Parents need empowerment. Education choice , which is not allowed totally in California. School choice naturally leads to competition which naturally leads to higher standards. Return the power to parents and the problem may just disappear.
Experience in small countries with uniform languages and cultures does not map on to our society. What works there will not work here. What we have here is rent seeking on the part of unions. Parental goals are in direct opposition to the goals of the unions with respect to cost and quality. The best we can do here is privatize schools altogether. The reason why the modern industrial public school was created was to inculcate White Protestant American values on the children of immigrants and lower class Whites. Let's put parents in charge by giving them back financial responsibility and control. If the unions can make it in that environment, where there are no financial advantages conferred by state subsidies, then more power to them. Hint, they will do as well unions have in the auto industry and for the same reasons.
The experience of Nordic countries does not leave me as pessimistic about the educational potential of teachers' unions as Mr. Sand is; but nothing in the recent activity of teachers' unions in California, and very little in teachers' unions' activities in other parts of the country, persuades me that he is wrong in his assessment of American teachers' unions. I'm still waiting for idealists like Mr. Stryer (a friend, as is Larry) to prove that their organizations can make a significant positive difference for both students and teachers without selling out past progress made in our educational and social systems; but I recognize that progress today is a tough slog, particularly in such a divided political climate.
First step abolish the Department of Education and then each state can decide if they want their state schools to be under state or local control. In all cases, teachers' unions must be ousted and the schools returned to the taxpayers.
Until then, public schools will continue to turn out illiterates and innumerates who "don't know much about history ...".
Remember even the grandparents of the kids in school today have been victims of the teachers' unions. Two generations of We, the People who don't know the basics of our government and that the president is merely the CEO of the country, not the king.