Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Education in America...folks we have a problem.

So while the clip of that Miss Teen USA contestant sounding like an idiot was amusing, this article in today's New York Times is not.

This is mess. When you have 1/3 of high school students dropping out and another 1/3 not prepared for a job or college, the future is not looking good. If anything, the world is a lot more competitive than when our parents graduated from high school. There were great paying union jobs that would enable a one-income family of four to own a home, send kids to college and even take a vacation or two. Those days are over.

What is going to happen to America? We are the dumbest industrialized nation on the planet. Yes, several of our of colleges dominate the top 25 world wide (Havard, Yale, Stanford etc.) but this huge gap between those who go to college and those that do not cannot be a good thing. What can be done to fix education at the k-12 level? In Los Angeles over 50% of the students drop out. Who are employers going to hire if Jonny can't read?

On a related note there is a book "The Age of American Un-Reason" by Susan Jacoby that talks about the rise of anti-intellectualism in America. There has always been a strain of it but now we revel in it. 1/3 of Americans cannot name a basic right from the Bill of Rights. 25% of biology teachers think dinosaurs and humans shared the earth (maybe they should read instead of watching "Land of the Lost" re-runs). When I was younger I was so tired of hearing my West Indian relatives complain about American schools. I found it offensive and not true. I didn't realize I was growing up in a bubble. 97% of the kids from my graduating class went on to higher education. The rest had jobs. I thought that was the norm. It's not.

Jacoby puts the biggest blame for what is not going on in our culture on the over saturation of mass media and the rise of fundamentalist religion. She said this pride in knowing nothing important has dire consequences for our country, like in foreign policy for example. Jacoby argues Americans are not stupid as in we have less brain matter it's how we chose to use it. The avg American watches over 7 hours of TV in a 24 hour period. Let's think about that for a minute. That is an average number yikes.

I think balance is important. Hello, I make my living in pop culture (film/books) and also I need to know if Heidi and Spencer are really going to get their own show. Who would watch that? I don't blame L.C. for hating them. Audrina better watch her step, I don't trust Heidi. (for those not stateside...Heidi and Spencer want a spin off from the show "The Hills". I stumbled on a marathon one day when I was sick. Called my sister and said "Who the hell are these people and why are they on TV?" She ten years younger and knows what the young people are up too. She broke it down and then I got sucked in. Plus I used to see the "stars" in L.A. all the time)

Anyway, I hope as this cynical and nasty election in the U.S. wraps up, us voters can hear more about education and less about flag pins.


Anonymous said...

I work in post-secondary education and have seen basic entrace requirements dropped to allow for students to enter into University. The sad part is these students are set up for failure because they invest time and money and end up flunking out.
To paraphase George Carlin, "Soon all you need to get into college is a pencil!"

glamah16 said...

Great post. My boyfriend( The German) is always cracking on the American education system. He feels his state education is Germany is far superior to any private school here. Unfortunately in the city Chicago,unless you want to move to the suburbs, you have no choice but to send your child to a private school for a decent shot if you dont live in the right area or cant get in a magnet school.It's insane.I'm amazed at a lot of the people I meet here who work in the school system .There a some gems but some others I just shake my head at. Considering the pay, sacrifice,politics, gets increasingly hard to attract good educators.

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least they get a good all round education, not like here in sport, no sciences, no discipline, no pressure to actually go to school. Sigh, more to complain about for me! xxx

Anonymous said...

ain't it the truth! I have lots of friends who work as teachers in US and the stories are HORRIFYING! Not only do these kids seems to have no brain but they also have no responsibility or common sense whatsoever, which frightens me even more! What's the cause of all this??? Dunno but all I can say is the other day on the subway i heard a group of 9 year old girls taking about an episode of "A shot at love with Tila tequila".... if that's what kids are watching, no wonder why they've become dunces (not to mention how inappropriate that show is for any under-age child).
God save us =)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ms. violetta - that is depressing. it's like what happened with the mortgage crises. people who approved for loans they could never avoid and not they are losing their homes.

glamah16 - I think this two or three tiered system is a big problem. Poor kids need to have access to an excellent education or the underclass is going to continue to grow and become more entrenched. This is a national problem. We are all going to pay the price.

figcharlie - It depends where you go to school. I volunteered with kids in L.A. and some of them didn't even have updated textbooks, no arts in the school, no sports etc.

The stats don't lie. Americans students after 4th grade are at the bottom compared to other industrialized nations. Yes, Italy, along with France and England are ahead of us. We are getting killed in math and science. As the global economy grows this is not a good thing. I hope the next administration deals with this. Clearly "No child left behind" is not working.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

anon - are you serious? Why are 9 year olds watching that? I saw a clip on BEST WEEK EVER and couldn't believe it. I really feel for teachers. They can't win.

A former roommate was a teacher in the DC public school. She quit before she had a nervous break down. She used to come home from class and start drinking she was so depressed/sad/frustrated.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

We have problems other than not going to college. The anti-intellectualism is a huge problem and we're being bribed with consumerism the way the Russian Tsars used to use religion as the "opiate of the masses" or the way the Communist government following them made vodka a cheap commodity.

I could go on and on and on about this - and it's one of the reasons why I no longer teach inside the system. I'm also tearing my hair out watching what my son is "learning" in his public school. Ugh.

Janelle said...

As someone who used to teach, I struggled with this very point daily. The education system is not teaching don't learn the basic skills that lead to critical thinking. It's all about test prep and subsequent test scores. No one cares how the children got the answer just as long as they get the right answer.

Unfortunately, we can no longer rest on the fact that teachers will teach. Sometimes, they don't have the time to. Sometimes they've already given up.

And you're right. The political campaigns need to focus on the future of education and the economy and not the bs we are muddled in now.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jen - I agree. Not everyone can or should go to college but jobs in the service industry pay nothing compared to union trade jobs. It's like we are not even thinking about those kids at all. I really don't know what is going to happen to our country if this trend continues.

janelle - all this testing is backfiring. You are right we are teaching kids how to take a test. That is not going to help them in the future no matter what they decide to do for a living. That said there are some amazing school districts but overall we need to do a better job for all students, not just the ones who are lucky to get in a magnet school or wealthy enough to go to excellent private schools/live in an area with great public schools.

April said...

I totally agree! I can't believe how little education has come up in this election so far. It is a tragedy, and I'm glad at least the NY Times is trying to bring it back into the platform! Let's hope the candidates and pundits follow suit.

bleeding espresso said...

Truly scary stuff. Times are *so* different from even 50 years ago when it seemed that the disadvantaged (many of our parents and grandparents) actually had a chance to work their way up--and many did, creating the middle class we have today. Now it's just so lopsided. I can't imagine how things can continue like this.

But hey, let's build a bigger gun or something! That'll help!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

april - I agree. It's too important of an issue to ignore.

bleeding espresso - exactly. Downward mobility is going to cause so many problems. The middle class is getting squeezed so badly. I don't see this changing any time soon.

Cherrye - My Bella Vita said...

Wow. I didn't know the problem was this bad in the states. I guess I was in a bubble in my little hometown, too!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

cherrye - I know. Even in wealthy areas like parts of L.A. the schools have major problems. Sigh.