Baseball season is back and in full swing. And when one thinks of our national pastime, one team that comes into mind is the New York Yankees. Living in the tri-state area my entire life, the boys in pinstripes are my favorite baseball team. Tracking the progression of the Yankees for the last few decades, I believe this team is a prime reflection of our national educational system. Skeptical? Keep on reading.
For some context, both the Yankees and America’s educational system were considered the standard when it came to their field. When one thinks of the best team in baseball, the Bronx Bombers come to mind. The Yankees have dominated the sport, winning a professional sports record 27 championships over the past 110 years. Similarly, when one thinks of a strong educational system, the United States comes to mind. America has some of the world’s finest universities and a strong public education system throughout the 19th century and earlier part of the 20th century.
However, both the Yankees and our nation’s educational system have produced numerous reasons for their respective supporters to be seriously worried. Beginning with the Yankees, it appears that their dominant streak has reached an end. After the last recent dynasty that saw the team win four championships from 1996-2000, the Yankees have only won one World Series in the last 13 years.
The same applies to the US education system, as the idea of global dominance in education among many came to a worrisome end when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite into space in 1957. The United States quickly countered when President Kennedy ramped up America’s education investment in math, science, and engineering, allowing America to become the first nation to send a man to the moon in 1969. The idea of global dominance in education once again saturated our thinking until the 1983 report, Nation at Risk, completely shattered this idea in America. The report stunningly illustrated that American students lagged behind their foreign counterpart in all academic fields. Furthermore, it highlighted that the average achievement of high school students on most standardized tests was lower (in 1983), than 26 years ago when Sputnik was launched.
Another similarity between them is that they have both subscribed to the philosophy that spending as much as possible will directly lead to winning more championships and producing better educated students. Unfortunately, this philosophy has not worked out as everyone thought it would. The New York Yankees payroll was the highest in the Major Leagues for many years, until the Los Angeles Dodgers subscribed to the philosophy and took over the title. To put into perspective how large of a payroll it is; the salary of one Yankees player, Alex Rodriguez who gets paid $29 million dollars this year, is higher than the total combined payroll of the Houston Astros, which is $25 million.
The United States is the leader when it comes to spending on education – $809 billion in 2010. In perspective, the US spends $600 billion more than the next highest nation when it comes to education, Japan, which only spends $160.5 billion. The $809 billon amount translates to the US spending roughly $7,743 per student, which is almost two thousand dollars more than the second highest amount by the United Kingdom – $5,834. Yet, with all the money that the United States spends on education, American students still lag behind their international counterparts. This goes to show that having a lot of money is meaningless unless it’s spent wisely and both the Yankees and the federal government illustrate that this is not the case.
The future does not look bright for the New York Yankees and America’s educational system. For the Yankees, they face the reality of losing heart and soul players, like captain, Derek Jeter, and all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, due to age. In education, reports like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2012 Education at a Glance report has found that while the U.S. boasts high education attainment levels overall, it lags behind other countries that are increasing attainment levels at a higher rate.
Both are in need of reform and solutions that improve the quality and long-term success for the New York Yankees and America’s educational system. Only time will tell if reforms implemented by Yankee’s general manager, Brian Cashman, or U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will help get things moving in the right direction.