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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics “Stupid in America” Learning how to apply the principles of comparative analysis.

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Presentation on theme: "POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics “Stupid in America” Learning how to apply the principles of comparative analysis."— Presentation transcript:

1 POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics “Stupid in America” Learning how to apply the principles of comparative analysis

2 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Questions What is Stossel’s main argument in “Stupid in America”? What specific variables does he identify? –What is the dependent variable? The independent variable(s)? Does he use a comparative strategy? If so, what strategy does he use? What type of evidence does he use?

3 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Evaluating Stossel’s Comparative Argument “Stupid in America” includes a number of comparisons …  U.S. school system vs. non-U.S. school systems with higher scores on international math and literacy tests  A New Jersey high school (representing a “top scoring” American school) vs. a typical high school in Belgium  Charter schools in various cities and states vs. regular public schools in various cities and states Were these useful and well- executed comparisons?

4 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Evaluating Stossel’s Comparative Argument U.S. school system vs. non-U.S. school systems with higher scores on international math and literacy tests Stossel suggests that countries with high math (and literacy scores) have competition-based school systems … Let’s have a look > The top three countries, however, do not--indeed, Finland’s school system is particularly restrictive: students are assigned the same school between the ages of 7 and 16. What does this mean? Source: PISAPISA

5 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Evaluating Stossel’s Comparative Argument U.S. school system vs. non-U.S. school systems with higher scores on international math and science tests How about Stossel’s comparison between the U.S. and Belgium? Was that a compelling, logically sound comparison? Two issues to consider … Are the US and Belgium two most similar systems? Even if they are “similar enough,” do we know that aren’t any other potentially significant difference between the U.S. and Belgium -- e.g., population, ethnic composition, access to preschools

6 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Evaluating Stossel’s Comparative Argument How about Stossel’s comparison between the U.S. and Belgium? Was that a compelling, logically sound comparison? One more thing: Consider this interesting and potentially significant fact about Belgium … is an overwhelmingly Catholic country with two basic ethnic groups, the Flemish (58 percent) and the French-speaking Walloon (31 percent). There is a big educational gap between these two groups: The Flemish population does much better than the French population; in fact, the Flemish have the highest scores in the world, while French-speaking children in Belgium are only “average”--about where the U.S. as a whole is (in fact, sub-national variations, especially on gender, are significant for many countries)

7 Evaluating Stossel’s Comparative Argument To better test Stossel’s argument, let’s consider some other comparisons we might make. How about Canada and the U.S.? ( ________, mss) How about Finland and Korea (binary, _______) How about the U.S., Poland, and Italy? (__________, mds) Although, not in the table, it’s useful noting that the U.S. score decreased 9 points between 2003 and Is this a good basis for a _____________ comparison? It’s also worth pointing out that, across most countries girls score higher than boys in literacy, while boys score higher than girls in math. In math, the gender difference is not universal: in Iceland, Bulgaria, and Thailand, for example, girls do better than boys. One last strategy is the ________: an in-depth examination of one, and better still, several cases binary mds multi-unit within-case source case study

8 Stupid in America Applying the Principles of Comparative Analysis Summing Up Stossel is not necessarily wrong: competition-based schools may improve educational quality; however, it is clear that his comparative research design is fundamentally flawed To “know” whether Stossel is right, wrong, or something else, we need better, more systematic and logically sound comparisons A good comparative framework, moreover, will also certainly show that the issue is far more complex than Stossel suggests: we know, for example, that “monopolistic” school systems are not automatically bad: in Finland, in fact, it seems to work exceptionally well To make a case for or against Stossel’s argument, more, better, and deeper research is required; so too is intellectual integrity, and open-mind, and a desire to learn, rather than preach


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