For the source of our poverty problem (“Among the Poor,” Life of the Mind, March 18), look no farther than our misdirected K-12 school system that forces a pre-college curriculum on every student, ignoring the real needs of the majority of disadvantaged students. Germany takes a more pragmatic and effective approach to K-12 education, as made clear by the comparative outcomes of the two systems:

  • 73 percent of German students begin work with vocational certifications as opposed to 39 percent here.
  • The German average wage is 25 percent higher than here.
  • The German poverty rate is half the rate here.
  • The rate of illegal drug use in Germany is 51 percent lower than here.
  • Germany’s incarceration rate is 89 percent lower than here.
  • Germany’s violent crime rate is 68 percent lower than here.

Have our programs to increase the effectiveness of our schools worked? Not at all. Since 1971, the reading and math scores of our high school seniors have been perfectly flat. Currently, 74 percent of our 12th-graders score below proficient in math; 62 percent are below proficient in reading. We are spinning wheels, when all we need to do is study Germany’s systematic and needs-driven approach in order to adopt its best features here.

Richard C. Kreutzberg ’59