The Real Afflictions of Education in America

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Deornwulf, Dec 8, 2004.

  1. Deornwulf

    Deornwulf Member

    Nov 10, 2004
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    A recent survey released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked American students 28th out of 40 countries in Math skills. America students were also shown to be trailing in Science skills. The survey has sparked reactions from the corporate sector of America whom are concerned with being able to find workers with the problem solving skills needed to be competitive in today’s global markets. However, the focus of any concerned with this lack of scientific and mathematic skills in American school children needs to look beyond the confines of the schoolyard and into the very heart of American culture.

    Various corporations and educational foundations have spent billions of dollars to improve education in the American classroom. IBM and Microsoft have devoted a great deal of resources to bring technology to the classroom. States are spending record amounts of money to improve student performance in public schools. Yet they are getting very little return for their investment. American private schools don’t seem to fair any better when compared to other countries.

    Corporations and government entities are not the only ones fighting this battle in education. Teachers are being exhorted to update their teaching techniques constantly. School districts across America engage in new mandates and methodology constantly in an effort to battle these drops in Math and Science scores. States have developed extensive standardized tests and special approaches to preparing students to meet the challenges of these tests. Teachers today know more about the strengths and weaknesses of their students and how to change their teaching style than teachers ever did before. Yet, armed with all of this knowledge, schools today seem unable to get students to reach the same levels of competence in Math and Science as during the 1950’s with Sputnik looming in the background.

    The cause of the problem lies within what has become the heart of American culture, a culture of instant self-gratification promoted and supported by the progressive movement but also reinforced by several other aspects of American culture that have evolved over time. These factors have combined to create this sense of apathy in American students about knowledge acquisition. Students just don’t care about figuring out how things work, instead being solely focused on the end result such as a grade or test score.

    First was the introduction of Guidance Counselors and self-esteem education into public schools. The focus of students was directed away from doing better in class to feeling better about not doing well in class. While Guidance Counselors would appear to be contributing a great deal to the functioning of a school it must be noted that IQ and test scores began their decline shortly after the introduction of these positions in schools. Also, one could argue that in counseling students to accept themselves for who they are, self-esteem education has enabled students to accept failure and not be motivated to make any changes for the better.

    Second has been the impact of the entertainment industry. Television shows and movies are now carefully assembled in a manner that minimizes the thinking required by audiences. Laugh tracks are added to let the audience know when to laugh, cameras are jostled to imply movement or violence, dramatic music is cued at just the right moment to evoke tears, and if all else fails, the young bratty character will explain everything to the adults. The content of these shows does very little to provoke thought, even bragging about being able to make something from nothing. Hollywood plots, when they exist, have little bearing or connection with the real world.

    One must also consider the impact corporate America has had on America culture. CEO’s seem to be no longer concerned with the continuing existence of the company. Instead, today’s bottom line and how much money can be pillaged when the company is liquidated takes precedence in many boardrooms over investing in growth or funding maintenance of existing assets. This thinking has been driven by pressures of American investors who have come to view the stock market as a source of instant profits rather than a long-term investment. Questionable business and accounting practices have become the norm rather than the exception to feed the need to maintain the illusion of profits.

    The legal profession has done a great deal to undermine critical thinking skills in America. Through their efforts, personal responsibility has become nonexistent. Litigation is the first solution to a problem rather than the last. Parents are quick to sue schools over student failure rather than be part of the educational process. Companies are expected to warn consumers about such obvious things like hot coffee is hot rather that rely on the consumers actually being intelligent and realizing it on their own. Obligation and accountability are no longer the concern of the individual if a good lawyer can be hired.

    Some would like to place the blame for educational failures on the video game industry and they would be right but not for the reason they think. It is the massive support system of cheat codes and hint books that has evolved with the growth of the electronic gaming industry that has contributed to the decline of critical thinking skills. Gamers are no longer challenged to develop their own strategies and solutions to the problems presented in the games they play. Programmers include cheat codes to make the game easier, hint books are published with step-by-step instructions on how to solve the game, and maps and walk-throughs are available on websites. Once again, things are made easy and simple for the consumer.

    The solutions to these problems are simple in conception but very difficult to implement without a radical change to American culture. The most important place to start is in the home. The first step would be for parents to turn off the television and not rely on it as an electronic babysitter. One could argue that a child should not be allowed to watch any television prior to age four. Children should be given simple toys that require imagination instead of the realistic modern simulations marketed today. Reading must be an important part of every family and time must be made to sit down read to and with children. If America does not do more to place value on reading, American schoolchildren will continue to lack in critical thinking skills. If a child is going to be allowed to play video games then cheat codes and strategy guides should be withheld. There can be some value found in electronic games if they stimulate thinking or enhance motor skills.

    The changes don’t stop there. America as a society needs to hold individuals responsible for their actions. What lesson is being learned by American children when there are so many examples of individuals in the media being allowed to escape any accountability for any misdeeds? The act of learning must become something valued by Americans if schoolchildren are going to perform better in Math and Science. Why should Johnny care about the process of learning if his parents are only concerned with the product of getting Johnny into the right college? It is true that educators need to challenge students to succeed but American culture must back and support that challenge instead of looking for ways to minimize responsibility and transfer blame. Without a sense of personal obligation, one may never develop a need for critical thinking and problem solving skills.

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