November 9th, 2006

Stupid in America

It’s 40 minutes long, but the following video is an excellent look at why our children are, well, stupid. Education in America pretty much blows, and under the auspices of the NEA is only getting worse.

I had several friends in college who were from Europe—they often knew three, four, or up to seven languages. They knew literature, math, and had several marketable talents. I think you’d have to search a while to find a high school graduate with that type of depth and background. Kids in our country work at the grocery store or local restaurant, procrastinate all assignments, read cliffs notes, and cheat on tests. I’m not saying there’s none of that in other countries, but ours is obviously not measuring up. It’s sad to see how dismal a job our public education system does at actually educating kids and instilling in them the talents, abilities, and knowledge necessary to “get ahead” in life.

Case in point: my brother went with me to San Diego last week. He missed a midterm and some assignments, and the teacher is letting him to do an alternative assignment in a class where he can drop the lowest score. Where’s the accountability? The challenge? The expectations?

Additionally, our education system is based on competition instead of the higher/better principle of collaboration. Indeed, collaboration in education is often termed “cheating”. When these kids get out into the “real world” it’s a paradigm change. Instead of competing against your peer, you have to collaborate with them on a project for the mutual benefit of all involved. Education should be the same way.

Instead, we pit our children against each other (such as when they’re graded on a curve) where their merits are based on the failures of another. Instead of principles and talents ,we worry about percentiles and grades.

2 Responses to “Stupid in America”

  1. mr. multifaceted
    November 9, 2006 at 6:30 pm #

    Let me try to respond to this from a teacher’s perspective.

    1st- Public education is broken on so many levels that the fix is not as easy as just giving vouchers and promoting competition as the video portrays. I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea (I’m not convinced it’s a good one either), but it’s just not that easy.

    2nd- I’m 100% convinced that private schools do better than public schools because of two words–PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT! An involved and engaged set of parents can overcome lots of bad teaching. There is bad teaching out there–I’ll be the first to admit that fact; however, there are excellent teachers as well. I’d say there’s a bell curve in teaching just as there is in most professions: 15% excellent teachers, 70% average teachers, and 15% teachers who shouldn’t have a job anymore. With this mix of teaching ability, there needs to be solid parental support at home. Success starts in the home.

    3rd- Most teacher’s unions aren’t crazy like the ones portrayed in the video.

    4th- Special interest groups who try and influence what can and cannot be taught in classrooms seriously hinder teachers (w/evolution, for instance). European schools laugh at the debates we have over the influence religion has in what is taught in school. Keep science in schools and religion at home.

    5th- We don’t focus on the arts anymore. In Europe, an appreciation of art and literature is valued and taught in schools. Here, organizations like the National Endowment of the Arts are vilified, called “liberal,” and shut out of education by the same religious fanatics that try to keep evolution out of schools. Kids who value art and literature as forms of academic expression are far more inclined to read for enjoyment and to learn for learning’s sake, not for a grade.

    6th- Discipline practices in public schools are a joke. This isn’t entirely the schools’ fault. It’s hard to discipline if there is no support from home. I’ve disciplined a student for calling another student in my class a “whore,” and I was subsequently rebuked by the parent for treating her child unfairly. What am I supposed to do if parents won’t support me? I think this is part of a “it’s never my fault or my child’s fault” mentality that has settled in over the last 10 years or so. That being said, schools bear some of the blame as well.

    7th- Too much money in education is spent on administrators and buildings, not on teachers and kids.

    8th- Decisions regarding education are made by bureaucrats who have never taught a student or a class in their lives. In the business model, those in charge have been in the trenches before, legislators and those with the power over education have not.

    I’m sure there’s more to say, but I’ve been long-winded enough. The point is that the system is broken, and we’re all to blame.


  2. Dustin Davis
    November 13, 2006 at 10:42 am #

    I saw this with my wife. We’ve had our debates as well. She has always wanted to put our kids in private school while I content that if we want our kids to learn it is our responsibility. While I can name a lot of crappy teachers I’ve had over the years, I can also name a good number of great teachers I had.

    But like Jeff said, it is up to the parents to be involved.

    In my opinion, if I do all I kind to teach my children well at home, they may have a good influence over the other children in their school. Whatever subjects are not being taught well by teachers in school, I can help teach.

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