Which Country Suffers Most From Senioritis?

Tyler Cowen points today to a new study that examines the PISA test of problem-solving and cognitive skills. PISA is conducted every three years in 60+ countries around the world, and as near as I can tell, its only real purpose is to provide an excuse for op-ed columnists to wail about how stupid US students are. But not at this blog! No country whose “adults” elect Donald Trump president has any business complaining about its teenagers any longer.

Anyway, it turns out that this new study tries to assess how seriously students take the test. After all, PISA doesn’t count toward their GPA or toward graduation and it doesn’t help get them into college. Given the vast number of standardized tests high school students take these days, it’s fair to wonder how much energy they put into one that doesn’t matter to them personally.

The authors go through a long explanation of how they judge seriousness, and I suppose it sounds reasonable enough. I don’t really care, though. My goal is to use their data for a completely unauthorized purpose: judging which countries have the largest share of slackers and shirkers. Here’s the chart:

Check out Portugal! If their students gave a shit, their world ranking would rise from 31 to 16. Either Portuguese kids are really lazy or else their teachers don’t care about the test and tell the kids to just pencil whip it so they can all take a longer lunch break.

Among the top countries, Dutch kids are apparently the most serious. They rank a very respectable 12th, and that’s as good as it gets. There’s no evidence of non-serious behavior and no evidence that they could move up the rankings. These are the kids you want to control your nuclear power plant or your international court of justice.

And then there’s the good ol’ USA. As usual, we’re sort of half-ass mediocre even at being half assed. We rank 27th overall, which is mediocre, and we lose 5 ranking levels from laziness, which is a mediocre amount of laziness. We could be a slightly less mediocre 22nd, but why bother? Must be time for a nap.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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