Friday, February 22, 2019

America, So silent when it comes to Improving Education…

September 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Education, Misc., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( I listened to the GOP Presidential debates last night on Fox News. Of course, my #1 issue is always education. And of course these GOP candidates continue to use 30-year old solutions in a 21st century world. How many candidates say they would abolish the U.S. Department of Education? Their own constituents do not believe that only because they are either or have children in college that need financial aid to fund their education.

 The GOP solution for education stops at homeschooling and vouchers. At one point it was charter schools but because Democrats also support charter schools I guess that topic is not far right enough to skew votes.

 Then I listened to President Obama’s “changes” to No Child Left Behind this morning. The worst Secretary of Education ever to step foot in the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, have convinced the President to have states opt out of No Child Left Behind because too many teachers were teaching to a test. While 44 states have set higher standards for education, the President but the blame on Congress for not acting faster to make changes to  No Child Left Behind.

 So I have come to the conclusion that The United States of America have no real answers for education for our children.

 Democrats and Republicans are more interested in pushing socio-political and religious ideology into the education than actually preparing our children to compete with the rest of the world. In Texas, it was more important to change the curriculum for Social Studies to fit a more conservative ideology than to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math requirements to push our students along in a 21st century world. 

America takes education for granted because we have this belief that we are superior over others in the world in education. The truth of the matter is we are not. Yes, students come from all over the world to go to college here but they come here to gather the information and go back home to build their own country’s infrastructure. Americans even take social networks like Facebook for granted. We post naked pictures of women on our pages while Arabs are starting their Arab Spring revolution on Facebook.

On a more personal note, I will never understand why some Black Americans can allow mediocrity. I remember growing up I was always called a nerd acting because I spoke properly and always did well in school. In my elementary school I would always order World Almanacs from the book order forms. I sat in the back of the school library and read the encyclopedia from A-Z. I have always loved geography. What I do remember of my father (who is Nigerian) I remember him telling me how important education will be in my lifetime. He graduated from Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan with a degree in Civil Engineering.  My mother stressed the same did my grandfather. Education is very important to my family. My grandmother used to hit me and my cousins with a belt if we spoke improperly.

 It seems like Black Americans are content with staying where they are and they make excuses for it. Some complain about how “there ain’t barely any rich Black people expect Oprah, Basketball players and those rappers.” I was like, there are many wealthy Black Americans. Why are some acting ghetto, thuggish, and speaking poorly considered to be “black”? While speaking the King’s English, getting an education is considered being White?  Black Americans, in general, take many things for granted.

Many slaves had risked death and torture if they were caught reading and learning. Africans and Caribbeans and other immigrants come from extreme poverty, ethnic genocide and warfare and they still come to this country and become successful. Black Americans have greater opportunities and resources in the year 2011 than most children in Africa and Asia, yet many Black Americans still complain about “racism” and I can’t do this because I’m Black and how hard it is in the hood. American ghettos are considered nice compared to the barrios in Latin America, the favela in Brazil, and the slums in Africa and Asia. Black Americans never had to deal with someone kicking them out of their home because they were apart of a certain tribe or religion, never had their hands chopped off. Black Americans are very lucky.

 So there is no excuse for not pushing our children in the urban communities harder in education to get ahead.If we stop looking to the Democratic or Republican Party for solutions and pay attention to what is going on in the world with education we can pull ourselves from our own traps of failure.

 In order for Americans to excel in education we need to stop thinking education is a local thing. It’s not. It’s global. Our children are not competing against the children around the corner but with children in Singapore, Ghana, Germany, France, China and Japan. When we understand an eighth grader have only two million minutes in America to get his/her act together to compete globally then we may have a chance.

 The United States dropped to 15th overall in worldwide education ratings. There is no way we can have great jobs when we don’t have well educated employees. Our economic future is based on an educated work force. There are many countries that don’t have as many teachers per student. There are many countries that have different teaching methods. We have some great schools here, we need to adapt their teaching styles across our nation. 

Americans, on both sides of the political aisle, are still blaming No Child Left Behind, The U.S. Department of Education and teacher Unions for the demise of education in this country. The truth of the matter is the person in the mirror is the reason why education is in the condition its in today. 

If America is serious about competing in a global education market they may want to listen to some things I would like to point out first.

First, the most effective way to raise the human capital it needs for the global knowledge economy is by focusing on raising the overall quality of its education system rather than investing in elite or failing schools. Students of privilege will do well wherever they are, and more resources directed at them won’t improve them that much. More attention and investment will greatly improve disadvantaged students. 

Districts that lack adequate capital should rely on the expertise of its best principals and teachers to reform its failing schools. Educational systems may want to promise career advancement opportunities and autonomy if educators could turn around such schools. I have seen this work globally and it has been stunningly successful. For example, 70 percent of Shanghai, China students are ‘resilient,’ meaning that they have stronger math, reading, and science skills than their socio-economic background would suggest. 

Schools must begin to focus on collaborative and creative learning. Instead of force-feeding knowledge and information to students, teachers should motivate them to learn for themselves, and the curriculum must emphasize student-centred learning. If you take a math class and a teacher throw out a complex problem to provoke classroom discussion as to how to best arrive at a possible solution that will alone revolutionize the classroom experience. 

Today, the United States may be the leader in creativity and innovation, but that’s because it made university education universally available 40 years ago. Now that the United States is failing to invest properly in public education, its prospects are dim. Educational system like in Shanghai and Norway are in the reverse position. PISA reveals that Shanghai is creating for itself a skilled workforce, and that’s a significant advantage. 

Shanghai has the world’s best education system because Shanghainese, more than anyone else in China, take education seriously — perhaps way too seriously. The Shanghai municipal government will invest 22.4 billion yuan ($3.6 trillion USD) annually on its schools, whereas the Chinese national government will invest 299.2 billion yuan ($4.6 trillion USD) for all of China. And then there’s the individual parental investment: During a child’s elementary school years, Shanghai parents will annually spend on average of 6,000 yuan ($940 USD) on English and math tutors and 9,600 yuan ($1400 USD) on weekend activities, such as tennis and piano. During the high school years, annual tutoring costs shoot up to 30,000  yuan ($4700 USD) and the cost of activities doubles to 19,200 yuan ($3000 USD). Meanwhile, combining primary & secondary spending, U.S. spending per student is 45%-67% higher than the most advanced international competitors. 

This year, only 61,000 Shanghainese participated in the gaokao. (By comparison, in Yunnan Province, where most families cannot afford to study overseas, students participating in the gaokao increased from 170,000 in 2005 to 220,000 in 2010.) Shanghai parents are giving their children the best of both education worlds: A Shanghai kindergarten to grade 12 education and a U.S. higher education. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, we continue to cut funding for education, while not coming up for any real alternatives to fund education. No emerging market in the industrialized world go back and forth on this subject more than the United States. We either take a waste/spending approach to education or the libertarian argument for education. At the end of the day politicians as well as others are clueless on how to reinvent education in the United States in the 21st century. 

The truth of the matter is we stroke each other’s ego on improving education to fit our political ideologies as opposed to actually getting on the business of educating. 

Here is a news flash. 

(a) In Advanced Math U.S. students scored next to last, world-wide. In Physics the U.S. scored at the very bottom of the heap

(b) Were you surprised with the December 2009 report showing today’s 8th graders in the recent international math & science test scored no better than their dismal performance 4 years ago, when they scored behind 27 nations on the same test? 

(c)  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if the No Child Left Behind Law is not changed. The goal of the 2001 law is to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014. States have been required to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year, based on tests. The step-by-step ramping up of standards has caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals. President Obama’s solution? Wave the Standards. 

(d) Achieve, Inc., a bipartisan, nonprofit education organization formed by governors and prominent business leaders, found that math and English tests for high school diplomas require only middle school knowledge, and that those math graduation tests measure only what students in other countries learn in the seventh grade

(e)  85% of middle school students are using science text books so full of errors and inaccuracies to make them unacceptable, and that honors high school texts are no more difficult than an eighth grade reader 50 years ago

(f) Students in other countries are going to school 25-30 percent longer than our students. 

A picture emerges of a very dangerous deal for U.S. students and the future of the U.S. economy concerning foreign trade balance of payments, standards of living and national security. (one-third of our economy depends on trade – 3 times more than before – competition is accelerating – and, trade deficits are largest in history).

 As long as we have people playing the blame game in American education the United States will continue to slip deeper into comatose on education.

Staff Writer; Akindele Akinyemi

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5 Responses to “America, So silent when it comes to Improving Education…”
  1. Ryan Winston I wish you the best and thank you for choosing to be an educator of our children. As far as education on a whole, I think Bill Cosby said it best. African Americans need to really first start working within their own homes, neighborhoods, communities and cities to make a change for the better. We cannot continue to depend on people from DC to improve our educational system alone. We have to take active parts in our children’s schools and active roles in our communities. This is the only way that we are going to see real change. We need to stop depending on people so far removed from our situations. We have to first start within our own communities and move on up from there. Home schooling is one way but then our kids may not get the benefit of experience social skills.

  2. Ryan Winston says:

    I agree with your sentiment regarding wealthy “black” people. There are plenty of wealthy african-americans that do not subscribe to the “ghetto” culture. It saddens me that there are people out there who believe that you must belong to the subgroups you referenced, in order to be wealthy. The opportunity is out there, and African-Americans are absolutely as capable as any other ethnic group to succeed and make something of themselves. I’m currently working towards my Master’s of Education online at CU-Portland and as a future teacher, I hope to instill in all my students that success is color-blind.

  3. hoodgirl says:

    Never bet against America! This is the land of the opportunity where ANYONE can prosper. Too much emphasis is placed on education when it isn’t even the key to success, KNOWLEDGE is, which anyone can attain by simply applying themselves!

    My husband and I had this debate when we first met almost twenty years ago being recruited by a Fortune 500 company. He’s from West Africa where emphasis is placed on education to achieve success and I’m from America where emphasis is placed on hard work and the sky is the limit.

    After interacting with people from all walks of life, what we both witnessed first hand was that those who were entrepreneurs with only an eighth grade education were hands down far more successful than those with formal education ie. CPAs, College Professors, Engineers, etc.

    What’s even more revealing is that these entrepreneurs with only an eighth grade education are still building wealth hand over fist despite the financial meltdown in the global economy!

  4. Dell Gines says:

    I am with you author!

  5. Arby says:

    Homeschoolers do not homeschool because it is white or black, left or right, Democratic or Republican. Regardless of what the GOP may or may not say during a debate, homeschoolers teach their children at home because they know that they can do a better job of educating their children than can our average public schools. During the last decade, multiple study results support the claim that homeschooling works! Rather than waiting for government to fix education, consider fixing it yourself. Homeschool your children.

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