December 7, 2010

PISA and Mexico

In Mexico, the PAN government's of the last decade has been trying to get parents to keep their kids in school longer. Here's PISA document congratulating Mexico for getting its act together over the last decade. 

The really striking thing about Mexico's performance on the 2009 PISA school achievement tests is the lack of very high scorers. For example, on reading, 9.9% of Americans score at the 5th level or 6th level on a 0 to 6 scale. In contrast, only 0.4% of Mexicans score that high. That's really bad. 

In comparison, 1.9% of Turks score in the top two levels: not great, but several times the fraction in Mexico, suggesting that in Turkey there are small cultures of elites here and there who impress it upon their kids to hit the books hard. When I was in Bodrum, Turkey for Hans-Herman Hoppe's conference, I was impressed by the books on sale at the supermarket across the street. Granted, Bodrum is kind of like Santa Barbara and this was an upscale supermarket in a chain headquartered in Switzerland in a nice neighborhood in a resort town, but, still, it was nice to see serious books on sale somewhere.

That suggests to me, not for the first time, that much of the blame for Mexico's cultural malaise stems from Mexico's rich not setting a good example for the masses, such as by not studying hard.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did I miss something?

What happened to the genetic argument?

If Mexicans just aren't smart, there's nothing they can do - you can't push a dumb kid into hitting the books hard enough to nail tests. Maybe to bring the grades up a bit, but that's it.

Anonymous said...


That suggests to me, not for the first time, that much of the blame for Mexico's cultural malaise stems from Mexico's rich not setting a good example for the masses, such as by not studying hard.


Steve, it's genetic. Haven't you learned that yet.

All the bullshit about setting a good example and role models is just a bunch of hooey! Excuses for poor performance.

The capable don't need role models or good examples. They just do it! (tm)

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

That suggests to me, not for the first time, that much of the blame for Mexico's cultural malaise stems from Mexico's rich not setting a good example for the masses, such as by not studying hard.

The problem underlying this is that many of the chief sources of Mexican income - namely oil, agriculture, tourism, drugs, and remittances from the U.S., are not fields that reward extra study very much.

Arnold said...

Well, okaaaaaaaaay, but this account of eighth-grade molecular biology instruction in Mexico makes it sound as if the kids in that country are being expected to do serious intellectual work, in a way that one suspects is largely unknown to the average American public-school hedonist:

http://www.fredoneverything.net/MexText.shtml

Black Sea said...

Smart people don't read books to set a good example for the masses, they read books because they're interested in what's inside.

syon said...

Women and education in early 19th century Mexico:"Generally speaking, then, the Mexican Señoras and Señoritas write, read, and play a little, sew, and take care of their houses and children. When I say they read, I mean they know how to read; when I say they write; I do not mean that they can always spell; and when I say they play, I do not assert that they have generally a knowledge of music. If we compare their education with that of girls in England, or in the United States, it is not a comparison, but a contrast. Compare it with that of Spanish women, and we shall be less severe upon their far niente descendants. In the first place, the climate inclines every one to indolence, both physically and morally. One cannot pore over a book when the blue sky is constantly smiling in at the open windows; then, out of doors after ten o'clock, the sun gives us due warning of our tropical latitude, and even though the breeze is so fresh and pleasant, one has no inclination to walk or ride far. Whatever be the cause, I am convinced that it is impossible to take the same exercise with the mind or with the body in this country, as in Europe or in the northern states. Then as to schools, there are none that can deserve the name, and no governesses. Young girls can have no emulation, for they never meet. They have no public diversion, and no private amusement. There are a few good foreign masters, most of whom have come to Mexico for the purpose of making their fortune, by teaching, or marriage, or both, and whose object, naturally, is to make the most money in the shortest possible time, that they may return home and enjoy it. The children generally appear to have an extraordinary disposition for music and drawing, yet there are few girls who are proficient in either.

When very young, they occasionally attend the schools, where boys and girls learn to read in common, or any other accomplishment that the old women can teach them; but at twelve they are already considered too old to attend these promiscuous assemblages, and masters are got for drawing and music to finish their education. I asked a lady the other day if her daughter went to school. "Good heavens!" said she, quite shocked, "she is past eleven years old!" It frequently happens that the least well-informed girls are the children of the cleverest men, who, keeping to the customs of their forefathers, are content if they confess regularly, attend church constantly, and can embroider and sing a little. Where there are more extended ideas, it is chiefly amongst families who have travelled in Europe, and have seen the different education of women in foreign countries. Of these the fathers occasionally devote a short portion of their time to the instruction of their daughters, perhaps during their leisure evening moments, but it may easily be supposed that this desultory system has little real influence on the minds of the children. I do not think there are above half-a-dozen married women, or as many girls above fourteen, who, with the exception of the mass-book, read any one book through in the whole course of the year. They thus greatly simplify the system of education in the United States, where parties are frequently divided between the advocates for solid learning and those for superficial accomplishments; and according to whom it is difficult to amalgamate the solid beef of science with the sweet sauce of les beaux arts."

LIFE IN MEXICO (pages 286-87), Fanny Calderon de la Barca.

Incidentally, Steve, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand Mexico. Fanny Calderon was the Scottish born wife to the first Spanish envoy to independent Mexico, and her book is a fascinating firsthand account of life in 1830s Mexico (Prescott was a friend and used her for background material in his great CONQUEST OF MEXICO).

syon said...

Women and education in early 19th century Mexico:

"When very young, they occasionally attend the schools, where boys and girls learn to read in common, or any other accomplishment that the old women can teach them; but at twelve they are already considered too old to attend these promiscuous assemblages, and masters are got for drawing and music to finish their education. I asked a lady the other day if her daughter went to school. "Good heavens!" said she, quite shocked, "she is past eleven years old!" It frequently happens that the least well-informed girls are the children of the cleverest men, who, keeping to the customs of their forefathers, are content if they confess regularly, attend church constantly, and can embroider and sing a little. Where there are more extended ideas, it is chiefly amongst families who have travelled in Europe, and have seen the different education of women in foreign countries. Of these the fathers occasionally devote a short portion of their time to the instruction of their daughters, perhaps during their leisure evening moments, but it may easily be supposed that this desultory system has little real influence on the minds of the children. I do not think there are above half-a-dozen married women, or as many girls above fourteen, who, with the exception of the mass-book, read any one book through in the whole course of the year. They thus greatly simplify the system of education in the United States, where parties are frequently divided between the advocates for solid learning and those for superficial accomplishments; and according to whom it is difficult to amalgamate the solid beef of science with the sweet sauce of les beaux arts."

LIFE IN MEXICO (pages 286-87), Fanny Calderon de la Barca.

Incidentally, Steve, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand Mexico. Fanny Calderon was the Scottish born wife to the first Spanish envoy to independent Mexico, and her book is a fascinating firsthand account of life in 1830s Mexico (Prescott was a friend and used her for background material in his great CONQUEST OF MEXICO).

Ray Sawhill said...

FWIW, during my recent stay in Istanbul one thing I was struck by was how many good, small bookstores there were around -- many, many more than you run into in New York City these days.

Justin said...

God bless Mexico. There is NOTHING wrong with Manana Land. NOTHING.

Getting them to be more like Los Estados Unidos is the devil's errand.

michael farris said...

As a rule, in Spain people are not very book oriented and don't read much for fun.
The main exception was/is the Catalan speaking areas in the east. I have no idea what the figures are now but at one point Catalan editions of books (for a total population of about 6 million) sold as many copies as Spanish editions (about 5 times that).

This seems to be something they carried to the New World and I don't know of any Spanish speaking society that's especially fond of books and reading. In Mexican culture I've seen hints that books are sometimes treated more as furnishings for the aristocracy.

IME with Latin Americans highland indigenous people are more liable to be oriented towards study and working hard (with an almost protestant kind of work ethic) while those of more European background are charming flakes who'd rather sit around and socialize.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"The really striking thing about Mexico's performance on the 2009 PISA school achievement tests is the lack of very high scorers. For example, on reading, 9.9% of Americans score at the 5th level or 6th level on a 0 to 6 scale. In contrast, only 0.4% of Mexicans score that high. That's really bad."

Obviously the reason is that all of Mexico's really bright students have illegally immigrated to the US. We got the best of the best.

Johnson said...

I live in Tijuana. I have literally seen two bookstores my entire time living there (almost 2 years) in a city of two million.

This culture has no value for education. I'm far from surprised by these test results.

Simon in London said...

So, not doing anything is a Spanish thing? Indolent Spaniards and doltish Aztecs will make for low achievement, yup.

The Turkish elite I know seem comparable to their counterparts in Italy and often superior to their counterparts in Spain and Greece.

elvisd said...

Off track, but on Mexico, here's a story with a pic that I just couln't resist. I didn't know that there were campesinos from Ken Kesey's Oregon.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/07/uns-ban-at-climate-talks-we-need-results-now/

ERM said...

As a rule, in Spain people are not very book oriented and don't read much for fun.
The main exception was/is the Catalan speaking areas in the east.


That's interesting. I was just about to write a furious reply about all the beautiful, full bookshops I visited...in Barcelona. For such a small population, the Catalans certainly produce a large body of original and translated literature. But not unusually so, I think. It's amazing to walk into book stores in Hungary or the Czech Republic. Even granted that these are rather nerdy, bookish people, the publishing houses must operate on absurdly tight margins to maintain such immense catalogs for such small markets.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of mexican population speaks/thinks in an indian language?

Plus I'm with the gene gang.

goatweed

Bob said...

Fred's article about Mexican public schools being of generally high quality is right.

The problem with its schools are its students, not the teachers.

Mexico has seen great benefit over the years from a patriotic, secular, Europhile, left-wing ruling class that used a lot of the oil money to build these schools and also all sorts of public works.

The country has also had a stable democratic government for about 80 years, more than can be said of other Latin American countries.

Argentina is sort of a counterpoint: much more human capital than Mexico but poorly governed.

Bob said...

I think a lot of the high-scoring "Turks" in the study are Greeks and crypto-Jews.

Modern Turkey was the center of the Greek-run Eastern Roman Empire for 1000 years, and Greek-administered Ottoman empire for a few hundred more. It thus attracted a lot of ambitious Greeks and Jews. Many of them fled or were massacred during the Turkish revolutions after WWI, but some assimilated and stayed.

Anonymous said...

Hitler, I believe was the first to intrude state politics into international sports. Later the communist states decided to demonstrate the superiority of socialism by winning the most Olympic medals. That got us the infamous Russian Press Brothers and the East German steroid camps.

It looks like the Chinese government now has a state sponsored effort to boost test scores. Good.

Aptitude testing was created in the West but has been suppressed here for long enough. Maybe the commies will focus public attention on mental testing the way they did with women's gymnastics.

Albertosaurus

keypusher said...

But the absence of high scorers in Mexico seems inconsistent with a European elite that rules over mestizos and Indians. You would expect a decent number of high scorers and a low average. Instead you get a tiny number of high scorers and a low average.

Anonymous said...

"Modern Turkey was the center of the Greek-run Eastern Roman Empire for 1000 years, and Greek-administered Ottoman empire for a few hundred more. It thus attracted a lot of ambitious Greeks and Jews."


Yeah, the Ottomans appreciated human capital. Consider Muhammad Ali, an Albanian and viceroy of Egypt.

TH said...

I think a lot of the high-scoring "Turks" in the study are Greeks and crypto-Jews.

Modern Turks are genetically pretty much indistinguishable from Greeks.

Anonymous said...

Bob:

As I've been saying here for ages, the people we think of as Turks are largely a European/Mediterranean people. There weren't all that many Turkic invaders who settled in Anatolia. Mostly the natives converted to Islam and adopted the language of the new bosses. And those are the people who made Anatolia and the coastal cities of Ionia the richest, most accomplished areas of the Roman empire.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Mexico is a place where European/global elites go to slack (or at least was historically, prior to NAFTA and American manufacturing export there sent an elite American managerial class).

I thought Mexico had at least one really great University (NASU or something?), and sent American Ph.D. and post-doc programs a stream of high quant performers.

Hopefully Anonymous
http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"And those are the people who made Anatolia and the coastal cities of Ionia the richest, most accomplished areas of the Roman empire."

You're assuming dysgenic breeding has not been the rule since the Muslim conquest. Muslims have controlled much of Anatolia for, what, 900 years? They've controlled all of it for 557 years. That's a lot of generations in which to screw things up.

jody said...

"crypto-jew" is definitely my favorite HBD-world only word.

you'll never, not once, hear that word used in any other context, among any other group of people.

should be on the SAT to really trip up all the test takers.

"WTF? crypo-jew? Never heard of such a thing in my life. Might as well just fill in the bubble for C..."

none of the above said...

Are crypto-Jews the guys with names like Goldberg and Blumenthal who work at Ft Meade?

none of the above said...

Steve,

How can we distinguish between lack of effort and lack of ability? It seems like what we need is a comparison of achievement tests and IQ tests. If I can rotate 3D shapes in my head, but can't solve a simple calc problem, it's probably laziness or lack of education. If I can solve calc problems, but can't do the 3D stuff, maybe I'm compensating for less raw intellingence with lots of hard study.

Howard Hughes said...

jody,
Crypto-Jew is used in all sorts of places... Ever heard of Marrano?

Anonymous said...

You're assuming dysgenic breeding has not been the rule since the Muslim conquest. Muslims have controlled much of Anatolia for, what, 900 years? They've controlled all of it for 557 years. That's a lot of generations in which to screw things up.

Given that the Ottomans spent centuries skimming off the cream of Greece and the Balkans for the Janissaries (who were allowed to marry and have kids eventually), I'd say it was the opposite, actually. And traveling in the Eastern Med certainly backs it up anecdotally. The Turks, especially in the cities, strike one as pretty sharp, on the ball people. The dumb ones in Germany aren't representative-- those are the rednecks from the hinterlands.

In contrast, while visiting modern Greece, you look around and can't believe that these are the people who built the Parthenon and invented Western Civilization. Because they sure don't act like it.

jody said...

nonetheless, some fascinating stuff here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Jews

20 percent of spaniards have distant sephardic jewish ancestors?

10 to 15 percent of mestizos in northern mexico and southern US have distant jewish ancestors presumably from the same lineage.

jody said...

steve, ATF has published the results of Project Gunrunner. this was their investigation into the matter of whether or not "Guns are flowing into Mexico from the US and are making the drug wars so much more dangerous!"

in 2010, ATF spent 81 million dollars to monitor and intercept gun sales from the US into mexico. the results are astronomically bad. They intercepted 16 guns. By my math that's 5 million dollars spent per gun intercepted.

Now, of course the results are ludicrously, preposterously bad. no F_ing drug dealers were coming to the US to buy guns. that would be like mexicans coming to the US to buy prescription drugs when, if you just stay in mexico, you can simply go buy the same drug without a prescription. totally ass backwards and something they would never do.

Even worse for the liberal media, are the suspects arrested. I'll post them in the next post.

jody said...

Oswaldo Ramirez, 29, of Lakewood, an illegal alien who allegedly arranged and was present at most of the firearms transactions;

Victor Huerta, 20, of Paramount, who allegedly participated in several of the gun transactions;

Ernesto Figueroa Chavez, 21, of La Puente, an illegal alien who allegedly supplied the gun in three transactions prior to being deported to Mexico in October;

Robert Francis Evangelista, 32, of Montebello, who was allegedly involved in seven firearms transactions;

Sergio Herrera, 30, of South Gate, who allegedly sold one firearm

Ivan Reyes, 34, who is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities for allegedly selling one firearm and being involved in a narcotics transaction;

Robert Michael Roybal, 23, of El Sereno, who allegedly was involved in two firearms transactions and is currently in state custody;

Ramon Lopez, 33, of South Los Angeles, who allegedly was involved in one gun transaction and is currently in state custody; and a ninth defendant who is charged with participating in one gun transaction and is the subject of an ongoing investigation into his identity.

elvisd said...

"What percentage of mexican population speaks/thinks in an indian language? "

I bet it's more than is reported.

Found out about another Indian language today. A student of mine from Oaxaca says that his language is Triqui. I looked it up, about 20,000 speakers. He says his version of it is different from two others. His apparently has only 3000 speakers.
BTW, none of my Qan'jobal speaking kids can really understand each other. If you are from another town, your dialect will be almost unintelligible to others.

Anonymous said...

"In contrast, while visiting modern Greece, you look around and can't believe that these are the people who built the Parthenon and invented Western Civilization. Because they sure don't act like it."

I vaguely recall from my old history text that many of the most talented Greeks were dispersed thither and yon due to the administrative needs of Alexander's empire. That could explain why Greece has failed to impress ever since ca. 300 B.C. in the manner that it did before.

"20 percent of spaniards have distant sephardic jewish ancestors?"

Probably we all have "distant" Jewish ancestors, for the same reason that all or most Europeans are descended from Charlemagne. Having an ancestor does not mean you inherited a significant amount of your DNA from that ancestor. 20% having distant Jewish ancestry does not mean that they are 20% Jewish.

Red Fox said...

The Roman Empire would have also caused a 'brain drain' from Ancient Greece. The Romans were fascinated by the ancient Greeks. This fascination translated into many opportunities for ancient Greeks throughout the Roman Empire. For example, it was very fashionable for well-to-do Roman families to have a Greek tutor(s) for their children.