Education in America

Here, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, are some alarming data that give insight into the state of today’s education system and the state of our pupils in it.

“Overall, only 45% of 2011 U.S. high-school graduates who took the ACT test were prepared for college-level math and only 30% of ACT-tested high-school graduates were ready for college-level science, according to a 2011 report by ACT Inc.” the article says.  Further, “Students who drop out of science majors and professors who study the phenomenon say that introductory courses are often difficult and abstract.”

According to a study by Richard Arum (New York University) and Josipa Roksa (University of Virginia), college students spend all of 12-13 hours per week actually studying; students in the ’60s studied 24, or more, hours per week, the article went on.  And math and science students studied 3 hours per week more than did their non-science and -math classmates (that’s all of 25 minutes per day more, for you non-math graduates).

Students often start their college careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math track because they got the grades in high school.  However, then they switch out of STEM coursework because it turns out to be hard, and the easy grades are in the so-called soft studies.  And as often as not, it’s just a matter of giving up on themselves: “My ability level was just not there,” said Ms ____ about why she switched out of her original electrical and computer engineering major into a double major in psychology and policy management.  Plainly the ability is there; even in an American college, a double major is no easy path.

What does this mean, then?

In the beginning, our pupils are not being prepared for college in their K-12 careers—and so college cannot prepare them for life in the real world.  Yet without that foundational preparation, our children can only fall further behind—learning and knowledge accumulation proceed on an exponential curve.  Nor are they pushed to work, and so they shy away from work. They’re not pushed to compete, and so they learn to shy away from challenge.

There are a number of reasons for this failure, many of them legitimate.  We can’t fire bad teachers; the unions too often are in the way.  We don’t want to hold Johnny’s feet to the fire and demand that he actually meet serious standards—the effort is stressful; failure to meet them might hurt his self-esteem.  Our children have no work ethic.  And so on.  But if we don’t solve the fundamental problem, these reasons reduce to excuses.

In the end, the fundamental cause lies within us as their parents, and it becomes part of their attitude toward their own children.  We have to ask ourselves—and act on the answers—a number of questions.

Why are we willing to tolerate unions, or any system, that get in the way of terminating the bad apples?  It’s unfair to the bad teachers?  How unfair is it to our children?

How stressful will it be for our children, what will be the impact on their self-esteem, when as adults they’re failures in the market because they’re unemployable or can find only dreary, unsatisfying work?  How stressful and damaging to their self-esteem will it be for them to be citizens of a failing, second rate nation because our economy no longer can compete because we don’t have an educated work force anymore?

Our children are not lazy.  They work as hard as they’ve been taught to work.  They shy away from challenges to take the easy path because they’ve been taught that’s acceptable.

One thought on “Education in America

  1. “They shy away from challenges to take the easy path because they’ve been taught that’s acceptable.”

    Even worse – they are rewarded for doing so.

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