American education ranks towards the bottom of all developed nations in math and a little below average in reading. California education ranks in the bottom six states in both reading and math. While this serves a valuable purpose for the aristocracy ("keep the marks dim", "easy manipulation of the masses thru simplistic religious, and/or patriotic arguments" ), it remains unacceptable for the world's most powerful nation.

A key tenant of the business world is that, "compensation must be proportional to performance". Let us adopt that policy in our education system. When you order a pizza delivered to your house, you pay the delivery boy only if the pizza is: 1) the correct type 2) Reasonably hot 3) Reasonably on time. The performer is paid after the performance. And, if the performance is unacceptable, the performer receives no pay. If the pizza is good, then: 1) you pay the boy 2) the boy pays his boss 3) his boss pays the franchiser.

If the U.S. pizza system worked like the U.S. education system then you would: 1) pay the franchiser in New York 2) the franchiser would relay the order and some $ to the pizza shop in your town 3) the pizza shop would produce the pizza and give a little $ to the delivery boy 4) the boy would deliver the pizza to your house. If the pizza system worked like this, I guarantee that your pizzas would arrive wrong, late, small, and cold. This is the way our educational system works today. Let's turn this system on its head.

A child (perhaps starting after the 6th grade) should be paid for how much he learns. If his reading scores improve much more than most kids his age, then he should receive much more pay. If her math score improvement is average, then her math pay is average. If a kid's writing scores hardly improve, then his writing pay is minimal.

If a child can pick up his skills by reading textbooks and consulting with his parents . . . then he can keep everything he earns. If (like most children) he finds he requires a teacher . . . then he must negotiate what percent of his educational pay the teacher will take. Teachers will probably take a smaller percent from bright, hard working kids (as they hope that those kids will help them with slower kids in the class). The pay system should be set up so that a poor, single mother who raises two children who consistently make "A"s, should not have to work. That family should receive enough education income to be (barely) lifted out of the poorest quintile of households.

Teachers would work privately. They might have to pay part of their incomes to rent classrooms etc. Obviously there will be problems with kids failing to pay teachers what they are owed, cheating by kids and by teachers on exams, etc. But all these are predicable problems that will soon find effective solutions. The most powerful nation should have the best education. Let's do it!

You can make your own scatter graphs of the relative performance of your county's school districts fairly easily. This is only if your school districts all take and publicly report standardized test scores. Average theses scores for each type of school (elementry, Jr. High, or High School) in a district over several years. Then divide that average score by the average score for your state (in a particular subject, say math or writing). Graph the percentage difference (of the subject district compared to the state). Generally, reading or writing will be the horizontal scale, and math will be the vertical scale. Thus a point on the scatter graph will represent the relative performance of each school district. I've done this for the school districts in El Paso County (the county around Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA). Click on the links below to see those scatter graphs.

JUNIOR HIGH SCATTER-GRAPH

HIGH SCHOOL SCATTER-GRAPH

The Hardcard deck includes only the numbered cards. The dealer deals 4 or 5 cards (as the players agree) to each player.When all hands are delt, he places a last card face up in the center of the table. This is the mark card. In order to "make the mark" a player must devise a set of arithmetic operations (+,-,*,/, but not powers) that will make his cards equal the value on the mark card. For example, say you are delt 10, 2, 7, 8 and the mark is 3. You note that 7 - 2 = 5, and that 10 - 8 = 2. Then 5 - 2 = 3 (the mark value). You announce that you've "got it" or "made the mark" and then explain how. When a player fails to "make the mark" . . . he/she is "out". That is the failed player must leave the game. The last player wins. After players become proficient at this game, they may prefer to set the mark with a twenty sided die. Players must do all math inside their heads.

Markercize is played like the Simple game with a few exceptions. Before starting, the players agree on some exercise to associate with each of the card suits. For instance, they may say that spades are "push-ups", diamonds are "chin-ups", hearts are "jumping jacks" , clubs are "sit-ups". If a player cannot use arithmatic to get his cards to equal the mark. . . then he (or she) must do the various exercises associated with the suits of his cards. How many reps? The number of reps shown on the face of that card. (Ladies may use ladies versions of chins and push-ups). If these exercises are not done immediately (as recommended), then a sheet of paper may be handy to keep track of which player owes how many exercises. Failed hands are placed face up in the center of the table with a scrap of paper showing the mark for that hand. During the same or later hands, anyone who can solve a failed hand may reduce his exercises by the type and number on the (once) failed hand.

Hard-token is played like the Simple game with a few exceptions. The object is to earn the most tokens. At the start, the players agree on how many tokens will be required to win. Players are expected to make the mark. If a player cannot make the mark, then he moves his cards (face up) to the center of the table. Succeeding players can try to to solve failed hands as well as their own hands. If such an attempt is successful, the dealer dispenses him/her a token. The first player to earn the previously agreed number of tokens wins. Again, a twenty sided die is handy to set the mark.

* Hardcards was invented by supercomputer programmer, Edward Loren in the 1980s. ED and I whiled away many a winters evening playing various versions of his game. Ed hoped that his game might catch on in grade schools and Jr. Highs to help students get a better handle on arithmetic and algebra.