That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Whether or not you have children, if you plan to be living in 20 years, how our children are educated today will influence your quality of life. In 20 years, the children just starting school will be having their mid-20s crisis (did anyone have one of these prior to the baby boomers?). The children now finishing school will be leading major companies and entering the upper rungs of politics . . .
These kids are our future, literally.
So how are they doing?
From what I can tell, they have a lot of self esteem. They feel good about themselves. Really, really, good about themselves. But, they don’t have any proof of earning that self esteem, and deep down, each child knows it.
Let’s take a quick look at our rankings in international tests. This chart demonstrates performance in problem solving – Math.
The reality check is that United States students performed well on some tests, not as well as might be expected on others, and very poorly on some.
There is a “counter myth” that the United States generally performed at or close to the international average in math and science. This is true, as far as it goes. However, some of the nations tested were decidedly disadvantaged compared to the United States, and the international average included the scores of those less favored nations. To say that the United States is near the international average largely means that our students fared better than students in some severely deprived countries. Many other advanced nations scored far above the average.
But, surely there are ways to counter this information, right? The standard excuses that we educate all of our population so a comparison of our students is broader than in other countries . . . not true. How about the idea that our best students outperform the best students in other countries – again, that our average is pulled down by the lower end of students . . . again, not true. US best students ranked second to last of the 20 advanced nations. How about . . . our students are more attuned to creative thinking whereas these other countries are drilling facts and using rote memorization?
It is true the other countries lean on heavy drills, memorization and other (apparently) seeming barbaric learning mechanisms. Guess what?
American students were dead last of the advanced countries and well below average for all countries in ability to apply knowledge through creative problem solving.
Perhaps rote memorization serves a purpose….
As a nation, we’ve been punked. Our children are learning to feel good, but they aren’t learning to read, write, add/subtract/multiply and divide. How can you feel good as an adult if you can’t cover the basic functions and then apply them. We are creating a nation of zombies.
When you cannot contribute to the vibrant, productive fabric of this country you are more likely to have problems with substance abuse and depression. Those are expensive problems for society….
Are there any bright spots?
Our 4th graders have often done well, especially in reading. Our 8th graders have done exceptionally well in civics.
Well that’s something. At least until you read the conclusion. Emphasis is mine.
However, American students have not generally performed as well as our national advantages would lead one to expect. Between 1995 and 2003 our students made good strides in factual learning in science and some improvement in factual learning in mathematics. They deteriorated in application of knowledge in all subjects between 2000 and 2003. They did very poorly in tests of original, creative, logical thinking. Most of the excuses for low American performance fail the reality test. Quibbles about sample participation and the age of students tested are specious and cannot explain away the obvious defects in US students’ performance.
The harder a student works, the more he will struggle with concepts, the more he will own those concepts once he gets them. Upon mastery of a concept, the child will develop a security that he knows something. That’s the beauty of it, he will know something. This leads to self esteem.
Self-esteem can not be taught, it must be earned.
The Secretary of Education is coming to your state by the end of December, look here for his schedule – then go give your input!
Image courtesy of simpleinsomnia