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.
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 apublic 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.