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American Education: What is Wrong?

Focus diluted by football, poor teacher training and skills development and national culture for starters. Why else would Empire American high school seniors ranked 13th out of 15 developed nations in 2010 using a common measuring stick of performance on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that later govern success and earning power in the modern world. To be sure, America has some exceptional schools that are competitive but they are few and far between. ”No Child Left Behind” was a dismal failure and “Race to the Top” may fare no better if it does not address the root issues, and soon.

Amanda Ripley in the Oct 2013 issue of the Atlantic agrees that participation in sports is a healthy thing. But then she states “Only 40% of American high school students participate. What About the other 60%?“ The football budget alone is a heavy burden on high-school budgets. And football budgets applied to teacher training could change American competitiveness in a world where technology and dollars reign supreme. For the full story behind this statement, see "The Smartest Kids In The World" by Amanda Ripley, Simon and Schuster.
Opinion of Sir Ken Robinson:

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.

As reported by Will Fifield of Cosco


If this great nation is in decline as many think it is judging by the loss in competitiveness of American high school students, then perhaps we should listen to our educators carefully. Sir Ken is one of them worthy of our ear. He has some workable ideas, and they are indeed revolutionary. Excerpts and comments follow:
Lectures are fine and are often needed to impart information. That is OK, even necessary. But they are only one/third of the education pie. Most importantly they are weak in the most basic reason for education: Learning how to learn on our own. Lectures are also woefully weak in the "How To" department, which takes hands-on experience if not insight--also hard to provide by lectures alone. In one example, many PhDs we know are great at describing phenomena, but virtually incapable of discovering (learning) how, why and where to go from here. For further example, lectures on how to ride a bicycle, drive a car, or even analyze data are fine. But are these enough? For example, who would dare ride an airplane knowing the pilot had never flown before? Not in our experience nor in the cohorts we have contacted. Relating theory to practice falls short all too often, even in our great universities. This is sadly true even in science and engineering, where our experience with graduates fell somewhere near half who could apply their very real and evident skills to the challenge on a new job. Creativity suffers greatly as well. Societies that get the education equation right will be the societies that survive in the cyber-jungle we created for ourselves.
The Nation

By Colman McCarthy

Created 2011-08-30 19:27

Having begun my thirtieth year of teaching high school, college and law school courses on the philosophy of pacifism and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, I was challenged again to decide where to begin this year’s course. Should I use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to discuss nonviolent alternatives to the Bush/Cheney bents for bombs and bullets? Or pose this: would members of Congress, left or right, have voted to increase military spending so dramatically during the Bush years if they had studied peace and nonviolence in college? Would Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District have been the only member of Congress—one out of 535—to vote against the Bush war plans on September 14, 2001?
There was a time when America led the world and when educational opportunity was there for all its citizens. That was then. What a difference three decades have made. Reagan dealt the first blow; Bush I and Clinton did little to reverse the downward trend; Bush II put on the finishing touches. For starters, see:

Education Sector
International Math & Science
No Child Left Behind--After Six Yesrs
Surprising Statistics
Waning Standards Threaten US Competitiveness
Your State's Performance

While school is still out, Obama has not kept his Campaign Promise to upgrade education. He has so far opted to continue Bush II policies.
If you are innately curious and want to better yourself by pursuing a degree, those options too are readily available on the Internet.
  • Education For Peace For research, training and international collaborations.
  • Peace Education "Teacher as Learner (Theory); learner as teacher (curriculum)"
  • Peace Education Foundation Mission - "To educate children and adults in the dynamics of conflict and promote skills of peacemaking in our homes, schools, community, the nation, and the world."
  • for actual online help toward getting a degree from an accredited college or university.

If you are innately curious, but cannot afford the time, money or commitment to pursue education beyond 12K, the Internet has come to your rescue. Not only can you just take potluck, you can listen to the best that American colleges and universities have to offer online on just about any subject. Check out: for free lectures online by well-known experts.

Finally Google and Yahoo provide listings.
Research in education is a most worthy goal. There is just one problem. In the US at least, it has become grossly politicized over the past few decades

Given the many interpretations a single set of data can yield, it is obvious that beauty lies in the eye of its political benefactor. The same is true of the ugly, the pleasant, the fearsome. What to do? How can the extreme points of view be brought together in common purpose? Are common denominators enough? Can we try and see? Can mutual goodwill prevail as all religions seem to teach? Have we tried? For what educational goal is there broad appeal? Who is looking? Where are the answers?

American education through K12 has become so politicized, personalized and polarized, it is almost a quagmire. Local, state and national politics do not all work together smoothly. When private enterprise and foundations with special interests enter the picture, the wonder is that we do as well as we do.
Sandra Day O'Connor: Active in Retirement
Excerpts from article By Claudia Parsons Thursday, June 5, 2008(Reuters)

"America's first female Supreme Court justice unveiled a videogame project on Wednesday to teach children how courts work, saying she wanted to counter partisan criticism that judges are "godless" activists.

"Sandra Day O'Connor, 78, who served as U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1981 until her retirement in 2006... got involved with developing the project called 'Our Courts' out of concern over public ignorance about the judiciary and partisan attacks on what should be an independent institution."

"With keen intellect, our minds you enlighten.
With wisdom and wit, our knowledge you heigthen.

Your laughter echoes within these walls,
And your warmth radiates in the lecture hall.
"There's no reason to turn back the clock, we're on the move. This is working." Margaret Spellings - Education Secretary.

But is it really? There is much more to life than test scores. Our good teachers know that when they oppose this program and its creation of robotic test takers. Good test takers spend hours daily honing specific skills they may never use again instead of learning how to think and how to use new tools.
Extended Book Review -- Updated 27 Aug 2008

If peace is ever to reign on earth, it will come as a result of education in what it takes for peaceful living. Toward that end, in his book, "The Homework Myth," Alfie Kohn provides thoughtful, even passionate, insights. Most basically it is that homework is at best way down the scale for effective learning; at worst it is cop-out for ineffective teaching. Homework as too often practiced not only often retards learning, but can disrupt family life as well. It has no provable positive effects at all through grade 5.
Updated 10 Feb 2008; 6 April 2016
We are indebted to Erika Christakis (Yale Child Study Center) for our latest update.

Enlightenment--in a word.

With knowledge comes ability to deal with and control our environment within the limits of nature. Knowledge can free mankind from the yoke of oppression from whatever source. With knowledge comes freedom and "ultimately" safety. Effective education generates insight into how it all fits together, brings wisdom and enables progress. In the hands of dictators like Hitler and Napoleon, it brings awfulness to too many. Napoleon played a key role in removing dynastic governance from Europe, but he was still a conquering dictator at heart.
Rational Science or Intelligent Design?

Now that President Bush has shown his true colors by endorsing the teaching of "Intelligent Design," ID, in the nation's schools, we must take a look at it here for education is our future.
Also Known as Critical Thinking

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.
Roadtopeace just had a dialogue with a trio of educators who not only extended our thinking but altered a view or two. What follows arose from that conversation.
It has long been known that there are two types of thinking -- logical and intuitive. And logic comes in two varieties.
People With a Say in our Future

American education is sorely lacking in its world view. For example, little is known by the typical citizen of the influential groups "in the know" who are influencing our futures, as nations and as people.

President Bush visited Ohio to trumpet a $500 million job training/education proposal announced in his State of the Union address.
As with many endeavors there are ideals and there are the trenches. While many people can agree on basic ideals, not everyone in the trenches can achieve those ideals for reasons beyond their control or influence.
Updated 06 Feb 2007

If the last few years have taught anything, they have taught that not enough of us know enough about enough things, liberal arts and history in particular. There are of course two issues, what to teach and how to teach it; both are vital.
Contributed by Susan O'Brien

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.
"Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it." Albert Einstein

With knowledge comes ability to deal with and control our environment within the limits imposed by nature.