CON - Marion County Public Schools

Is Social Media Good for Our Society?
74% of American adults online use social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
LinkedIn, and Pinterest, as of Jan. 2014, up from 26% in 2008. [26] [174] On social media sites like these,
users may develop biographical profiles, communicate with friends and strangers, do research, and
share thoughts, photos, music, links, and more.
Proponents of social networking sites say that the online communities promote increased interaction
with friends and family; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support
and materials; facilitate social and political change; and disseminate useful information rapidly.
Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on
frivolous activity; alter children’s brains and behavior making them more prone to ADHD; expose users
to predators like pedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information.
History of Social Networking Sites, which existed from 1997-2001, is considered the first social networking site because it
allowed users to create personal spaces and connect to friends online. Friendster, created in 2002,
popularized social networking in the United States but was quickly outpaced by other social networking
sites such as MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), Pinterest (2009), and Google+ (2012).
Facebook reached one billion monthly users worldwide on October 4, 2012, making it the most popular
social networking site with one in seven people on the planet as members. [142] 71% of online adults in
the United States use Facebook. Every day, Facebook manages 4.5 billion "Likes," 4.75 billion content
shares, and over 300 million photo uploads. [175] [176] As of Sep. 2014, 51% of US adults use YouTube,
28% use Pinterest, 28% use LinkedIn, 26% use Instagram, and 23% use Twitter. [177] Twitter has 288
million monthly active users and over 500 million tweets are sent daily. [178] Among online adults, use
of more than one social networking site increased from 42% in 2013 to 52% in 2014. [26] [174]
1. Social networking sites are a top news source for 27.8% of Americans, ranking below newspapers
(28.8%) and above radio (18.8%) and print publications (6%). [1]
2. Students who used social networking sites while studying scored 20% lower on tests and students
who used social media had an average GPA of 3.06 versus non-users who had an average GPA of 3.82.
3. 35 global heads of state, every US Cabinet agency, 84% of US state governors, every major candidate
for US President, and more than 40% of top global religious leaders are on Twitter. [157]
4. 10% of people younger than 25 years old respond to social media and text messages during sex. [100]
5. In July 2012 Americans spent 74.0 billion minutes on social media via a home computer, 40.8 billion
minutes via apps, and 5.7 billion minutes via mobile web browsers, a total of 121.1 billion minutes on
social networking sites. [147]
Social networking sites spread information faster than any other media .
Over 50% of people learn about breaking news on social media. [1] 65% of traditional media
reporters and editors use sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for story research, and 52% use
Twitter. [2] Social networking sites are the top news source for 27.8% of Americans, ranking
close to newspapers (28.8%) and above radio (18.8%) and other print publications (6%). [1]
Twitter and YouTube users reported the July 20, 2012 Aurora, CO theater shooting before
news crews could arrive on the scene [3], and the Red Cross urged witnesses to tell family
members they were safe via social media outlets. [4]
Law enforcement uses social networking sites to catch and prosecute
criminals. 67% of federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals surveyed think
"social media helps solve crimes more quickly." [5] In 2011 the NYPD added a Twitter tracking
unit and has used social networking to arrest criminals who have bragged of their crimes online.
[6] When the Vancouver Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup in Vancouver, the city erupted into
riots. Social media was used to catch vandals and rioters as social networking site users tagged
the people they knew in over 2,000 photos posted to the sites. [7] [8]
Social networking sites help students do better at school. 59% of students
with access to the Internet report that they use social networking sites to discuss educational
topics and 50% use the sites to talk about school assignments. [9] After George Middle School
in Portland, OR introduced a social media program to engage students, grades went up by
50%, chronic absenteeism went down by 33%, and 20% of students school-wide voluntarily
completed extra-credit assignments.[10] [11] A Jan. 2015 study published in the Journal of
Applied Developmental Psychology said college freshman should use social networking sites to
build networks of new friends, feel socially integrated at their new schools, and reduce their risk
of dropping out. [182]
Social networking sites allow people to improve their relationships and
make new friends. 70% of adult social networking users visit the sites to connect with
friends and family [12], and increased online communication strengthens relationships. [13] 52%
of teens using social media report that using the sites has helped their relationships with
friends, 88% report that social media helps them stay in touch with friends they cannot see
regularly, 69% report getting to know students at their school better, and 57% make new
friends. [14]
Social media helps empower business women. Being able to connect on social
networking sites gives business women a support group not readily found offline where female
CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are outnumbered by male CEOs 15 to 485. [15] Many social
media sites are dominated by women: 72% of Pinterest users are women, 58% of Facebook
users, 62% of MySpace users, 60% of Yelp users, and 53% of Instagram users. [16] Business
women useTwitter chats to support each other, give and receive peer knowledge, and have
guest "speakers" share expert knowledge. [17] helps African women entrepreneurs
connect on social media to grow their businesses. [18]
Social media sites help employers find employees and job-seekers find
work. 64% of companies are on two or more social networks for recruiting [19] because of the
wider pool of applicants and more efficient searching capabilities. 89% of job recruiters have
hired employees through LinkedIn, 26% through Facebook, and 15% through Twitter. [20] One
in six job-seekers credit social media for helping find their current job. 52% of job-seekers use
Facebook for the job search, 38% use LinkedIn, and 34% use Twitter. [21]
Being a part of a social networking site can increase a person's quality of
life and reduce the risk of health problems. Social media can help improve life
satisfaction, stroke recovery, memory retention, and overall well-being by providing users with a
large social group. Additionally, friends on social media can have a "contagion" effect,
promoting and helping with exercise, dieting, and smoking cessation goals. [22]
Social networking sites facilitate face-to-face interaction. People use social
media to network at in-person events and get to know people before personal, business, and
other meetings. [23] Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that
messaging on social media leads to face-to-face interactions when plans are made via the sites
and social media users messaged close friends an average of 39 days each year while seeing
close friends in person 210 days each year. [24]
Social networking sites increase voter participation. Facebook users reported
they are more likely to vote if they see on social networking sites that their friends did. [25]
During the Nov. 2010 elections, Facebook users who visit the site more than once a day were
2.5 times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade
someone about a vote, and 43% more likely to say they will vote. [26] During the 2012
presidential election, 22% of registered voters posted about how they voted on Facebook or
Twitter, 30% were encouraged to vote by posts on social media, and 20% encouraged others to
vote via social networking sites. [27]
Social media facilitates political change. Social networking sites give social
movements a quick, no-cost method to organize, disseminate information, and mobilize people.
[28] The 2011 Egyptian uprising (part of the Arab Spring), organized largely via social media,
motivated tens of thousands of protestors for eighteen days of demonstrations and, ultimately
led to the resignation of Egyptian President Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011. [29] A July 4, 2011 tweet
from @Adbusters with the hashtag #occupywallstreet started the American Occupy movement,
which gained traction in Sep. 2011 when protesters gathered at New York City's Zuccotti Park
and remained there until Nov. 15, 2011. [30]
Social networking is good for the economy. Social media sites have created a new
industry and thousands of jobs in addition to providing new income and sales. [31] A McKinsey
Global Institute study projects that the communication and collaboration from social media
could add $900 billion to $1.3 trillion to the economy through added productivity and improved
customer service. [32] Facebook posted $1.26 billion for third quarter 2012 revenue, up from
$954 million for third quarter 2011 earnings. [33] Twitter, a private company, earned an
estimated $350 million in 2012 revenue. [34]
Social media sites empower individuals to make social change and do
social good on a community level. Social media shares popularized nine-year old
Scottish student, Martha Payne, and her blog, "Never Seconds," which exposed the state of her
school’s lunch program prompting international attention that resulted in changes to her school
and the formation of "Friends of Never Seconds" charity to feed children globally. [35] [141]
Jeannette Van Houten uses social media to find owners of photographs and mementos strewn
from houses by Hurricane Sandy. [36] Hillsborough, CA freshman varsity soccer goalie Daniel
Cui was blamed for and bullied about a losing season until over 100 of his teammates and
classmates changed their Facebook profile photos to one of Cui making a save, silencing the
bullies and building Cui's confidence. [37] [38]
Social networking sites help senior citizens feel more connected to
society. [39] [40] According to a 2010 Pew Internet & American Life Project study, the 74-year
old and older age group is the fastest growing demographic on social media sites with the
percentage quadrupling from 2008 to 2010, from 4% to 16%. [41] Seniors report feeling happier
due to online contact with family and access to information like church bulletins that have
moved online and out of print. [39]
Social networking sites help people who are socially isolated or shy
connect with other people. [42] More than 25% of teens report that social networking
makes them feel less shy, 28% report feeling more outgoing, and 20% report feeling more
confident (53% of teens identified as somewhat shy or "a lot" shy in general). [14] Youth who are
"less socially adept" report that social networks give them a place to make friends [43] and
typically quiet students can feel more comfortable being vocal through a social media platform
used in class. [44] Shy adults also cite social media as a comfortable place to interact with
others. [45]
Social media allows for quick, easy dissemination of public health and
safety information from reputable sources. The US military and Department of
Veterans Affairs use social networking to help prevent suicide. [46] The World Health
Organization (WHO) uses social media to "disseminate health information and counter
rumours," which was especially helpful after the Mar. 2011 Japanese earthquake and nuclear
disaster when false information spread about ingesting salt to combat radiation. [47] The Boston
Health Commission used social media to get information to its 4,500 Twitter followers about
clinic locations and wait times for vaccines during the H1N1 outbreak. [48]
Social media can help disarm social stigmas. The Sticks and Stones campaign
uses Twitter to reduce stigmas surrounding mental health and learning disabilities. [49] The
Stigma Project uses Facebook to "lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize stigma through
education via social media and advertising." [50] Gay people speaking openly on social
networking sites, like Facebook site Wipe Out Homophobia, help achieve a greater social
acceptance of homosexuality. [51] [52] Jenny Lawson, author of the blog "The Bloggess" and
New York Times bestseller Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, has made public her struggles
with OCD, depression, and anxiety disorders, which has lessened the stigma of the diseases
for others. [53]
"Crowdsourcing" and "crowdfunding" on social media allows people to
collectively accomplish a goal. A mother was able to find a kidney donor for her sick
child by posting a video on her Facebook page. [54], a science social media
site, discovered a planet on Oct. 16, 2012 via crowdsourcing. [55] Crowdwise, a social network
devoted to crowdsourcing volunteers and crowdfunding charity projects, raised $845,989 (as of
Nov. 20, 2012) for Hurricane Sandy victims. [56] [57] Followers of Pencils of Promise on social
media have helped the non-profit build 74 schools (with 26 more in progress and 7 more
planned as of Nov. 19, 2012) and educate 4,500 children. [58]
Social networking provides academic research to a wider audience,
allowing many people access to previously unavailable educational
resources. Information previously restricted to academia's "ivory tower" can now be shared
with the public who do not have access to restricted journals or costly databases. Researchers
from a wide variety of fields are sharing photos, providing status updates, collaborating with
distant colleagues, and finding a wider variety of subjects via social media, making the research
process and results more transparent and accessible to a larger public. [59] [139]
Corporations and small businesses use social media to benefit
themselves and consumers. Small businesses benefit greatly from the free platforms to
connect with customers and increase visibility of their products or services. [60] Almost 90% of
big companies using social media have reported "at least one measurable business benefit."
For example, large chain restaurants are using social media to quickly disseminate information
to managers, train employees, and receive immediate customer feedback on new items,
allowing for quick revision if needed. [61] 80% of companies are expected to have customer
service on social media by the end of 2012. [62]
Social networking sites offer teachers a platform for collaboration with
other teachers and communication with students outside the classroom.
More than 80% of US college and university faculty use social media; more than
50% use it for teaching; and 30% for communicating with students. [66] Educators from around
the world interact with each other and bring guest teachers, librarians, authors, and experts into
class via social networks like Twitter and social networking tools like Skype. [67] [68] Edmodo, an
education-specific social networking site designed for contact between students, teachers, and
parents, reached over 49 million users in 2014. [69]
[63] [64] [65]
Social networking sites offer a way for musicians and artists to build
audiences even if they don’t have a corporate contract. [70] 64% of teenagers
listen to music on YouTube, making it the "hit-maker" for songs rather than radio (56%) or CDs
(50%). [71] [72] For example, pop star Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube when he was
12 years old, and, in 2012 at 18 years old, Bieber’s net worth was estimated at $80 million. [73]
[74] The National Endowment for the Arts found that people who interact with the arts online
through social media and other means are almost three times more likely to attend a live event.
Colleges and universities use social media to recruit and retain students.
96.6% of four-year institutions use Facebook to recruit students, 83.4% use Twitter, and 79.3%
use YouTube. [183] Colleges and universities use Facebook apps and other social media tools
to increase student retention. [77] Social networking sites are also being used to give students a
support system at community colleges that consist mostly of commuter students. [78]
Social media enables the spread of unreliable and false information. 49.1% of
people have heard false news via social media. [1] On Sep. 5, 2012 false rumors of fires,
shootouts, and caravans of gunmen in a Mexico City suburb spread via Twitter and Facebook
caused panic, flooded the local police department with over 3,000 phone calls, and temporarily
closed schools. [79] Shashank Tripathi, tweeting as @ComfortablySmug, spread false information
in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by tweeting that the New York Stock Exchange was flooding
and that the power company would cut off electricity to all of Manhattan; the bogus information
was picked up by national news outlets including CNN and the Weather Channel. [80]
Social networking sites lack privacy and expose users to government and
corporate intrusions. 13 million users said they had not set or did not know about
Facebook's privacy settings and 28% shared all or nearly all of their posts publicly. [81] The US
Justice Department intercepted 1,661 pieces of information from social networking sites and emails in 2011. [82] The 2009 IRS training manual teaches agents to scan Facebook pages for
information that might "assist in resolving a taxpayer case." 4.7 million Facebook users have
"liked" a health condition or medical treatment page, information that is sometimes used by
insurance companies to raise rates. [81] [83]
Students who are heavy social media users tend to have lower grades.
Students who use social media had an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users had an average
GPA of 3.82 and students who used social networking sites while studying scored 20% lower on
tests. [84] College students’ grades dropped 0.12 points for every 93 minutes above the average
106 minutes spent on Facebook per day. [85] Two-thirds of teachers believe that social media
does more to distract students than to help academically. [86] The Sep. 2, 2014 Learning Habit
study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that grades began a steady
decline after secondary school students reached 30 minutes of daily screen time (time spent
using an electronic device such as a computer or mobile phone). After four hours of screen time,
average GPAs dropped one full grade. [184]
Social networking sites can lead to stress and offline relationship
problems. A University of Edinburgh Business School study found the more Facebook friends
a person has, the more stressful the person finds Facebook to use. [87] According to a Feb. 9,
2012 Pew Internet report, 15% of adult social network users had an experience on a social
networking site that caused a friendship to end, 12% of adult users had an experience online that
resulted in a face-to-face argument, and 3% of adults reported a physical confrontation as the
result of an experience on a social networking site. [88]
Social networking sites entice people to waste time. 40% of 8 to 18 year olds
spend 54 minutes a day on social media sites. [89] 36% of people surveyed listed social
networking as the "biggest waste of time," above fantasy sports (25%), watching TV (23%), and
shopping (9%). [90] When alerted to a new social networking site activity, like a new tweet or
Facebook message, users take 20 to 25 minutes on average to return to the original task. In 30%
of cases, it took two hours to fully return attention to the original task. [91] 42% of American
Internet users play games like Farmville or Mafia Wars on social networking sites. [92]
Using social media can harm job stability and employment prospects. Job
recruiters reported negative reactions to finding profanity (61%), poor spelling or grammar (54%),
illegal drugs (78%), sexual content (66%), pictures of or with alcohol (47%), and religious content
(26%) on potential employees’ social media pages. [21] Anthony Weiner, former US
Representative, was forced to resign after a Twitter sexting scandal in 2011. [93] Several athletes
were banned from the 2012 Olympics because of their racist social media posts. [94]
The use of social networking sites is correlated with personality and brain
disorders, such as the inability to have in-person conversations, a need for
instant gratification, ADHD, and self-centered personalities, as well as
addictive behaviors. [81] Pathological Internet Use (caused or exacerbated by social
networking use) is associated with feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and general
distress. [95] The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is evaluating
"Internet Addiction Disorder" for inclusion. A 2008 UCLA study revealed web users had
fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes [96] due, in part, to the fast pace of social networking
sites rewiring the brain with repeated exposure. [97]
Social media causes people to spend less time interacting face-to-face. A
Jan. 2012 Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School study found that the
percentage of people reporting less face-to-face time with family in their homes rose from 8% in
2000 to 34% in 2011. [98] 32% reported using social media or texting during meals (47% of 18-34
year olds) [99] instead of talking with family and friends. 10% of people younger than 25 years old
respond to social media and text messages during sex. [100] [173]
Criminals use social media to commit and promote crimes. Gangs use the sites
to recruit younger members, coordinate violent crimes, and threaten other gangs. [101] Offline
crime, like home robberies, may result from posting personal information such as vacation plans
[102] or stalkers gaining information about a victim’s whereabouts from posts, photos, or location
tagging services. [103]
Social media can endanger the military and journalists. The US Army notes that
checking in with location based services on social networking sites like Foursquare or Facebook
could expose sensitive whereabouts and endanger military personnel and operations. [104] In
2011 a Mexican journalist was murdered by the Zetas drug cartel because she used Twitter to
report on cartel crime. [105] A blogger was found murdered by a Mexican cartel in 2011 with the
note "this happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report things on the social
networks." [106] [140]
Social networking sites harm employees' productivity. 51% of people aged 25-34
accessed social media while at work. [147] Two-thirds of US workers with Facebook accounts
access the site during work hours [107] Even spending just 30 minutes a day on social media
while at work would cost a 50-person company 6,500 hours of productivity a year. [108] 51% of
American workers think work productivity suffers because of social media. [109]
Social networking sites facilitate cyberbullying. 49.5% of students reported being
the victims of bullying online and 33.7% reported committing bullying behavior online. [110]
800,000 minors were harassed or cyberbullied on Facebook according to a June 2012 Consumer
Reports survey. [81] Middle school children who were victims of cyberbullying were almost twice
as likely to attempt suicide. [46] Adults can also be victims of cyberbullying, from social, familial, or
workplace aggression being displayed on social media. [111]
Social networking sites enable "sexting," which can lead to criminal
charges and the unexpected proliferation of personal images. Once restricted
to cell phone texts, "sexting" has moved to social media with teens posting, or sending via
messaging, risqué photos of themselves or others. In 2008 and 2009, US law enforcement
agencies saw 3,477 cases of youth-produced sexual images with 2,291 agencies seeing at least
one case. [112] As a result, teens and adults are being charged with possessing and distributing
child pornography, even if the teen took and distributed a photo of him/herself. [113] 88% of
private self-produced sexual images posted to social media are stolen by pornography websites
and disseminated to the public, often without the subject's knowledge. [114]
People who use social networking sites are prone to social isolation. Social
networking can exacerbate feelings of disconnect (especially for youth with disabilities), and put
children at higher risk for depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. [42] The "passive
consumption" of social media (scanning posts without commenting) is related to loneliness. [115]
Social networking sites encourage amateur advice and self-diagnosis for
health problems which can lead to harmful or life-threatening results. One in
five Americans uses social media for health care information. [116] An American Journal of Public
Health study revealed that, "Social media may also pose a hazard to vulnerable people through
the formation and influence of ‘extreme communities'—online groups that promote and provide
support for beliefs and behaviors normally unacceptable by the social mainstream such as
anorexia, suicide, and deliberate amputation." [46] A North Carolina blogger was criminally
charged with "practicing dietetics or nutrition without a license" for offering potentially dangerous
nutritional advice about the Paleo diet while posing as an expert. [117] Jeffrey Benabio, MD,
searched for "eczema" on Twitter and found, in the first 100 results, 84 were spam and other
gave harmful and sometimes bizarre advice like using toothless fish to eat eczema affected skin.
Social media aids the spread of hate groups. A Summer 2012 Baylor University
study examined Facebook hate groups focused on President Barack Obama and found a
resurgence of racial slurs and stereotypes not seen in mainstream media in decades like
blackface images and comparisons of President Obama to apes. [119] Social networking sites
allow hate groups to recruit youth and to redistribute their propaganda. [120] According to the
Southern Poverty Law Center the Christian Identity religion, a splinter faction of the white
supremacist group Aryan Nations, uses social media to recruit members. [121]
Children may endanger themselves by not understanding the public and
viral nature of social networking sites. The 2012 film Project X, about an out of control
high school house party due to social media promotion, prompted copycat parties across the US
resulting in arrests for vandalism, criminal trespassing, and other offenses. [122] Up to 600 Dutch
riot police had to be called in to break up a teen's birthday party to which about 30,000 people
were accidentally invited after a Facebook post thought to be private went viral (quickly moving
on to Twitter and YouTube as well). As a result, at least three people were hurt and 20 people
were arrested for vandalism, looting, setting cars on fire, and damaging lampposts. [123] In 2012,
a similar incident happened in Los Angeles and resulted in the teen host beaten and hospitalized.
Social networking enables cheating on school assignments. Students in
California, New York City, and Houston posted photos of standardized tests to social media sites,
allowing students who had not yet taken the tests to see the questions (and potentially find
answers) ahead of time. [82] The SAT has had similar problems with students posting parts of the
exam to social media. [125] [126] In Mar. 2015, two students in Maryland were accused of cheating
on the 10th grade Common Core tests by posting questions on Twitter. Pearson, a company that
administers standardized tests, identified 76 cases of students posting test materials online
spanning six states in the first three months of 2015. [185]
Social networking sites' advertising practices may constitute an invasion of
privacy. An ExactTarget marketing report tells companies, "When a user clicks on a
[Facebook] like button belonging to your brand, you’re immediately granted access to additional
information about this customer, from school affiliation and workplace information to their
birthdate and other things they like… [M]arketers can access and leverage data in ways that will
truly alarm customers." [127] From social media sites, simple algorithms can determine where you
live, sexual orientation, personality traits, signs of depression, and alma maters among other
information, even if users put none of those data on their social networking profiles. [128]
Social media can facilitate inappropriate student-teacher relationships. The
Texas Education Agency (TEA) opened 179 cases about "inappropriate relationships" between
educators and students in the 2014 school year; 86 cases were reported in 2007-2008 and
education experts blame the rise of social media for the increase in cases. [129] [187] [188] Social
media allows for unsupervised interactions between students and teachers, which can easily
escalate into sexual or otherwise inappropriate relationships. Pamela Casey, a District Attorney in
Alabama who has prosecuted teachers who had relationships with students, says that social
media adds to the problem: "We say and do things on social media and cell phones that we
wouldn't say and do in person... As a result, there's a wall that's been removed." [130] [186]
Unauthorized sharing on social networking sites exposes artists to
copyright infringement, loss of intellectual property, and loss of income.
Social media sites have copyright regulations but they can be difficult to enforce. [131] Pinterest
relies upon the re-publication of images from the web and, if users do not use the site
conscientiously, artists’ content can be posted without license, attribution, or payment. [132] Vogue
Spain was accused of stealing New York street photographer Sion Fullana's Instagram photos
and posting them to their own Instagram feed without acknowledging the source. [133]
Using social media can harm students' chances for college admission.
College administrators scan Facebook profiles for evidence of illegal behavior by students. [134]
[135] A 2014 Kaplan Test Prep survey found that 35% of college admissions officers checked an
applicant's social media to learn more about them, up from 10% in 2008. 16% of admissions
officers discovered information that "negatively impacted prospective students' admission
chances." Only 3% of students surveyed believed the content of their social media presence
could hurt their prospects of admission. [76]
Social media posts cannot be completely deleted and all information
posted can have unintended consequences. The Library of Congress has been
archiving all public tweets from Twitter's Mar. 2006 inception forward. [136] Information about an
affair posted on Facebook, for example, can lead to and be used against someone in divorce
proceedings because the information, once posted, can never be completely deleted. Facebook
was named as a source of information in one-third of all divorces filed in 2011. [137]
Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education
in America?
Standardized tests have been a part of American education since the mid-1800s. Their use skyrocketed
after 2002's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated annual testing in all 50 states. US students
slipped from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science
and no change in reading. [95] [145] [144] Failures in the education system have been blamed on rising
poverty levels, teacher quality, tenure policies, and increasingly on the pervasive use of standardized
Proponents argue that standardized tests are a fair and objective measure of student ability, that they
ensure teachers and schools are accountable to taxpayers, and that the most relevant constituents –
parents and students – approve of testing.
Opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, that their use promotes a narrow curriculum and
drill-like "teaching to the test," and that excessive testing undermines America's ability to produce
innovators and critical thinkers.
Standardized tests are defined by W. James Popham, former president of the American Educational
Research Association, as "any test that's administered, scored, and interpreted in a standard,
predetermined manner." [29] The tests often have multiple-choice questions that can be quickly graded
by automated test scoring machines. Some tests also incorporate open-ended questions that require
human grading, which is more expensive, [39] though computer software is being developed to grade
written work also. [114]
1.Following the passage of NCLB on Jan. 8, 2002, annual state spending on standardized tests rose from
$423 million to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 (a 160% increase compared to a 19.22% increase in inflation
over the same period), according to the Pew Center on the States. [42]
2.93% of studies have found student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes
standardized tests, to have a "positive effect" on student achievement, according to a peer-reviewed,
100-year analysis of testing research completed in 2011 by testing scholar Richard P. Phelps. [138]
3.On Mar. 14, 2002, the Sacramento Bee reported that "test-related jitters, especially among young
students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test
booklet in case a student vomits on it." [8]
4.China, a country with a long tradition of standardized testing, topped all countries in the international
rankings for reading, math, and science in 2009 when it debuted on the Programme for International
Student Assessment (PISA) charts. [150]
5.The current use of No. 2 pencils on standardized tests is a holdover from the 1930s through the 1960s,
when scanning machines scored answer sheets by detecting the electrical conductivity of graphite pencil
marks. [73] [74]
93% of studies on student testing, including the use of large-scale and
high-stakes standardized tests, found a "positive effect" on student
achievement, according to a peer-reviewed, 100-year analysis of testing research
completed in 2011 by testing scholar Richard P. Phelps. [138]
Standardized tests are reliable and objective measures of student
achievement. Without them, policy makers would have to rely on tests scored by individual
schools and teachers who have a vested interest in producing favorable results. Multiplechoice tests, in particular, are graded by machine and therefore are not subject to human
subjectivity or bias. [55]
20 school systems that "have achieved significant, sustained, and
widespread gains" on national and international assessments used
"proficiency targets for each school" and "frequent, standardized testing
to monitor system progress," according to a Nov. 2010 report by McKinsey &
Company, a global management consulting firm. [146]
Standardized tests are inclusive and non-discriminatory because they
ensure content is equivalent for all students. Former Washington, DC, schools
chancellor Michelle Rhee argues that using alternate tests for minorities or exempting children
with disabilities would be unfair to those students: "You can't separate them, and to try to do
so creates two, unequal systems, one with accountability and one without it. This is a civil
rights issue." [103]
China has along tradition of standardized testing and leads the world in
educational achievement. China displaced Finland as number one in reading, math,
and science when Shanghai debuted on the Programme for International Student
Assessment (PISA) rankings in 2009. [150] Despite calls for a reduction in standardized
testing, China's testing regimen remains firmly in place. [139] Chester E. Finn, Jr., Chairman of
the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, predicts that Chinese cities will
top the PISA charts for the next several decades. [150]
"Teaching to the test" can be a good thing because it focuses on
essential content and skills, eliminates time-wasting activities that don't
produce learning gains, and motivates students to excel. [18] The US
Department of Education stated in Nov. 2004 that "if teachers cover subject matter required
by the standards and teach it well, then students will master the material on which they will be
tested--and probably much more." [19]
Standardized tests are not narrowing the curriculum, rather they are
focusing it on important basic skills all students need to master. According
to a study in the Oct. 28, 2005, issue of the peer-reviewed Education Policy Analysis
Archives, teachers in four Minnesota school districts said standardized testing had a positive
impact, improving the quality of the curriculum while raising student achievement. [116]
Increased testing does not force teachers to encourage "drill n' kill" rote
learning. According to a study in the Oct. 28, 2005, issue of the peer-reviewed Education
Policy Analysis Archives, good teachers understand that "isolated drills on the types of items
expected on the test" are unacceptable, and principals interviewed said "they would sanction
any teacher caught teaching to the test." [116] In any case, research has shown that drilling
students does not produce test score gains: "teaching a curriculum aligned to state standards
and using test data as feedback produces higher test scores than an instructional emphasis
on memorization and test-taking skills." [18]
Most parents approve of standardized tests. A June-July 2013 Associated PressNORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 75% of parents say standardized
tests "are a solid measure of their children's abilities" and 69% say the tests "are a good
measure of the schools' quality." 93% of parents say standardized tests "should be used to
identify areas where students need extra help" and 61% say their children "take an
appropriate number of standardized tests." [2]
Testing is not too stressful for students. The US Department of Education stated:
"Although testing may be stressful for some students, testing is a normal and expected way of
assessing what students have learned." [19] A Nov. 2001 University of Arkansas study found
that "the vast majority of students do not exhibit stress and have positive attitudes towards
standardized testing programs." [5] Young students vomit at their desks for a variety of
reasons, but only in rare cases is this the result of testing anxiety. [6]
Most students believe standardized tests are fair. A June 2006 Public Agenda
survey of 1,342 public school students in grades 6-12 found that 71% of students think the
number of tests they have to take is "about right" and 79% believe test questions are fair. [22]
The 2002 edition of the survey found that "virtually all students say they take the tests
seriously and more than half (56 percent) say they take them very seriously." [108]
Most teachers acknowledge the importance of standardized tests and do
not feel their teaching has been compromised. In a 2009 Scholastic/Gates
Foundation survey, 81% of US public school teachers said state-required standardized tests
were at least "somewhat important” as a measure of students’ academic achievement, and
27% said they were "very important " or "absolutely essential." [111] 73% of teachers surveyed
in a Mar. 2002 Public Agenda study said they "have not neglected regular teaching duties for
test preparation." [108]
Standardized tests provide a lot of useful information at low cost, and
consume little class time. [134] According to a 2002 paper by Caroline M. Hoxby, PhD,
the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in Economics at Stanford University, standardized
tests cost less than 0.1% of K-12 education spending, totaling $5.81 per student per year:
"Even if payments were 10 times as large, they would still not be equal to 1 percent of what
American jurisdictions spend on education." [135] Other cost estimates range from $15-$33
per student per year by the nonpartisan US Government Accountability Office (GAO), to as
low as $2 per student per year by testing scholar and economist Richard P. Phelps. [55] A 50item standardized test can be given in an hour [134] and is graded instantaneously by
Most teachers and administrators approve of standardized tests.
Minnesota teachers and administrators interviewed for a study in the Oct. 28, 2005, issue of
the peer-reviewed Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA) approved of standardized tests
"by an overwhelming two-to-one margin," saying they "improved student attitudes,
engagement, and effort." [116] An oft-cited Arizona State University study in EPAA's Mar. 28,
2002 edition, concluding that testing has little educational merit, has been discredited by
educational researchers for poor methodology, and was criticized for wrongly blaming the
tests themselves for stagnant test scores, rather than the shortcomings of teachers and
schools. [152]
The multiple-choice format used on standardized tests produces
accurate information necessary to assess and improve American
schools. According to the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, multiple-choice questions can provide "highly reliable test scores" and an
"objective measurement of student achievement." [131] Today's multiple-choice tests are more
sophisticated than their predecessors. The Center for Public Education, a national public
school advocacy group, says many "multiple-choice tests now require considerable thought,
even notes and calculations, before choosing a bubble.” [39]
Stricter standards and increased testing are better preparing school
students for college. In Jan. 1998, Public Agenda found that 66% of college professors
said "elementary and high schools expect students to learn too little.” By Mar. 2002, after a
surge in testing and the passing of NCLB, that figure dropped to 47% "in direct support of
higher expectations, strengthened standards and better tests.” [34] [108]
Teacher-graded assessments are inadequate alternatives to
standardized tests because they are subjectively scored and unreliable.
Most teachers are not trained in testing and measurement, and research has shown many
teachers "consider noncognitive outcomes, including student class participation, perceived
effort, progress over the period of the course, and comportment," which are irrelevant to
subject-matter mastery. [105]
Cheating by teachers and administrators on standardized tests is rare,
and not a reason to stop testing America's children. The Mar. 2011 USA
Today investigation of scoring anomalies in six states and Washington DC was inconclusive,
and found compelling suggestions of impropriety in only one school. [118] The US Department
of Education’s Office of Inspector General said on Jan. 7, 2013 that an investigation had
found no evidence of widespread cheating on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System
tests. [156] It is likely that some cheating occurs, but some people cheat on their tax returns
also, and the solution is not to abolish taxation. [152]
Each state's progress on NCLB tests can be meaningfully compared.
Even though tests are developed by states independently, state scores are compared with
results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), ensuring each state's
assessments are equally challenging and that gains in a state's test scores are valid. [57]
State-mandated standardized tests help prevent "social promotion," the
practice of allowing students to advance from grade to grade whether or
not they have met the academic standards of their grade level. [136] A Dec.
2004 paper by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research found Florida's 2002 initiative to
end social promotion, holding back students who failed year-end standardized tests, improved
those students' scores by 9% in math and 4% in reading after one year. [137]
Many objections voiced by the anti-testing movement are really
objections to NCLB's use of test results, not to standardized tests
themselves. Prominent testing critic Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at
New York University, concedes standardized testing has value: "Testing... is not the
problem... information derived from tests can be extremely valuable, if the tests are valid and
reliable." She cites the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as a positive
example, and says tests can "inform educational leaders and policy-makers about the
progress of the education system as a whole." [1]
Physicians, lawyers, real-estate brokers and pilots all take high-stakes
standardized tests to ensure they have the necessary knowledge for
their professions. [23] If standardized tests were an unreliable source of data, their use
would not be so widespread.
Standardized testing has not improved student achievement. After No Child
Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar
drop in science and no change in reading. [95] [145] [144] A May 26, 2011, National Research
Council report found no evidence test-based incentive programs are working: "Despite using
them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based
incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve
education." [154]
Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance. A
2001 study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test
score improvements were temporary and "caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with
long-term changes in learning..." [107]
Standardized tests are unfair and discriminatory against non English
speakers and students with special needs. [106] English language learners take
tests in English before they have mastered the language. [101] Special education students
take the same tests as other children, receiving few of the accommodations usually provided
to them as part of their Individualized Education Plans (IEP). [102]
Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes
education meaningful. According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD,
qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include "creativity, critical thinking,
resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, selfawareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion,
resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity." [147]
"Teaching to the test" is replacing good teaching practices with "drill n'
kill" rote learning. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found "the
pressure teachers were feeling to 'teach to the test'" since NCLB was leading to "declines in
teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in
the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum." [11] [12]
NCLB tests are drastically narrowing the curriculum. A national 2007 study by
the Center on Education Policy reported that since 2001, 44% of school districts had reduced
the time spent on science, social studies and the arts by an average of 145 minutes per week
in order to focus on reading and math. [1] A 2007 survey of 1,250 civics, government, and
social studies teachers showed that 75% of those teaching current events less often cited
standardized tests as the reason. [16]
Instruction time is being consumed by monotonous test preparation.
Some schools allocate more than a quarter of the year's instruction to test prep. [Kozol] After
New York City's reading and math scores plunged in 2010, many schools imposed extra
measures to avoid being shut down, including daily two and a half hour prep sessions and
test practice on vacation days. [14] On Sep. 11, 2002, students at Monterey High School in
Lubbock, TX, were prevented from discussing the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist
attacks because they were too busy with standardized test preparation. [15]
Standardized tests are not objective. A paper published in the Fall 2002 edition of
the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Resources stated that scores vary due to subjective
decisions made during test design and administration: "Simply changing the relative weight of
algebra and geometry in NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) altered
the gap between black and white students." [130]
Standardized testing causes severe stress in younger students. According
to education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, anecdotes abound "illustrating how testing...
produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, and makes young children vomit or
cry, or both." [7] On Mar. 14, 2002, the Sacramento Bee reported that "test-related jitters,
especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with
instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it." [8]
Older students do not take NCLB-mandated standardized tests seriously
because they do not affect their grades. An English teacher at New Mexico's
Valley High School said in Aug. 2004 that many juniors just "had fun" with the tests, making
patterns when filling in the answer bubbles: "Christmas tree designs were popular. So were
battleships and hearts." [132]
Testing is expensive and costs have increased since NCLB, placing a
burden on state education budgets. According to the Texas Education Agency, the
state spent $9 million in 2003 to test students, while the cost to Texas taxpayers from 2009
through 2012 is projected to be around $88 million per year. [94]
The multiple-choice format used on standardized tests is an inadequate
assessment tool. It encourages a simplistic way of thinking in which there are only right
and wrong answers, which doesn't apply in real-world situations. The format is also biased
toward male students, who studies have shown adapt more easily to the game-like point
scoring of multiple-choice questions. [77]
America is facing a "creativity crisis," as standardized testing and rote
learning "dumb down" curricula and jeopardize the country's economic
future. A 2010 College of William & Mary study found Americans' scores on the Torrance
Test of Creative Thinking have been dropping since 1990, and researcher Kyung-Hee Kim
lays part of the blame on the increase in standardized testing: "If we neglect creative students
in school because of the structure and the testing movement... then they become
underachievers." [133]
Finland topped the international education (PISA) rankings from 20012008, yet has "no external standardized tests used to rank students or
schools," according to Stanford University researchers Linda Darling-Hammond and Laura
McCloskey. [148] Success has been achieved using "assessments that encourage students to
be active learners who can find, analyze, and use information to solve problems in novel
Excessive testing may teach children to be good at taking tests, but
does not prepare them for productive adult lives. [140] China displaced Finland
at the top of the 2009 PISA rankings because, as explained by Jiang Xueqin, Deputy Principal
of Peking University High School, "Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students
for standardized tests. For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the
knowledge economy." [139] China is trying to depart from the "drill and kill" test prep that
Chinese educators admit has produced only "competent mediocrity." [112] [113] [1]
Using test scores to reward and punish teachers and schools
encourages them to cheat the system for their own gain. [117] A 2011 USA
Today investigation of six states and Washington DC found 1,610 suspicious anomalies in
year-over-year test score gains. [26] A confidential Jan. 2009 memo, prepared for the DC
school system by an outside analyst and uncovered in Apr. 2013, revealed that 191 teachers
in 70 DC public schools were "implicated in possible testing infractions," and nearly all the
teachers at one DC elementary school "had students whose test papers showed high
numbers of wrong-to-right erasures," according to USA Today. [155] 178 Atlanta public school
teachers and administrators from 44 schools were found to be cheating on standardized tests
according to a July 2011 state report. At one school, teachers attended "weekend pizza
parties" to correct students' answers, according to ABC News. [158] Ultimately in Apr. 2015, 11
of those district employees were convicted of racketeering, which carries a sentence of up to
20 years in prison. [159]
Standardized tests are an imprecise measure of teacher performance,
yet they are used to reward and punish teachers. According to a Sep. 2010
report by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, over 17% of Houston teachers ranked in
the top category on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills reading test were ranked
among the two lowest categories on the equivalent Stanford Achievement Test. The results
"were based on the same students, tested in the same subject, at approximately the same
time of year, using two different tests." [30]
Each state develops its own NCLB standards and assessments,
providing no basis for meaningful comparison. A student sitting for the
Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) is asked a completely different set of questions from a child
in California taking the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test, and while the former
includes essay questions, the latter is entirely multiple-choice. [120]
Open-ended questions on standardized tests are often graded by underpaid temporary workers with no educational training. Scorers make $11-$13
per hour and need only a bachelor’s degree, not necessarily related to education. As one
former test scorer stated, "all it takes to become a test scorer is a bachelor’s degree, a lack of
a steady job, and a willingness to throw independent thinking out the window…” [97]
Schools feeling the pressure of NCLB's 100% proficiency requirement
are "gaming the system" to raise test scores, according to an Arizona State
University report in the June 22, 2009, edition of the peer-reviewed International Journal of
Education Policy & Leadership. [141] Low-performing students are "encouraged to stay home"
on test days or "counseled to quit or be suspended" before tests are administered. State
education boards are "lowering the bar": manipulating exam content or scoring so that tests
are easier for students to pass. [141]
An obsession with testing robs children of their childhoods. NCLB's mandate
begins in third grade, but schools test younger students so they will get used to taking tests. [13] Mar.
2009 research from the Alliance for Childhood showed "time for play in most public kindergartens has
dwindled to the vanishing point, replaced by lengthy lessons and standardized testing." [21]
Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms?
Traditionally favored by private and parochial institutions, school uniforms are being adopted by US public
schools in increasing numbers. Almost one in five US public schools required students to wear uniforms
during the 2011-2012 school year, up from one in eight in 2003-2004. Mandatory uniform policies in
public schools are found more commonly in high-poverty areas.
Proponents say that school uniforms make schools safer for students, create a "level playing field" that
reduces socioeconomic disparities, and encourage children to focus on their studies rather than their
Opponents say school uniforms infringe upon students' right to express their individuality, have no
positive effect on behavior and academic achievement, and emphasize the socioeconomic disparities
they are intended to disguise.
1. The first school district in the United States to require all K-8 students to wear uniforms was Long
Beach, CA, in Jan. 1994. [50] [14]
2. Americans spend around $1 billion per year on school uniforms. [43] [74]
3. Students at Eton, one of England's most prestigious schools, were required to wear black top
hats and tails on and off campus until 1972. [14]
4. US schools with a minority student population of 50% or more are four times as likely to require
uniforms than schools with a minority population of 20-49%, and 24 times more likely than
schools with minority populations of 5%-19%. [78]
5. As of 2008, 22 US states specifically authorized schools to institute dress codes or uniform
policies. [47]
School uniforms may deter crime and increase student safety. In Long
Beach, CA, after two years of a district-wide K-8 mandatory uniform policy, reports of assault
and battery in the district's schools decreased by 34%, assault with a deadly weapon dropped
by 50%, fighting incidents went down by 51%, sex offenses were cut by 74%, robbery
dropped by 65%, possession of weapons (or weapon "look-alikes") decreased by 52%,
possession of drugs went down by 69%, and vandalism was lowered by 18%. [64] A 2012
peer-reviewed study found that one year after Sparks Middle School in Nevada instituted a
uniform policy, school police data showed a 63% drop in police log reports, and decreases
were also noted in gang activity, student fights, graffiti, property damage, and battery. [25] A
2010 peer-reviewed study found that schools with uniform policies had 12% fewer firearmrelated incidents and 15% fewer drug-related incidents than schools without uniforms. [69] A
2007 peer-reviewed study found that, in schools with historically higher rates of sexual
violence, sexual attacks were less likely if uniform policies were in place. [26] School uniforms
also prevent students from concealing weapons under baggy clothing, [38] make it easier to
keep track of students on field trips, and make intruders on campus more visible. Frank
Quatrone, superintendent in the Lodi district of New Jersey, stated in Feb. 2011 that "When
you have students dressed alike, you make them safer. If someone were to come into a
building, the intruder could easily be recognized." [6]
School uniforms keep students focused on their education, not their
clothes. A bulletin published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals
stated that "When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about
how they look and how they fit in with their peers; thus, they can concentrate on their
schoolwork." [15] A 2010 University of Houston study found that elementary school girls'
language test scores increased by about three percentile points after uniforms were
introduced. [1] Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she was a 2008 US
presidential candidate, advocated school uniforms as a way to help students focus on
learning: "Take that [clothing choices] off the table and put the focus on school, not on what
you're wearing." [30] Chris Hammons, Principal of Woodland Middle School in Coeur d'Alene,
ID, stated that uniforms "provide for less distraction, less drama, and more of a focus on
learning." [70]
School uniforms create a level playing field among students, reducing
peer pressure and bullying. When all students are dressed alike, competition between
students over clothing choices and the teasing of those who are dressed in less expensive or
less fashionable outfits can be eliminated. In a 2013 survey by the National Association of
Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and uniform manufacturer Lands' End, 86% of school
leaders said uniforms make "a significant, positive impact on peer pressure," and 64% said
uniforms reduce bullying. [32] Arminta Jacobson, Founder and Director of the Center for
Parent Education at the University of North Texas, stated that uniforms put "all kids on the
same playing field in terms of their appearance. I think it probably gives them a sense of
belonging and a feeling of being socially accepted." [5] Virginia B. Draa, Assistant Professor of
Human Ecology at Youngstown State University, said uniforms can decrease peer pressure
and blur class lines between students. [3]
Wearing uniforms enhances school pride, unity, and community spirit. A
2007 study from Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom found that uniforms "often
directly contributed to a feeling of school pride." [45] Christopher P. Clouet, Superintendent of
the New London, CT school district, stated that "the wearing of uniforms contributes to school
pride." [3] A 2002 study of over 1,000 Texas middle school students found that students in
uniform "reported significantly more positive perceptions of belonging in their school
community than reported by students in the standard dress group." [33] Arnold Goldstein, PhD,
head of the Center for Research on Aggression at Syracuse University, stated that uniforms
help troubled students feel they have the support of a community: "There is a sense of
belonging." [31] A 2007 peer-reviewed study found that after uniforms were introduced,
"Teachers perceived an increase in the level of respect, caring, and trust... throughout the
school" and said "students are made to feel 'important' and as if they are a part of a team by
wearing a uniform." [20]
School uniforms may improve attendance and discipline. A 2010 study by
researchers at the University of Houston found that the average absence rate for girls in
middle and high school decreased by 7% after the introduction of uniforms. The study also
found that "behavioral problems shift[ed] towards less severe infractions." [1] A 2006
Youngstown State University study of secondary schools in Ohio's eight largest school
districts found that school uniform policies improve rates of attendance, graduation, and
suspension. [27] During the first semester of a mandatory uniform program at John Adams
Middle School in Albuquerque, NM, discipline referrals dropped from 1,565 during the first
semester of the year prior to 405. [68]
Uniform policies save valuable class time because they are easier to
enforce than a standard dress code. Doris Jo Murphy, EdD, former Director of Field
Experiences at the University of North Texas College of Education, stated: "As an elementary
assistant principal in two suburban districts, I can tell you that the dress code took up a great
deal of my time in the area of discipline... I wished many times that we had uniforms because
the issue of skirts or shorts being too short, and baggy jeans and pants on the boys not being
pulled up as they needed to be, would have been a non-issue." [5] Lyndhurst, NJ school
district superintendent Tracey Marinelli had a similar experience before a uniform policy was
introduced: "Kids were spending time in the office because they were not fulfilling the dress
code... That was time away from class." [6]
School uniforms prevent the display of gang colors and insignia. The US
Department of Education's Manual on School Uniforms stated that uniform policies can
"prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school" in order to
"encourage a safe environment." [35] According to a 2013 US Department of Justice report,
almost 50% of high school students say there are gang members at their schools. [36]
Educators in the Long Beach Unified School District have speculated that the sharp reduction
in crime following the introduction of school uniforms was a result of gang conflicts being
curbed. [67] Osceola County, FL School Board member Jay Wheeler reported that the
county's schools had a 46% drop in gang activity after their first full school year with a
mandatory K-12 uniform policy (2008-2009). Wheeler stated that "clothing is integral to gang
culture... Imagine a U.S. Armed Forces recruiter out of uniform trying to recruit new soldiers;
the success rate goes down. The same applies to gang recruitment." [37]
School uniforms make getting ready for school easier, which can
improve punctuality. When uniforms are mandatory, parents and students do not spend
time choosing appropriate outfits for the school day. According to a national 2013 survey, over
90% of US school leaders believe school uniform or formal dress code policies "eliminate
wardrobe battles with kids," make it "easier to get kids ready in the morning," and create a
"time saving in the morning." [32] Tracey Marinelli, Superintendent of the Lyndhurst School
District in New Jersey, credited the district's uniform policy for reducing the number of
students running late. Lyndhurst student Mike Morreale agreed, stating that "it's so much
easier to dress than having to search for clothes and find out that something doesn't match."
[6] [7]
School uniforms can save parents money. Parents can reduce their financial
burden when their children are limited to wearing one simple outfit every day. [13] A national
2013 survey of 517 US school leaders found that 94% of those surveyed believe "one of the
main benefits to parents is that school uniforms are more cost-effective than regular apparel,"
and 77% estimated the average annual cost of school uniforms per child to be $150 or less.
[32] Uniform company French Toast states on their website that the average cost one of their
complete school uniforms is $45 and that most children will only require two sets. [19] Without
school uniform policies, parents may feel pressure to compete with other families by
purchasing fashionable clothes for their children. [71]
Most parents and educators support mandatory school uniforms. A 2013
survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and uniform
manufacturer Lands' End found that a majority of school leaders believe their school uniform
or formal dress code policies have had a positive impact on classroom discipline (85%), the
school's image in the community (83%), student safety (79%), school pride (77%), and
student achievement (64%). [32] A poll administered by the Harford County, MD school
system in 2007 found that "teachers and administrators were overwhelmingly in favor" of
introducing school uniforms. The poll also found that 58% of parents wanted a mandatory
uniform policy instated. [9]
Students' legal right to free expression remains intact even with
mandatory school uniforms. The US Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines
Independent Community School District (7-2, 1969), which concerned the wearing of black
armbands to protest the Vietnam War, confirmed that students' constitutional right to free
speech "does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing." Wearing
one's own choice of shirt or pants is not the "pure speech" protected by the Constitution. [18]
[28] In Canady v. Bossier Parish School Board (3-0, 2001), the US Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld a school board's right to implement a mandatory uniform policy, stating that
requiring uniforms for the purpose of increasing test scores and improving discipline "is in no
way related to the suppression of student speech. [Students] remain free to wear what they
want after school hours. Students may still express their views through other mediums during
the school day." [18] [29] In 1995, Judge Michael D. Jones of Maricopa County Superior Court
(AZ) ruled that mandatory uniform policies do not violate students' free speech rights even
when there is no opt-out provision in the school's uniform policy. [34]
Students dressed in uniform are better perceived by teachers and peers.
A 1994 peer-reviewed study found that students in uniform were perceived by teachers and
fellow students as being more academically proficient than students in regular clothes. The
study also found that students in uniform were perceived by peers and teachers as having
higher academic potential, and perceived by peers as being better behaved. [4]
Students can express their individuality in school uniforms by
introducing variations and adding accessories. Junior high school student
Amelia Jimenez wrote in her op-ed for the Pennsylvania Patriot-News website that "contrary
to popular belief, uniforms do not stop students from being themselves. Uniforms do not
silence voices. Students can wear a variety of expressive items, such as buttons or jewlery."
The Seventeen and TeenVogue websites list numerous suggestions for students on how to
add their personal style to school uniforms, including hairstyle options, the use of nail polish,
and the addition of colorful accessories such as satchels, scarfs, and socks. [61] [62]
TeenVogue stated that "there are tons of ways to amp up your standard issue getup." [62] A
2012 peer-reviewed study found that 54% of eighth-graders said they could still express their
individuality while wearing school uniforms. [65]
School uniforms restrict students' freedom of expression. The First Amendment
of the US Constitution guarantees that all individuals have the right to express themselves freely.
The US Supreme Court stated in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District
(7-2, 1969) that "it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional
rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." [28] [8] In the 1970 case
Richards v. Thurston (3-0), which revolved around a boy refusing to have his hair cut shorter, the
US First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "compelled conformity to conventional standards of
appearance" does not "seem a justifiable part of the educational process." [39] Clothing choices
are "a crucial form of self-expression," according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada,
which also stated that "allowing students to choose their clothing is an empowering message
from the schools that a student is a maturing person who is entitled to the most basic selfdetermination." [17] Clothing is also a popular means of expressing support for various social
causes and compulsory uniforms largely remove that option. In Oct. 2013, students at Friendly
High School in Prince George's County, MD, were not allowed to wear pink shirts to support
Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a result, 75 students received in-school suspensions for
breaking the school's uniform restrictions. [11]
School uniforms promote conformity over individuality. At a time when schools
are encouraging an appreciation of diversity, enforcing standardized dress sends a contradictory
message. [63] Chicago junior high school student Kyler Sumter wrote in the Huffington Post:
"They decide to teach us about people like Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony and Booker T.
Washington... We learn about how these people expressed themselves and conquered and we
can't even express ourselves in the hallways." [60] Troy Shuman, a senior in Harford County, MD,
said the introduction of a mandatory uniform policy to his school would be "teaching conformity
and squelching individual thought. Just think of prisons and gangs. The ultimate socializer to
crush rebellion is conformity in appearance. If a school system starts at clothes, where does it
end?" [9] Late satirist George Carlin asked, "Don't these schools do enough damage, making all
these children think alike? Now they're gonna get them to look alike, too?" [40]
There is evidence that school uniforms may increase violent attacks and
lower academic achievement, while there is little evidence that uniforms
provide any benefits at all. A 2007 peer-reviewed study found that "school uniforms
increased the average number of assaults by about 14 [per year] in the most violent schools." [26]
A 1999 Texas Southern University study found that school discipline incidents rose by about 12%
after the introduction of uniforms. [14] According to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office
of Education Evaluation and Management, fights in middle schools nearly doubled within one
year of introducing mandatory uniforms. [72] [73] David L. Brunsma, PhD, Professor of Sociology at
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), co-authored a study that
analyzed a national sample of 10th graders and found "no effects of uniforms on absenteeism,
behavioral problems (fights, suspensions, etc.), or substance use on campus" and "no effects" on
"pro-school attitudes, academic preparedness, and peer attitudes toward school." [14] [66]
Brunsma also found a "negative effect of uniforms on academic achievement," and later found
that uniforms were equally ineffective on elementary students and eighth graders. [14] A 2009
peer-reviewed study found "no significant effects of school uniforms on performance on second
grade reading and mathematics examinations, as well as on 10th-grade reading, mathematics,
science, and history examinations... [I]n many of the specifications, the results are actually
negative." [2]
The key findings used to tout the benefits of uniforms are questionable. The
oft-quoted improvements to school safety and student behavior in the Long Beach (CA) Unified
School District from 1993-1995 may not have resulted from the introduction of school uniforms.
The study in which the findings were published cautioned that "it is not clear that these results are
entirely attributable to the uniform policy" and suggests that the introduction of new school
security measures made at the same time may have been partly responsible. [64] Other reform
efforts implemented alongside the uniform policy included a $1 million project to develop
alternative teaching strategies. [66]
School uniforms emphasize the socioeconomic divisions they are
supposed to eliminate. Most public schools with uniform policies are in poor
neighborhoods, emphasizing the class distinctions that uniforms were supposed to eliminate. In
2013, while 47% of high-poverty public schools required school uniforms, only 6% of low-poverty
public schools required them, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. [23] Even
school uniform proponent Angela Walmsley, Associate Dean for Graduate Education and
Research in the College of Education and Public Service at Saint Louis University, concedes that
"we’re creating a culture where parents think that a public school where children wear uniforms is
an unsafe place to send their child. In other words, school uniforms in public schools are
becoming associated with schools facing violence problems." [41] Even within one school,
uniforms cannot conceal the differences between the "haves" and the "have-nots." David L.
Brunsma, PhD, stated that "more affluent families buy more uniforms per child. The less
affluent... they have one... It's more likely to be tattered, torn and faded. It only takes two months
for socioeconomic differences to show up again." [9] Uniforms also emphasize racial divisions.
Schools with a minority student population of 50% or more are four times as likely to require
uniforms than schools with a minority population of 20-49%, and 24 times more likely than
schools with minority populations of 5%-19%. [78]
Students oppose school uniforms. A 2012 peer-reviewed study by researchers at the
University of Nevada at Reno found that 90% of seventh and eighth grade public school students
did not like wearing uniforms. [25] A 2007 survey of Harford County, MD public school students
found that 87.9% of the students were opposed to uniforms. [9] In the year following the
introduction of mandatory school uniforms to the Long Beach (CA) Unified School District, 81% of
middle school students said uniforms did not reduce fights, 76% said they did not help them fit in
at school, 69% said they did not make them feel more connected with the school community, and
71% said they felt no safer traveling to and from school. [64]
Uniforms may have a detrimental effect on students' self-image. When
students have to wear the same outfits, rather than being allowed to select clothes that suit their
body types, they can suffer embarrassment at school. Child and teen development specialist
Robyn Silverman told NBC News' Today that students, especially girls, tend to compare how
each other looks in their uniforms: "As a body image expert, I hear from students all the time that
they feel it allows for a lot of comparison... So if you have a body that’s a plus-size body, a curvier
body, a very tall body, a very short body, those girls often feel that they don’t look their best." [21]
A 2003 study by researchers at Arizona State University found that "students from schools
without uniforms reported higher self-perception scores than students from schools with uniform
policies." [24] Some students also find uniforms less comfortable than their regular clothes, which
may not be conducive to learning. [75]
Focusing on uniforms takes attention away from finding genuine solutions
to problems in education. Spending time and effort implementing uniform policies may
detract from more effective efforts to reduce crime in schools and boost student performance.
More substantive improvements to public education could be achieved with smaller class sizes,
tightened security, increased parental involvement, improved facilities, and other measures. [12]
[14] Tom Houlihan, former Superintendent of Schools in Oxford, NC, stated that school uniforms
"are a distraction from focusing on systematic and fundamental transformation to improve our
schools." [42]
The push for school uniforms is driven by commercial interests rather than
educational ones. Americans spend around $1 billion on school uniforms every year. [43] [74]
Retailer J.C. Penney Co. says school uniforms are "a huge, important business for us." [44] In
2003 alone, uniform company Lands' End spent $3 million on marketing efforts directed at public
schools and districts. [14] Multiple studies used to promote the effectiveness of uniforms were
partly funded by Lands' End, and at least one of those studies is "so wholly flawed as to render
itself useless," according to David L. Brunsma, PhD. [14] [32] In Aug. 2013, Reuters reported that
retailers were "sensing their opportunity... stepping up competition in the uniform aisles and
online. Walmart has set up 'uniform shops' or temporary boutiques within some stores." [74]
Parents should be free to choose their children's clothes without
government interference. One of the founders of the Wilson County (LA) Parents
Coalition, Richard Dashkovitz, stated: "It's time we let the government know that we are fed up
with this. Quit dictating to us what my child should wear... [T]he government is intruding into our
private lives, roles as parents and the lives of our children." [16] According to another parents'
rights group, Asserting Parental Rights — It's Our Duty, mandatory uniform "policies trample
parents' right to raise children without government interference." [10]
School uniforms in public schools undermine the promise of a free
education by imposing an extra expense on families. Parents already pay taxes,
and they still need to buy regular clothes for their children to wear when they're out of school and
for dress-down days. The parent of a third grader told Education World: "My son's an unusual
size, so it's hard to find him clothes anyway. Limiting what I buy to certain colors makes shopping
for him... more expensive." [13] Anderson, IN parents Laura and Scott Bell, who sued over a
school's uniform policy because it broke the guarantee of a free public education (and because it
violated their children's right to freedom of expression) said they were required to pay $641 for
their children's uniforms in Aug. 2007. [10] In York County, PA, a local NBC affiliate reported in
Sep. 2014 that some children were missing class because their families couldn't afford to
purchase the required uniforms. [84]
School uniforms may delay the transition into adulthood. Adults make their own clothing
choices and have the freedom to express themselves through their appearance. Denying children and
teenagers the opportunity to make those choices may make them ill-prepared for the adult world. [76] [75]
Adolescents see clothing choices as a means of identification, and seeking an identity is one of the critical
stages of adolescence, according to the late developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. [80] [79]
Do Violent Video Games Contribute to Youth
As many as 97% of US kids age 12-17 play video games, contributing to the $21.53 billion domestic video
game industry. More than half of the 50 top-selling video games contain violence.
Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards
women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating
violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.
Video game advocates contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no
causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent
video games may provide a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings and may reduce crime.
1. 90% of pediatricians and 67% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that violent video games can
increase aggressive behavior among children. [75]
2. Total US sales of video game hardware and software increased 204% from 1994 to 2014,
reaching $13.1 billion in 2014, while violent crimes decreased 37% and murders by juveniles
acting alone fell 76% in that same period. [133] [134] [135] [136] [82] [83]
3. An estimated four out of five US households with a male child own a video game system and
worldwide sales of video games are predicted to reach $102.9 billion in 2017. [84] [132]
4. 60% of middle school boys and 40% of middle school girls who played at least one Mature-rated
(M-rated) game hit or beat up someone, compared with 39% of boys and 14% of girls who did not
play M-rated games. [63]
5. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that California
could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors because studies "do not prove that
violent video games cause minors to act aggressively."
Playing violent video games causes more aggression, bullying, and
fighting. [60] [61] [80] 60% of middle school boys and 40% of middle school girls who played at
least one Mature-rated (M-rated) game hit or beat up someone, compared with 39% of boys and
14% of girls who did not play M-rated games. [63] A 2014 peer-reviewed study in the Journal of
the American Medical Association found that habitual violent video game playing had a causal
link with increased, long-term, aggressive behavior. Several peer-reviewed studies have shown
that children who play M-rated games are more likely to bully and cyberbully their peers, get into
physical fights, be hostile, argue with teachers, and show aggression towards their peers
throughout the school year. [73] [76] [2] [67] [31]
There is broad consensus among medical associations, pediatricians,
parents, and researchers that violent video games increase aggressive
behavior. [74] A 2014 study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that 90%
of pediatricians and 67% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that violent video games can
increase aggressive behavior among children. [75]. More than 98% of pediatricians in the United
States say that too much exposure to violent media heightens childhood aggression. [62] In
addition, 66% of researchers agreed or strongly agreed. Since only 17% of researchers
disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 17% were undecided, the study concluded "That means that
among researchers who have an opinion, eight out of 10 agree that violent games increase
aggression." [75] A joint statement by six leading national medical associations, including the
American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, stated: "Well over 1,000
studies - including reports from the Surgeon General's office, the National Institute of Mental
Health, and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health
organizations - our own members - point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media
violence and aggressive behavior in some children." [33]
Simulating violence such as shooting guns and hand-to-hand combat in
video games can cause real-life violent behavior. Video games often require
players to simulate violent actions, such as stabbing, shooting, or dismembering someone with an
ax, sword, chainsaw, or other weapons. Game controllers are so sophisticated and the games
are so realistic that simulating the violent acts enhances the learning of those violent behaviors.
[23] A 2015 peer-reviewed study found "compelling evidence that the use of realistic controllers
can have a significant effect on the level of cognitive aggression." [118] Two teenagers in
Tennessee who shot at passing cars and killed one driver told police they got the idea from
playing Grand Theft Auto III. [49] Bruce Bartholow, professor of psychology at the University of
Missouri, spoke about the effects of simulating violence: "More than any other media, these
[violent] video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological
perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging
in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is
violence." [53] A Sep. 2014 peer-reviewed study found that first-person shooter games trained
players to have better accuracy in shooting a gun outside the game, and made them more likely
to aim for the head. [85]
Many perpetrators of mass shootings played violent video games. The
teenage shooters in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre of 13 students played violent
combat games. [43] Many mass shootings have been carried out by avid video game players:
James Holmes in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting (2012); Jared Lee Loughner in the
Arizona shooting that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others (2011); and Anders
Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway (2011) and admitted to using the game Modern Warfare 2
for training. [53] An FBI school shooter threat assessment stated that a student who makes threats
of violence should be considered more credible if he or she also spends "inordinate amounts of
time playing video games with violent themes." [25]
Violent video games desensitize players to real-life violence. Desensitization to
violence was defined in a Journal of Experimental Social Psychology peer-reviewed study as "a
reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence." The study found that just 20
minutes of playing a violent video game "can cause people to become less physiologically
aroused by real violence" People desensitized to violence are more likely to commit a violent act.
[51] [112] [111] By age 18, American children will have seen 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of
violence depicted in violent video games, movies, and television. [110] A Sep. 2011 peer-reviewed
study found a causal link between violent video game exposure and an increase in aggression as
a result of a reduction in the brain's response to depictions of real-life violence. [52] Studies have
found reduced emotional and physiological responses to violence in both the long and short term.
[55] [58] In a 2005 peer-reviewed study, violent video game exposure was linked to reduced P300
amplitudes in the brain, which is associated with desensitization to violence and increases in
aggressive behavior. [24]
By inhabiting violent characters in video games, children are more likely to
imitate the behaviors of those characters and have difficulty distinguishing
reality from fantasy. Violent video games require active participation and identification with
violent characters, which reinforces violent behavior. [59] Young children are more likely to
confuse fantasy violence with real world violence, and without a framework for ethical decision
making, they may mimic the actions they see in violent video games. [4] Child Development and
Early Childhood Education expert Jane Katch, MST, stated in an interview with Education Week,
"I found that young children often have difficulty separating fantasy from reality when they are
playing and can temporarily believe they are the character they are pretending to be." US
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent in Brown v. ESA that "the closer a
child's behavior comes, not to watching, but to acting out horrific violence, the greater the
potential psychological harm." [124
Exposure to violent video games is linked to lower empathy and decreased
kindness. Empathy, the ability to understand and enter into another's feelings is believed to
inhibit aggressive behavior. In a study of 150 fourth and fifth graders by Jeanne Funk, PhD,
Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Toledo, violent video games
were the only type of media associated with lower empathy. [32] A study published in the
American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin found that exposure to violent video
games led to a lack of empathy and prosocial behavior (positive actions that benefit others). [66]
[65] Eight independent tests measuring the impact of violent video games on prosocial behavior
found a significant negative effect, leading to the conclusion that "exposure to violent video
games is negatively correlated with helping in the real world." [61] Several studies have found that
children with high exposure to violent media display lower moral reasoning skills than their peers
without that exposure. [32] [69] A meta-analysis of 130 international studies with over 130,000
participants concluded that violent video games "increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings,
and aggressive behaviors, and decrease empathic feelings and prosocial behaviors." [123]
Video games that portray violence against women lead to more harmful
attitudes and sexually violent actions towards women. A 2012 peer-reviewed
study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that video games that sexually
objectify women and feature violence against women led to a statistically significant increase in
rape-supportive attitudes, which are attitudes that are hostile towards rape victims. [68] A 1998
peer-reviewed study found that 21% of games sampled involved violence against women, while
28% portrayed them as sex objects. [23] Exposure to sexual violence in video games is linked to
increases in violence towards women and false attitudes about rape, such as that women incite
men to rape or that women secretly desire rape. [30] Carole Lieberman, MD, a media psychiatrist,
stated, "The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content, the more likely
one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them." [64] In Dec. 2014, Target
Australia stopped selling Grand Theft Auto V in response to customer complaints about the
game's depiction of women, which includes the option to kill a prostitute to get your money back.
The American Psychological Association (APA) lists violent video games
as a risk factor for aggressive behavior. In its Aug. 2015 resolution on violent video
games, the APA wrote: "WHEREAS many factors are known to be risk factors for increased
aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition and aggressive affect, and reduced prosocial behavior,
empathy and moral engagement, and violent video game use is one such risk factor." [119] Dr.
Craig Anderson, PhD, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University,
wrote: "Playing a violent video game isn't going to take a healthy kid who has few other risk
factors and turn him into a school shooter, but it is a risk factor that does drive the odds for
aggression up significantly." [120]
Video games encourage and reward violent behavior. Violent video games
reinforce fighting as a means of dealing with conflict by rewarding the use of violent action with
increased life force, more weapons, moving on to higher levels, and more. [59] Studies suggest
that when violence is rewarded in video games, players exhibit increased aggressive behavior
compared to players of video games where violence is punished.[23] The reward structure is one
distinguishing factor between violent video games and other violent media such as movies and
television shows, which do not reward viewers nor allow them to actively participate in violence.
[59] An analysis of 81 video games rated for teens ages 13 and up found that 73 games (90%)
rewarded injuring other characters, and 56 games (69%) rewarded killing. [71] People who played
a video game that rewarded violence showed higher levels of aggressive behavior and
aggressive cognition as compared with people who played a version of the same game that was
competitive but either did not contain violence or punished violence. [72]
The US military uses violent video games to train soldiers to kill. The US Marine Corps
licensed Doom II in 1996 to create Marine Doom in order to train soldiers. In 2002, the US Army released
first-person shooter game America's Army to recruit soldiers and prepare recruits for the battlefield. [6]
While the military may benefit from training soldiers to kill using video games, kids who are exposed to
these games lack the discipline and structure of the armed forces and may become more susceptible to
being violent. [79] Dave Grossman, retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and former West
Point psychology professor, stated: "[T]hrough interactive point-and-shoot video games, modern nations
are indiscriminately introducing to their children the same weapons technology that major armies and law
enforcement agencies around the world use to 'turn off' the midbrain 'safety catch'" that prevents most
people from killing. [77]
Sales of violent video games have significantly increased while violent
juvenile crime rates have significantly decreased. Total US sales of video game
hardware and software increased 204% from 1994 to 2014, reaching $13.1 billion in 2014, while
violent crimes decreased 37% and murders by juveniles acting alone fell 76% in that same
period. [133] [134] [135] [136] [82] [83] The juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate in 2012 was 38%
below 1980 levels and 63% below 1994, the peak year. [83] The number of high school students
who had been in at least one physical fight decreased from 43% in 1991 to 25% in 2013, and
student reports of criminal victimization at school dropped by more than half from 1995 to 2011.
[107] [106] An Aug. 2014 peer-reviewed study found that: "Annual trends in video game sales for
the past 33 years were unrelated to violent crime... Monthly sales of video games were related to
concurrent decreases in aggravated assaults." [84]
Studies claiming a causal link between video game violence and real life
violence are flawed. [34] Many studies failed to control for factors that contribute to children
becoming violent, such as family history and mental health, plus most studies do not follow
children over long periods of time. [95] [10] Video game experiments often have people playing a
game for as little as ten minutes, which is not representative of how games are played in real life.
In many laboratory studies, especially those involving children, researchers must use artificial
measures of violence and aggression that do not translate to real-world violence and aggression,
such as whether someone would force another person eat hot sauce or listen to unpleasant
noises. [84] [94] According to Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, a psychology professor at Stetson
University, "matching video game conditions more carefully in experimental studies with how they
are played in real life makes VVG's [violent video games] effects on aggression essentially
vanish." [95] [96]
The US Supreme Court ruled that violent video games do not cause youth
to act aggressively. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011) the US
Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that California could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that studies purporting to show a connection
between violent video games and harmful effects on children "have been rejected by every court
to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause
minors to act aggressively." [81]
Playing violent video games does not cause kids to commit mass
shootings. Over 150 million Americans (and 71% of teens) play video games. There have
been 71 mass shootings between 1982 and Aug. 2015, seven of which (9.8%) involved shooters
age 18 or younger. [87] [91] [92] Katherine Newman, PhD, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Johns
Hopkins University, wrote: "Millions of young people play video games full of fistfights, blazing
guns, and body slams... Yet only a minuscule fraction of the consumers become violent." [86] A
report by the US Secret Service and US Department of Education examined 37 incidents of
targeted school violence between 1974 and 2000. Of the 41 attackers studied, 27% had an
interest in violent movies, 24% in violent books, and 37% exhibited interest in their own violent
writings, while only 12% showed interest in violent video games. The report did not find a
relationship between playing violent video games and school shootings. [35] An Apr. 2015 peerreviewed study published in Psychiatric Quarterly found that playing violent video games had no
impact on hostility levels in teenagers. [123]
Violent video games allow players to release their stress and anger
(catharsis) in the game, leading to less real world aggression. A peer-reviewed
study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that children, especially boys, play
video games as a means of managing their emotions: "61.9% of boys played to 'help me relax,'
47.8% because 'it helps me forget my problems,' and 45.4% because 'it helps me get my anger
out." [37] Researchers point to the cathartic effect of video games as a possible reason for why
higher game sales have been associated with lower crime rates. [84] A peer-reviewed study in the
Journal of Adolescent Research concluded that "Boys use games to experience fantasies of
power and fame, to explore and master what they perceive as exciting and realistic environments
(but distinct from real life), to work through angry feelings or relieve stress, and as social
tools."[36] The games serve as a substitute for rough-and-tumble play. [36]
Violent video game players know the difference between virtual violence in
the context of a game and appropriate behavior in the real world. By age
seven, children can distinguish fantasy from reality, and can tell the difference between video
game violence and real-world violence. [99] [100] Video game players understand they are playing
a game. Kids see fantasy violence all the time, from Harry Potter and the Minions to Bugs Bunny
and Tom and Jerry. Their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality prevents them from
emulating video game violence in real life. [9] Exposure to fantasy is important for kids. FisherPrice toy company stated: "Pretending is more than play: it's a major part of a child's
development. Fantasy not only develops creative thinking, it's also a way for children to deal with
situations and problems that concern them." [108]
Studies have shown that violent video games can have a positive effect on
kindness, civic engagement, and "prosocial” behaviors. Research shows that
playing violent video games can induce a feeling of guilt that leads to increased prosocial
behavior (positive actions that benefit others) in the real world. [104] Another study published in
Computers in Human Behavior discovered that youths exposed to violence in action games
displayed more prosocial behavior and civic engagement, "possibly due to the team-oriented
multiplayer options in many of these games." [103] In a 2013 peer-reviewed study published in
PLOS ONE, "Three experiments failed to find a detrimental effect of violent video games on
prosocial behavior [positive actions taken to benefit others], despite using contemporary and
classic games, delayed and immediate test-phases, and short and long exposures." [102]
Researchers have shown that playing video games also results in increased moral sensitivity.
Nearly all young men play video games, so the fact that some people who
commit violent acts also played games should not be surprising, nor does
it imply a causal relationship. An estimated four out of five US households with a male
child own a video game system. Although boys play an average of nine hours per week, [84] only
a small percentage of them display violent behavior. Patrick M. Markey, PhD, Director of the
Interpersonal Research Laboratory at Villanova University, stated, "90% of young males play
video games. Finding that a young man who committed a violent crime also played a popular
video game, such as Call of Duty, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto, is as pointless as pointing out that
the criminal also wore socks." [84]
Many risk factors are associated with youth violence, but video games are
not among them. The US Surgeon General's list of risk factors for youth violence included
abusive parents, poverty, neglect, neighborhood crime, being male, substance use, and mental
health problems, but not video games. [118] A peer-reviewed study even found a "real and
significant" effect of hot weather on homicides and aggravated assaults, showing that heat is a
risk factor for violence. [124] Smoking is a known risk factor for lung cancer, but there is no good
evidence that video game playing is a risk factor for violence. An Aug. 2014 peer-reviewed study
published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture pointed out that "As more people have been
exposed to violent video games, serious and deadly assaults have not increased." [84] A 2014
peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Communication also found that as video game
playing increased, there was less youth violence. [93]
Violent video games provide opportunities for children to explore virtually
the consequences of violent actions and to develop their moral
compasses. Violent games allow youth to experiment with moral issues such as war, violence,
and death without real world consequences. [38] A researcher at the Harvard Medical School
Center for Mental Health and Media wrote about her research: "One unexpected theme that
came up multiple times in our focus groups was a feeling among boys that violent games can
teach moral lessons... Many war-themed video games allow or require players to take the roles of
soldiers from different sides of a conflict, perhaps making players more aware of the costs of
war." [2]
Violent video games may decrease crime because people are busy playing
the games instead of committing violent acts. Some researchers say that violent
people often seek out violent video games, and that the time they spend playing the games is
taking them off the streets, leading to decreased crime. This is known as the "incapacitation
effect." [84] Steven Levitt, PhD, economics professor at the University of Chicago and co-author of
Freakonomics, stated, "It just stands to reason that if you find an activity that keeps potential
criminals busy for six waking hours a day, then it probably makes sense that they're going to be
doing less crime." [89] One study estimated that this effect leads to about ten fewer crimes per
day nationwide. [90]
Gun violence is less prevalent in countries with high video game use. Per
capita video game sales were $5.20 in the United States compared to $47 in Japan. In 2005, the
United States had 2,279 murders committed by teenagers (27.9 per million residents) compared
to 73 in Japan (3.1 per million).[11] [12] [13] A study of the countries representing the 10 largest
video game markets internationally found no correlation between playing video games and gunrelated killings. [97] Even though US gun violence is high, the nine other countries with the highest
video game usage have some of the lowest violent crime rates (and eight of those countries
spend more per capita on video games than the United States). [97]
The competitive nature of a video game is what arouses aggression, not
the level of violent content. A peer-reviewed study in Psychology of Violence determined
that the competitive nature of a video game was related to aggressive behavior, regardless of
whether the game contained violent content or not. The researchers concluded: "Because past
studies have failed to equate the violent and nonviolent video games on competitiveness,
difficulty, and pace of action simultaneously, researchers may have attributed too much of the
variability in aggression to the violent content." [125] A follow-up study tracked high school
students for four years and came to the same conclusion: the competitive nature of the games led
to the increased hostile behavior. [126]
Older generations often unfairly disparage new things that youth like, such as
video games. The "moral panic" that many adults feel about video games is an exaggerated sense of
public concern, fear, and anxiety over a perceived threat of social corruption. [113] Other examples of
moral panic from history include rock and roll, comic books, radio, television, cell phone use, and social
media. [114] An Oct. 2013 study in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that people who had no
experience playing video games were six times more likely to believe the games contributed to mass
shootings. Older Americans were five times more likely than young people to think that the games caused
mass shootings. [116] The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooter, for example, was originally and
incorrectly reported to be an avid player of violent video games. Investigators later showed that the
shooter's favorite games were Super Mario Brothers, Dance, Dance Revolution, and other non-violent
video games. [115]
Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?
Publishing for the K-12 school market is an $8 billion industry, with three companies - McGraw-Hill,
Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - capturing about 85% of this market. Tablets are a $72 billion
industry with 42% of US adults owning a tablet. As tablets have become more prevalent, a new debate
has formed over whether K-12 school districts should switch from print textbooks to digital textbooks on
Proponents of tablets say that they are supported by most teachers and students, are much lighter than
print textbooks, and improve standardized test scores. They say tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks,
save the environment by lowering the amount of printing, increase student interactivity and creativity, and
that digital textbooks are cheaper than print textbooks.
Opponents of tablets say that they are expensive, too distracting for students, easy to break, and
costly/time-consuming to fix. They say that tablets contribute to eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision,
increase the excuses available for students not doing their homework, require costly Wi-Fi networks, and
become quickly outdated as new technologies emerge.
1. FacA 4GB tablet filled with 3,500 e-books weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than if it
were empty of data - a difference that is approximately the same weight as a molecule of DNA.
The same number of physical books would weigh about two tons. [1]
2. In San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, robberies related to internet-enabled handheld
devices (including tablets) have accounted for 50, 40, and 25 percent respectively of all robberies
in 2012. [2]
3. Manufacturing one tablet requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water,
and 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. [3]
4. Students who used an interactive, digital version of an Algebra 1 textbook for Apple's iPad in
California's Riverside Unified School District in 2012 scored 20 percent higher on standardized
tests vs. students who learned with print textbooks. [4]
5. During the 2011-12 school year more than 13,700 US children, aged 5 to 18, were treated in
hospitals and doctors' offices for backpack-related injuries (5,000 in emergency rooms) such as
contusions, sprains, fractures, and strains to the back and shoulders. [5] ts:
Tablets help students learn more material faster. Technology-based instruction
can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by 30-80%, according to the
US Department of Education and studies by the National Training and Simulation Association.
81% of K-12 teachers believe that "tablets enrich classroom education."
The survey of technology in the classroom by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) also
concluded that 77% of teachers found technology to "increase student motivation to learn." [7]
Tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks on one device, plus homework,
quizzes, and other files, eliminating the need for physical storage of
books and classroom materials. The average tablet contains anywhere from 8 to 64
gigabytes (GB) of storage space. On the Amazon Kindle Fire, for instance, 1,000 books take
up one GB of space. [8]
E-textbooks on tablets cost on average 50-60% less than print
textbooks. According to a 2012 report from the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC), K-12 school districts spend more than $8 billion per year on textbooks. [6] E-textbooks
can save schools between $250-$1,000 per student per year. [9] Tablet prices also continue to
drop, making them increasingly affordable. Tablets cost on average $489 in 2011, $386 in
2012, and are projected to cost $263 in 2015. [10][11]
Tablets help to improve student achievement on standardized tests.
Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested an interactive, digital version of an Algebra 1
textbook for Apple's iPad in California's Riverside Unified School District. Students who used
the iPad version scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests versus students who learned
with traditional textbooks. [4]
Tablets contain many technological features that cannot be found in
print textbooks. Tablets give users the ability to highlight and edit text and write notes
without ruining a textbook for the next user. Tablets have a search function, a backlighting
option to read in low light, and a built-in dictionary. Interactive diagrams and videos increase
student creativity, motivation, attentiveness, and engagement with classroom materials.
Print textbooks are heavy and cause injuries, while a tablet only weighs
1-2 pounds. Pediatricians and chiropractors recommend that students carry less than 15%
of their body weight in a backpack, but the combined average weight of textbooks in History,
Mathematics, Science, and Reading/Language Arts exceeds this percentage at nearly all
grade levels from 1-12. [12] According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission,
during the 2011-12 school year more than 13,700 kids, aged 5 to 18, were treated for
backpack-related injuries. [5]
Tablets help students better prepare for a world immersed in
technology. Students that learn technology skills early in life will be better prepared to
pursue relevant careers later in life. The fastest growing and highest paying jobs in the United
States are technology intensive. Employment in "computer and information systems" is
expected to grow by 18% between 2010-20, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On a tablet, e-textbooks can be updated instantly to get new editions or
information. Schools will not have to constantly purchase new hardware, software, or new
physical copies of textbooks. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan said that "too many students are using books that are 7-10 years old with
outdated material." Tablets are especially beneficial for subjects that constantly change, such
as biology or computer science. [6]
Tablets lower the amount of paper teachers have to print for handouts
and assignments, helping to save the environment and money. A school
with 100 teachers uses on average 250,000 pieces of paper annually. [14] A school of 1,000
students on average spends between $3,000-4,000 a month on paper, ink, and toner, not
counting printer wear and tear or technical support costs. [15]
Tablets allow teachers to better customize student learning. There are
thousands of education and tutoring applications on tablets, so teachers can tailor student
learning to an individual style/personality instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. There are
more than 20,000 education apps available for the iPad alone. [16]
Files on one tablet can be downloaded onto any other tablet, increasing
flexibility and convenience for teachers and students. E-textbooks and other
files can be stored on "cloud” servers and accessed on any equivalent device. Users can sign
into an account on a different device and access all of their information.
High-level education officials support tablets over textbooks. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski
said on Feb. 1, 2012 that schools and publishers should "switch to digital textbooks within five
years to foster interactive education, save money on books, and ensure classrooms in the US
use up-to-date content." The federal government, in collaboration with several tech
organizations, released a 70-page guide for schools called the "Digital Textbook Playbook," a
"roadmap for educators to accelerate the transition to digital textbooks." [6]
Students who own tablets purchase and read more books than those
who read print books alone. The average tablet-owning US student reads 24 books
per year on a tablet compared with 15 in print for those who do not own a tablet. [17]
According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 30% of e-content
readers (including 40% of those under age 30) say that they now spend more time reading
than they used to due to the availability of e-content. [18]
Using a tablet is so intuitive that it makes learning fun and easy. In two
isolated rural villages in Ethiopia, the One Laptop Per Child organization dropped off closed
boxes containing tablets pre-loaded with educational apps, taped shut, with no instruction.
Within five days, elementary school-age students without prior education were using 47 apps
per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs, and within five months
they had successfully hacked the tablet's operating system and customized the desktop
settings. [19]
Handheld technological devices including tablets are associated with a
range of health problems. Handhelds contribute to Computer Vision Syndrome, which
causes eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes, according to the American Optometric
Association. [20] People who use mobile devices more often have a higher incidence of
musculoskeletal disorders associated with repetitive strain on muscles, including carpal tunnel
syndrome, neck pain ("text neck"), shoulder pain, and fibromyalgia. [21][22]
Using tablets is more expensive than using print textbooks. Implementing
tablets in K-12 schools requires purchasing hardware (the tablet) and software (the textbooks),
building new wi-fi infrastructure, and training teachers and administrators how to use the
technology. Implementation costs for e-textbooks on iPad tablets are 552% higher than new print
textbooks in an average high school. Lee Wilson, a prominent education marketing expert,
estimated the annual cost per student per class with tablets to be $71.55 vs. $14.26 for print
textbooks. [23]
Tablets have too many distractions for classroom use. Students may pay
attention to apps, email, games, and websites instead of their teachers. 87% of K-12 teachers
believe that "today’s digital technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short
attention spans." [24] Four-fifths of students aged 8 - 18 multitask while using digital media. [25]
People who read print text comprehend more, remember more, and learn
more than those who read digital text. The brain interprets printed and digital text in
different ways, and people generally read digital text 20-30% slower than print. [26][27] According
to Pulitzer Prize winning technology writer Nicholas Carr, peer-reviewed studies show that
reading hyper-linked text may increase the brain's "cognitive load," lowering the ability to process,
store, and retain information, or "translate the new material into conceptual knowledge." [28]
Many students do not have sufficient home internet bandwidth to use
tablets. Students "need home broadband to access digital content and to complete Internet
based homework," according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan, but about a third of Americans – 100 million people – do not have broadband
internet at home. [6] A 2010 FCC survey found that nearly 80% of K-12 schools reported
broadband connections that were "inadequate to meet their current needs. [47]
Manufacturing tablets is environmentally destructive and dangerous to
human health. According to the New York Times, the "adverse health impacts from making
one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book." One
tablet requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water, and 100 kilowatt
hours of fossil fuels resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. Print books produce 100 times
fewer greenhouse gases. Two gallons of water are required to make the pulp slurry that is
pressed and heat-dried to make paper, and only two kilowatt hours are required to form and dry
the sheets of paper. [3]
A broken tablet requires an experienced technician to fix, which can be
costly and time-consuming. Textbooks can usually be repaired with basic supplies such
as glue or tape.
Print textbooks cannot crash, freeze, or get hacked. Unlike tablets, there is no
chance of getting malware, spyware, or having personal information stolen from a print textbook.
The average battery life of a tablet is 7.26 hours, shorter than the length of
a school day. Tablets constantly need charging, increasing electricity demands on schools
and the need for new electrical outlets. [29]
Tablets are more susceptible to theft than print textbooks. In San Francisco,
New York, and Los Angeles, robberies related to internet-enabled handheld devices (including
tablets) have accounted for 50, 40, and 25 percent respectively of all robberies in 2012. Stolen
and lost internet-enabled handheld devices have cost Americans more than $30 billion in 2012.
Tablets enable students to cut corners or cheat on schoolwork. Students can
easily avoid reading and analyzing texts on their own because they can quickly look up passages
in an e-textbook and search for answers on the internet.
The higher cost of tablets marginalizes poorer school districts and
increases the "digital divide." Rich school districts can afford to implement e-textbooks
on tablets, while poor school districts cannot. Low income schools are less likely to implement an
e-textbook program than to pay for teachers or basic classroom supplies.
Tablets increase the number of excuses available for students not doing
their schoolwork. Students have new available excuses, including: "the tablet broke/froze,"
"I forgot the tablet at home so I can't do schoolwork today," and "I couldn't find my charger."
Tablets shift the focus of learning from the teacher to the technology. This
change marginalizes decades of learned wisdom in the teaching profession in favor of an
unproven technology. According to education reformer Mike Schmoker, until the core elements of
literacy and critical thinking are learned by every student, "it makes little sense to adopt or learn
new programs, technology, or any other innovations." Technology gets in the way and makes
learning and teaching more burdensome. [31]
Many textbooks are not available in digital format or on the specific tablet
used by a school. As of 2012, only 30% of textbook titles are available electronically. There
are many different companies that manufacture tablets, and most contract with one specific ebook seller. This means that some textbooks may not be sold across all tablets. [32][33][34]
Tablets may be too difficult for less-technologically-savvy students to
operate. When Daytona State College conducted an electronic textbook focus group, the most
common reason given for withdrawing from the group was "I did not feel that I had the technical
ability to read or reference my textbook from a computer." [35]
Is a College Education Worth It?
The debate over whether a college education is worth it may have begun when the colonists arrived from
Europe and founded "New College" (later renamed Harvard University) in 1636. With 19.9 million US
college students in 2013 and average student debt at over $26,500, the debate continues today.
People who argue that college is worth it contend that college graduates have higher employment rates,
bigger salaries, and more work benefits than high school graduates. They say college graduates also have
better interpersonal skills, live longer, have healthier children, and have proven their ability to achieve a
major milestone.
People who argue that college is not worth it contend that the debt from college loans is too high and
delays graduates from saving for retirement, buying a house, or getting married. They say many
successful people never graduated from college and that many jobs, especially trades jobs, do not
require college degrees.
1. 19.9 million students were enrolled in colleges and universities in 2013, compared to 13.5
million in 1990, 7.9 million in 1970, and 2.7 million in 1949. [1, 2, 3]
2. In 2011, 50% of US college graduates under 25 years old had no job or only a part-time job. [4]
3. One in three college graduates had a job that only required a high school diploma or less in 2012,
including more than 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders, and 115,000 janitors with
bachelor's degrees. [5, 6]
4. In Aug. 2013, approximately 6,900 accredited colleges and universities were operating in the
United States, compared to 3,535 in 1990 and 1,851 in 1950. [7, 2]
5. In Apr. 2013 the unemployment rate for college graduates over 25 years old was 3.6% compared
to 7.5% for high school graduates.
College graduates make more money. On average, a college graduate with a
bachelor’s degree earned $30,000 more per year than a high school graduate, or about
$500,000 more over a lifetime, as of Apr. 2013. [8] Earning an associate's degree (a 2-year
degree) was worth about $170,000 more than a high school diploma over a lifetime in 2011. [9]
The median income for families headed by a bachelor's degree holder was $100,096 in 2011—
more than double than that for a family headed by a high school graduate. [10] The median
increase in earnings for completing the freshman year of college was 11% and the senior year
was 16% in 2007. [11] 85% of Forbes' 2012 America's 400 Richest People list were college
grads. [12]
More and more jobs require college degrees. During the recession between Dec.
2007 and Jan. 2010, jobs requiring college degrees grew by 187,000, while jobs requiring some
college or an associate's degree fell by 1.75 million and jobs requiring a high school degree or
less fell by 5.6 million. [13] Based on economy and job projections calculated by Georgetown
University, in 2018, approximately 63% of jobs will require some college education or a degree.
College graduates have more and better employment opportunities. In Apr.
2013, the unemployment rate for college graduates aged 25 and over with a bachelor's degree
was 3.6%, compared to 5.0% for associate's degree holders, 7.5% for high school graduates,
and 11.4% for high school drop-outs. [8] College graduates are more likely to receive on-the-job
formal (22.9%) or informal (17.2%) training, more access to technology, greater autonomy, and
ability to enhance skills compared to high school graduates. [14] 58% of college graduates and
people with some college or associate's degrees reported being "very satisfied" with their jobs
compared to 50% of high school graduates and 40% of people without a high school diploma.
College graduates are more likely to have health insurance and retirement
plans. 70% of college graduates had access to employer-provided health insurance
compared to 50% of high school graduates in 2008. [15] 70% of college graduates 25 years old
and older had access to retirement plans in 2008 compared to 65% of associate's degree
holders, 55% of high school graduates, and 30% of people who did not complete high school.
Young adults learn interpersonal skills in college. Students have the opportunity
to interact with other students and faculty, to join student organizations and clubs, and to take
part in discussions and debates. According to Arthur Chickering's "Seven Vectors" student
development theory, "developing mature interpersonal relationships" is one of the seven stages
students progress through as they attend college. [16] Students ranked "interpersonal skills" as
the most important skill used in their daily lives in a 1994 survey of 11,000 college students. [17]
Vivek Wadhwa, MBA, technology entrepreneur and scholar, states, "American children party [in
college]. But you know something, by partying, they learn social skills. They learn how to
interact with each other…They develop skills which make them innovative. Americans are the
most innovative people in the world because of the education system." [18]
College graduates are healthier and live longer. 83% of college graduates
reported being in excellent health, while 73% of high school graduates reported the same. [11]
In 2008, 20% of all adults were smokers, while 9% of college graduates were smokers. [11] 63%
of 25 to 34 year old college graduates reported exercising vigorously at least once a week
compared to 37% of high school graduates. [11] College degrees were linked to lower blood
pressure in a 30-year peer-reviewed study and lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) by
a Carnegie Mellon Psychology department study. [15] In 2008, 23% of college graduates aged
35 to 44 years old were obese compared to 37% of high school graduates. [11] College
graduates, on average, live six years longer than high school graduates. [19, 20]
College graduates have lower poverty rates. The 2008 poverty rate for bachelor's
degree holders was 4%, compared to a 12% poverty rate for high school graduates. [11] In
2005, married couples with bachelor's degrees were least likely to be below the poverty line
(1.8%) compared to 2.7% of associate's degree holders, 4.6% of couples with some college,
and 7.1% of high school graduates. [21] According to the US Census Bureau, 1% of college
graduates participated in social support programs like Medicaid, National School Lunch
Program, and food stamps compared to 8% of high school graduates in 2008. [11]
The children of college graduates are healthier and more prepared for
school. A Lancet medical journal study from 1970 to 2009 showed college graduates had
lower infant mortality rates than high school graduates. [15] Mothers with only a high school
education are 31% more likely to give birth to a low-birth-weight baby than a woman with a
college degree. [11] Children aged 2 to 5 years old in households headed by college graduates
have a 6% obesity rate compared to 14% for children in households headed by high school
graduates. [11] 18% more children aged 3 to 5 years old with mothers who have a bachelor's
degree could recognize all letters compared to children of high school graduates. [11] In 2010,
59% of children in elementary and middle school with at least one college graduate for a parent
participated in after-school activities like sports, arts, and scouting compared 27% for high
school graduate parents. [21]
College graduates are more productive as members of society. Henry
Bienan, PhD, President Emeritus of Northwestern University, argues that a college education
results in "greater productivity, lower crime, better health, [and] better citizenship for more
educated people." [22] A 2009 study found 16 to 24 year old high school drop-outs were 63%
more likely to be incarcerated than those with a bachelor's degree or higher. [23] According to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from Sep. 2008 to Sep. 2009, 43% of college graduates did
volunteer work compared to 19% of high school graduates and 27% of adults in general. [11] In
2005, college graduates were more like to have donated blood in the past year (9%) than
people with some college (6%), high school graduates (4%), and people who did not complete
high school (2%). [21]
College graduates attract higher-paying employers to their communities.
A 1% increase in college graduates in a community increases the wages of workers without a
high school diploma by 1.9% and the wages of high school graduates by 1.6%. [21]
Learning is always worthwhile. According to Rebecca Mead, staff writer for The New
Yorker, college teaches students "to nurture critical thought; to expose individuals to the signal
accomplishments of humankind; to develop in them an ability not just to listen actively but to
respond intelligently;" all of which "are habits of mind…from which a letter carrier, no less than a
college professor, might derive a sense of self-worth." [24] In 2011 74% of students said college
helped them "grow intellectually" and 69% said college helped them grow and mature as
people. [25] Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, MA, Visiting Professor at Eastern Nazarene College,
argues, "The value of a liberal arts college education --to you, to employers-- is that you've
spent four years in a place where you were forced to consider new ideas, to meet new people,
to ask new questions, and to learn to think, to socialize, to imagine. If you graduate, you will get
a degree, but if you are not a very different person from who are you are today, then college
failed." [26]
College allows students to explore career options. Colleges offer career
services, internships, job shadowing, job fairs, and volunteer opportunities in addition to a wide
variety of courses that may provide a career direction. Over 80% of college students complete
internships before graduation, giving them valuable employment experience before entering the
job market. [27]
People who do not go to college are more likely to be unemployed and,
therefore, place undue financial strain on society, making a college
degree worth it to taxpayers. Young people "not engaged in employment/education or
training," AKA NEET, are more likely to receive welfare than youth in general, they are more
likely to commit crimes, and they are more likely to receive public health care, all costing the
government extra money. In total, each NEET youth between the ages of 16 and 25 impose a
$51,350 financial burden on society per year, and after the person is 25 he or she will impose a
financial burden of $699,770. [28] The total cost of 6.7% of the US population being NEET youth
is $4.75 trillion, which is comparable to half of the US public debt. [29]
Colleges provide networking value. Harvard Business School estimates that 65 to
85% of jobs are acquired through networking. [30] College students can join fraternities and
sororities, clubs, and teams as well as participate in a variety of social functions to meet new
people and network with possible business connections. Internships offered through colleges
often lead to mentors or useful contacts within a student's preferred field. Many colleges offer
social media workshops, networking tips, career-related consultation, and alumni networks. [31]
College education has a high return as an investment. Return on investment
(ROI) is calculated by dividing the gain from an investment (here the money earned as a result
of a college degree) by the cost of the investment (the money spent on a college degree). A
college degree has a return of 15% per year as an investment, larger than the stock market
(6.8%) and housing (0.4%). [32] Completing some college, but not earning a degree, resulted in
a 9.1% return on investment. [8] If a student spent $17,860 (the average cost of tuition and room
and board in 2012-2013 for four years at a public university [33]), that student could expect a
15% return of $2,679 each year. According to a 2011 Pew Research survey, 86% of college
graduates believed college was a good personal investment. [25]
College exposes students to diverse people and ideas. Students live, go to
classes, and socialize with other students from around the world and learn from professors with
a variety of expertise. The community of people on a college campus means students are likely
to make diverse friends and business connections, and, potentially, find a spouse or mate.
Access to a variety of people allows college students to learn about different cultures, religions,
and personalities they may have not been exposed to in their home towns, which broadens
their knowledge and perspective. In 2004, 79% of people with graduate degrees and 73% of
college graduates thought it "very important to try to understand the reasoning behind the
opinions of others" compared to 67% of associate degree holders, 64% of high school
graduates, and 59% of high school drop-outs. [21]
Earning a college degree is a major life achievement. College graduation can
represent an attainment of the American Dream, the culmination of years of hard work for the
student, and the payoff for sacrifices made by supporting parents and friends. Blogger Darrius
Mind wrote that his graduation day at Wilberforce University was, "probably the best day of my
entire life. That was the day I finished my challenge to myself and also the day I made history in
my family, it was the day I EARNED my college degree." [34]
Student loan debt is crippling for college graduates. Between 2003 and 2012 the
number of 25-year-olds with student debt increased from 25% to 43%, and their average loan
balance was $20,326 in 2012--a 91% increase since 2003. [35] 10% of students graduate with
over $40,000 in debt and about 1% have $100,000 in debt. [36] The average student borrower
graduated in 2011 with $26,600 in debt. [36] According to the US Congress Joint Economic
Committee, approximately 60% of 2011 college graduates have student loan debt balances equal
to 60% of their annual income. [37] Missing or being late for loan payments often results in a lower
credit score and additional fees, thus escalating the debt problem and potentially jeopardizing
future purchases and employment. [36]
Student loan debt often forces college graduates to live with their parents
and delay marriage, financial independence, and other adult milestones.
According to a 2012 Federal Reserve Study, 30-year-olds who have never taken out a student
loan are now more likely to own homes than those who have taken out loans. Auto loans are also
trending down at faster rates for those with student debt history than for those without. [35] In
2013, student loan borrowers delayed retirement saving (41%), car purchases (40%), home
purchases (29%), and marriage (15%). [38] Less than 50% of women and 30% of men had
passed the "transition to adulthood" milestones by age 30 (finishing school, moving out of their
parents' homes, being financially independent, marrying, and having children); in 1960, 77% of
women and 65% of men had completed these milestones by age 30. [39]
Many college graduates are employed in jobs that do not require college
degrees. According to the Department of Labor, as of 2008, 17 million college graduates were
in positions that did not require a college education. [6] 1 in 3 college graduates had a job that
required a high school diploma or less in 2012. [5] More than 16,000 parking lot attendants,
83,000 bartenders, 115,000 janitors and 15% of taxi drivers have bachelor's degrees. [6] College
graduates with jobs that do not require college degrees earn 30-40% less per week than those
who work in jobs requiring college degrees. [40]
Many recent college graduates are un- or underemployed. In 2011 50% of
college graduates under 25 years old had no job or a part-time job. [4] The unemployment rate for
recent college graduates was 8.8% in Feb. 2013, down from 10.4% in 2010, but up from 5.7% in
2007. [41] The underemployment (insufficient work) rate for the class of 2013 was 18.3% [41]
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 44% of recent college graduates were
underemployed in 2012. [42]
Many people succeed without college degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, of the 30 projected fastest growing jobs between 2010 and 2020, five do not require a
high school diploma, nine require a high school diploma, four require an associate's degree, six
require a bachelor's degree, and six require graduate degrees. [43] The following successful
people either never enrolled in college or never completed their college degrees: Richard
Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group; Charles Culpepper, owner and CEO of Coca
Cola; Ellen Degeneres, comedian and actress; Michael Dell, founder of Dell, Inc.; Walt Disney,
Disney Corporation founder; Bill Gates, Microsoft founder; Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple;
Wolfgang Puck, chef and restauranteur; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple; Mark Zuckerberg,
founder of Facebook. [44]
Many students do not graduate and waste their own and their government's
money. Over 25% of students who enroll in college do not return for the second year. [45] About
44% of students at four-year colleges dropped out according to a Feb. 2011 study. [46] The
federal government allocated $176.83 billion for college loans, grants, tax benefits, and work
studies in 2013. [48] State governments spent $81.2 billion supporting public colleges in 2012. [49]
Students who started bachelor's degrees in the fall of 2002 but did not graduate within six years
accounted for $3.8 billion in lost income, $566 million in lost federal income taxes, and $164
million in lost state income taxes in one year. [50] The government gets fewer tax dollars from
non-college graduates than from college graduates who have higher wages. [50] Students who
drop out during the first year of college cost states $1.3 billion and the federal government $300
million per year in wasted student grant programs and government appropriations for colleges.
Student debt overwhelms many seniors. Whether they co-signed for a child or
grandchild's education, or took out loans for their own educations, in 2012 there were 6.9 million
student loan borrowers aged 50 and over who collectively owed $155 billion with individual
average balances between $19,521 and $23,820. [51] Of the 6.9 million borrowers, 24.7% were
more than 90 days delinquent in payments. [51] Almost 119,000 of older borrowers in default were
having a portion of their Social Security payments garnished by the US government in 2012. [52]
Learning a trade profession is a better option than college for many young
adults. Trade professions are necessary for society to function, require less than four years of
training, and often pay above average wages. The high number of young adults choosing college
over learning a trade has created a 'skills gap' in the US and there is now a shortage of 'middleskill" trade workers like machinists, electricians, plumbers, and construction workers. One 2011
survey of US manufacturers found that 67% reported a "moderate to severe shortage of talent,"
[53] "Middle-skill" jobs represent half of all jobs in the US that pay middle-class wages. [54]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "middle-skill" jobs will make up 45% of projected job
openings through 2014, but as of 2012 only 25% of the workforce had the skills to fill those jobs.
College degrees do not guarantee learning or job preparation. Many students
graduate from college with little understanding of math, reading, civics, or economics. [56] In 2011,
35% of students enrolled in college reported they studied 5 hours or less per week and there was
a 50% decline in the number of hours a student studied and prepared for classes compared to a
few decades ago. [57] 36% of students demonstrated no significant improvement on Collegiate
Learning Assessments after 4 years of college. [58] In 2013 56% of employers thought half or
fewer of college graduates had the skills and knowledge to advance within their companies. [59]
30% of college graduates felt college did not prepare them well for employment, specifically in
terms of technical and quantitative reasoning skills. [60] A 2011 Pew Research survey found that
57% of Americans felt higher education did not provide students with good value compared to the
money spent. [25]
Student debt could cause another financial crisis. As of 2012 student loan debt
was over $1 trillion dollars, and more than 850,000 student loans were in default. [61] According to
the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, student loans are "beginning to
have the same effect" on the economy that the housing bubble and crash created. [62] Former
Secretary of Education William Bennett, PhD, agrees that the student loan debt crisis "is a vicious
cycle of bad lending policies eerily similar to the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis." [63] On
Feb. 3, 2012, an advisory council to the Federal Reserve also warned that the growth in student
debt "has parallels to the housing crisis." [64] As of Jan. 2013, the rate of default on student loans
hit 15.1%--a nearly 22% increase since 2007. [65]
Tuition has risen quicker than income, making it difficult for the average
American to pay for college without incurring debt. The average cost for a 4-year
degree (including room and board) increased 130% for private schools and 131.4% for public
schools from fall 1982 to fall 2012, while median family income increased 10.9%. [41] Published
annual tuition rates for 4-year public colleges increased 27% ($1,850) from the 2007-2008 school
year to the 2012-2013 school year on average. [66] Tuition at public four-year colleges is up 27%
beyond overall inflation. [67]
Too many students earning degrees has diluted the value of a bachelor's
degree. Rita McGrath, PhD, Associate Professor at Columbia Business School, stated "Having
a bachelor's used to be more rare and candidates with the degree could therefore be more
choosy and were more expensive to hire. Today, that is no longer the case." [68] A high
unemployment rate shifts the supply and demand to the employers' favor and has made master’s
degrees the "new bachelor's degrees." [68] According to James Altucher, venture capitalist and
finance writer, "college graduates hire only college graduates, creating a closed system that
permits schools to charge exorbitant prices and forces students to take on crippling debt." [69]
The total cost of going to college also includes the cost of missing
opportunities to make money at a job. The total cost of going to college means more
than tuition, fees, and books; it also includes an opportunity cost which equals at least four years
of missed wages and advancements from a full-time job--about $49,000 for a 4-year degree and
$20,000 for a 2-year degree. [8]
A college degree is no guarantee of workplace benefits. In 2013, 68.9% of
employed new college graduates did not receive health insurance through their employers and, in
2011, 27.2% received retirement coverage (down from 41.5% in 2000). [41]
Student loan debt may not be forgiven in bankruptcy and may not have the
same borrower protections as other consumer debt. A 2011 study found 60% of
people attempting to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy were unsuccessful. [70] In order to
discharge a student loan in bankruptcy, the borrower must prove "undue hardship," which can be
difficult as in the case of Doug Wallace, Jr. who fought for six years to have his $38,000 in
student loans discharged after becoming blind and being unable to work; his student loans were
not discharged although his medical debt was immediately discharged. [71] Medical, legal, credit
card, loan, and even gambling debt can immediately be discharged in bankruptcy. [71] Private
student loans often do not have the same protections as federal loans like income-based
repayments, discharges upon death, or military deferments. [61]
Colleges may be indoctrinating students instead of educating them.
According to William Hare, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Mount Saint Vincent University, "teachers
may abuse their power and authority and seek to impose certain beliefs and values, actively
discouraging their students from raising problems or objections." [72] A 2010-2011 UCLA survey
of full-time faculty at 4-year colleges found 50.3% identified as "liberal" compared to 11.5% who
identified as "conservative." [73] David Horowitz, MA, conservative activist and author, asserts that
university "curriculum has been expanded to include agendas about ‘social change’ that are
overtly political." [74]
College stress can lead to health problems and other negative consequences.
40.2% of college students reported feeling "frequently overwhelmed" in a 2012 survey about stress levels.
[75] According to the University of Florida’s Counseling & Wellness Center, "The competition for grades,
the need to perform, relationships, fear of AIDS, career choice, and many other aspects of the college
environment cause stress." [76] According to the Director of Student Health Services at Biola University,
college stress can lead to "headaches, weight gain, chronic digestive disorders, fatigue, increases [in]
blood pressure, insomnia, teeth grinding in sleep, general irritability, reoccurring feeling of hopelessness,
depression and anxiety and low self-esteem." [77]