title, alone, took me weeks to… discover. While I wanted to draw in readers, I felt a responsibility to convey the seriousness of the problem, without scaring readers away. I am a proud American, proud Texan, and proud journalist. I cannot tell you just how many times, in any given day, these three convictions clash. It is more times, in a given day, than I find comfort.

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While other boys, in my Texan neighborhood, were out playing ball… swimming in the local pool… or getting into trouble, I was reading. Since the age of six my mother kept her sons inside during the summer months. It was not until I was in my 20’s that I read an article, and discovered why. My mother kept four boys inside during the summer, until I was nearly a teen, each and every year and I had no idea why until she had passed.

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The fear had started long before I was born; however, it came to a head just a year before I was born. In Cork Ireland, during the summer of 1956, the number of cases of polio reached 499. It was the highest incidence of polio infection since 1904. The news rocked the world, and reverberated throughout America. In the South mothers started keeping their children inside all summer. My mother was horrified Danny might end up back in leg braces. (IT is a little known fact I was born with misshapen leg bones. I wore metal braces on both my legs until I was five years old).

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1958 Children’s Polio Clinic in Cork, Ireland

1958 Children’s Polio Clinic in Cork, Ireland

[1]

(1958 Children’s Polio Clinic in Cork, Ireland)

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My mother was scared to death one of her sons would end up with polio, so the Hanning boys spent much of the summer locked up in the house reading. At the beginning of the summer, and I am talking just days after we came home for summer break, Mom would take us to the library and told us to check out as many books as we were allowed. On that day I would come into my bedroom, with a stack of books that covered my face, and put my books in a corner. Each day I would move books from one corner, and once read, to another corner of the room. Twelve. Twelve was the number of books I checked out on the first day of each and every summer till I was 13.

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Three weeks later, my mother would take me back to the library. Back to return the 12 books I had finished, and to check out 12 more. From six to thirteen my mother and I made five trips to the library, each and every summer. All because my mother was scared to death her little Danny would end up with braces on his legs… again.

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I still read every single day, what time I am not now writing. Unlike the 60’s, today I find myself greatly distressed by what I read. Six months ago, I was reading some articles at some financial web site. I think it was the CNN Financial pages. In one article I learned; in 1870 England was designated ‘World’s Largest Economy’. I kept reading and discovered that, in 1872 America was designated ‘World’s Largest Economy’. America had quite a run, with this title. America holding this title, year after year, decade after decade. This run on this distinguished title was one of the reasons we were all raised with the idea of ‘American Exceptionalism’[2].In October of 2014 America was robbed of this distinguished title by China[3]! China ‘overtakes U.S. as the the world’s largest economy’: IMF says economy is now worth £11 trillion as America falls into second place for the first time since 1872[4]

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‘American Exceptionalism’ is alive and well all through our Southern states. In beer halls and VFW halls, in hair salons and PTA meetings, and in churches and schools, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters proudly speak of ‘American Exceptionalism’. I was raised believing in ‘American Exceptionalism’. It is my unfortunate duty to inform you, My Dear Shoevians, that… while our cumulative backs were turned? “American Exceptionalism’ became a euphemism without merit. That while some Americans may still, wrong-headedly, believe that America is (somehow) exceptional juxtaposed to other nations. It is no longer true.

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From 1872 until 2014 America held the title of “World’s Largest Economy”. I just thought that bears repeating. Now, My Dear Shoevians, I am very aware that some of you might be pretty disturbed by the demise of ‘America Exceptionalism’. Continuing, if this article has, already, rubbed you the wrong way? Well, if that is the case you might well want to skip the rest of this article. However, as a writer… a journalist… as your friend I suggest that you keep reading this article. Things are not going to get any better, for America, in the rest of this article. Yet, I am convinced that it is better to keep reading and conclude this article more informed. Even more important, how can we as Americans stand a chance of regaining our title if we have yet to come to grips with loosing the title? The answer is, none.

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Oh, and while we are on the topic of financial prowess, I regret to inform you, My Dear Shoevians, that China (stole from America) still holds the title of ‘Fastest Growing Economy on Earth’[5] . With China holding duel financial titles, that America held for generations, we will be hard pressed to regain those titles and regain the mantle of ‘American Exceptionalism’.

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The days of double digit growth are over. China will be lucky to grow over 7%. Despite that, China will continue to be the world’s fastest growing major economy this year and next, and arguably into 2016 as well, says Bill Adams, senior international economist for PNC Financial in Pittsburgh.”[6]

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As I warned you, My Dear Shoevians, above the news will only get worse and worse as this article progresses. As far as financial news I have, unfortunately for you, saved the worst for last. Please do not shoot the messenger. K? Let me lead you all into this a little slowly, so as to avoid culture shock. For as long as I can remember we Americans have made fun… made light of… based comedy sketches on our funny speaking neighbors to the north. Canadians.

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Yes, for generations we America have had many a good laugh at the expense of our neighbor to the north. We made fun of the way they speak. We have made fun of their Royal Mounties (the ‘Rocky & Bulwinkle Show’ regularly got laughs thanks to Canadians). From ‘The Rocky & Bulwinkle Shoe’ to ‘Saturday Night Live’ and everywhere in between (including ‘South Park’) Americans and American comedians have made bank making fun of the Canadian people. That changes today!

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Today because it was today when I was made aware of the following, disturbing, factoid. Well, actually, it is more like several factoids. While (sorry) faux snooze was pumping up America’s cumulative self-esteem, reality outpaced their propaganda. Now, you will never hear what I am about to tell you on faux snooze… you will hear it from ME! I have never wanted a relationship with my readers (you, My Dear Shoevians) based on falsehoods. I have no appetite for lies… falsehoods… or being disingenuous. My relationship with you, My Dear Shoevians, may trouble you at times, but you can rest assured that I will never lie to you!

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Here is the disturbing news about our neighbors to the north, Canada. (Ummm, we may well want to stop making fun of them, too) Here it IS! Canada’s Middle Class now are wealthier than America’s Middle Class! Here is what I am reading, from several sources.

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“The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.”[7]

And…

“After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.”[8]

And…

“The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.”[9]

OK, let’s take a few moments to gain your composure. I am right here… holding your hand, My Dear Shoevians. Now, I know that this is all coming a quite a shock… to some of you. I understand that this information can be quite troubling, I understand. I, on the other hand, I have read the writing on the walls for the better part of a decade. I first became aware of this growing troubles as far back as 1996. The depth and breadth of the growing reality started coming in to sharper focus as early as 2003. In 1996 I moved from the health care industry, I was a State Board Register Pharmacy Technician in; acute care, clinical care, retail and home health care. Today, I realize that if I had stayed in medicine I could well have missed the signs.

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OK, now I have given you all a moment to regain your composure… let me continue. If you haven’t been seated, so far, it might be best if you sat down now. Are you ready? Here is what is coming next in a nutshell.

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Canadians pay lower college tuition, cheaper medical care and less income inequality. What is the US doing wrong?”[10]

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Hang on… sit down… put your head between your knees… breath in deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a moment. … … … You OK? Alright, now I will start unpacking the statement I quoted above. While America was busy shuffling the majority of the gains of the recovery to the 1% and the 0.02% Canada was taking care of Average Canadians! What a novel concept, eh?

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However, before I go further into what Canada is doing right, let me outline what America is doing wrong! In two graphs thanks to the New York Times. (Yeah, funny place for ME to be researching info, huh?)

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Other countries’ middle class incomes have grown since 2000. The United States’ has not. Here is a chart of SIX other major nations showing their INCREASE in median income since 2000. America ranks LAST (a trend you will see more and more in this article).

CHANGE IN MEDIAN INCOME SINCE 2000 BY COUNTRY

Britain 19.7%

Canada 19.7%

Ireland 16.2%

Netherlands 13.9 %

Spain 4.1%

Germany 1.4%

United States 0.3% [11]

Conversely, in America all of the financial gains since the recovery have been concentrated at the TOP in America. Of all the nations included in these studies, Canada has seen… not only have incomes increased. At the same time Canada’s costs have decreased!

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Increases in Income in America ONLY at Top

Increases in Income in America ONLY at Top

(Increases in Income in America ONLY at Top)

[12]

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Now, for those that are not as good with graphs and graphics, and I was not always ‘good’ with these thigns… honestly I had to get better with graphs and graphics for financial data when I started working as a senior manager for a Beverly Hills Real Estate Management Group (‘Domino Realty’ of Beverly Hills). First, income disparity Canada as compared to America. Here is a salient sentence that I think will help put this into perspective.

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Median after-tax income for a family of four in both Canada and the United States hit $75,000 in 2010 and as later income surveys show that Canadians have earned larger wage gains than their counterparts south of the border in the years since then, Canadian income now is ahead of that in the US. The gap is even wider further down the wealth ladder.”[13]

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Now, My Dear Shoevians, ‘wealth’ is about more than just income. To put in the simplest terms, it is like the difference between Gross income and Net income. While Americans have not experienced the same gains in income, our Canadian brothers are also facing smaller costs!

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Let’s be honest, My Dear Shoevians, if Americans were not just getting the same level of wage increases, as Canada, and it ended there… well, I just wouldn’t have a story with the same importance. Nope, while Canadians are outstripping of wages by 16%+ in the past decade, they are also experiencing lower; taxes, health care costs, and tuition costs. That is what adds UP!

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Canada seems to realize this: that’s why the government subsidizes the vast majority of the tuition tab. Today, if a Canadian teenager gets into Queen’s, McGill or Dalhousie, or one of any number top universities, their tuition will still set them back only $6,500 a year or so. Princeton, analogous in status to Queen’s or McGill? Next year’s tuition bill will be $40,170.”[14]

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Therefore, once Canada’s college graduates hit the market place, they are getting paid more than their American counterparts. But, also (and more importantly from what my niece tells me) these graduates turned professionals are paying a FRACTION in repaid tuition. Graduates/Professionals are making more money upon entering their field and they are paying out (loosing) less of that income paying back banks and skyrocketing tuitions and interest rates.

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Ok, so keeping score. Canadians (over the past decade) on average are taking home more of the benefits of the recovery and paying less for their (or their children’s) educational expenses. I really wish that I could end it here… that this was all the ‘Bad News’. Alas, I am not yet done and there is yet one more bit of ‘Bad News’ for Americans. Now, for the final part of the puzzle. My Dear Shoevians, when I finish this first part about the Canadian Middle Class becoming richer than America’s Middle Class? I still have one more section to this article. The last section will be the last area where we have lost our “American Exceptionalism’. Hang in there!

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SO, to recap, Canadian incomes have increased by about 19.7% over the past decade, while American incomes have increased only 0.3%! While American students are paying crippling tuition and interest rates, our northern brothers Canadians have the majority of the tab picked up by their Federal Government and are paying 0% interest rates on the monies barrowed. BOY, I hope my niece Jessica is reading this article. Hey, Jess? Can you imagine paying only $40K for your whole educational tab… and 0% interest???

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For our next field of humiliation, let us compare Health Care Costs between Canada and America. Canada, like all the other industrialized nations on the planet (except America), have a ‘Nationalized Health Care System’. That means that to go to your Primary Care Physician is only a co-pay and no monthly premium taken out of your check. Say you need a major surgery? That is covered by your nation’s single payer nationalized health care system. As if I need to go on more about the lower health care costs, I simply cannot leave out the fractional cost of prescription medicines, as compared to America. NO premiums, low co-pays, cheap medications all add up BIG! Rather than go on with more and more statistics (I still have the LATER part of this article to go), let me put the health care costs into perspective with ONE chart.

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World Health Organization National Ratings 2013

World Health Organization National Ratings 2013

(World Health Organization National Ratings 2013)

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America has the highest per capita expenditures for health care and rank from fifth to ELEVENTH in the world. Re-cap; Canadians (on the whole, especially the Middle Class) are: getting paid more, paying less for health care and related health care expenses. So, Canadians are taking home larger paychecks, paying less for health care for themselves and their children and when those children decide to get a college education? Regardless of if it is the parents that pay, or the children, when hey graduate their burden is a fraction of what we pay in America.

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US Health Care Ranks Last Among Wealthy Countries

US Health Care Ranks Last Among Wealthy Countries

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These are the factors that have pushed America’s Middle Class BEHIND Canada’s Middle Class. Hard working; teachers, dentists, veterinarians, firemen, policemen and construction workers are ALL better off living within the borders of our Northern Neighbor… than here at home in America. America the old home of “American Exceptionalism’.

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Now, My Dear Shoevians, I have laid out the crippling disparity in income equality between America and our European and Canadian brethren. Showed how China has stolen our long-held titles of “World’s Largest Economy” and ‘Fastest Growing Economy”. Outlined how Canadians earn more, and take more home. Outlined our nation’s financial failures, and saddening income inequality. These are huge factors that degrade our nation’s international standing, and tarnish our “American Exceptionalism’. Now, My Dear Shoevians, I have one final area of failure I simply must share with you. Again, this whole task sickens me. However, if we are ever able to regain our ‘American Exceptionalism’ we simply must face all our failures. Here is the last straw.

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EDUCATION.

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Education is how to make sure we’ve got a workforce that’s productive and competitive”

—President George W. Bush

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Education is an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or higher education by the end of this decade. Education is an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today will outcompete us tomorrow”.

—President Barack Obama

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As a boy, and later as a young man, my father stressed the importance of “good education”. IF often told me that he would rather his children received a good education, than have fun during their school years. “In life you have only two choices. You can work hard of you can work smart.” He grew up working hard, and had a deep desire that his children would grow up and work smart. He would spend whole evenings, after getting home from his job in Houston, sitting with me doing homework and drilling spelling tests.

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My father took a personal interest in my education. Not limiting my education to just school, he would take me into the garage (where he ran his own ‘T.V./Radio/Appliance Repair’ business – K & M Electronics). There, in the garage, my father taught me; Morse code, how to read electronic schematics, resistance, capacitance, ‘Ohms Law’, the “West Virginia Formula’ [W=V/A], and the ‘Rules of the Road’ for Ham Radio broadcasting. Starting in Houston and continuing into Pearland, my father (on weekends and holidays) would have me help him run “Phone Patches’. With his ham radio set-up he would connect to Radio Operators at forward bases in Vietnam. With the information he gave me I would call the parents of a serviceman in Vietnam. Once on the line we would connect the parents on the telephone to their son on the ham radio.

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I cannot count the times we connected worried parent with their sons serving at and near frontlines all over Vietnam. It was a very rewarding feeling to help families connect from halfway around the world. My father did not get his high school diploma until after he served in our military during World War 2. He did not have the education he wanted, until later in life. I do not know if he worked with Ken or Darrell, the way he worked with me on homework and studies. All I know is that I was extremely grateful I grew up with a father that valued my education, and educational opportunities.

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As a boy… a young man… and an adult I have taken advantage of every single educational opportunity I encountered. In 1989, after my head injury (a typewriter fell thirty feet and struck me in my head and cervical spine), I entered in a technical training program for Pharmacy Technician. I graduated Valedictorian of my class with the very first 4.0 GPA, in five years of the school’s history. Upon graduation, and acceptance at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, I was offered an open-ended opportunity to come back and teach. Since that time I have taken courses in, Unix from A.T.& T., Hexadecimal and Electronic Switching Systems (used by all the phone companies at the time) from Star-Tel here in Irvine, CA and in business automation from my (then) mentor Ginger Lindberg (who worked for Mohawk Data).

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I have been very lucky to have educational opportunities span my lifetime. My father taught me basic electronics, but I taught myself all about constructing and repairing home computers, even building three of my first computers from parts. Education is not only important for the individual, it is important for a workforce and a nation. I, and my contemporaries, were very fortunate to grow up in a nation (and a state, Texas) that placed a high value on education and it showed. It showed with America leading all other industrialized nations in; mathematics, science, and reading comprehension. These educational opportunities and standards, of the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, were instrumental in America’s international standing and in our perception of ‘American Exceptionalism”. That is not the case, today.

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My Dear Shoevians there is no “American Exceptionalism” without education. The workforce for the twenty-first century must be proficient in; mathematics, scientific principals, and reading comprehension. So that everyone can follow along, let me start with the basics, overall proficiency (quality) of a nation’s educational system. The chart, below, is from 2012 and compares the quality of the educational system in 29 countries. America rates TWENTY-SIXTH (26) out of twenty-nine (29) countries. America is BEHIND; Barbados, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Malta and Austria.

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2012 Educational System Ratings by Country

2012 Educational System Ratings by Country

[15]

(2012 Educational System Ratings by Country)

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Now, My Dear Shoevians, this fall did not happen over night. It took America generations to build up our educational system to the high point I was fortunate enough to take part. The fall… roughly corresponds to the dominance of the Republican Party, starting in 2000. With a trend starting with President George W. Bush, and continuing through our Republican controlled Congress, less and less funding goes to education. States, with Republican controlled State Houses, continue this trend of under funding public education. Punishing teachers unions, and blaming teachers for failing students. Cut monies, and then blame teachers for the failures of students and their parents. Remember, my education did not stop at the schoolroom door. It continued into my home, into the garage and even in Boy Scouts on camping expeditions.

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So, the current Quality of the American Educational System puts us at 26th in a survey of 29 countries. I say that it hasn’t always been this bad, but do I have any evidence to back up my claims? Glad you asked. Here is a chart that shows America’s educational standing in; science and math from 2000 to 2012.

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National Rankings by the National Center for Educational Statistics

Science

  • 2000: the U.S. scores ranked 14th among the 28 OECD countries and 14th of 32 total nations.
  • 2003: 19th among 30 OECD countries and 22nd among 41 overall.
  • 2006: 21st among 30 OECD countries and 27th among 57 overall.
  • 2009: 17th among 34 OECD countries and 23rd among 65 overall.
  • 2012: 20th among 34 OECD countries and 28th among 65 overall.

Math

  • 2000: the U.S was 18th among 28 OECD countries and 19th of 32 total nations.
  • 2003: 24th among 30 OECD countries and 27th among 41 overall.
  • 2006: 25th among 30 OECD countries and 35th among 57 overall.
  • 2009: 25th among 34 OECD countries and 31st among 65 overall.
  • 2012: 27th among 34 OECD countries and 36th among 65 overall.[16]

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[OCED stands for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development]

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This chart shows that, just over the past twelve years, America’s standing in mathematics has slipped from 14th to 34th. In science America has slipped (during the same period of time) from 1`8th to 34th. Now, My Dear Shoevians, one could counter that this is just one ranking done by one organization and (therefore) proves little to nothing. There is a kernel of truth in that line of thinking. Therefore let me share with you, My Dear Shoeivans, more charts with more statistics and let’s see if there really is a downward trend.

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2012-2013 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

2012-2013 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

(2012-2013 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

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Now, I was unable to locate a chart (by PISA) that shows a decade in review. However, if we look closely to this chart from 2012/2013 we can clearly see America ranks; 31st in Mathematics, 24th in science and 21st in reading comprehension. Not shown on the chart is that America slipped from; 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.[17]

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I do not mean to alarm anyone, but I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the top line of the graph above in all three categories. The Number One slot in; Mathematics, Science and Reading Comprehension is Shanghai-China! Ok, let me do a little article-related mathematics. In this article I have showed evidence that China has displaced America as “World’s Largest Economy”, “Fastest Growing Economy” and now #1 in mathematics, Science and Reading Comprehension. I do not believe that these factors are mutually exclusive. Meaning, it do not think it is any coincidence that the nation that leads in math, science and reading also leads in economic growth and size. These factors are not mutually exclusive and they show a direct correlation between leading in education and leading in economic might.

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Educational Performance 15 year Olds in Top 40 Nations

(Educational Performance 15 year Olds in Top 40 Nations)

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In our final chart for this article I have scrounged up a chart that shows the ranking of the top forty nations in math and science comparing 2006 and 2012. In both categories America ranks below the OECD average, and drops in both categories, too. My Dear Shoevians, it simply must be crystal clear (by now) of the linkage between our failing educational system and our failure in “American Exceptionalism”. We have to put and end to education taking the back seat, or last seat, when it comes to funding our states’ educational systems and our educational national priorities.

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If we do not work to make these changes now, it will be too late all too soon. I have worked very hard to provide you with the most up-to-date statistics, charts and information. This is a very high priority for me, and it needs to be for our next; President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Majority of the House and Majority of the Senate. Any other decisions will place the future of our nation, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in peril. This is not hyperbole, this is factual eveidence present with passion and conviction.

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Thank You!

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Adieu!

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Author/Editor Danny Hanning in Rolling Hills Estates February 2015

Author/Editor Danny Hanning in Rolling Hills Estates February 2015

© 2010 – 2015 Hanning Web Wurx and The Other Shoe


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About Daniel Hanning
I am a; writer, editor and publisher. I write, most often, articles about our space program, fun videos andpolitical works. My most recent additions are; A Week In Review, Sunday Funnies and The Adventures of Nadia. Along with The Mars Report and Lost in Space. ENJOY!

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